Panopta: A scalable outage management service

In all my years, I’ve learned many things.  For example: the old adage “liquor before wine, feeling fine,” is good in theory, not in practice.  To that end, I’ve also learned that bad things happen.  It’s true.  Sometimes you can control it, often times you can’t; all you can control is your response to these bad things.  This is why we pay “crisis management” consultants hundreds of dollars an hour.

And in the world of online businesses, bad things can turn into really bad things, really fast.  Simply put, if not handled properly, an outage to your online business can be devastating – even fatal.  Panopta is an advanced server monitoring and outage management service to help mitigate this risk.

Panopta

Before I delve a bit further into the Panopta’s site, let me depress you into submission first.  Back in 2008, the seemingly impervious Amazon.com was down for several hours over two business days.  Estimated losses totaled a million dollars an hour in sales.  To steal a quote from the New York Times:

“Technology companies have branded the Internet as a place that is always on and where information is always available. People are disappointed and looking for answers when it turns out not to be true.”

And as any small business will tell you, you don’t have to be Amazon or eBay to be financially affected.  Quite the opposite: due to limited resources, most small businesses often cross their fingers and hope for the best when it comes to preventing outages.  (And small businesses outages simply aren’t headline news.)  And this is where Panopta rocks: it acknowledges the inevitable, and helps you manage the damage efficiently and effectively.  On its home page, Panopta succinctly frames their service’s features by addressing some of the key failure points that hamper outage management.  Here they are:

  • The “Who” problem: Namely, who gets notified of the outage.  Seems simple enough, right?  Well, not so much.  Many businesses lack a chain of command, and Panopta provides it with automatic team-based escalation tools.  (In other words, if Todd the IT guy is out watching Shrek 3, the monitoring system immediately pings his underling, Gary the Trekkie.)
  • The “What” problem: “What” meaning servers, of course.  But not all servers are the same.  An outage to, say, the servers housing sensitive financial data can be crippling; an outage to, say, the server housing the St. Patrick’s Day Planning Committee docs? (green Jello shots!)  Not so much.  Panopta manages servers in terms of quality, designed to scale to large numbers, as well as quantity.
  • The “When” problem: Panopta is fast – it scans the servers every 60 seconds.  If something bad goes down, it will be picked up almost immediately.  And its reports can help you detect trends to prevent the next outage.
  • The “Where” problem: If you were to ask what “Where” applies to, I’d say, “Your online business, of course!”

As you can expect, users navigate these waters on Panopta’s monitoring dashboard, which is below.  It’s simple interface shows Active Outages, Recently Resolved Outages, and Announcements.  And the other tabs are equally intuitive: Servers, Outages, Users & Contacts, Notification, Reports, Settings, Billing, and Support.

Panopta Dashboard

From a first-time user’s perspective, it seemed simple and easy.  It includes a 30 Day Free Trial, which should be long enough to determine that it’s the right solution for you.  The Pricing plan are reasonable, and geared especially for small businesses.

Outage management isn’t about a single tool or piece of software; it’s a process, a service.  The whole package must be scalable, efficient, and user-friendly.  If it’s not, it sits on the proverbial shelf until the inevitable happens, and you, the business, are burned and broke and bummed.  Not good.  Panopta, an intuitive outage management service, acknowledges this, addressing the key failure points in the outage management lifecycle.  Bad things happen, but with Panopta, outages can be not so bad.  And that, in and of itself, is also not so bad.  If that makes sense.