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Network Device Management | @CloudExpo #BigData #SDN #IoT #M2M #API

This list will help you employ a strategy that makes sense for organizations today and tomorrow

Network Device Management for Today and Tomorrow - a Do and Don't Guide

Today, "network device management" means different things to different people, and the reality is that IT organizations do it, or at least do what they consider network device management to be, to vastly varying degrees, including some who do none at all (hopefully this isn't you).

At least part of the reason network device management has become such an ambiguous thing is because what we consider to be a network device is constantly evolving. At one point, network devices were largely just routers and switches. Back then, even if one added end-user workstations into the mix, things were fairly simple.

Then things started to get interesting. Wireless introduced a few more devices and, when BYOD started springing up, all you-know-what seemed to break loose. Now the Internet of Things (IoT) and other trends and dangers such as software defined networking (SDN) and shadow IT, respectively, are only complicating things even further.

I previously went into greater detail on these trends and more, and how to create a sensible network roadmap that breaks down what network administrators should be focused on today, and what we should be preparing for tomorrow and beyond. The reality is that network device management, no matter how you currently define it, is a major part of all three phases - today, tomorrow and beyond. On the heels of that write-up, here I attempt to better define the scope of network device management and provide a list of network device management do's and don'ts that will help you employ a strategy that makes sense for organizations today and tomorrow.

I submit that network device management can be divided into three areas, applicable across almost all organizations: configuration management, device monitoring and automation. These are the most essential elements of effective network monitoring and have stood the test of time.

With this framework in mind, here are several key best practices for getting a handle on network device management.

Configuration Management

  • DO: Systematic backups. You should have ongoing, automatic backups of network device configurations - not when you remember to run them, or when you start to get worried, but always. That also includes a system that triggers ad hoc device configuration backups in response to any significant configuration change. This will not only help ensure your network performs well, but will also aid in ongoing configuration management and identifying security or compliance issues.
  • DON'T: Forget to save. Network devices typically have two different configurations: running and saved. It's all too common for network administrators to make a change to a device, which changes the running configuration, but then never save it, resulting in the configuration changes disappearing when the device reboots. Backing up both configurations and then triggering an alert when they don't match is another handy tip.

Device Monitoring

  • DO: Truly understand your network. This goes beyond understanding the architecture diagram. It includes making sure you understand what "normal" looks like on your network and what "healthy" is for the devices in your environment even if you have too many devices to count. It means knowing - or knowing how to find out - what the patterns of usage are day by day, hour by hour, and at different points in the month. Basically, it means treating monitoring - the regular, consistent, ongoing collection of data from devices - as its own discipline and not just "the thing that creates all those tickets" or an item on your to-do list.
  • DON'T: Just sit there. Ticketing is the happy bi-product of monitoring, but it's not the end of the story. Work with the people who receive and respond to those tickets to fine-tune the alerts for greater insight. Also understand all the monitoring, alerting and automation techniques at your disposal. From SNMP to syslog, and from traps to configuration comparison, look at each capability as the treasure trove it is and leverage it for all you are worth.

Automation

  • DO: Be lazy! Okay, don't actually be lazy, but find ways to let the computer respond at 2 a.m. and if the problem clears up, let sleeping humans lie. Ask the fine people who make up your IT team, "What will you do once you get this ticket?" If they tell you something that can be automated, then you automate it.
  • DON'T: Be lazy! Meaning being the kind of monitoring professional who has a "set it and forget it" mentality when it comes to monitoring and alerting.

While network device management can seem daunting, following these do's and don'ts can help you ensure that you've got a grasp on it, not only for today's networks and associated challenges, but those to come as well.

More Stories By Leon Adato

Leon Adato is a Head Geek and technical evangelist at SolarWinds and is a Cisco® Certified Network Associate (CCNA), MCSE and SolarWinds Certified Professional (he was once a customer, after all). His 25 years of network management experience spans financial, healthcare, food and beverage, and other industries.

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