Network maintenance is an important part of keeping your network running smoothly and at top efficiency. It’s really one long series of tasks, rather than a single job, that is geared towards making sure the machinery that is the network runs properly. Think of all the little things you do to keep a car running in top condition and you’ll get a picture of what maintenance is for.
However, for those among you who don’t have much in the way of technical expertise, maintenance can seem daunting. You might not know what each component does or be afraid that if you do something wrong, you’ll crash the whole thing beyond repair. So here’s a guide to the most common maintenance procedures, so you don’t walk in blind.
There are a few standard tasks you’ll see when doing network maintenance. The foremost among these would be troubleshooting network issues and checking the performance of the network itself. In some cases, you’ll also be keeping the network updated, both in terms of hardware and documentation.
If there are any compliance policies that the network needs to comply with or are under any legal regulations, maintenance can help with those too. Some technicians might also take this as a time to check for how ready the systems are for future growth. Security issues can also be addressed during maintenance periods.
How Maintenance is Done
There are two ways to perform any given maintenance task. One is structured, and the other is interrupt-driven. The former is proactive, while the latter is reactive. Both are necessary.
Structured maintenance means that it is pre-defined, scheduled. This can include a monthly check on the status of the network itself. During these periods, you can do a sweep to find any problems or areas of concern and address them before they cause any hiccups or issues. These also result in the “scheduled maintenance” periods that consumers or clients get every so often when they use a network or a service based on one.
Interrupt-driven maintenance is reactive and occurs when there’s a problem that pops up and you fix it. You don’t actively search for issues, but instead, you wait for them to occur and react. This can cause some downtime, depending on the nature of the problem, but is unavoidable. The unforeseen circumstances that cause network interruptions aren’t always the kind you can spot during routine maintenance.
Now, with that in mind, what would be a good model structure for maintaining a network? According to otscable.com, the good part is that you don’t have to come up with a schedule for checking the systems and updating the patch cables yourself. There are some models you can adapt for your own purposes.
The fault management approach focuses on parameters. The team will go in and configure network devices like routers, servers, firewalls, and the like. These systems will be made to capture logs and send messages out to external systems. Whenever anything goes down or performance goes above or below specified metrics, the maintenance team gets an email to check on the situation.
This approach can detect problems early on while also being reactive. However, it does carry two risks. The first is that the network error might prevent it from sending out the message. The second is that the maintenance team might not arrive in a timely manner.
Configuration management is designed to note any changes made to the network. These will be logged, while any relevant personnel is notified of any changes. Anything that they weren’t made aware of will be treated as a potential issue, prompting the team to check and see if anything needs correcting. For obvious reasons, this relies on open communication.
Performance management is based on monitoring the network links, actively seeking indications that something has gone awry. Quality of service is configured to detect some problems, so there doesn’t need to be a pair of human eyes on the information at all times.
This approach is similar to fault management, but with a different focus. Performance management is focused on detecting problems when the network has already begun to be impacted. Fault management relies on detecting signs of a problem and typically doesn’t focus too much on raw performance.
Security management relies on building a policy and implementing it. Firewalls, VPNs, authorization servers, intrusion prevention systems, and the like will be used. Breaches to the network are logged and responses made, along with any maintenance-related issues. As the name implies, this is more concerned with protecting the network’s data than making sure it’s running smoothly.
Network maintenance is important. Without it, you’re risking damage over time as the system gets the digital equivalent of wear and tear. Think of it as tune-ups and oil changes, keeping the engine of your network running smoothly. While it may seem like a chore, it is something that must be done if you want to minimize the problems you might face.