Network survival handbook: 7 essential tips

When it comes to the modern IT infrastructure, government IT pros are under more pressure than ever. Evolving compliance mandates, growing demands from employees to access information whenever and wherever they want and the constant looming dark threat of a cyber-attack, can make managing the infrastructure more daunting than ever, and at the heart of this is the network.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The first key step to #network survival is knowing the network’s capabilities, needs and resources”]

Today, there is no question about keeping a network well managed and maintained – it is a necessity; a matter of survival. The modern government IT professional is less a computer geek and more a Bear Grylls-style survival expert and, as such, needs to be prepared for any threat, challenge or hurdle which comes their way. To assist them in this task, SolarWinds has put together its top seven network survival tips to guide you safely through today’s IT wilderness.

1. Map out your network

Any explorer wouldn’t get far without a map – of your network, that is. The first key step to network survival is knowing the network’s capabilities, needs and resources like the back of your hand. Although this may seem an obvious suggestion, asset discovery and network mapping is more important than ever due to the amount of devices connecting to the network. By skipping this key survival tip and moving ahead without a plan, you are likely to make assumptions and guesswork, leading to uncertainty, doubt and errors.

2. Wireless is the way forward

The use of wireless equipment in government is on the rise due to the low cost of purchase (compared to traditional wired installations) and maintenance. However, things can often get quickly out of hand when Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) comes into play, causing all sorts of issues for government customers.

However, tools such as wireless heat maps, which help visualise both usage as well as coverage gaps allow staff to manage over-used access points and under-served areas of the building. Meanwhile device tracking tools can allow agencies to track rogue devices and maintain BYOD policies. In the past, many of these tools have been too expensive to manufacture and use, however newer options of technology which you might not be aware of are now available.

3. Be prepared for the Internet of Things

Government agencies are increasingly experimenting with the Internet of Things, and when it comes to the IT professional behind this, they need to remember that many of these ‘things’ connect directly to the internet. Due to not coordinating with a centralised controller on the LAN, each device incurs a full conversation load, burdening the WAN and every element in a network. Worst of all, many of these devices prefer IPv6, meaning you’ll have more pressure to dual stack all of those components.

So how does the IT pro survive this? Specific application firewalls can help to make sense of the most complex device conversation, whilst getting IP address management under control and preparing for IPv6. Firewalls can also drive effective quality of service to ensure that critical business traffic is managed, classified and segmented – enabling the IT pro to monitor the overall flow.

4. Allow your network to grow and change

Government networks are growing, however sometimes the infrastructure doesn’t follow the initial plan. You need to predict the scalability and growth needs of your infrastructure so that you can stay on top of demands and manage costs. This can be done through leveraging capacity forecasting tools, configuration management and web-based reporting. When looking in hindsight, most errors and problems, such as network outages are predictable, so make sure that you catch them in a timely manner by implementing the tools to help you.

5. All about the application

The whole point of having a network is to support your end users. While it means expanding your view beyond a narrow (and admittedly manageable) focus, your IT environment will thrive and flourish when you gain a holistic view of the entire picture, including the impact of the network on application issues. Rather than silo things such as network management, storage, web, compute etc., you should take an overall view of the infrastructure in order to achieve your mission and support your stakeholders.

6. A bad workman blames his tools

Sophisticated tools can do any manner of things which make an IT pro’s life easier in today’s IT department. However, we shouldn’t overlook the need for certifications, training and skills which ensure that the tools are used in the best way to manage the network. Intelligent state of the art tools are important, yet when paired with the right skill set, they are unbeatable.

7. Revisit, review, revise

The network is a living, breathing entity. As it grows, the IT professional needs to grow and change with it – agility and adaptability are key in order to keep up with the network and ensure it consistently runs at its peak. Successful network management is a cyclical process in which it needs to be constantly re-examined so that changes can be addressed and rectified as they arise.

[easy-tweet tweet=”As a #network manager, the key to survival is through preparation, flexibility and patience”]

As a network manager, the key to survival is through preparation, flexibility and patience. The modern government IT pro needs to be as prepared as Bear Grylls for everything Mother Nature technology throws at them, to which these seven hard and fast rules should give you a lifeline.

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