How many network monitoring tools is too many?

The ideal number seems to be three or fewer, according to a recent report from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). More than that and network management effectiveness begins to decline.

The report looked at a number of “megatrends” in network management for 2016. Though it surveyed corporate IT professionals, not managed service providers, it contains some very interesting stats for MSPs to pay attention to. Two trends in particular stand out.

Megatrend: Network management toolsets are getting overcrowded

Take a look at this chart, which shows how many network monitoring tools are being used in corporate IT environments today. These are only tools in active use, report author Shamus McGillicuddy explained, not “shelfware.”

network monitoring tools research EMA

Source: Enterprise Management Associates


Wow! This is what your prospects are wrestling with on a daily basis.

And it’s getting worse. In 2014, the bell curve for this chart centered on 3 to 10 tools, McGillicuddy said. Now it’s centring on 4 to 15 tools.

But the truly bad news is the effect all those tools are having on IT’s ability to do its job. The more network monitoring tools a company is using, the less likely they are to detect and address problems before a user complains.

network management megatrends tools proactive response EMA

Source: Enterprise Management Associates

As well, the more tools a company is using, the more time they spend in reactive troubleshooting instead of proactive problem prevention or other projects.

network tools reactive troubleshooting statistics EMA

Source: Enterprise Management Associates

According to EMA’s findings, companies with bigger toolsets also experience more network-related outages.

  • 34% of companies with 11+ network monitoring tools experience several network-related outages per day. But only 6% of companies with 1 to 3 tools experience multiple network outages a day.
  • 18% of organizations with 1 to 3 tools say they “almost never” experience network-related outages. Another 21% experience a network outage just “once or twice a year.”

If there’s a bright spot in this data, is that 60% of organizations with more than 11 tools are actively trying to consolidate their toolset. (An MSP opportunity perhaps?)

Megatrend: Network management outsourcing is on the rise

There’s no real surprise in this news at a high level but the stats are nice to have at your fingertips when proving out your business case.

EMA’s report found that 51% of companies now outsource some aspect of network monitoring and management. That’s a fairly significant increase from 2014, when the number was just 36%.

Though large enterprises are the biggest outsourcers, small businesses under 1,000 employees are in on the trend too, with 40% of them outsourcing some part of their network management.

These are the top five network management functions that are outsourced and the percentage of companies that outsource them, according to EMA:

  • 24×7 networking health monitoring – 40%
  • Remote site monitoring – 38%
  • Layer 1 support (help desk calls) – 34%
  • Off-hours network health monitoring – 32%
  • WLAN networking and support – 32%

Now for the kicker, which definitely is a surprise.

The EMA research indicates that the ability to proactively detect and address problems is diminished when a company outsources its network management. Take a look.

Network problems first detected by end users
Outsourced: 48%
In-house: 30%

Organizations that outsource network management also spend more time troubleshooting than those who keep the work in-house, the EMA report says.

The report’s author did admit that more research was needed in this area since EMA couldn’t determine why these statistics were turning up. Were the companies that were outsourcing the ones that were already struggling the most and the MSPs hadn’t yet had time to turn that around? Or did performance actually decrease because of the MSP’s involvement?

Perhaps there’s conflict in the toolset contributing to the performance troubles. Of companies who outsource some aspect of networking, 30% maintain their network monitoring tools in order to oversee their MSP’s activity. We’ve already seen how too many tools can degrade responsiveness.

Suggested takeaways for MSPs

  • Keep your own network toolset small and well-defined.
  • Show companies that are struggling to use a multitude of network monitoring tools why a large toolset degrades performance. Demonstrate how you can help, perhaps by consolidating or switching them to your tools.
  • Show prospects the stats on corporate IT’s ability to be proactive about network problems. Have well-defined processes so you can do better—and prove it.
  • Provide your customers visibility into your network activity so that they don’t feel they have to maintain their own toolset to oversee your work.

What did you glean from these statistics? Do you see any opportunities or risks?