Recently I've had a several people ask me for advice on getting started with managing their networks and so I thought I'd take a few minutes tonight to shed some light on the subject...

Now, this might seem like an odd topic as many of us have been neck deep in network management since we were knee-high to a grasshopper, but when you think about it we may have actually only been through the process of "getting started" a few times, once, or never at all. Often times we're brought in as part of an existing team where there's an ongoing network management strategy and so the early work has been done. Other times we may have been working at one place for so long that the concept of "getting started" is foreign to us (I've been working with SolarWinds since before our Y2K scanner was a big hit so I know about this first hand).

Thing is, there are lots of situations that may require you to start from scratch. For one, you may take over as the new network engineer or network manager at a company and realize that you're starting from zero. Could be that there's nothing in place or just that the stuff that's in place is such a cluster that it's just easier to start over. Another situation that might have you starting over is if the main person that holds the keys to these systems leaves the company and now you're dude responsible for making sure that stuff works. In either case, you'll need to grab the bull by the horns and start laying down a foundation that you can build on.

So, here's a quick Top 5 List for this head geek's take on how to get started with managing a new network... I'll expand this next week with 5 more to make it a Top 10.

#1 - Document the network. Whether you use LANsurveyor or some other application, you need to discover, map, and document your network. This is sort of like the "getting to know you" phase of a relationship. Every question that you don't ask now is likely to come back to haunt you later. Yeah, I've been there and trust me there are scarier things out there than undocumented internet connections or personal WAPs in your users' offices.

#2 - Learn about the primary technologies in use on your network. If you're a Cisco shop and you don't know much about Cisco technology then you need to find a bootcamp and go immerse yourself in the technology. If you've got things on your network that you've never heard of before, contact the hardware vendors and have the SE spend some time with you teaching you about the technology.

#3 - Find out who your key users are. Sometimes this might surprise you. Don't think of them as your most important users - think of them as the ones that are likely to do you the most damage.  This strategy seems to also hold up well in Halo, Gears of War, and God of War (BTW, I'm already planning my PTO for when God of War III releases so depending upon how hard it is to complete there may be a slight dip in new blog posts).

#4 - Document your applications. I was gonna call them "networked applications" but I couldn't think of any applications that don't rely on the network that anyone would want to document. If you've got a web application that runs on a VM that relies on a SQL Server that's 3 hops away on a secure VLAN that is accessed by partners through a VPN connection into yoru DMZ - see how this can get complicated? Generally speaking, users don't complain about network issues - they complain about applications. You'll hear that "e-mail is running slow" or "the internet is down" way more times than you'll hear that you've got a spanning-tree problem between the LDF switches on the third floor.

#5 - Get a network management system in place. Pick something that you can download, install, and have up and running quicker than you can watch last week's American Idol (even if you are fast forwarding through the commercials and most of the singers and just to hear the crazy things that Simon, Paula, Randy, and that hot new chick say).

So, there's my top 5. Ping me back if you agree, disagree, or you want to debate Adam Lambert's rendition of Ring of Fire.

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