What is network management? Network management is the collection of tools and processes used to operate and maintain your network. The goal of network management is to make sure users can access network resources efficiently and securely.
How does network management work?
Network management is a rather complicated concept in theory because modern enterprise networks involve several layers of hardware, software, and communication channels. Managing these components is a challenging task without a comprehensive idea of how to collect information about the network, extract insights from that information, and utilize that information to administer the network effectively.
That being said, basic network management involves having network hardware devices (controllers, access points, connected devices, etc.) send information (CPU usage, disk space used, bandwidth usage and requirements, traffic metrics, etc.) to a management system.
This is usually done in one of two ways:
Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
This open standard is embedded into several devices to send important information back to a Network Management System (NMS). SNMP uses polling to periodically gather information from managed devices. An SNMP system includes several components:
- SNMP Manager: Also referred to as the SNMP server, the device or application on a device that serves as the central management system to coordinate SNMP communications between different devices, operating systems, and even different networks.
- SNMP Agent: This agent is the software running on each managed device connected to the network. This component gathers critical information for management purposes, including CPU usage, disk space used, bandwidth usage and requirements, and traffic metrics.
- Management Information Base: The hierarchical database used to organize and store data provided by each of the SNMP agents.
Telemetry is a newer approach to management that involves gathering higher resolution information pushed by hardware while reducing the overall demand on the network.
In telemetry, data is encoded using common metadata formats like XML, JSON, or GPB (Google's specialized protocol for network communication).
The telemetry approach relies on collecting high-volume real-time data streams while SNMP uses a polling mechanism that works well for static information. Many management services use SNMP for legacy network hardware or data that isn't tied to real-time performance. For other requirements, telemetry is quickly becoming the norm.
What are the different components of network management?
Network management isn't just about pinging devices. Modern management includes administering several different parts of operations to track and improve the system’s performance, security, and integrity.
Some of these network management components include the following:
- Performance Management: Measuring performance metrics such as bandwidth, throughput, jitter, latency, or packet loss.
- Security Management: Collecting and analyzing data related to network security, including router firewalls, access configurations, encryption configurations, and security breach detection systems.
- Configuration Management: Monitoring and tracking device configurations and changes to those configurations and comparing them against security, compliance, and performance demands.
- Fault Management: Determining places where the network may, or has, degraded performance, including dropped connections, out-of-commission devices, and any software or configuration issues that would hinder traffic.
- Network Provisioning: Management services that help administrators properly provision network resources for additional devices, additional users, or additional services for multiple users and devices.
- Maintenance and Upgrading: Continuous care and upgrades for hardware and software on the network. Management services will help administrators track out-of-date software, out-of-commission devices, and any aspect of the network that isn't up to compliance or operational standards.
Management will track and measure incidents across all of these categories and many that fall in between.
What are the benefits of network management?
Network management serves a critical purpose in almost any enterprise using networked devices. Security, performance, and operations are all tied to an organization's ability to manage those resources effectively and in real time.
The benefits of management include:
- Improved Performance: Properly managed resources will perform better. The information gained from management can provide the information administrators need to optimize hardware, configurations, and other factors that contribute to performance.
- Compliance and Security: Network management is critical to many compliance and cybersecurity frameworks. It can provide important auditing information for compliance standards, breach prevention, and forensics in the unfortunate case of a network security incident.
- Optimize Network Design: Physical designs aren't something to take for granted — an extensive enterprise network design must consider how wireless devices, routers, splitters, and switches are situated throughout the premises. Furthermore, the implications of networking software, such as router-defined local area or wide area networks, need to be considered in the design. Management is critical to optimize the design in real time.
Organizations need to align their management efforts with optimization, compliance, and performance. Some best practices that could serve your organization's management efforts are as follows:
- Understand Compliance Requirements: These include any specific requirements for monitoring and management as required by compliance standards an organization adheres to.
- Implement Automation and Alerts: Automations, like system security triggers, alerts, and access and permissions management can support a secure network. The data collected through network management can fuel automation software that alerts administrators and shuts down security threats if suspicious system activity is noticed.
- Create Redundant Systems: More often than not, network failure is unacceptable for an enterprise organization. Mapping hardware and software to a failover system and automating data backup will ensure that even in the case of catastrophic problems, your internet infrastructure will stay in working order.
- Track Devices: Even if it isn't called for under compliance or security requirements, it benefits your organization to manage system access and log user events, including access attempts and network usage.
How Meter can help manage your network
When you work with Meter, we'll be your single point of contact for everything related to your network, including your network management.
Our full-stack approach combines hardware, software, and operations so that any company can seamlessly run on a reliable and modern network. We take on the complexities to make network deployments and ongoing maintenance easy, fast, and stress-free.
If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know — we’d love to hear from you.
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