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Expert Advice: Tackling IT Service Performance Issues

Phil Swainson

We managed to track down the very busy Phil Swainson, Head of Technical Services at KedronUK, to put some questions to him about his experiences when helping Clients to establish root cause for service performance issues.

We hope you find the information useful, read more about Phil’s background after the questions.

Q1. You often deal with clients who have disgruntled end users and customers who complain of "slow network performance” and they ask KedronUK for their advice on dealing with that challenge. The phrase “It’s Not the Network” is a bit of cliché these days (it's even available on T-Shirts and Mugs) but in your experience how often is “it" actually the network?

As you suggest, the phrase, "It's Not the Network", is used quite frequently, especially by the network guys! 
As networks are much more resilient these days, the saying isn't without reason, and more often than not its true, however never rule anything out without proof. Start with the basics, what do we know, what's changed and so on before you proclaim… 'It's not the network'.

Q2. In your experience, what are some of the most common things you think people miss when they put a plan together to deal with bad performance?

Without trying to sound flippant, more often than not the thing missed is the thing that was assumed was not the problem. Therefore my advice to anyone is don't make assumptions and test your theories thoroughly.

We were recently asked to help with an intermittent problem on a remote site with links to a Data Centre. The assumption had been made that the problem lay at the remote site end, as they had tested with a single user at the DC and had not experienced problems. I asked the question; had anyone at the remote site experienced problems during the test done at the DC?

The answer was 'no'. I suggested then, that this test had proved nothing other than when it's good at the remote site it is also good at the DC.

Our subsequent KedronSAS engagement found problems with storage access in the DC.

Q3. What work can internal IT teams do without access to state-of-the-art monitoring tools?
Often,  a lack of understanding of your own environment leads to confusion when issues occur. Even with the best tools out there a good understanding of your environment is key to getting the best out of them.

More often than not we find that change is the reason for an issue. Therefore I would say that maintaining up-to-date information about network changes will help a team resolve issues faster.
Accompanying this with standardised practices and procedures can help prevent problems occurring, and if they do, make them easier to spot.

Q4. When looking at tools for poor performing networks, what’s available and what advice do you have about selecting the right system?

It's all about answering questions. Every tool out there can answer a number of questions about your Network or Environment, but first of all you need to understand which questions you want answers to.

For example, I am often approached by customers about a specific product, for one reason or another. When I ask what they are looking to achieve, I usually find that the product isn't going to help them answer the original question. Ssome how they have become side tracked along the way.

Our approach is to first understand the requirement before even discussing a specific tool.

We have also written a couple of useful White Papers about selecting the best application or network monitoring tool, which are freely available as a good starting point.

Q5. KedronUK provide troubleshooting services as a service, when’s the right time to bring in a consultant and when is it better to invest in monitoring tools? 

The answer to this question is usually dependent upon the budget and human resources available, along with the requirement for an independent view.

When limited budget or human resource is available, and / or, an independent authority is needed, then a an expert service like KedronSAS makes perfect sense.

KedronUK provide the needed tools & resources and produce the required reports, without necessitating large capital costs.

Where budget and human resource is available, then a purchase of the required tool set, along with the training needed to skill the technical team is the best option, as the technical department is now able to produce the reports and tasks on an ongoing basis.

Q6. When you are working with a Client and helping them to review the root cause of performance problems, how do you deal with any political issues faced within the internal IT team or 3rd party suppliers? 

It is important that all  stakeholders involved understand the role that KedronUK play in these engagements; we are not there to finger point and from the outset we engage all involved.

Our Scope of Work process and documentation, which we believe to be unique in the industry, makes it clear to all parties what is to be achieved, who is to be involved, who is responsible for which aspect and what the expected outcome will be, right from the word go.

A clear understanding of what the end result will be with all parties’ involvement is key.

Q7. Finally what are your 3 top tips for addressing network performance issues?

  • Make no assumptions, test and prove what you think is not causing the problem.
  •  Find what is common to the effected users. 
  • Isolate changes made prior to the issue. 

About Phil Swainson

Phil is an expert in Network and Application Performance Management and Configuration. His experience and knowledge has been gained from working in the field, dealing with real-life issues in customer networks.

He has as worked with some of the UK¹s largest Enterprises and Telco¹s over the last 18 years, helping them to use monitoring and configuration technology to better understand and control the performance of their key IT Services. Senior IT Leaders within these organisations trust Phil because of his holistic knowledge within the field of monitoring infrastructure, applications and services. 

They also appreciate his proven ability to first understand the best tool for the job, and then successfully manage its deployment, configuration and support.

If you’d like to ask Phil a question click here to send him an email or book a free technical assessment with him here

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