As an increasing amount of our personal and professional lives come online, the role that network monitoring and reporting has become more and more important. There’s a lot more to consider when monitoring the constantly-connected and data-heavy networks of today, and the results of network failures or security breaches in the current technological landscape are becoming increasingly severe. But, luckily for us, we live in an age of unprecedented availability of information, and there are countless horror stories on the internet that are the result of neglecting to monitor your network properly. There’s no better way to learn than through one’s mistakes – or, in this case, somebody else’s – and in this blog, I’ll take a look at the morals behind some network monitoring horror stories.
Be meticulous about keeping up to date
Any network manager worth their salt knows how important it is to keep up-to-date – a new version of your Network Monitoring Software might bring with it an invaluable new feature, an update to a device’s firmware might patch up a serious vulnerability that you weren’t aware of. It’s equally important, however, to perform regular and thorough audits of all your equipment. A user on the Solarwinds forums describes his experience with a Data Centre sometime in 2009 that used Wellfleet Backbone Node routers – a model that had been discontinued 15 years earlier. But it got worse: While inspecting the room, he lifted the raised floor to expose a mess of 10Base5 cabling, blinking vampire taps and AUI connectors – and, bafflingly, there were some newer switches and devices in the centre too – “So the customer needed to get the 10Base5 WellFleet network to talk to the newer switches and devices on that network. So what did think they would do to accomplish this? They took an AUI adapter on the 10Base5 network and connected it via an RJ45 cable to a 66 punch down block. That block was then connected to a switch via another Ethernet cable punched down to the same 66 block and connected to the switch.” Keeping your hardware and software up-to-date isn’t only a matter of ensuring that your service is up to scratch – failing to do so could put you or your clients’ data in danger.
Understand the limitations of your NMS
This scenario is all too common: A company invests in network monitoring software, deploys it across their network, and then assumes the job to be done. Unfortunately for them, though, Network Monitoring Software won’t solve any problems in and of itself – it’s dependent on a team of engineers who can understand what it’s telling them and how best to respond in order to keep your network operating as efficiently as possible. As a user points out on a Solarwinds forum, “I have gone to at least one client engagement to train them and help them deploy their NMS and when I ask questions like what devices do you want to monitor, what metrics are important, and what do you plan to do when you receive alerts on these items; the response I received was “umm, we don’t know, that’s why you are here”.
Never underestimate your human resources
Oliver Rist’s 2006 article on Infoworld might be nearly a decade old, but its points are no less relevant to networks today than they were then. “No matter how hard we pray, how many chickens we sacrifice, how often we chant naked by moonlight,” says Rist, “every network is at one time or other exposed to the ultimate technology risk: users.” He then goes on to describe an experience with a client who was ceding desktop control to their heads of department because “everyone was technical anyway.” But within a few hours after the arrival of 75 new computers, the network crashed unexpectedly. The reason, it turned out, was that the new computers’ automatic update settings were defaulted to noon on a weekday – effectively paralyzing the network. The moral here is that even though each member of your staff might be ‘technical’, it’s vital to have a system of accountability in place so that careless and potentially devastating mistakes like these can be avoided.
IRIS has over twenty years’ experience in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. Our Network Monitoring Software provides a uniquely scalable, flexible solution that can suit environments of any size or complexity. To find out more about our Network Monitoring Software and the importance of network reporting, please download our free Network Manager’s Guide to a Stable and Highly Available Network.
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