We understand that some of the worst network problems you face are issues such as connectivity problems, hardware failures, and power outages. 

Network lifecycle management (NLM) helps mitigate these problems by providing a structured approach to maintaining and improving network infrastructure. This guide will cover all aspects of NLM to help you build an efficient and secure network.

What is network lifecycle management?

Network lifecycle management (NLM) involves caring for all aspects of a network, from the moment you create it, to the supervision of its operations, and finally to the replacement or recycling of its parts.  

In other words, NLM is also known as the network engineering lifecycle that encompasses the end-to-end process of managing network infrastructure. Its primary objectives are to maintain network efficiency, ensure robust security, and allow for scalability throughout the network’s lifecycle. 

NLM can be divided into six key phases: 

  • Planning and design
  • Implementation
  • Operation
  • Maintenance
  • Optimization
  • Decommissioning
Network lifecycle management

Why is network lifecycle management important?

Ensuring network reliability and performance is one of the critical reasons why NLM is important. 

NLM is vital for maintaining:

  • Network reliability: Continuous management helps to maintain high network availability and performance standards by identifying and fixing issues before they cause downtime. This proactive approach ensures that the network operates efficiently and minimizes disruptions that can affect business operations.
  • Managing costs: Moreover, NLM identifies inefficiencies and potential savings throughout the network’s lifecycle, reducing overall operational costs. By optimizing resource allocation and preventing unnecessary expenditures, organizations can achieve significant cost savings.
  • Adapting to changing needs: Adaptability to changing needs is another crucial aspect of NLM. It enables businesses to quickly adapt to changes in technology or business requirements, ensuring the network remains aligned with organizational goals. This flexibility is essential in today’s fast-paced business environment, where technological advancements and market demands evolve rapidly.
  • Reducing risks: Additionally, proactive maintenance and upgrades reduce the risks of network failures and security breaches. Regular updates and security patches help protect the network from emerging threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance: NLM helps ensure regulatory compliance by keeping network operations up to date with current regulations. Compliance with industry standards and legal requirements is essential to avoid penalties and maintain the trust of customers and stakeholders. 

NLM provides a structured approach to maintaining compliance through continuous monitoring and documentation of network activities.

Stages of network lifecycle management

1. Planning and design

The planning and design phase ensures the network is aligned with business goals and technical requirements.

The planning and design phase is the foundation of NLM. It involves assessing business needs to determine the necessary infrastructure based on organizational goals. By identifying the specific requirements, such as bandwidth, software, and security measures, you can create a network architecture that aligns with your objectives. 

Designing the network architecture involves selecting the right equipment, such as routers, switches, and servers, and planning their placement within the network. Ensuring compatibility between components and existing systems is crucial to avoid integration issues later.

This planning phase is critical because it helps you:

  • Avoid unexpected costs and downtime by aligning network infrastructure with current and future business needs. 
  • Ensure that the network can support business operations efficiently and is scalable to accommodate growth. 
  • Conduct a thorough analysis of business and technical requirements to lay the groundwork for a robust and flexible network infrastructure.

2. Implementation

The implementation phase involves deploying and configuring network infrastructure.

The implementation phase is where the planned network design is put into action. This involves getting the necessary hardware, such as routers, switches, and servers, and installing critical software. 

Configuring the devices to work together is a vital step, which includes setting IP addresses, routing protocols, and security settings. Initial testing is performed to ensure everything works correctly, including checking connectivity, data transfer speeds, and security measures.

Careful implementation is essential to ensure the network supports your operations from the start, avoiding early-stage issues.

By following a structured deployment process, you can minimize disruptions and ensure that the network components are correctly configured and integrated. Testing and validation during this phase help identify and address any potential issues before the network goes live.

3. Operation

The operation phase focuses on daily network management to ensure smooth performance.

The day-to-day management of the network includes monitoring network activities to ensure everything functions as expected. Performance monitoring tools are used to continuously track key metrics such as bandwidth usage, latency, and connection stability. Any issues that arise are promptly addressed through troubleshooting and resolution of connectivity problems, hardware failures, and software conflicts.

Continuous monitoring and prompt issue resolution help maintain network reliability and performance. By keeping a close watch on network operations, you can quickly detect and mitigate problems, ensuring minimal impact on business activities. Regularly reviewing performance data allows for early identification of potential issues, enabling proactive measures to be taken.

4. Maintenance

The maintenance phase ensures ongoing network functionality through regular upkeep.

Maintenance is a critical phase that focuses on:

  • Scheduled upgrades to enhance performance and security
  • Routine tasks such as cleaning hardware, checking cables for wear, and ensuring backup systems are operational
  • Keeping network components up to date with the latest updates and patches

All these tasks are essential to prevent vulnerabilities and ensure the network runs smoothly.

By following a detailed maintenance schedule, you can proactively address potential issues and extend the lifespan of network components. Documentation of maintenance activities helps track the network’s health and identify recurring problems that may need further investigation.

5. Optimization

The optimization phase aims to improve network efficiency and adapt to changing business needs.

Optimization is an ongoing process that involves continuous performance assessments to identify areas for improvement. By regularly reviewing network performance using tools to measure speed, reliability, and capacity, you can make adjustments to enhance efficiency. 

