Network management is no longer solely the realm of IT managers. As networks continue to gain complexity, the onus is on all stakeholders to support the health of the network, assuring its continued ability to function.
So, let’s talk about network management and network managers. What are they? What do they do? How do they do it?
Network management basics
Network management can be defined as a specific set of actions that ensures that all of the resources on the network are being used as efficiently and as effectively as possible. This involves maintaining network resources so that the people who need access can have it when they need it.
The network manager or network administrator is the person who oversees and manages these functions. Using a range of technologies, the administrator monitors network performance and ensures enough resources are available to keep it running.
Yesterday’s networks bear little resemblance to today’s
Early networks were significantly simpler than the networks of today. Often consisting of a mainframe and a handful of peripherals such as printers, scanners, and modems, its management was relatively uncomplicated. One in-house IT tech or even a consultant could easily manage a small-to-medium-sized network without a great deal of trouble.
Back then, there was little worry about cybersecurity. Few admins would have been able to fathom the realities of today: hundreds, thousands or even millions of users needing to access the same system at the same time; the use of mobile devices; having to connect with a centralized CRM; enterprise resource planning (ERP); or even the sheer volume of data produced by these activities.
Today, these scenarios are commonplace. The demand for faster, easier, more efficient, more predictable, and more secure access is on the rise. On any given network, there may be a multitude of users, applications, security appliances, and networked peripherals.
Workstations and other devices must connect to the internet, which is then routed to users via LAN or Wi-Fi routers. There are virtual machines, server volume and performance to monitor, and there is a vast unknown representing all the new and improved technology coming down the pike. Network managers must be aware of current cyber threats and stay on top of new protections as they become available. The security aspect alone is a full-time job, and is as indispensable as the machines and users that need protection.
Complicating all this further is that most of these disparate components come from different manufacturers, developers, and vendors, making the efficient management of everything under one blanket next to impossible without a team of IT technicians paying round-the-clock attention.
Network management tools leverage proactive techniques and automation
The new generation of network management solutions helps administrators to more easily manage the network, breaking down some of the barriers that have traditionally used up a lot of organizational resources. Issues such as printer malfunctions, internet dropouts, power surges, bad cables, or even an employee plugging a machine into the wrong outlet can cause a ripple effect that wreaks havoc on productivity and can even shut down an entire company in one fell swoop.
Hardware may fail, disks may become corrupted, hard drives may wind down or wear out, or the local utility might decide to dig in the wrong place and sever your connection completely. Any of these scenarios are possible, and while some are unavoidable, they still need to be addressed and fixed in a timely manner so your team can get back to business.
Fortunately, today’s network management tools are more intuitive than ever, giving network administrators a window into their entire network so that problems are averted before they become resource-draining disasters. Without these tools, a network admin would have to troubleshoot by physically going through every single possibility until they found the problem, costing the organization in countless ways and driving up the cost of doing business in the process.
Automation changes everything
Automation has made a big impact in driving IT costs down and helping network administrators regain their sanity. Many repetitive functions can now be automated, freeing up company resources for higher-value, revenue-driving activities.
What tools does your network manager need?
There are many modern network tools that make the administrator’s job easier to accomplish. Depending on your company and its available resources, some may be easier to provide than others.
To help you understand how your network administrator imagines a perfect world, think of this as a network management “wish list”:
Fault management tools
Most companies have a help desk of some sort. The help desk’s primary function is to assist users when their technology is not working. In this scenario, IT waits to hear about a break before they fix it. Fault management tools monitor the network for anomalies and will failover to redundancies to prevent systems from failing completely. If the issue can be resolved remotely or by the system, no human ever has to touch it. Even if IT has to get involved, the network often continues to function as normal—with its users none the wiser.
Device management tools
Device provisioning, configuration, and customization are repetitive tasks that can be automated. Your network management system should optimize these processes. It should be able to handle all the devices on your system, and it should be scalable to what you imagine your volume might be in the future. Device management tools enable touch-free provisioning, deprovisioning, automatic configuration, and inventory control. Global updating helps new employees onboard quickly and allows you to monitor device performance—as well as employee productivity—in real-time.
Keeping your network secure is a top priority in network management. An effective network security iteration should help you monitor all devices and peripherals for breaches, keep records of any violation history, enforce company security rules, track the sources of malicious threats, and alert the administrator to any security issues. There is a wide range of security appliances and software infrastructures to facilitate and enforce even the strictest security rules.
These are just a few of the tools your network manager would love to have. As networks continue to become more complex and nuanced, new solutions will be brought to market. As time goes by, these solutions will become more intuitive, more automated, and generally easier to manage—making your network manager even happier.
If you would like to learn more about how to design the network of your administrator’s dreams, schedule a call with Business World today. We would love to talk to you about how we can help.