Whether you are in charge of 50 systems or 500, preventive maintenance in the form of updates and upgrades is a way of life. As you know, typically these types of operations take place in off hours when business is closed or low activity. This planned downtime has commonly been referred to as a “maintenance window.” Whether you have a defined schedule or take it as it comes, it does require pre-planning and occasionally some unusual hours.
With a real-time monitoring tool like ELM in place, you’re most likely setup to be notified when systems or critical business processes and services are unavailable. That’s great – exactly what should be happening. But what about those times when the down time is planned; do you really want a multitude of notifications filling your inbox?
First introduced in version 6.7, ELM now offers what we refer to as Maintenance Categories. These are simply categories with built-in scheduling designed to temporarily disable any notifications from the systems that are assigned to these categories. They don’t stop monitoring systems during the maintenance periods, they just keep you from potentially being barraged with notifications.
Let’s take a look at a Maintenance Category for the well-known “Patch Tuesday.” One of the default Maintenance Categories in ELM 6.7 is called “Monthly Security.” To look at the details of this category, we’ll right-click and choose Properties.
You can see that the defaults with this Maintenance Category have already been configured to fall in line with Microsoft’s schedule for Patch Tuesday; Starting at 4AM, for two hours, the second Tuesday of every month, and recurring monthly. If that works for you then we can proceed to the next paragraph. If not, then adjust the schedule accordingly. Many companies prefer to delay updates to perform testing or phased rollout. Do what is right for your environment or company policy.
Next we’ll move to the Agents Tab. Here is where you can assign agents to this Maintenance Category. The dialog box will show all available Agents that can be assigned to this category. We’ll select half the systems for this example.
Clicking OK, these systems are now assigned to the Monthly Security Updates Maintenance Category. The second Tuesday of each month, all notifications for these systems will be temporarily disabled for 2 hours (4AM to 6AM) while the monthly Microsoft updates run and systems reboot as necessary.
While Maintenance Categories are active, as well as the systems within them, their icons will change within some areas of the ELM Console so that you know what’s in maintenance mode without having to look at properties. The Maintenance Category Icon will glow green in the left pane as well as any systems within that category in the right pane. There is also a tooltip text next to each Agent in the left pane of the console showing that it is in “MAINTENANCE” mode regardless of what other Agent Categories it may be assigned to.
Maintenance Categories can be used with recurring schedules, for one time maintenance windows, or virtually any down time you need to coordinate. Systems can also be assigned to multiple Maintenance Categories as needed.
On a final note, when deploying new agents onto your systems, if you choose the Advanced path within the deployment wizard (about step 3 in the process), you have the option to assign the new agents to Maintenance Categories from the very beginning.
We hope that you found this article on Using Maintenance Categories for Planned Down Time informative and useful and wish you continued success with ELM.