In a network, whether small or large, spread over one location or many—there are network administrators, system administrators, or network engineers who frequently access the IP address store. While many organizations still use spreadsheets, database programs, and other manual methods for IP address management, the same document/software is accessed and updated by multiple people. Network administrators take on the role of assigning IPs in small networks, as well as when they add new network devices or reconfigure existing ones. The system administrator takes care of assigning IPs to new users that join the network and adding new devices like printers, servers, VMs, DHCP & DNS services, etc. Larger networks that are spread over multiple locations sometimes have a dedicated person assigned to specifically manage planning, provisioning and allocation of IP space for the organization. They also take care of research, design and deployment of IPv6 in the network. Delegating IP management tasks to specific groups’ based on expertise or operations (network & systems team) allows teams to work independent of each other and meet IP requirements faster.
Again, if the central IP address repository is maintained by a single person, then the problem lies in the delay of meeting these IP address requests. Furthermore, they could run into human-errors and grievances stemming from teams experiencing downtime -- waiting to complete their tasks.
What Could Go Wrong When Multiple Users Access the Same Spreadsheet?
Spreadsheets are an easily available and less-expensive option to maintain IP address data. But, it does come with its own downsides when multiple users access the same spreadsheet. Typically, users tend to save a copy to their local drive and then finding the most recently updated version becomes another task! You end up with multiple worksheets with different data on each of them. There is no way to track who changed what. Ultimately, this leads to no accountability for misassignments or IP changes made.
In short, this method is bound to have errors, obsolete data and lacks security controls. There could be situations when an administrator makes a change in the status of an IP address, but forgets to communicate the same to the team/person that handles DHCP or DNS services. In turn, chances are higher that duplicate IP addresses are assigned to a large group of users causing IP conflicts and downtime.
With all that said, the questions that remain are: Can organizations afford the network downtime? And are the dollars saved from not investing in a good IP address management solution more than those lost due to loss in productivity? This post discusses the problems of using manual methods for IP address management. In my next blog we look at associated issues and the best practices of roles and permissions enabling task delegation across teams.
Do you face similar difficulties with your IP administration? If yes, how are you tackling them?