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Tools and Processes to Avoid Costly Network Downtime

Level 12

As a network administrator, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase, “The network is down!” User complaints begin to pour in such as the website being down, loss of Internet connectivity, data inaccessibility, emails down, application performance issues, data loss, etc. As a result, the IT department becomes bombarded with phone calls, emails, and help desk tickets.

When investigating the source of network downtime, administrators must also factor in the complexity of their network, diversity of device types, past network changes, unexpected device failures, multiple admin access, security breaches, and business/user requirements.

While this can be a lot of information for the network administrator and IT department to process, it’s important to maintain calm and remedy the issue quickly. Ultimately, network downtime leads to business downtime, which is costly to business organizations. In order for admins to effectively avoid and remedy such issues, and in turn save dollars caused by downtime, they must be equipped with the proper tools and processes.

Utilize effective tools & processesavoid costly network downtime:

Automation: The advantage of automation is that it improves processes and helps reduce costs. If the administrator could spend less time executing a configuration task, and without error, how valuable would that be? Therefore, it’s important to reduce time spent on processes so that time can be spent on more productive tasks. Automating configuration management tasks helps:

  • Eliminate time-consuming activities that don’t need admin intervention for execution
  • Reduce the number of errors due to manual efforts
  • Introduce standardization across process and improve consistency
  • Schedule tasks to ensure required routine tasks occur in a timely manner
  • Reduce dependency and requirement of resources to execute tasks manually

When administrators are able to limit the time spent on less important monotonous tasks, they can then focus on tasks where value can be added. Automation should start with key IT processes that present a pain point with execution. Some examples are daily configuration backup, bulk and routine configuration changes, device inventory, etc. Once processes have been automated, there should be a clear return on investment. Many times this can come in the form of a quantifiable amount of time saved that is then reinvested in higher value activities.

Monitoring & Control: Close monitoring helps to effectively identify and resolve issues. Whether it’s human error or non-compliance with a company policy, violations need to be detected and remediated quickly. With close monitoring, administrators gain control and are able to identify problems before an auditor does or before end users start complaining. Continuous monitoring helps:

  • Reduce network downtime as anomalies are easily detected and fixed on time
  • Be alerted on any configuration change in the network
  • Exercise control with all changes going through approval
  • Ensure effective enforcement of company policies throughout the network
  • Eliminate manual checks on configurations against regulatory requirements

Scalability & Security: As a business grows, so does the network. Whatever management tool is in use, it must be capable of easily managing more devices, regardless of the vendor or device type. In networks where there are multiple administrators, accessibility and accountability must be accommodated. Scalability and security features facilitate:

  • Efficient management of the network in spite of its growing size
  • Accountability of who changed what in the network and when
  • Time saving in deployment of the tool
  • More time available to improve network efficiency

As previously stated, configuration errors can result in downtime. Additionally, it’s unexpected, costly, and frustrating. However, downtime can be avoided by following a few industry proven best practices, like:

  • Regularly backing up all device configurations
  • Automating bulk change pushes
  • Practicing configuration change approval, reporting, and alerting
  • Maintaining an updated device inventory
  • Adhering to internal & external standards

Network downtime caused by configuration errors can certainly be avoided if you take the necessary measures. Further, it will save you substantial time dealing with issues and rid you of unnecessary stress. Learn more in this video that discusses network configuration best practices in detail so you can start saving your company dollars by improving the way you manage your network.

Level 15

Thanks for posting.

This is common sense--from a Network Administration point of view.  Non-technical managers and C-level people and directors could take a note from this brief and insightful blog.

It's one reason why the SolarWinds T-Shirt presents the wrong information when it says "No, the Network is NOT down" and it has an arrow pointing down.  I wish that arrow were pointing up!


Level 14

Excellent read.  Thank you.