Blog

Situational Awareness: How Contextualized Data Can Help Prevent or Thwart Distributed IT Challenges

Posted by RFC

Situational awareness is the key to making impactful decisions, no matter what industry you’re in. A real-time understanding of what's going on allows leaders to make the best decisions for their clients or companies. But certain industries, such as Information Technology, may find that achieving real-time situational awareness requires better tools and processes when protecting critical assets in unmanned, distributed IT spaces.

Data is the key to driving situational awareness. However, data in a vacuum—without context—is not particularly valuable. When something happens in any one of your remote IT spaces, you need to know:

  • What went wrong
  • Why it went wrong
  • How to fix it

You can't figure out the how if you don’t have all the facts on the why. All three elements—what, why, and how—build on one another and are equally important.

Why Is Contextualized Data So Important?

situational awareness

Contextualization is simply the process of adding relevant information to a data point to enhance understanding. Data without context is just a string of numbers, time stamps, and independent readings. Think about all the data that goes into an end-of-quarter report. Without context, that heap of numbers and percentages lacks meaning. The same is true in your remote IT spaces. So how can proper context drive situational awareness?

We’ve established that when something goes wrong in your server closet, you need to know the what, when, and why. Without this context, you may diagnose the wrong problem. For example, a doctor wouldn't diagnose a patient with diabetes based on their blood pressure alone. They have to contextualize several factors about the patient before arriving at a conclusion.

In remote IT, you're the doctor, and your server rack is the patient. Without contextualized data, you might send an IT professional out to fix a problem that requires an HVAC repair person. On the other hand, you might send a team of HVAC professionals thinking there's a flood, only to find that a few drops of water fell on the floor sensor.

This contextualized data is the bedrock of comprehensive situational awareness you need to make a sound decision. Yes, a few drops of water may have fallen on the floor sensor—but the live-feed cameras don't show any signs of flooding. Now you know that you don’t need to waste time and resources sending a team to resolve a problem that doesn't exist, or the wrong team to fix an ongoing issue.

What Gets Missed When Routinely Gathering Data

Your business runs on data; therefore, it stands to reason that the data collection and contextualization processes are critical to establishing situational awareness. But for too long, IT professionals, Network Ops, and facility managers have relied on obsolete means of data collection in their data centers and remote IT locations.

Taking the DIY MacGyver approach is among the most common mistakes in monitoring remote IT spaces. You may set up a camera to watch the room, a thermometer to monitor temperature, and motion sensors to track movement. You could fit the room with 100 different gadgets, but if they all work independently of one another, what good is the data they provide?

In the end, you miss “the story” behind your data. If and when something goes wrong, you may lack the necessary understanding to fix the problem. This could cause you to overreact to a minor issue—one that could be fixed with a simple phone call—or brush off a major problem that, based on one data set (your video feed, for example) doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

One characteristic these "old ways" have in common is the lack of contextualized data. When you rely on several individual components to manage your remote IT assets, you end up with several independent data sets. You're left with a mountain of data to sift through to discover the root issue, leading to extended downtimes and lost revenue. Wouldn't it be nice if you could rely on a single system to contextualize all that data for you?

Distributed IT Monitoring-As-a-Service

What if there was a new critical asset and environmental intelligence platform available that enhances an IT pro’s real-time situational awareness? Such a platform could provide real-time mobile alerts at the speed of environmental changes in IT spaces, and present intuitive data visualization to quickly process and act. What if this platform was significantly less expensive and complicated compared to current enterprise monitoring systems rendering it scalable across an organization’s many distributed IT sites?

Thankfully, that single system is here now. Sentry from RF Code offers a comprehensive SaaS solution that tells you everything you need to know about your remote servers—whenever you need to know it.

Actionable data captured by Sentry is organized and visualized in real-time

Sentry encompasses streaming and recorded video, thermal imaging, air humidity/temperature sensors, ambient light sensors, and a microphone to provide a total monitoring platform 24/7 for your remote IT spaces. Naturally, as with other solutions, all those features come with several different data sets. However, Sentry contextualizes all of this data into one easy-to-read format, getting to the root of any problem right away.

For example, say Sentry sends you a real-time alert that one of your servers is starting to overheat. Sentry's smart software collects the data from multiple onboard sensors and visualizes what event occurred and where the hotspot is located. In the below example, Sentry captured a motion event and a granular-level temperature spike.

Sentry stitches together multi-sensor data at the speed of change across all your distributed IT spaces

When clicking the alert from your phone or desktop device, you are presented with recorded video footage along with temperature data that leads you to see the correlation between the delivery, the packages by the servers, and the hotspot. Now, instead of sending (and paying) a team of IT pros to fix the situation, you can easily call someone on-site to move the boxes and see if that changes the hotspot issue.

While not all IT situations are as easy to resolve as the one above, situational awareness and real-time contextualized data can empower you to make smarter decisions sooner.

Enhance Your Situational Awareness With Sentry

When it comes to situational awareness in your remote IT spaces, you need to know what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to fix the problem. You can’t be everywhere at once. Sentry's onboard sensors work in partnership to be your eyes and ears for your decentralized IT spaces. When something goes wrong, Sentry will quickly relay the what and why so you are better informed to quickly figure out the how.

Request a Sentry demo today to learn how this exciting new SaaS platform is the smartest investment you can make for your organization.