In our last post we talked about a couple of key points. First, because many of us live in a “ready, fire, aim” world we often don’t have the time to plan what we do before we act. This is a problem that can be corrected by improving some of our management processes. Second, because of this we suggested reviewing a governance framework, like ITIL, to capture some ideas on where and how to improve IT management processes. And finally, we introduced our “overlooked” network configuration practices. These practices complement our improved processes, by taking a more holistic approach to network configuration management.
Today we will dive into the first of these best practices – to inventory and profile network systems. This best practice is further divided in these activities:
How Network Inventory Can Help
Our objective for this first practice is to identify all devices under management. With hundreds of network devices on your network its important to know about each device. To make this a realistic task, you need tools that will perform an automatic discovery scan of your network and build a database of devices. From here you will want to organize these devices (by vendor, location or some other way) and begin to collect and manage useful details about each device.
For example, what is the device serial number? Where is it located, Who is the primary point of contact, when will it no longer be vendor supported? Has budget been secured for a replacement?
Its very helpful to have this information saved as part of the device profile. This makes it easier to maintain one authoritative source and share it with others throughout the organization. If this information is incomplete or managed external to the device profile (perhaps using a spreadsheet) then extra work is required to keep it current and to protect the integrity of the data from becoming out of sync due to multiple document versions.
Consider the following examples:
- Firmware upgrade. Being able to easily identify which devices need and are compatible with the upgrade and which devices were successfully upgraded.
- Maintenance Audit. Easily determine if there is agreement between devices installed and devices covered under the maintenance agreement.
- End of Service. Easily identify which devices are no longer vendor supported and should be replaced. Has budget been requested and approved? Have resources been scheduled to retire the device?
By following this best practice, you are taking a first important step to holistically manage network configuration by creating a sound foundation that can serve to make informed decisions. Of course by doing this, you will look like a genius and in the process being to start driving down the human error that leads to network downtime. Both of which are really great things to be recognized for and certainly will help getting that next great job promotion.
You can also find and read past posts in this 7-part series here