Optimizations may include:

  • Reconfiguring network settings
  • Upgrading hardware
  • Getting additional software or newer programs 
  • Expanding services or adding locations

Optimization ensures the network remains efficient and capable of supporting business growth. By continuously analyzing performance data and making necessary adjustments, you can maintain optimal network performance and accommodate changing business needs. 

This proactive approach helps prevent performance bottlenecks and ensures the network can handle increased demand.

6. Decommissioning

The decommissioning phase involves safely removing outdated components and transitioning to newer technologies.

Decommissioning involves disconnecting old hardware and software that are no longer efficient or secure. Proper disposal of electronic waste is crucial to comply with environmental regulations and prevent data breaches. This includes recycling or securely destroying old equipment. 

Transitioning to newer technologies involves implementing new hardware and software to replace outdated components while preserving data integrity by backing up critical data and transferring it to new systems.

Decommissioning ensures a smooth transition to updated technology while maintaining data security. By following proper procedures for removal and disposal, you can minimize the risk of data breaches and environmental impact. Documenting the decommissioning process helps ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and provides a record of the network’s evolution.

Tools and technologies for effective network lifecycle management

Meter helps you solve network lifecycle management issues:

  • Network monitoring and management tools: Tools like Meter’s Network as a Service platform help manage and configure devices, control access, and apply updates. Use this type of software to track issues and get real-time alerts about network performance.
  • Automation tools: Meter’s software gives you reliably automated assistance to adjust configurations in real-time. If an access point goes out, the system will instantly increase the strength of a neighboring access point.
  • AI and machine learning: AI and machine learning predict problems, optimize performance, and improve security by analyzing network data patterns. Tools like The Meter Dashboard have advanced network management technologies to give you actionable insights and recommendations quickly.

Best practices in network lifecycle management

Follow best practices in each stage of the lifecycle to ensure network reliability and security.

During the planning and design phase, use network segmentation and micro-segmentation to enhance security and performance.

Identify critical assets and segment them using Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) or subnets. For highly sensitive areas, use micro-segmentation with technologies like Software-Defined Networking (SDN). This approach prevents the spread of breaches and improves containment like this:

  • In the implementation phase, use a staged rollout with pilot testing to reduce risks. Choose a small segment of your network for pilot testing, monitor closely, and address issues before expanding deployment. Gradually expanding the deployment ensures a smooth, reliable rollout and reduces the chances of unexpected disruptions. 
  • During the operation phase, perform continuous network performance and security auditing. Set up automated systems to assess performance metrics and conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities and ensure compliance.
  • In the maintenance phase, create a detailed maintenance schedule that includes regular checks for hardware and software updates, configuration backups, and security patches. Use network monitoring tools with predictive analytics to track performance trends and spot early signs of hardware issues. This proactive approach helps prevent failures and extends the lifespan of network components.
  • During the optimization phase, conduct traffic analysis for bandwidth optimization. Use advanced tools to monitor network traffic continuously, identify high-traffic applications, peak usage times, and bandwidth-heavy processes. Analyze this data to implement changes that optimize load balancing, improve efficiency, and plan for future capacity needs. 
  • In the decommissioning phase, ensure data sanitization and secure disposal of old network equipment. Sanitize data using industry-standard methods and partner with certified e-waste recycling vendors for disposal. Document all decommissioned assets to ensure traceability and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Challenges in network lifecycle management

Here’s how to understand and overcome common obstacles in NLM:

  • Scalability issues: As businesses grow, networks must handle increased data and users. Use scalable solutions like cloud services and modular hardware.
  • Integration of legacy systems: Older systems often don’t work well with new technologies. Replace outdated components step-by-step and use middleware to bridge compatibility gaps.
  • Budget constraints: Limited budgets can delay necessary upgrades. Prioritize critical upgrades and look for cost-effective solutions.
  • Security risks: Keeping up with evolving cyber threats is challenging. Implement regular security audits and stay updated with the latest security patches and tools.

Conclusion

Network lifecycle management is essential for maintaining a reliable, efficient, and secure network. By following the outlined stages and best practices, you can optimize your network’s performance, manage costs, and ensure adaptability to changing needs. 

Next steps: Simplify network lifecycle management with Meter

Meter streamlines every stage of network lifecycle management with cloud-managed infrastructure solutions. We provide an end-to-end solution that handles everything from design and installation to ongoing maintenance and support. Meter can help your network engineers get more done. 

Meter’s hardware and software capabilities support NLM with:

  • Network lifecycle planning and design: We can handle a complete network design and installation with full site surveys that optimize infrastructure from the start.
  • Network management implementation: Meter has faster installation times and configures all the hardware for you, including switches, access points, and security appliances. You can change network management or start managing a new system easily.
  • Ongoing network operations: Meter has multi-site management to provide continuous monitoring and automated configurations. We eliminate the need for multiple vendors and applications while providing complete security, visibility, and control.
  • Network maintenance: Meter provides 24/7 expert support, proactive issue resolution, and network upgrades. With remote monitoring and constant assistance, your network stays up and running smoothly. For more complex problems, we’ll quickly send a technician.
  • Network bandwidth optimization: Get high-speed internet management and MultiWAN capability for redundant connections. Meter can even negotiate with your local Internet providers to get the best contracts for you.
  • Decommissioning of old network equipment: Meter offers you a buyback program for old hardware to get credits for upgrades.

Try a demo of Meter and let us simplify network lifecycle management to keep your systems running smoothly.

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