by November 17, 2005 0 comments

Just because you have to figure out your company’s business needs doesn’t mean that you can forget about managing your IT infrastructure. At the end of the day, IT is supporting the business, and it must be maintained like a well-oiled machine. The trouble is that the IT infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex, as the number of elements to manage has increased. Moreover, your users need the same simplicity and assured quality of service from IT as they’ve been getting (provided it’s been good!). Under such a situation, you can’t afford to run around troubleshooting everything. So how do you match these opposites? 

Take stock of the critical elements
Identify the critical elements in your organization and keep their monitoring and management under your control, rather than keeping track of everything. Some of the things you could monitor can be: 

  • Workstations for Inventory
  • Servers for Uptime
  • Network for Traffic
  • WAN Links for QoS
  • Information for Security
  • Peripherals for Cost and Availability
  • Applications for Performance

All of these may not hold the same relevance in your organization. If you’re a large organization, then workstation-inventory management would be critical as you have to keep them optimized, and even a minor upgrade could cost a bomb. Servers are important for everybody, but you have to judge how much downtime can be tolerated on each one? Most network-management software keep track of machine uptime and send alerts the moment they see something go down.
With the number of security risks on the rise, traffic flowing on your network has to be monitored more closely than ever. Most network worms tend to flood the network with lot of traffic as they try to hunt for vulnerable machines. Once again, you need to set traps and intrusion detection systems to warn you of all suspicious activity. You can check out this month’s article on how to set up a secure Internet gateway on how to do this automatically. 

The five pillars of ISO Network Management Model

If your organization’s business depends upon your WAN links, then maintaining the QoS (Quality of Service) on them becomes top priority. Once again, the question is how much would be the loss if WAN link went down or became extremely slow? BPO operations find this to be the most critical issue, and therefore set up redundant links that they can fail-over to.

Information security has become a hot topic today, given all the frauds happening everywhere due to identify thefts. One way out that’s being preached by everybody today is identitying management. Make sure you know who’s accessing what on your network, whether the person is indeed who he/she claims to be, and has the rights to do it. The whole concept of digital security comes into the picture here.

Peripherals such as printers and MFDs are one area that’s often overlooked. How much are you spending on the consumables for these devices? This includes not only the ink cartridges and toner, but also the reams of paper you put into them. For companies like ISPs and telecom service providers, the uptime of these peripherals is of utmost importance because of all the bills they have to generate every month. 

Last point is to ensure that your applications are always optimized for best performance. There are many optimization tools available for doing this, such as Mercury WinRunner and LoadRunner, QCheck. More than these tools, you need to ensure that the hardware is optimized for the applications, plus there are no unnecessary services running on the OS hosting the application. It shouldn’t happen that you blame the server for slow performance, while actually it’s a rogue service or mis-configuration that’s chewing up all the CPU cycles. 

Categorize your management tasks with FCAPs
Besides keeping an eye on the critical elements, try to break up your network according to the five pillars of a network-management system. ISO has defined these very neatly as FCAPS or Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security management. You just need to strike the right balance between them. 

Fault Management is all about detecting, logging and notifying users of network problems, and if possible then try fixing them automatically as well. This is done to ensure maximum uptime of the network. A good helpdesk management solution could really come in handy here. The moment you fix a problem and record it, then it can be used in the future in case the problem reoccurs. 

Configuration management covers monitoring your network and system configurations. It’s done to track their effect on the network. For instance, what’s the effect of upgrading the RAM on a server, or how does the behaviour of an application change after it’s been upgraded to a newer version. The role of configuration management is also to identify the location of all devices with their detailed specs. An
inventory and version-management solution fits under configuration management. 
Accounting management is all about measuring the utilization of various network resources to charge back or for accounting purposes. This has to be done on an ongoing basis, and its objective is to maximize the fairness of network usage across all users. Under this, the data on network resources utilization is collected over a period of time so that you can optimize resource usage. 

Performance management is where all the SLAs, and various metrics for measuring performance come in. These could be monitoring packets on a network port, device or checking for CPU utilization and memory allocation., etc. 

Last but not the least is security management, which has become a key concern not only because of all the malware floating around, but also to control access to network resources so that the network can’t be sabotaged and sensitive information doesn’t go out. Security management entails identity management, monitoring and logging of all resources containing sensitive information.The ISO model for network management is a framework that helps you set your IT infrastructure order. It doesn’t mean that you have to keep track of everything. It’s there to help you identify what’s where on the network so that critical assets can be
managed better.

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