Computer and IT networks are at the heart of every organization regardless of the size or industry sector. Effective network management is fundamental to the smooth operation of all things we take for granted in a business environment — email, communications, equipment provisioning, data handling, network security, etc.
Networking in management terms is centered around the setting up, oversight, and administration of all the hardware, software, users, and services that keep a business operational. It also involves stepping in to identify and resolve problems as and when they occur.
What is Network Management?
Network management is the continuous process of setting up, configuring, administering, operating, and troubleshooting a data network and its related infrastructure. The ongoing mission is to optimize network performance and preserve the integrity and security of the IT infrastructure while keeping downtime and disruptions to a minimum.
The remit of network management encompasses several areas. These include infrastructure setup and provisioning, resource allocation, network operations, system maintenance, fault monitoring, remediation, and overall administration.
The Importance of Network Management
Traditional hardware-based networks of servers, routers, switches, and other devices connected by wiring have given way to a new breed of hybrid and heterogeneous infrastructures. These may combine cable-connected systems with wireless and mobile hardware, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and remote users who connect to the network via the internet or Wide Area Network (WAN) linkages.
This mix introduces complexities in the management and configuration of all network elements and challenges for administrators in monitoring and securing all users and assets. A comprehensive solution can help in reducing this complexity. At the simplest level, a unified platform of management tools eliminates the need to employ multiple utilities for network monitoring, configuration, and other vital tasks. Network management eases the administrative burden in several other areas, including:
Identifying Faults on the Network
Faults and disruptions on a network can lead to downtime, which can cost an organization thousands of dollars or more per minute, depending on the services or applications involved. In addition, loss of network availability can put the organization in a bad light in the eyes of its consumers if it impacts them.
Effective network management can assist in proactively identifying problems that could adversely affect performance and availability on the network. Suppose this identification takes place before they can affect the network users. In that case, fault monitoring can also empower administrators to take remedial action that prevents such faults from causing problems in the future.
Managing and Optimizing Network Performance
A network management strategy typically involves continuous assessment of the infrastructure performance to ensure that all components are operating optimally. Performance monitoring also enables administrators to use manual tools and/or automation to troubleshoot problems that negatively impact the network and take the necessary steps to resolve them. Managing and optimizing network performance in this way also frees IT personnel to concentrate on more business-critical tasks and projects.
Allocating Network Resources Properly
Network management also includes provisioning — calculating the resource demands of various network components and providing the mechanisms to make these resources available as required. The management strategy should also ensure there are resources held in reserve to meet peak or future demands.
Maintaining Proper Service Levels
A solution with real-time reporting capabilities enables administrators to track performance fluctuations in various network components’ performance levels over time. With alerts and tools for fault remediation, it’s possible to use this facility to help in maintaining agreed or anticipated service levels for network assets and applications.
Network management activity logging and performance monitoring provide administrators with advanced and real-time warnings of suspicious activity or activities that contravene enterprise security policies and protocols. Systems with dedicated security software and remedial tools can provide alerts, block malicious activity, and resources for managing threat intelligence.
How Does Network Management Work?
Various aspects contribute to network management. They include:
Administration of a network involves the oversight and monitoring of network resources such as file servers, routers, and switches. The administrative aspect of network management also involves installing and updating device operating systems, network applications, and management utilities.
This aspect of network management concerns the day-to-day running of applications and services on the network. Close monitoring of activities on the network, monitoring for faults and problems adversely affecting network activity, and taking steps to remedy these faults, are all part of the operations management process.
Troubleshooting and Maintenance
As time goes on, network components may require upgrading, repair, or even replacement. The maintenance aspect of network management encompasses these issues. Administrators must take the necessary remedial actions as unexpected problems occur and adjust the configuration of network devices and software in line with the changes required to keep the network running at optimal levels.
Provisioning and Resource Allocation
For effective network management, administrators must continually adjust and fine-tune the allocation of network resources (bandwidth, memory, storage capacity, etc.) to various network components to keep operations in line with anticipated service levels and the enterprise’s overall objectives. Administrators must also keep an eye on changing business environments and future demands and adjust resource allocation to meet these conditions.
Automation is a critical aspect of network management that frees administrators from the burden of manually configuring hundreds or even thousands of devices, applications, and processes. Automation significantly reduces or even eliminates the possibility of human error. Automated systems can also provide real-time monitoring and incident response.
Many current systems include a network management module to enable automation. Other options for data analytics, machine learning, quality assurance, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are available.
Challenges of Network Management
Network management is a multi-faceted process. It can be complex, and there are some challenges associated with its successful implementation. They include:
Even for small and medium-sized businesses, network infrastructure can be complex and encompass a heterogeneous mix of traditional hardware, mobile devices, IoT (Internet of Things), and cloud services. Disparate software platforms and different communication and security protocols can also add to the complexity.
With multiple device types and a network perimeter that can extend literally across the globe, the network may present numerous areas for cyber-attack. The network management system must anticipate all possible attack vectors and provide the security protections necessary for dealing with them.
Meeting Anticipated Service Levels
With the widespread availability of high-speed internet connections, network users have come to expect 24x7x365 access to applications and services — and flawless performance throughout. The challenge for network management is to keep downtime to an absolute minimum and maximize network performance at all times.
Investing in the specialist skills and infrastructure needed to manage today’s networks, keep them operating at maximum efficiency and keep on top of the ever-growing security threats can be prohibitively expensive for a small business. Consider leveraging the skills and experience of a managed service provider (MSP). Identify where you have gaps in skills or expertise—over a range of IT services, engaging with an MSP to help you can be significantly more cost-effective than hiring and training IT staff in the long term.
Network Management Solutions
There are several scenarios in where additional expertise in network management may be of benefit. Among them are:
With downtime having potentially disastrous consequences for modern businesses and the need to maintain a high and consistent Quality of Service (QoS) at all times, network management solutions are key to maintaining network performance monitoring and fault remediation.
At CG Technologies, our network management service takes a proactive approach, checking your critical systems 24 hours a day, every day. Our monitoring system scans your network in real-time and provides immediate alerts in the event of any issues. We take one step further than simply alerting you to potential issues – in many cases, we can identify and remediate the issue without intervention, disruption, or escalation to you or business operations.
Performing an assessment can help in establishing whether your network infrastructure is appropriate for achieving your business goals. The assessment also assists in drawing up your strategy for network management and administration.
At CG Technologies, we work as your partner in IT, continuously monitoring your network and essential business systems and keeping your business running smoothly. We’ll provide you with data and network insights in a monthly report that will give you peace of mind knowing your network is continually monitored and managed.
Minimal downtime and optimal performance mean nothing if your network is attacked by malware or your data is not adequately secured.
CG Technologies offers a range of cyber security solutions tailored to how your business works at a much lower cost than hiring in-house resources. Our network professionals will go through a rigorous process of identifying vulnerabilities that could compromise your network’s overall security, privacy, and operations and recommend how best to protect your network from attack. If you’d like to know how CG Technologies can assist your network management efforts, get in touch with us.