Network monitoring and management best practices require planning, planning and more planning

By Denise Dubie

Most IT buyers put network monitoring and management tools in place and expect them to just work. Unfortunately, the tools require upfront planning, detailed configuration and ongoing maintenance to ensure the technology delivers on its promise.

Inventory: To adequately manage the environment you need to know what you have. Many tools perform an automated discovery of routers, switches, servers, security and other IP devices. You need to keep an up-to-date inventory of all the elements you manage, whether you do it manually or have a tool automate the discovery of devices and the updating of the inventory. In today's advanced IP networks, an automated tool is a more realistic option for most IT organizations.

Configuration: Perhaps more than any other technology area, network management technology needs to be configured to specifically address the needs of a particular environment. These technologies do not work out of the box. You need to set the parameters you want managed, thresholds you expect devices and systems to meet and configure devices and systems to either send data to management tools or allow management tools to take data from the device and system logs. While the long installation times once common in the past are no longer tolerable, network monitoring and management tools still require your staff to configure the product to work in your environment.

Processes: Adopting best practices such as those laid out in ITIL will help you stay on top of management across large environments. As part of ongoing maintenance of the management environment, processes will equip you with the tools to sustain current conditions and more easily adopt new technologies without negatively impacting the normal operations of the environment. For instance, processes -- such as change and configuration management -- help you prevent configuration drift or unauthorized changes from occurring, which can cause compliance issues and network downtime, respectively.

"These frameworks help companies standardize IT operations, management processes, and practices - lowering costs by reducing unplanned and unscheduled work and making it easier to adopt and implement cost-reducing technologies," says Forrester Research.

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