Total Hybrid Cloud Visibility For South Lakes Housing

As a forward thinking client; South Lakes Housing (SLH) needed to concentrate on their Azure Migration being undertaken by A4S Cloud Solutions and not what's happening with their legacy environment, they needed a solution what is comprehensive and quick to deploy hence the decision was made to implement A4S Monitor.


A4S Monitor is our fully hosted and managed monitoring and alerting solution that can cover almost any element of your IT infrastructure including Office 365, AWS, Azure, VMware, Microsoft Windows, CISCO switches, NetApp and HP storage, and much more.


With its extremely feature rich end user portal it's possible to configure alerting into over 20 different channels and to dashboard almost any data into a highly intuitive and easy to navigate suite of dashboards.


SLH are replacing their on-premise IT infrastructure with an Azure hosted environment and as at the time of writing are already benefiting from Azure's extreme flexibility and support for rapid delivery of new services. SLH will first be migrating its workloads into Azure before performing a redesign and rationalisation exercise hence having a monitoring and alerting solution that seamlessly integrates into both on-premise and cloud services is crucial.


The SLH IT team were immediately impressed with the rapid implementation capabilities of A4S Monitor, within hours A4S were able to visualise and alert on their most important assets, to minimise effort and support quick addition of the remaining workloads A4S Monitor queries automatically visualise and report any increase in scope.


Having visibility of your entire IT application and infrastructure estate in one solution sounds difficult to achieve, however A4S Monitor has proven this to be entirely possible, now how about adding in bespoke requirements such as detecting authentication failures for different remote access platforms also, this feature will also be added to the already extensive monitoring provided to SLH.


The Problem


SLH are moving to Azure and needed a comprehensive monitoring and alerting solution to rapidly provide coverage for both it's on-premise environment and for their target Azure cloud environment.


SLH's existing monitoring solution was inconsistent, difficult to administrate and did not scale well into the cloud, additionally it did not have the flexibility and coverage needed and certainly when compared to the monitoring, integration and visualisation capabilities of A4S Monitor.


Due to the above issues and the fact their environment has started to scale quickly SLH IT found they could not easily maintain clear visibility of their environment and as a result there was a risk of systems failing, storage becoming full and system performance becoming inadequate without the team knowing and being able to react quickly.


The Solution


The decision was taken to implement detailed coverage across both cloud and on-premise services using A4S Monitor which is provided as a service by the A4S Team.


A4S quickly implemented monitoring and alerting against all servers on-premise and includes:

  1. General availability

  2. Storage percentage remaining

  3. Memory usage

  4. Processor usage

  5. Network usage

Additionally; coverage has been provided to monitor and alert againsts the site to site VPN connecting the clients on-premise and cloud environments and includes:

  1. Data ingress

  2. Data egress

  3. Packet drops

  4. Latency between on-premise and Azure based Domain Controllers

  5. Packet drop between on-premise and Azure based Domain Controllers

Quick & Easy Setup


One of many A4 Monitor benefits includes the simplicity of setup, following a short investigation the solution was deployed to all of the clients VMs and site to site VPN.


Deployment was achieved quickly and seamlessly with access to detailed visualisations and reporting being provided into the clients service desk queues completed almost immediately.


A view of the client's site to site VPN performance is essential during any migration so we can observe and manage any bottlenecks that may slow the lift and shift project down.

Once migration is completed; the client's users will be accessing services via the site to site VPN hence being able to see any unexpected usage patterns or packet loss is import from a service management perspective.

Being able to understand the general availability of a your server workloads is the foundation of good operational management, using custom queries an availability report over time with alerting was created using heartbeat performance as a measurement.

The solution built on general availability by adding core performance indicators in the form of processor, memory, network and disk I/O to show where server are over or under utilised (hostnames hidden for privacy reasons below), this is useful to show where servers are over utilised, and also useful to show where capacity can be recovered and used elsewhere.

Many or our clients have a vast array of disk storage across their servers making it difficult to report on and show in a useful way, initially measurements of remaining storage space was utilised, then it was decided to utilise remaining percentages instead, showing disks by drive letter across the estate became the most appropriate way forwards with a supporting table showing only server disks with less that 20% storage remaining.

Security & More To Follow


In the coming weeks more reporting will be added, the areas of interest will be security with a focus on logon usage and failures, an example below shows the surprising amount of logon attempts from none corporate sources.


For another client we used a simple timeline to highlight authentication activity across on-premise and cloud environments:

During the lift and shift phase of the clients project Windows 10 VPN services will be moved from on-premise to the cloud, at that point A4S will implement VPN/RRAS specific monitoring and alerting as we have for another client as we have in the blog post here, a screenshot is show below also:

Alerting For Current & Historical Problem Analysis


A4S Monitor allows the client to view current and historical events either visually or using data tables, all information can be exported to excel or CSV file for deeper analysis.


Reducing the Number of Monitoring Solutions Needed


Due to large amount of integrations provided by A4S Monitor; only one monitoring and alerting solution is needed, alerting is pushed into Microsoft Teams and Outlook (our solution has over 20 possible alerting channels).


Our monitoring visualisations for web applications, networking, servers, storage, Azure, Dynamics 365 is now all in one place within A4S Monitor.


Custom Monitoring and Alerting


Many of our clients have custom monitoring and alerting needs, due to the flexibility of our solution this can be easily achieved with the right time spent on investigation and to propose a solution using A4S Monitor.


Summary of Benefits


In summary, South Lakes Housing now has a highly detailed, simple to use and centralised solution to deliver monitoring and alerting across their hybrid cloud environment.


Both realtime and historical analysis needs are met and surpassed meaning the client can handle operational issues now and use detailed reports to prevent issues in the future.


A4S Monitor ensures SLH IT can clearly visualise the information they need at the right time.


Paul Aitken, SLH IT Manager was hugely impressed with the solution and quickly benefitted from its features.....

"At South Lakes Housing we started using A4S Monitor as we needed a solution that functioned seamlessly across both cloud and on-premise solutions, it also needed to be quick and easy to deploy.
A4S listened to our needs carefully and quickly responded with the comprehensive dashboarding and alerting we needed to ensure we had complete visibility across our estate.
A4S Monitor is easy to understand and use, we now feel much more comfortable in the knowledge that we can see our entire environment and will be alerted when needed based on pre-agreed thresholds.
Already A4S Monitor has proven invaluable and we look forward to using more of its capabilities in the very near future!"


Paul Aitken, SLH IT Manager



A4S Managing Director Jason Birchall explained:

"South Lakes are a new client and are embarking on an Azure migration that is unfamiliar and new territory, this means visibility and awareness of their new surroundings is very important!
We wanted to ensure the SLH team had a very clear and intuitive view of their new and on-premise environments, also also had the confidence to rely alerting to give them the information then needed in a timely manner.
To ensure any issues were captured in service desk records we agreed to send any issues straight into their service desk toolset to ensure events and remediation effort was clearly captured.
We thank South Lakes Housing for the opportunity to deliver our A4S Monitor Solution and hope it continues to prove and grow its usefulness and time progresses"

Jason Birchall A4S Managing Director



Would you like to know more about our approach to monitoring and alerting and this delivery?

Feel free to email me at jason.birchall@a4scloud.solutions or meet up to grab a coffee ☕.