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The Hidden Costs of Infrastructure and Application Monitoring

The true cost of infrastructure and application monitoring can vary significantly from your expectations. Here's where to look for the hidden costs.

How much does it cost to monitor infrastructure and applications? The answer may seem simple enough: You calculate the cost of your monitoring tools. In reality, however, the true cost of infrastructure and application monitoring can vary significantly from your expectations. This is due to "hidden" costs that are easy to miss when you calculate the price of monitoring.

What are those hidden costs, you ask? Keep reading for an overview of all of the factors you need to weigh when calculating how much it costs to perform infrastructure and application monitoring.

The Basics of Software Monitoring

When I say "monitoring," I mean any type of operation that helps you gain visibility into your infrastructure or the applications and data that run on it.

The most common types of monitoring are uptime monitoring, which tracks the availability of infrastructure and software, and performance monitoring, which helps you to make sure that things are responding as quickly as you need them to. But there are many other types of monitoring that modern IT organizations perform.

Calculating the Cost of Monitoring: The Basic Approach

At first glance, calculating the cost of infrastructure and application monitoring can seem pretty simple. A very basic calculation is to weigh the costs of your monitoring tools -- which could be zero if you use free, open source tools like Nagios.

A slightly more sophisticated cost calculation takes into account your staff's time. Monitoring tools that deliver faster results can be less costly because they allow your IT staff--who typically command pretty steep salaries--to do more in less time.

Unfortunately, these calculations are rarely sufficient for determining the true cost of monitoring. To get at that figure, you need to consider the hidden costs of monitoring tools and processes.

Software Monitoring's Unseen Costs

Those hidden monitoring costs include the following.

  • Infrastructure

Unless you use fully hosted monitoring software, you need infrastructure on which to run your monitoring tools. That infrastructure could be in the cloud, where you would pay for virtual servers to host the monitoring software, or it could be on-premise.

While the costs of both cloud infrastructure and on-premise hardware can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors, including but not limited to load, the cost of hosting infrastructure for monitoring tools is usually not insignificant. Don't forget to factor it into your monitoring calculations.

(Note, too, that even if you use a fully hosted solution, installing monitoring agents on the systems you want to monitor could increase your infrastructure costs slightly.)

  • Configuration Time

In addition to measuring how long it takes your IT staff to use monitoring tools, you should consider how much time they need to configure them.

Do your monitoring tools use fancy, AIOps-driven techniques to auto-configure themselves? (If so, they probably carry a higher price tag.) Or do they require significant manual configuration and reconfiguration whenever your infrastructure or applications change?

  • Tool Expertise

Are your monitoring tools and processes simple enough that any qualified IT professional can learn to use them quickly? Or do they require a deep level of expertise, with the result that new staff have to be trained extensively?

If the answer to the latter question is yes, you will have a significant hidden cost due to tool training time. But your company may also be in the less-than-ideal position of having to depend on a few key employees for its monitoring needs, which restricts its ability to grow or change.

  • Lock-In

How easy are your monitoring tools and processes to change? Are you locked into a particular vendor's ecosystem? Can you modify your processes when it comes time to scale or if you move a workload that needs to be monitored from on-premise to the cloud?

Being locked in to a specific monitoring tool and process could cost money in the long run. Flexibility is always cheaper.

Keep in mind, too, that although open source monitoring tools are generally less likely to lock you in, they are no magic bullet when it comes to flexibility. Open source projects have been known to go defunct or change directions in ways that leave users in the lurch.

  • Things Left Unmonitored

Anything that you fail to monitor effectively could cost you money in the long run. This means that, if your monitoring strategy doesn't cover all of your infrastructure and applications at the level you need to prevent problems, you could have a source of hidden costs on your hands. That's why it's a good idea to make a list of everything that you have to monitor, update it on a regular basis and make sure that all of the needs it includes are being met.


Monitoring is essential, but it's also costly. And it can be especially costly if you fail to plan adequately for all of the easy-to-overlook costs that lurk behind your basic monitoring cost calculations.

TAGS: DevOps
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