Safeguarding the Foundation of Your Business IT System
Your network is a vital part of your business’s IT system, and to keep it running smoothly, it’s essential to perform some basic network management tasks. Network management covers a range of activities and processes to ensure a strong and functional network. Mismanagement of a network can significantly impact all the services, applications, and servers that a business relies on. Therefore, it’s crucial to take all network management tasks seriously and uphold high standards. In this article, we’ll explore ten critical network management tasks that follow best practices, processes, and some tools for effectively managing your network.
1. Network Configuration
Running your business smoothly is the top priority, and a well-managed network will serve your business better by reducing the time spent on problem-solving.
Well-designed networks are created with templates that allow for easy building and updates as needed. These templates serve two purposes: assisting in configuring and deploying devices and ensuring that configurations are consistent across different device architectures.
Today, many ICT professionals and service providers use Network Management Software to aid in configuration management, provisioning, discovery, monitoring, and network maintenance.
2. Network Monitoring and Alerting
Continuous monitoring of the health of network-managed devices is crucial for optimal performance and availability. Close monitoring of operational health can be achieved with the help of network monitoring tools, health monitoring services, and protocols. Tools such as the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) manager, trap messages, syslog, NetFlow, deep packet inspections, and application layer protocols can automate the triggering of alerts when issues arise.
3. Troubleshooting and root cause analysis
There are times when the network doesn’t perform optimally or experiences complete failures. In such situations, network administrators must quickly identify and resolve issues. When incidents occur, network administrators should conduct a root cause analysis to properly document the true cause of the issue and the actions taken to resolve it. This analysis helps implement measures to prevent the issue from recurring or at least reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
4. Change control management
The production network is closely monitored and managed. When network changes are necessary, network administrators oversee the entire deployment process from start to finish. This includes defining who can make changes, when and how changes occur, announcing changes, and reviewing change requests.
To make such changes, administrators typically use a service ticketing platform that assists in managing change requests, determining scope and risk, conducting peer reviews, pre-deployment testing and validation, implementing changes, integrity testing, and documenting updates.
5. Firmware bug and vulnerability patching
Vulnerabilities are a major cause of system compromises today. While device firmware management isn’t updated as frequently as applications and OSes, modern networking equipment makes firmware updates easier and more frequent.
Network administrators should establish processes to review and update firmware patching, just as they would for any other network device change control management procedure. Leading providers are increasingly adopting central network management tools to deploy firmware updates.
6. Configuration backup and secure storage
Securely storing backups and configuration scripts is vital for disaster recovery purposes. These backups should be kept outside of the provider’s cloud in case of a major service outage. Some legacy network devices still use command-line interfaces for configuration, so it’s important to have text copies of these configuration scripts to transfer them to replacement equipment. Limited access and encryption policies should dictate how backup storage and access are managed.
A common backup strategy is the 3-2-1 backup rule, which reduces the risk of a single point of failure. This rule involves: (3) creating one primary backup and two copies; (2) saving backups on two different types of media (local and external hard drives); and (1) keeping at least one backup file offsite (in cloud storage).
7. Policy and compliance validation
Compliance administrators must not only manage networks but also regularly review and validate network policies to ensure that the network is optimised for performance, security, and regulatory compliance. Depending on the type of business operation, administrators must ensure compliance with various standards and industry regulations.
Administrators should conduct regular reviews of various ISO standards, including cybersecurity, GDPR, PCI, and others. Many automation tools are available to assist in the security and compliance validation processes.
8. Network diagrams
Creating and maintaining network diagrams allows network administrators to scale and expand networks safely and efficiently. Keeping accurate physical and logical network diagrams helps manage the complexities of growing networks. Today, many automated network mapping tools are available, but they typically provide less information and are suitable for networks that change frequently. Manual mapping of network diagrams typically provides more information but can be challenging to maintain in rapidly growing networks.
9. Network Resilience
Networks are designed with monitoring solutions and high availability in mind. Network mapping software helps address factors like standby equipment maintenance, cable redundancy, and routing protocols in the event of hardware failures. Network resilience tasks include regular testing and evaluation of response times in case of a failure.
Enhancing network resilience requires an understanding of hardware replacement times, vendor support hours of operation, and service delivery methods that include detailed steps to resolve common problems from start to finish. It’s also important to ensure proper hardware and software licensing with vendor support contracts.
10. Short- and long-term road mapping
This network management task requires network administrators to stay informed about new technologies because all networks evolve over time. Understanding when and how to adopt emerging technologies should be planned and mapped out accordingly. Having a network roadmap with short- and long-term architecture plans helps understand the current state of the network, its capabilities in the near future, and when major upgrades will be necessary.
Staying on top of network maintenance
For small businesses, managing their network can be a daunting task when it doesn’t have to be. Networking technologies don’t change as frequently as some others, so once the foundational aspects of network configuration are set up, ongoing management tasks become routine.
To ensure regular network management and maintenance tasks are completed, you can assign responsibility to someone in your business and incorporate these tasks into your company’s schedule. If you leave these tasks to someone who has spare time, there’s a good chance they might never get done!
Minimising disruptions is a good idea, so always perform network maintenance outside of regular business hours. Maintenance tasks like hard drive optimisation, running virus scans, or testing backup systems can slow down a network server. You may also consider automating these management tasks. For example, virus scanners can be scheduled to perform full scans in the evening at specific times, and the same can be done for cloud backups. In some cases, service providers can handle most of the heavy lifting for you.
Ready to take control of your network and ensure its smooth operation?
Don’t hesitate – contact us at OPENSHOP today! Let us help you with your network management needs and keep your business running smoothly.