A more effective strategy, and one that tends to be much more cost-effective over the long term, is focused on proactively monitoring and managing a network. Instead of sitting back and hoping for the best, a company that engages in a proactive network management strategy will focus on actively trying to determine potential problem areas regularly, before they lead to more serious issues. In order to do this, companies need to gather network information in real-time (or at regular intervals), usually through the use of network management protocols and applications.
Implementing a proactive network management strategy is easier said than done. While certain protocols and applications may be capable of providing reams of information, a company must first create a baseline that outlines what they consider to be “normal” (or expected) network performance. This information can be used comparatively to help identify potential problem areas. The steps involved in moving towards a proactive network management strategy include:
- Determining network goals and then identifying appropriate metrics that will show whether these goals are being met. For example, a customer might require utilization on all Ethernet segments to be below a certain percentage, or that WAN response times fall into a certain range. Over time, these metrics will need to be adjusted to compensate for changes to the network infrastructure.
- Defining how network data will be collected and managed. For example, will the customer telnet into routers to view utilization statistics, or will they rely on SNMP and a network management system?
- Defining a strategy for storing and analyzing collected data. For example, will the data be monitored in real-time, or be evaluated regularly using daily or weekly reports?
- Identifying potential network bottlenecks and problem areas, and then defining a strategy for improvement. By engaging in trend analysis, increases in resource utilization should become apparent, allowing for network “focus areas” to be identified.
- Fully documenting all network changes. This information can later be used for troubleshooting purposes, or to assess the impact that changes have had on the network.
- As the company network grows, implementing a proactive network strategy should become the primary goal. This will help to ensure that potential problem areas are identified and acted upon, before they reach more critical stages.