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5 Tips for Successful Network Management

Posted In WAN & Network - By Techtiplib on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 With No Comments »

Network management, it even sounds boring. However, not using a comprehensive network management strategy can strangle your business. Your network is the circulatory system of the business, and keeping it healthy is critical to success.

Solid administration practices such as selecting the right monitoring tools, keeping up to date documentation, using packet filtering and listening to the network are all ways to prevent problems. If you don’t know what’s “normal” on your network, how can you identify when conditions are not normal? And with the increase in cyber-attacks it has become more important than ever to manage a network proactively.

Thankfully, with some planning, enforcing standards and using the available technological help; network management need not be drudgery. Good management practices must be consistent and you must be disciplined in following them. But the time spent is well worth it. Network management may not be exciting, but wouldn’t you rather have a stable, boring network than a crashing, overwhelmed one?

5 Network Management Tips

  1. Select your network monitoring tools carefully. These tools will automate your monitoring and alerting, so buy the best tools that meet your management needs. Choose tools relatively easy to use, with built-in automation of routine tasks from a solid vendor. Avoid functional overlaps in tools, this can cause monitoring conflicts and you want the most features for your money. Test each chosen tool thoroughly: does it provide the functionality you need? Can your team use the tool well? Verify your sales representative did not over-promise. Focus on your management requirements to ensure you purchase the best tools for your needs, and do not form attachments to any particular vendor or tool.
  2. Be disciplined and fix small problems before they become large ones. Correct misconfigurations, keep documentation and device labeling up to date. We’ve all heard of the long standing broken link that becomes the lynchpin in a major system crash. When you see something to be fixed or updated, do it. Update change documentation regularly.
  3. Perform network traffic analysis regularly. Why? Because knowing what is your standard network traffic helps you more easily see what is exceptional traffic, in particular, bad exceptions. For example, you can spot malicious software evidence long before the software is uncovered. Take advantage of already supplied network barometers and historic traffic patterns to identify suspicious traffic and confront malware before it can damage your assets. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that by studying known malware traffic, and providing network administrators with the symptoms, companies can spot new infiltrations before the actual attack and take preventive measures.
  4. Standardize naming and Network Time Protocol (NTP). Device names must convey useful information simply, with details such as device type, physical location, and logical location. Do not get too fancy with abbreviations or provide too much detail. The same goes for NTP. Whether you use UTC or local time; be consistent across the network. Local time can be easier for quickly comparing timestamps across devices. You want these settings to help you easily identify what, where and when during an event.
  5. Security, security, security
Network Management

Device and access security are critical, remember the “need to know” principle and take the time to configure user groups accordingly. This is also an area where your logs and tools (see #2) can help you identify breaches and misconfigurations. In addition, use established practices like packet filtering to transmit data securely and keep your traffic clean. Use data masking to prevent sensitive information from being transmitted in the clear. Use deduplication and burst protection to prevent bottlenecks and data corruption.

Wrap up

Network management has evolved from a hands-on, time consuming activity into an automated, organized one. You cannot be lulled into trusting your tools to do the work for you. Follow consistent configuration standards, keep documentation up to date, use monitoring tools wisely, keep security a priority and analyze your network. By knowing your network inside and out you will more easily see when there’s a problem. And with consistent practices you can identify and fix those problems quickly.

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