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Absence of Failure, Failure to Succeed

Remember this classic statement from then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld?

“There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”

Most people rightly focused on the last sentence; “we do not know what we don’t know.” In case anyone thought he was being less than serious, he went on to say:  “It sounds like a riddle. It isn’t a riddle. It is a very serious, important matter.”

He was right, of course, it is an important matter.  Unknown unknowns with regard to the status and integrity of your IT systems can lead to lost money, lost opportunity, or worse.  Sound IT Services has created a unique service that can help avoid these dreaded unknowns.

Almost every remote monitoring system sends an automated email notifying administrators when a problem occurs.  This type of active notification puts your system failures quickly into the category of a ‘known known’.

Other systems (such as backup systems) send an automated email indicating an expected event was successfully completed.  These emails do not generally require any further action since they are just a conformation that everything is working correctly.  Most IT service providers either ignore these success emails, or in some cases try to disable them as to not clog their inboxes.  This type of active notification also puts your systems successes into the category a ‘known known’.

Between the two types of notification, administrators should have a good picture of system health;  notification of failures, confirmation of successes.

Sometimes, however, a system failure can include the failure of the automated email process.  In this case, there is not a notification of failure nor confirmation of a success.  In both cases something has gone wrong.  Because most IT service providers are focused on the presence of an issue and not the absence of a success, timely resolution of the issue can be at risk.  The failure of the automated email processes creates the condition of an “unknown unknown.” As Secretary Rumsfeld concluded, “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Sound IT Service’s system monitors all incoming automated emails, and logs the timestamp for each successful alert for every server covered by a maintenance contract.  A second, independent system monitors the timestamp records and creates alarms if the expected success message(s) have not been received.

Simply put, in addition to responding to anything that has an error, we actively monitoring for the presence of success.  Please contact us to learn more.


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