Active monitoring has preventive value as well. You can use either built-in monitoring and notification tools or centralized monitoring packages -- such as Nagios, Zenoss, or Cacti -- to constantly monitor any device for potential problems before they become problems. This is especially valuable in connection with environmental sensors, predictive disk failures, and network infrastructure gear.
If there's a cooling problem, it will generally grow over a period of time, rather than instantly shoot up to dangerous levels. Constantly monitoring temperature and humidity at several places in your data center can sound an early warning that means the difference between life and death for your servers when a chiller goes out. If your core switching is logging to a syslog server that can parse the logs, it can raise the alarm when a switching module starts to go bad, versus finding out from the fact that a bunch of servers or critical telecom gear suddenly disappeared from the network.
You can never have too many eyes and ears in a data center. If you think that some form of monitoring is overkill, it's probably just enough. Motion-detecting cameras, environmental sensors, fluid presence sensors, and even remotely accessible microphones and speakers can be invaluable tools when the chips are down.
It boils down to one simple rule: If it goes into the room, you should be able to control it from outside the room. That applies to everything from a cable modem to a core switch. Even devices that have no console or management facilities can at least be plugged into switching PDUs so that they can be power-cycled remotely. For example, primary or backup cable and DSL circuits generally come with cheaper routers that occasionally need to be kicked over.
Chances are you have remote access tools in your gear already, but they're not configured or plugged in. Allow me to politely suggest you take a few minutes to fix that right now.
This story, "Troubleshoot your data center from the easy chair," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.