Windows Server Monitoring: How to Make it Work for your Company
In today’s environment, servers running on Windows are essential for companies’ IT and operational environments, as they store data that is extremely valuable. A server failure or server performance problem may immediately affect the organization’s overall performance and expose it to both operational and cybersecurity threats. This is why monitoring Windows servers is an absolute must for IT managers.
In this article, we will walk you through what Windows Server monitoring is, its benefits, and its solutions.
What is Windows Server monitoring?
Windows server monitoring is the process of monitoring servers running Windows or Windows Server operating systems from one end to the other, to track performance and security KPIs which enable IT departments to proactively address potential risks before they escalate.
Monitoring solutions identify and correct potential issues which happen on-premises, off-premises, or in data centers, contributing to better management of resources and functions, while also assessing potential clusters.
Typical Windows servers are, for example, Microsoft SQL databases, Microsoft Exchange as a mail server, or Microsoft Dynamics CRM for customer care.
How many organizations use Windows Server?
According to Statista data from June 2021, Microsoft Windows is the most popular operating system in the world, as it is used on almost 73% of the world’s terminals.
Since the OS is appreciated by both home and business users, it comes as no surprise that another company product, Windows Server, has also been a success in the corporate environment, with 72% of organizations using it.
Why is Windows Server monitoring important?
Server monitoring is important because servers that run on Windows are the backbone of a company’s IT infrastructure. Its role is to create an efficient environment that fosters collaboration between a company’s employees and partners, while also keeping things safe, from a cybersecurity perspective.
When servers aren’t monitored properly, the whole business suffers. Unstable server performance leads to project complications and delays, as well as to unsatisfied customers and, implicitly, revenue losses.
This is why it is extremely important to ensure that IT departments constantly assess the status of the Windows servers, focusing on threats and risk mitigation strategies, so that they may treat each potential issue in time and optimize their resources. It is in this context that Windows server monitoring becomes a must.
The benefits of monitoring Windows servers
Monitoring Windows servers comes with a series of benefits for the organization’s operations, its IT infrastructure, and the bottom line.
The most relevant is that it identifies issues and sends alerts to IT administrators before things escalate and affect the end-users. This means that clients of a Windows server benefit from a functional environment, which works constantly, at high parameters.
Still, it is sometimes possible for IT administrators to not address issues in time, which may lead to system failures that take networks offline. In this case, the network performance monitoring tool will automatically restart failed services, ensuring end-users may resume their activities.
Moreover, server monitoring contributes to identifying system bottlenecks, as well as improving the reliability of IT infrastructures and optimizing processes. This contributes to normal resource consumption, lower operational costs, as well as more peace of mind for IT professionals.
One of the best advantages for the bottom line is that Windows server monitoring enables companies to save money, by automating services and decreasing the need for human resources, as well as by issuing complex analytics reports that IT managers may later use to assess situations and take measures.
Who monitors Windows servers?
Server monitoring is used by businesses that treat with responsibility what happens on their servers, either for their own usage and operations, as well as for their clients' security. This category includes both big corporations, with worldwide operations, governments, and medium- to small businesses.
Companies should have their own Windows server monitoring tools, which don’t bring an additional burden to IT specialists and administrators that focus on server performance issues.
Such solutions must fit into the Windows ecosystem in a way that doesn’t slow hosts down with oversized agents or too many requests.
What can you monitor on Windows servers?
Monitoring the key 4 functions
No matter whether you are monitoring physical or virtual servers, there are 4 key functions that need to be taken into account:
- CPU - ensure whether the computing power is efficiently distributed and whether there is enough capacity for all operations.
- RAM - identify if there is enough memory for all applications, as well as the cache.
- Block or object storage - check if there is enough storage on the system and whether the data matches the expected throughput.
- The network - understand who has access to the server data and at what speed the data is transported and to which areas.
Infrastructure monitoring tools keep track of all these to help IT administrators assess the status of the IT landscape, focusing on disk space, disk utilization, CPU utilization, page file usage, etc.
