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Posts Tagged ‘ Network Change and Configuration Management ’

By Sean Barry

IT Automation

Each year sees an increase in the amount of IT tasks and operations that can be automated. 2011 will be no different, according to Ennio Carboni:

As the number of networked devices inside and outside the enterprise continue to explode – both in infrastructure (e.g. routers, switches and systems infrastructure supporting video, and wireless app delivery) and end point devices (especially mobile handhelds, tablets, and netbooks) – higher automation is necessary to maintain control of management costs. Equipment vendors, software publishers and end user IT organizations are embracing automation in many ways – building and deploying more intelligent network devices, using virtualization-led dynamic provisioning and configuration to meet variable demand profiles and attempting to build closed loop management systems that can react to infrastructure changes. We’ve seen this coming: technology replacing humans in the workplace – case-in-point, HP laying off 9000 workers from their datacenter services unit.

Configuration Management and IT Security

However, the rapid growth in the number and complexity of network devices does have its drawbacks. As networks grow, so do the vulnerabilities associated with their configuration and security. Analysts estimate that more than 60% of network outages are caused by manual configuration errors at an annual average rate of 30+ errors per device. This has tremendous impact on maintaining IT security and compliance with internal and external regulatory policies. As a consequence, analysts predict that configuration management and IT security tools will continue to see robust growth in 2011 (Check out slide 4.)

If your network is undergoing the growth now found across the board and you don’t already have a configuration management tool in place, 2011 is the year to change that. A good configuration management tool allows you to automate the process and reduce your chances of an outage, while also notifying you when and where an outage occurs so it can be rectified quickly with little downtime.

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By Sean Barry

Although we are all familiar with budget cuts, this might ring close to home for the UK public sector, where on October 20 the government announced an intense review of public sector spending. However, given the less than ideal state of the international economy, working effectively within budget constraints is no less prevalent worldwide. Our Channel Manager, Steve Demianyk, provides some tips for the IT department under fire.

Tip #1 Make the most of the infrastructure you already own

Document port-to-port connectivity, ideally, with an inexpensive layer 2/3 discovery, mapping, and inventory tool. With a complete inventory in place, troubleshooting, auditing, and repurposing unused resources becomes easier.

Tip #2 Need more hardware? Consider moving to an internal cloud!

Ipswitch hasn’t purchased a single piece of hardware in the three years since we’ve moved to the internal cloud. Your first step in virtualization is to decide which serves to move to the cloud. Usually, supplementary servers like DNS, domain controllers, DHCP, and file and print servers are good places to start because they don’t take full advantage of the hardware on which they exist. Web servers, mail servers and small databases are also good candidates.

More complex servers can be virtualized, but this must be planned out carefully. Before virtualizing any server you should run a trending analysis and performance monitoring. You will want to measure processor use, memory use, storage, network traffic volume and disk I/O. An overloaded server should not be moved to the cloud in any case.

Tip #3 Look for ways to troubleshoot and resolve issues faster

Industries studies show that 80% of IT time and resources are spent on finding the problem, and only 20% is for fixing the issues. If you are running more than one network management solution you will have to manually examine multiple reports and interfaces to correlate information across various types of metrics. This can substantially lengthen mean time to resolution (MTTR), making the job much more difficult and time consuming. Look for an infrastructure management solution that will let you discover, map, monitor and manage the network devices, servers, applications, virtual resources, port-to-port connectivity, configuration settings and network traffic from a single console.

Tip #4 Ensure 24×7 health, availability and optimal performance of infrastructure and applications

Performance monitoring should be a routine task. This seemingly unimportant activity can minimize risks and increase the likelihood that network issues and bottlenecks are found early on. A network management solution with an all-inclusive console will make this job easier and more efficient.

Tip #5 Look for cost-effective solutions

They do exist. If you currently use one of the big four solutions you might want to reconsider your solution for the upcoming year. You can still have a solid IT management solution for a reasonable price, but you may have to sacrifice the bells and whistles. One might naturally look towards open source solutions, but configuration can be a nightmare and the risks are high: vulnerability, scalability, liability, lack of tech support.

As the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy puts it, “Don’t panic” (in the face of budget cuts). Just weigh your options and find ways to do more with less.

