Observability versus monitoring: getting the best out of IT infrastructures

Paessler AG

By Felix Berndt, Asia Pacific Director at Paessler AG
Wednesday, 05 June, 2024

Observability versus monitoring: getting the best out of IT infrastructures

Today’s IT infrastructures thrive on distributed environments, but as IT teams strive for seamless operations, they must understand the importance and the distinction between monitoring and observability. While both are important for managing IT environments, understanding their differences and how they complement each other can significantly enhance an organisation’s infrastructure management strategy.

While traditional network monitoring tools primarily focus on data collection and display, network observability solutions offer a more detailed and granular architectural design. Organisations now rely on observability tools to provide rapid, automated insights and recommendations. These observability solutions will address issues and enhance performance, all while mitigating the ‘alert fatigue’ that IT teams often face.

The evolution of infrastructure monitoring

Historically, infrastructure monitoring has been a fundamental part of IT operations and it was designed to track and display data from various components within the infrastructure. They provide real-time alerts based on predefined thresholds, enabling IT teams to react swiftly to anomalies. For example, a monitoring system might alert an IT team when bandwidth is low, which is invaluable for minimising downtime and maintaining services.

However, traditional monitoring approaches can face limitations as IT environments become increasingly complex and distributed. One of the biggest issues is that infrastructure monitoring tools primarily function reactively and will only send alerts to IT teams after an issue occurs.

In addition, traditional monitoring systems tend to operate in silos, each focusing on specific components, for example, servers, networks and applications. This fragmented approach can make getting a holistic view of the entire infrastructure challenging.

The third issue is that with numerous alerts triggered by various sensors, IT professionals often suffer from alert fatigue, where the sheer volume of notifications leads to them overlooking important alerts.

The emergence of infrastructure observability

In response to these three challenges, observability has emerged as a powerful complement to traditional monitoring. Observability often focuses on monitoring the system or application and looking for imminent errors in the IT environment. Providing full-stack visibility into the IT infrastructure will help the IT team keep the network infrastructure in its optimal working condition.

Observability solutions are distinguished by their key characteristics: proactive insights, a holistic view and root cause analysis. By leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning, observability solutions can identify patterns and predict potential issues before they impact performance. They integrate data from diverse sources such as logs, metrics and traces, offering a unified view of the entire infrastructure.

The benefit of integrating monitoring and observability

A more holistic approach enables IT teams to understand how different components interact and affect each other. Since observability tools provide deep insights into the underlying causes of technology issues, they help IT teams detect and swiftly diagnose and resolve problems better than they could only with infrastructure monitoring in place.

While monitoring and observability are distinct concepts, they are most effective when used together. By integrating monitoring tools with observability solutions, IT teams achieve a comprehensive infrastructure management strategy that combines the strengths of both approaches, which include:

  • Enhanced visibility: Combining monitoring and observability provides a complete picture of the IT environment. Monitoring tools offer real-time alerts, while observability solutions provide the context to understand and address issues.
  • Improved performance: With proactive insights from observability, IT teams can optimise performance before problems arise. This proactive approach reduces downtime and enhances overall system reliability.
  • Reduced alert fatigue: Observability platforms can filter and prioritise alerts based on their impact, reducing the number of trivial notifications and helping IT teams prioritise critical issues.
  • Accelerated root cause analysis: The deep diagnostic capabilities of observability tools enable faster identification of root causes, reducing the mean time to resolution (MTTR) for incidents.


The integration of monitoring and observability is essential for achieving optimal performance and reliability. While monitoring provides crucial real-time alerts, observability offers the depth and context necessary for proactive management and effective root-cause analysis. By leveraging the complementary strengths of both approaches, it is possible to enhance visibility, reduce downtime and deliver exceptional user experiences.

Investing in an integrated infrastructure monitoring and observability solution is more than just a technological upgrade; it’s a strategic move towards building a more resilient and efficient IT environment.

This integrated approach not only enhances the value of traditional monitoring but also empowers IT teams to manage and optimise their infrastructure performance proactively. As a result, it is more possible to unlock the full potential of IT infrastructure, ensuring agility in an increasingly complex digital world. Embracing the synergy between monitoring and observability will position IT teams to meet today’s demands and anticipate tomorrow’s challenges.

Top image credit: iStock.com/greenbutterfly

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