Network management is a necessity. With today’s modern infrastructure, there isn’t a whole lot you can do effectively without it. It’s like tech’s version of the old American Express slogan, “Don’t leave home without it.” You have to deal with the ever-changing needs of the business, constant cybersecurity threats, and complex private and public networks. For these reasons, you can’t afford to leave your office or desk without having implemented network management.
So let’s discuss further why we need network management and the consequences of not implementing it. But before we get into those details, let’s briefly describe what network management is.
What Is Network Management?
Network management is the process of knowing the operating state of the network’s resources. This is done by collecting, storing, and monitoring data from resources across the network to ensure they’re working at their optimal state. If that’s not happening, network management will provide the information needed to help you get better performance out of those resources.
Without network management, you’re likely to have a lot of angry network users. Nobody wants to suffer the costs of having users complaining of bad digital experiences. Network management is an important part of ensuring that doesn’t happen.
Why Is Network Management Important?
Having happy users is always the goal. Whether it’s business or consumer users, you must understand the working state of your network to ensure their experience on your network is the best it can be. For that reason, having a network management process in place and implemented according to plan is very important.
Here are ten reasons we need network management.
1. Find and Troubleshoot Problems
In the early days, we needed to know when things weren’t working on the network. This is the fault management component of network management. Though it’s more complex to do now, we still need this capability.
Network management helps to find those faults that are occurring on the network and that you need to fix. Whether it’s a web service not responding to user requests or a flapping routing interface, managing your network helps to identify these problems.
And once you find them, you can troubleshoot them and minimize user impact.
2. Plan the Network’s Future State
Network management and the tools used to implement it have had to change over the years. One of the reasons is the changes in networks and the types of devices and components running on them. Managing and monitoring the network will help you fully understand its current state. With this information, you can more accurately plan and design the network. This helps you support future organizational needs and user requirements.
For example, let’s say there’s a plan to move to a private cloud network. Knowing the current design of the existing network can help you plan your cloud network post-migration.
3. Verify Security Compliance
Security breaches are unfortunately pretty frequent. You’ve probably read an article about one or heard of a breach recently.
Network management helps you verify the network is compliant with whatever organizational standards are in place. You also need it to help identify when an attacker is on the network.
For example, if your organization must be PCI compliant, then managing the network can help you identify devices that aren’t following compliance standards.
Another example is if you want to avoid non-SSL traffic. In that case, network management can help you find out when those unencrypted protocols are traversing the network.
4. Boost Performance
Network management can help meet user expectations by helping you know how network traffic is performing. Users always want things to be faster, especially on today’s networks. Large network files should be uploaded in seconds or less. Applications should complete complex calculations, sometimes in milliseconds or less. Managing your network can help identify performance bottlenecks that affect these user requirements. It can also help you identify where on the network you should optimize performance.
For example, you need network management to help you identify an area of the network with sudden bandwidth use increases that affect user transaction requests.
Another example is if that use increase was sustained. In that case, network management could provide a protocol breakdown so that you can create quality of service (QoS) policies to ensure higher-priority traffic gets through before any others.
5. Improve Network Visibility
You can’t effectively run a network if you don’t know what it has on it. Therefore, you need network management to help you do this so you have the visibility required.
With the network visibility you gain from network management, you can create dynamic maps and diagrams so that you and your team can know the network’s current design. This visibility can also help you identify parts of the network you don’t have access to, but should. This will help you reduce network silos that restrict troubleshooting and management.
6. Perform Capacity Planning
Networks change. User counts mostly go up, but sometimes they go down. When these things happen, network connections that were once congested have little to no traffic. The opposite happens as well, with once underused links now overused.
You need network management so that you can plan for these changes in network capacity. The data you get from your tools can help identify trends and patterns for proper capacity planning.
For example, if you know how much traffic traverses certain network connections, you can plan for bandwidth upgrades well in advance of additional users using the same connections. This proactive planning helps prevent reactive troubleshooting.
7. Meet SLAs
If you run a network of any size, you likely have a service-level agreement (SLA). You most certainly have been given SLAs that your providers must meet, but you also likely have your own organizational SLAs that you and your team must meet. You need network management to help you with both of these.
For example, monitoring your network can help you find out if your network provider hasn’t met its uptime SLA.
8. Save Time
Managing your network helps you save time. With the right monitoring tool, you can get help finding the root cause of network problems faster.
You won’t need to sift through mountains of log data from many servers, for example, to see where on the network a user request was denied. With a managed network, you no longer have to spin your wheels chasing down network documentation to identify an application’s architecture. And you’re just wasting time if you’re doing this with microservices architectures.
The data collected during the network management process contains what you need to do this, and it’ll save you precious time.
9. Test in Pre-Deployment
You should always test before anything gets deployed on the network. Whether you’re doing development, pre-production, or quality assurance (QA) testing, your chances of success are much higher if you’re testing on the right systems.
It could be a new software service for your users, a new device for adding network capability, or a new monitoring software solution. Whichever one you’re doing, you need to test against devices exactly like or similar to those on your network.
Your testing could be in a physical or virtual lab. Either way, you need management and monitoring to provide data about your real network so that you can test against it.
For example, you want pre-production testing to be done on server instances that are as similar as possible to those that exist on your network. You shouldn’t be testing software on Microsoft Windows servers if your management tools are telling you most of your machines are running Red Hat Linux. That’s a recipe for bad things to come.
10. Maintain Support and Upgrades
As you read above, networks are constantly changing. You’ve got increases in bandwidth connections for extra capacity. There’s updated and upgraded network operating system software. You’ve got security updates to close back doors from newly discovered vulnerabilities.
You need network management so that you can properly maintain your network and make the necessary changes to keep up with proper maintenance.
For example, if Cisco is replacing their 6500 switches with 9600 switches that have new features and capabilities, you need to know how many of those 6500s you must upgrade. Managing your network will help you quickly identify them so you get continued support.
Another example is if a security vulnerability is found in a Microsoft SQL Server version, your network management will help you find out how many servers you have running this version. With this information, you now know how big a task you have to fix this vulnerability.
Don’t Suffer the Cost!
You’ve read about many of the reasons you need network management. Managing your network in a way that takes advantage of these ten reasons is critical.
You can’t afford to do network management just for the sake of it. Instead, you need to implement a network management process that works well for you and your team. Otherwise, you’ll suffer the opposite of the benefits above.
It starts with identifying the right monitoring solution for your organization. Make sure your chosen solution can help with collecting the data you need to accomplish each of the above reasons you need network management.
This post was written by Jean Tunis. Jean is the principal consultant and founder of RootPerformance, a performance engineering consultancy that helps technology operators minimize cost and lost productivity. He has worked in this space since 1999 with various companies, helping clients solve and plan for application and network performance issues.