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Root Cause Analysis in IT: Collaborating to Improve Availability

April 21, 2021

The shift to remote work changed the way IT teams collaborate. Instead of walking over to a colleague’s desk, co-workers collaborate digitally. Looking forward, many companies will continue some form of remote work by taking a hybrid approach. Root cause analysis in IT will always require collaboration as teams look to improve service availability and prevent problems. 

Collaboration problems facing IT teams

Sitting in front of the same screen and looking at the same data makes it easy to discuss problems. In a distributed workforce, this isn’t possible. While screen sharing is one solution, it’s not always ideal. However, two categories of problems make this asynchronous work environment difficult for IT teams. 

You need simultaneous access to the same data

In an office situation, collaboration happens organically. You walk over to a colleague’s desk and pull up some data. The two of you can see the same data, at the same time, in the same location. This just doesn’t happen in an asynchronous workforce. 

You need to understand someone else’s process

IT teams often collaborate as “one mind.” They use the same data, but they also share investigations. This means you need to understand someone else’s research path or way of looking at data. 

When you’re sharing a physical space, it’s easier to share the mind-space. However, in a distributed workforce, you can’t do that. 

Sharing root cause analysis data

The foundation of a strong root cause analysis is the information used to make decisions. With every device, user, software, and network continuously logging activity, event log data changes by the second. 

Permalinks for a shared dataset

Graylog has a permalink feature so that you can send a link through your company’s preferred chat service, like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Graylog’s permalink feature means that you can copy a link that and share a specific message. When your colleagues follow the link, they look at the same data, at the same moment in time, as you. 

For example, you might have a Graylog set up daily ingesting four terabytes of data. Working on a production issue that impacts service availability means you and your colleague need the same data simultaneously. By sharing the permalink, you can look at the same information without being in the same location. 

Example

You want to share all the information available for the data from a specific application and a specific IP address. You need your team member to be looking at the same data you are. If you click the permalink button, the URL you share has the same parameters for your search, including selected stream, time range, and query. As long as your team member has the same permissions, they can access the same information you did. 

Export the data to a CSV

Exporting the search data as a CSV file has the added benefit of letting you focus on what you share. You can select which fields to export, filtering the stream down further. This way, you can direct your teammate’s attention to the information that you think is most important. 

You don’t have to worry about your teammate sifting through the information to find what you wanted them to view. You also don’t have to worry about sending wordy directions. 

Share a report

In Graylog Enterprise, you can download a report to share information. If you want to share information with someone outside your team, you can configure reports with only the data that person needs. You can also create a regular “send by email” schedule, and  Graylog will send the report by email based on your input. 

Collaborating remotely on a root cause investigation

The first three features solve the problems that come from needing information. However, problem-solving often requires sharing a process. 

Investigations are about asking questions and following data. In some cases, you can ask different questions in analysis tools that get you to the same causal factor. In other cases, you might not know what questions to ask and need help. 

When you’re working in an in-person environment, you will walk over to a team member or another team with more experience to ask questions. However, in the distributed workforce, you can’t do this. 

Graylog Enterprise lets you create workflows and dashboards around parameters. Parameters are a way that you can define a problem to create consistent and repeatable investigation workflows. By standardizing the investigation path, team members can follow the same process. 

Your experienced team members can build complex workflows based on a single parameter. All the other team members need to do is pass the parameter into the workflow and read the results. This standardizes the information that all users - no matter where they are - get from investigating that parameter to address the root problem. 


By setting workflows for most-used parameters, you create a systematic process, making it easier to collaborate in a distributed work environment. You create a standard workflow so that everyone can follow the same investigation process and path. You also empower less experienced team members because the workflows lead them through the investigation and teach them how to follow the data. 

Example

For example, you identify a problem in your overview dashboard for APIs. As you begin your incident investigation, the HTTP requests data leads you to look into an IP address. You can click on the IP address value and select the source address investigation view. You paste this IP address in the request box. 

By doing this, you moved into the next step of the investigation. The new view shows all the requests from this IP address, including user agents, top request paths, bytes exchange, total requests. 

Graylog: Empowering Collaboration for Root Cause Analysis

Remote collaboration is likely here to stay. With Graylog, IT teams can collaborate when engaging in root cause analysis. Cloud IT stacks are more important to business operations than ever before. Effective and efficient root cause analysis is how the IT team ensures continued productivity. 

Graylog was built to help IT teams find the proverbial needle in the haystack. Graylog helps teams share data and knowledge so that organizations can remain competitive as they embrace the future of digital workforces. 

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