Network management is the sum total of applications, tools and processes used to provision, operate, maintain, administer and secure network infrastructure. The overarching role of network management is ensuring network resources are made available to users efficiently, effectively and quickly. It leverages fault analysis and performance management to optimize network health.
Why do we need network management? A network brings together dozens, hundreds or thousands of interacting components. These components will sometimes malfunction, be misconfigured, get over utilized or just fail. Enterprise network management software must respond to these challenges by employing the best suited tools required to manage, monitor and control the network.
The principal objective of network management is to ensure your network infrastructure runs efficiently and smoothly. By doing so, it achieves the following objectives.
Minimizes costly network disruptions
Network disruptions are expensive. Depending on the size of the organization or nature of the affected processes, businesses could experience losses in the thousands or millions of dollars after just an hour of downtime.
This loss is more than just the direct financial impact of network disruption – it’s also the cost of a damaged reputation that makes customers reconsider their long-term relationship. Slow, unresponsive networks are frustrating to both customers and employees. They make it more difficult for staff to respond to customer requests and concerns. Customers who experience network challenges too often will consider jumping ship.
By studying and monitoring every aspect of the network, network management does multiple jobs simultaneously. With that, IT staff are freed from repetitive everyday routines and can focus on the more strategic aspects of their job.
Improved network security
An effective network management program can identify and respond to cyber threats before they spread and impact user experience. Network management ensures best practice standards and compliance with regulatory requirements. Better network security enhances network privacy and gives users reassurance that they can use their devices freely.
Holistic view of network performance
Effective network management provides a comprehensive view of your infrastructure’s performance. You are in a better position to identify, analyze and fix issues fast.
Network management encompasses the following aspects.
Network administration covers the addition and inventorying of network resources such as servers, routers, switches, hubs, cables and computers. It also involves setting up the network software, operating systems and management tools used to run the entire network. Administration covers software updates and performance monitoring too.
Network operations ensures the network works as expected. That includes monitoring network activity, identifying problems and remediating issues. Identifying and addressing problems should preferably occur proactively and not reactively even though both are components of network operation.
Network maintenance addresses fixes, upgrades and repairs to network resources including switches, routers, transmission cables, servers and workstations. It consists of remedial and proactive activities handled by network administrators such as replacing switches and routers, updating access controls and improving device configurations. When a new patch is available, it is applied as soon as possible.
Network provisioning is the configuration of network resources in order to support a wide range of services such as voice functions or additional users. It involves allocating and configuring resources in line with organization’s required services or needs. The network administrator deploys resources to meet the evolving needs of the organization.
For instance, a project may have many project team members logging in remotely thus increasing the need for broadband. If a team requires file transfer or additional storage, the onus falls on the network administrator to avail these.
Network security is the detection and prevention of network security breaches. That involves maintaining activity logs on routers and switches. If a violation is detected, the logs and other network management resources should provide a means of identifying the offender. There should be a process of alerting and escalating suspicious activity.
The network security role covers the installation and maintenance of network protection software, tracking endpoint devices, monitoring network behavior and identifying unusual IP addresses.
Automating the network is an important capability built to reduce cost and improve responsiveness to known issues. As an example, rather than using manual effort to update hundreds or thousands of network device configurations, network automation software can deploy changes and report on configuration status automatically.
Network infrastructure is complex, even in small and medium-sized businesses. The number and diversity of network devices have made oversight more difficult. Thousands of devices, operating systems and applications have to work together. The struggle to maintain control over this sprawling ecosystem has been compounded by the adoption of cloud computing and new networking technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN).
The number, variety and sophistication of network security threats has grown rapidly. As a network grows, new vulnerabilities and potential points of failure are introduced.
Users have grown accustomed to fast speeds. Advances in hardware and network bandwidth, even at home, means that users expect consistently high network performance and availability. There’s low tolerance for downtime.
The management of network infrastructure comes at a cost. While automated tools have made the process easier than ever, there’s both the cost of technology and cost of labor to contend with. This cost can be compounded when multiple instances of network management software need to be deployed due to lack of scalability to support modern enterprise networks with 10s of thousands of devices.
Your network is the core to your IT infrastructure. Managing this network is crucial toward ensuring your business runs smoothly. While the principles remain largely the same, the practice of data network management is constantly evolving in tandem with technology changes.
To get network management right, you need to deploy the right tools and work with a seasoned vendor like OpenText. That gives you the visibility required to keep the network sound and the integrated automation you need to manage costs and reduce response times to known issues to keep your organization’s operations thriving.
OpenText™ Network Operations Management is an industry-proven, comprehensive network management software solution for large enterprises, MSPs & government agencies.