We've all been there: A relaxing evening suddenly turns into chaos with a single phone call, email, or text. There's something amiss at a remote site, and nobody's there to deal with it. Rather than indulging in a martini and a movie, you're hustling to your car to drive an hour to restart a server or perform a simple troubleshooting step that brings the site back online.
If only there was a way to reduce the likelihood of such an event. Oh, wait! There is.
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I can't count the number of times I've seen servers, routers, switches, UPSes, and whatnot with remote monitoring and control facilities that either aren't configured or even plugged in. This means more than just the network interface -- the serial interface should be remotely accessible as well through a console server.
When shopping for IT gear, it's easy to drop those line items from the order because, technically, they're not critical to the device's purpose. In many cases they add to the cost of the device, but those expenses pale in comparison to problems that can crop up if they're absent. Routers and switches have built-in serial consoles, so the only associated cost in allowing those devices to be managed out of band is the aforementioned console server. For other hardware -- such as servers, UPSes, AC units, and PDUs -- remote management interfaces are generally an add-on and provide their own CLI or Web-based interface.
Take a basic rack-mount UPS. You can buy one without the management card, but most vendors either include the management interface or you can add that card. For a few hundred dollars, you add a full monitoring package for the UPS with SNMP traps, email alerting, environmental monitoring, and so forth. Some models even have outlet groups that can be remotely switched on and off, providing the ability to remotely power-cycle gear that might be hung up.
At a site that's manned 24/7, this isn't as critical because an admin will always be there to provide hands-on troubleshooting. But at a remote site, those features can mean that you simply pull up a Web interface and power-cycle a hung router rather than drive for an hour to unplug a cable. One event like that can pay for the difference and then some.