Network management is a multifaceted discipline that requires a cohesive effort to provision, secure, optimize and maintain effective enterprise operations. This starts with understanding all the elements that constitute a comprehensive IT management strategy.
Network management -- the process of administering an organization's wired and wireless infrastructure -- entails more than just making sure gear is working. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) outlines five major elements that IT organizations need to address in their network management programs. These operational areas are fault management, configuration management, accounting management, performance management and security management, also known as FCAPS.
Each network management subdiscipline incorporates several operational elements. Here is a rundown of the different types of network management.
Fault management, in many ways, is the most fundamental area of the ISO network management model because it addresses the ability to maintain operations of the entire infrastructure. Fault management applies a combination of technology and processes to detect, repair and document errors that could interfere with network operations.
Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) services are commonly used to identify problems and alert the appropriate IT manager. These tools also report and record issues that IT managers can analyze for trends, which can yield important insights into longer-term issues that can be addressed to improve performance.
Configuration management involves more than just the initial setup of routers, switches, servers or other pieces of network equipment. It also encompasses the ongoing tracking of any changes to the configuration of the system. Because configuration issues are one of the major causes of outages, organizations need to have effective tools and best practices to address every aspect of configuration management.
A crucial part of this is monitoring and recording any configuration adjustments that occur involving network hardware and software. For example, documenting when a new network interface is installed or an OS is refreshed. Although network managers can record these changes manually, manual monitoring can be a cumbersome and inefficient use of resources. Many opt to use configuration management software.
Accounting management documents all network utilization information. Primarily for bookkeeping purposes, accounting management will bill back or track departments or lines of business for usage. For smaller organizations that don't have multiple departments, chargeback is irrelevant. However, all businesses and government entities need to track utilization.
This information is essential for cost management. It can also be important to recognize trends that indicate inefficiencies that might be caused by a configuration issue or some other error. For larger enterprises, documenting which units and users are consuming bandwidth is crucial to justify the relevance of the network to business operations. IT is typically seen as a cost center, so this type of network management is vital, especially since IT is often under the aegis of the CFO.
Performance management aims to ensure acceptable service levels in the network to support optimal business operations. A big component of performance management is collecting statistics on network service quality on an ongoing and consistent basis. Network monitoring tools cull performance data on a range of metrics -- either through passive monitoring of network traffic or synthetic tests -- and then feed that information into performance monitoring applications. Performance monitoring compiles and analyzes statistics on metrics like link utilization, packet loss rates and network response times.
This data can be fed into an SNMP management system, which alerts network managers when service levels drop below or exceed acceptable thresholds. While alert fatigue can be a major issue with network managers sometimes ignoring important fault indicators, successful performance management requires consistent and accurate monitoring. Network management systems can help diminish alert fatigue by correlating network performance data from multiple sources, sometimes associating it with IT data from other aspects of the enterprise, such as application performance data.
Security management is a multilayered discipline within network management that requires ongoing collection and analysis of relevant information. Functions that fall under the security management umbrella include network authentication, authorization and auditing. Most security management services incorporate foundational capabilities, such as network firewall configuration and management, vulnerability management, intrusion detection systems and unified threat management. Organizations can use these to set and execute on policies.
In recent years, personnel inside and outside the IT organization have come to understand how crucial security is to enterprise operations. A security breach can lead to the loss of data and potentially take down the network. The primary goal of network security management is to ensure that only authorized users and devices can access the network resources to which they have rights. Unauthorized users or devices that are determined to have malware or some other malicious or harmful code are deflected. A roles-based component in security management software can also recognize if users should have access to specific resources based on their job function.
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