What Is A Real-Time Dashboard?

Learning objectives
  • Understand the use for real-time dashboards
  • Explore the benefits of real-time dashboards
  • Learn about the challenges involved with the setup of real-time dashboards

To oversee and monitor infrastructure, organizations have real-time dashboards that retrieve information from various resources and display them visually to analysts, administrators, developers, and other IT staff. A real-time dashboard is unique from a standard dashboard because it provides information directly from sources to the analyst to be aware of any anomalies immediately, rather than responding to issues from hours or days previously. These dashboards are standard in an enterprise environment where just one failure or cyber-incident could result in severe downtime.

What Can We Do with a Real-Time Dashboard?

Standard dashboards are common across any environment. For example, you can get analytics on your resource usage on cloud dashboards to indicate which ones you use the most, which could be retired, and which sections of your cloud need additional resources. These dashboards are not real-time, but they can be helpful.

Real-time dashboards let you know what is happening on the network right now. Suppose an attacker launches a brute-force attack using bots or a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS). In that case,  a real-time dashboard could detect the spike in traffic and notify analysts that additional research is needed. It could provide a proactive approach to anomaly detection, quickly remediating the issue and reducing the risk of prolonged downtime.

IT administrators also use real-time dashboards to get updates on various network components. They could review network traffic to identify possible malfunctioning infrastructure, any user-generated traffic, such as authentication and authorization anomalies, and insider attacks. If a specific resource is misconfigured or has a failed component, a real-time dashboard with data from the component could identify it. For example, suppose a server’s CPU is overheating. In that case, the system could feed this information to a real-time dashboard to let administrators know that the server could experience downtime if they don’t resolve the issue quickly.

Developers use real-time dashboards to uncover errors in code. Every development lifecycle has a phase where developers test code for bugs, but it’s also not uncommon to find bugs in production when quality assurance (QA) did not catch them. If developers don’t handle these bugs to preserve the user experience, then the user could abandon the site for a competitor. Real-time dashboards identify errors and provide feedback to developers in real-time to update code and deploy a patch quickly.

Business professionals and C-level executives use real-time dashboards to evaluate operations and revenue. The information from real-time dashboards could tell executives if the organization is experiencing a spike in sales calls, an increase in sales and revenue, and if customer service is receiving higher than expected incoming calls.

What Are the Benefits of Real-Time Dashboards?

Real-time dashboards offer every department a look into what is happening right now, but they are often used in IT and cybersecurity to respond to issues that could create critical data loss. They can be handy for large organizations with several moving parts, and just one crash could cause hours of productivity and revenue loss.

A few benefits include:

  • Make quicker, more proactive decisions based on real-time data. Analytics tools help administrators, developers, DevOps teams, and other IT staff make data-driven decisions.
  • Get a view of infrastructure across different components and environments (e.g., on-premises vs. cloud) to understand their operational efficiency.
  • Give administrators the right tools to make decisions instead of constantly working in a reactive, stressful environment.
  • Ensure infrastructure is working efficiently and get the information needed to provision or retire components.
  • Patch and remediate issues in software quickly so that user experience is not affected.

What Are the Challenges with Real-Time Dashboards?

Real-time dashboards have their benefits, but they also have challenges. For an organization unfamiliar with the way dashboards must be set up, what they offer, and the cost involved, everyone might struggle to adopt the new tools. Administrators must implement dashboards across the environment, including connecting component log data to the dashboard. Dashboards ingest data and then provide the correct information to users, so the data must be accurate.

One common challenge is the velocity of data sent to dashboards. Dashboards need to handle large volumes of data and parse it quickly. If dashboards cannot handle large loads of data volume, then the information shown to users could be inaccurate. Even more concerning is that the decisions made using the dashboard could be incorrect and could have severe consequences to the reliability and integrity of the system. 

Another challenge is ensuring that the data streamed to the dashboard is accurate. The dashboard, to make data-driven decisions, needs to have the correct data to process and analyze. Administrators may think that sending all data to dashboards will ensure what it needs, but this strategy increases storage requirements and costs. The data sent to dashboards must be accurate and efficient, administrators can also eliminate any unnecessary data to reduce costs.

Although there are a few challenges involved with real-time dashboard setup, it’s still a beneficial way to get instant feedback on the efficiency of your infrastructure if it’s currently the target of an ongoing cybersecurity attack and errors thrown from your software.

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