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By Sean Barry

Thanks to Chris Hampton of Realtime Publishers we have a few tips to make your life as a network admin easier.

Through automation and other efficient methods of network management you can make yourself the ultimate resource for network status and configuration knowledge, while at the same time alleviating your stress points.

One way to help yourself is to utilize tools that save time. Why waste time with manual network topology documentation when ARP Cache Discovery and Link Layer Discovery Protocols can do that for you? They query your devices’ Management Information Database files and collect extensive info to assist in building a network outline that is up-to-date in near real-time.

Another important ability is staying in control. Know your network: what devices are on your network and where they are located. You should know device interdependencies and how they are affected by changes to the network. In order to do this it is a good idea to track all changes. Collecting up-to-date status information with powerful scheduled discovery checks will allow you to do this. A network management solution that offers device configuration management from a central location would be a great asset to you in this situation.

With such a tool you can also enhance your ability to keep the network available by pinpointing issues quickly and reducing downtime. Pinpointing becomes easier when you have a network management solution that automatically generates network maps and map views and can export these maps to documentation tools like Microsoft Visio. Easily-retrievable maps provide you with insight into a network’s overall design.

Once you have these abilities at your fingertips, daily network administration tasks are a cakewalk. Plus, you’ve succeeded in making yourself the ultimate resource.

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By Sean Barry

When your business is growing so is your network. Even when business isn’t booming (thanks economy) your business’ infrastructure can be evolving too. What you need is a tool that can manage these changes for you.

Little known fact: 75% of network outages and performance issues are the result of misconfiguration error. No one wants that.

We don’t want that for you either — so we’ve developed a list of best practices to assist you with network configuration and change management.

Best Practice #1: Create standard configurations for each device classification, such as router, LAN switch, WAN switch, or ATM switch.

Best Practice #: Maintain the current running configurations for all devices and a set number of previously running versions – at least 3 to 5 previous working versions – it will really help with troubleshooting tasks.

Best Practice #3: Keep track of when configuration changes were made for auditing purposes – you might even think about setting up real-time alerts and notifications in this area.

Best Practice #4: Automate the execution of the scheduled tasks relating to current network configuration backups, startup configuration file backups and password change management for an individual device or across groups of devices to reduce errors and save time.

Best Practice #5: Document your network and configuration changes periodically.

Sounds like a lot to take care of? WhatsConfigured can automate these processes for you. With full integration into WhatsUp Gold, it can simplify your life and eliminate human errors. Tedious manual configuration tasks and solving misconfiguration issues in the dark can now be a think of the past with WhatsConfigured. Nightly configuration backups, bulk configuration changes, complete audit trails, and real-time alerts triggered by changes to configuration are just a few of the featured we’ve designed with you in mind.

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By Sean Barry

An ordinary day for a network administrator can tend to be anything but. Whether you’re dealing with help-desk tickets, installing new applications into the infrastructure or troubleshooting a network outage, there never seems to be a shortage of tasks on your daily to do list.

One of the more important aspects of your job, when it relates to maintaining optimum network performance, is managing network device configurations and changes within those devices. The fact is, device configurations are the key to a properly functioning network, and when changes go unnoticed, or devices fail, the impact felt across the network can be detrimental to business operations.

Obviously, with the level of importance of maintaining network device configurations being so high, there are some related tasks that are necessary to keep your infrastructure up and running at its peak at all times. Backing up configuration files in the event you need to restore or replace any failed devices rapidly, limiting the impact felt by the network, is vital. Also, when changes are made to device configurations, it’s important to compare running files to stored files in order to speed up operational response.

Those are just a few of the main tasks that are necessary to complete in order to gain complete control over your device configurations. The fact is, this is not a simple aspect of network management to maintain, especially if you are tasked with conducting these jobs manually.

We at WhatsUp Gold realize the stresses you have to face daily, and try to do what we can to make life for you that much easier. When it comes to  Network Change and Configuration Management (NCCM), WhatsUp Gold WhatsConfigured offers you peace of mind by automating the critical tasks necessary to maintaining your device configurations around the clock.

Don’t take my word for it though, listen to Rachel Kennedy, Senior Information Developer in the Ipswitch network management division, for a full description of WhatsConfigured’s command line:

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