The enterprise has changed significantly over the last few years, with burgeoning trends like the Internet of Things (IoT), software-defined networking (SDN), and the growing ubiquity of hybrid IT joining forces to transform traditional networking.
The impact has not only been transformational for enterprise networking; it has also been transformational for IT professionals. It’s no longer enough to be solely responsible for the router.
Instead, network administrators are now expected to manage services in the cloud and on-premises, requiring them to extend their range of expertise to cover a number of new tasks, and be trained across network functions.
So how can network administrators embrace this exciting change and avoid becoming a casualty of this latest technological revolution?
Tackling the cloud
Hybrid IT is a reality for many organisations today. According to SolarWinds research, 92% of IT professionals said their organisations have migrated critical applications and IT infrastructure to the cloud over the past year. While the cloud might be critical to business success, there are still challenges of hybrid IT environments, including the lack of visibility and increased management complexity.
Network administrators face a significant challenge when managing both on-premises and cloud services. The latter represents the headache of being held accountable for the performance of networks that exist outside the company, and instead belong to the cloud service provider (CSP).
The challenge is exacerbated by the convergence of data centre technologies that enable cloud computing. This means that network administrators’ expertise must expand beyond their familiar remits, requiring a broader understanding of the other cogs in the data centre infrastructure machine, and how all of these parts come together to deliver and support a successful hybrid IT strategy.
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Of course, it’s not all bad news. The SolarWinds study found that nearly three in five organisations have received either most or all expected benefits of the cloud (i.e., cost efficiency, availability, and scalability), showing that this is a trend worth embracing.
In order to realise these potential benefits, it’s vital to break down the virtual wall between the physical data centre and the cloud. This will offer network administrators greater visibility, enabling them to see both the quality of service from on-premises to the cloud, as well as the paths of application traffic. This, however, isn’t the only step that should be taken by network administrators hoping to evolve along with their enterprise.
Network automation capabilities can play a key role in making a network manager’s life easier. By automating tasks such as configuration, operation, provisioning, orchestration, and management, IT professionals can save time and resources, improving both network and team efficiency.
Network administrators who happily embrace automation into the network will likely see it pay instant dividends, with time freed up to manage other parts of the network or expand their skillset, a must for today’s hybrid IT era.
Automation is also adaptable, with open source allowing network managers to develop their own script to automate time-consuming procedures. Changing admin passwords, for example, can be a pain, so why not automate the process?
Automation still requires work, however, and network admins must consistently test it to ensure they don’t replace human error with machine error.
Addressing the Internet of Things
It should come as no surprise that IoT is affecting today’s enterprises. Thousands of IoT devices are now integrated into business networks, causing network administrators a great deal of anxiety.
The number of security vulnerabilities that this proliferation of devices represents is staggering, and network managers must be prepared to cope with this new threat level. Diligent testing and monitoring of devices is critical, especially if you allow access to your business network without fear of a breach.
By starting slowly with a handful of test devices, your business can ease the burden that an army of unknown devices would represent. From that starting point, IoT standards and procedures should be developed to ensure that a robust and future-proof framework is in place now; because rest assured, IoT is here to stay.
Up for the challenge
The ability to adapt will become an increasingly important weapon in the network administrator’s arsenal. Regardless of your experience, there are steps you can take to up-skill and improve your management of the modern network.
By meeting and engaging with other IT professionals and network specialists, whether it’s at industry events or vendor conferences, you can improve your own understanding of new technologies and share implementation strategies. Nobody learns in a bubble. Training and partaking in networking events with fellow administrators can be invaluable.
Learning new skills is also key for network administrators hoping to keep up with organisational change. Learning network-specific skills like coding and scripting is hugely important, while cultivating an understanding of various infrastructure elements and how they work together will help network managers align with the rest of the IT department to drive optimal quality of service and performance.
Last, and certainly not least, is implementing a comprehensive monitoring strategy. Monitoring as a discipline—an underestimated practice when maintaining an effective network—offers IT departments the opportunity to turn a collection of data points from various monitoring tools into insights that are useful and actionable. This holistic approach will help your organisation understand and prepare for an array of new technologies, and can inform future implementation.
While network administrators are under more pressure than ever to manage new complexities, the above best practices can make the transition easier. By leveraging an array of tactics and tools such as Auvik, you can reduce the burden of implementation, while also ensuring your business reaps the benefits that these trends promise.
Sourced by Destiny Bertucci, Head Geek™, SolarWinds
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