For example, if you choose to use Checkmk, you have one platform to monitor the performance of your network, including dynamic environments and static assets. Moreover, you may also focus on network devices, server resources, data centers, etc., to have a clearer view of potential issues and threats.
Monitoring Windows Server features
The Windows source code and performance counters are manufacturer-specific, so it is important that the monitoring software user benefits from the best tools to monitor Windows properly. Microsoft provides documentation for its products, but practical experience is also important.
This is the only way that companies – alongside the general information for server monitoring such as CPU, RAM, partitions, and network – can also monitor the system's internal values. This is about services, processes, and application monitoring on the Windows systems.
With the Checkmk agents, you have an optimal data basis and can, for example, check whether certain services have been started or have a desired status. If a user ends the antivirus program or deactivates its autostart, for example, the monitoring detects this.
Checkmk also keeps an eye on the patch level for you. Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) helps roll-outs and the managing of updates. Nevertheless, the Update Service from Microsoft does not record individual systems. Monitoring enables you to identify the exact version of your assets and ensure that no server misses an important update.
Monitoring specific integrations
Most Windows admins are familiar with the Event Viewer. Log files are also valuable for monitoring and companies should also include them in IT monitoring. Checkmk has its own extension for standard event logs and offers an easy entry into the log monitoring of Windows systems.
Checkmk also enables the integration of users from the Active Directory. It supports LDAP-based services for user management so that you can automatically include and manage users from these central directories in the monitoring system.
There are a number of useful integrations that simplify the monitoring of Windows environments in everyday IT life. For example, Checkmk supports Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS), DHCP and Microsoft Office 365., Microsoft SQL Server. For MS Office packages, Checkmk allows you to monitor licenses and service packages, for example.
Best practices for Windows Server monitoring
Develop a strategy and a benchmark
In order to maximize your monitoring capabilities, you need to start with a clear strategy, which focuses not only on your goals but also on the benchmark.
A good monitoring tool assesses servers running under standard conditions, collects the necessary data to generate benchmarks for peak performance, CPU, memory usage, and hard drive activity.
Based on this information, the system defines the optimal functioning ranges for corporate servers and identifies what sort of deviations are threat-triggering.
Such an approach will enable you to monitor server performance and detect in time any potential issues and risks, thus enabling you to make the right decisions before situations escalate.
Windows monitoring tools need to be used 24 / 7, as it is extremely important to continually watch key metrics and see how they evolve across the day. It is only by doing so that you may detect performance issues before they become a burden and generate issues on an organizational level.
While some IT administrators only focus on monitoring servers during business hours, that might prove to be quite a risky technique. Sometimes, processes and potential failures may occur during an off-duty time, when no users are connecting to the system.
Examples include automated events, like backups and virus scans, system updates, database re-indexing. If you don’t monitor consistently, you might not see critical issues during these processes and, thus, you might only find out about them when it’s too late.
Set up the right alerts
Alerts are an important feature of Windows monitoring software because they enable IT administrators to have access to real-time information that signals performance issues. What they do is send automated messages when things are outside parameters, ensuring potential issues don’t go unnoticed.
Corroborated with the system’s customizable reports built on historical data, alerts enable you to note security issues that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Find the right metrics for you
When monitoring Windows servers you need to identify the important metrics that work best for you and compare their evolution across time. By focusing on the same performance indicators, you will always be comparing apples to apples. This enables you to be efficient and start troubleshooting early.
FAQs about Windows server monitoring
Windows server performance monitoring is defined by the sum of processes that track servers’ key performance metrics.
Finding the best Windows monitoring tool requires a good assessment of your resources and end-users. What you need to do is start getting the big picture of your IT environment with all servers, components etc. and escalate towards your needs.
Once you have a clear view of these, you may try out different solutions and see which one is best for you. At Checkmk, you may choose between a free, open source monitoring tool, the Raw Edition, or enjoy a 30-days trial of our Enterprise Edition. Either way, you are free to discover the one that responds to your company’s needs.
Windows servers can be monitored with an open source tool. With the free Checkmk Raw Edition, you can monitor all the servers in a network – with no limit to the number of hosts or services. The open source monitoring tool can of course also be used as Docker Container.