How to Avoid Common Network Failures

By Anthony Sequeira and Keith Barker

You should not be asking whether your network is going to fail, but when it’s going to fail. Fortunately, if you carefully examine the common reasons for network failures, you can be much more proactive in heading off problems before they cost your organization thousands or even millions of dollars.

A loss of millions of dollars is not an exaggeration. Recall, for example, the Sony PlayStation Network outage of 2011. That outage reportedly cost Sony a cool $171 million, but many analysts say the actual cost was much more because it resulted in a lasting consumer mistrust of the online service.

We picked the Sony example because it leads to the No. 1 issue we see in organizations’ network infrastructure: the failure to create and adopt a comprehensive security policy.

Have a Security Policy in Place

Your security policy should begin by assessing the risk to the network. After that, you should assemble a team that can respond the second there are security-related issues.

An organization’s security policy should be a constant work in progress, just as you should have a continual education process for these important documents.

The documents require almost constant manipulation, since you have to manage security-related changes and continually monitor both internal and external networks for inevitable breaches.

Use Proactive Network Management 

Another area where we see companies suffering losses is in the area of network management. Too many organizations don’t take advantage of the tools that are internal to their network components, as well as external tools, so they can be proactive in key areas.

Far too often, network management is a reactive discipline. IT staff should try to correct this immediately by taking advantage of the growing number of tools and technologies that provide better network visibility and control.

The acronym FCAPS, which highlights critical network areas, will focus your efforts more effectively:

· Fault management

· Configuration management

· Accounting management

· Performance management

· Security management.

Review New and Emerging Technologies

We’re not suggesting a constant “rip and replace” in your network infrastructure just because something new hits the IT headlines, but we do recommend a careful analysis of new and emerging technologies that might help your organization achieve its business goals. Often, these technologies can improve network security and management. You can start with a pilot or prototype to thoroughly test a new technology to be sure that its benefits will outweigh any growing pains.

Network Guidelines

To avoid these common problems, here are some tips to get you started:

· Dig out your existing security policy and begin updating it.

· Use standards-based Websites to help create and update your security policy.

· Involve all relevant members of your organization in the policy.

· Train proactively on the elements of your security policy.

· Divide network management into the FCAPS areas.

· Take inventory of the network management tools in use and investigate their shortcomings.

· Train employees to seek out new and emerging technologies and implement a formal review process.

· Invest in training for all levels of IT staff, especially in the areas of new and emerging technologies.

Although the complex landscape of networking today can often feel overwhelming, you can achieve excellent results if you focus on the areas that are easily controlled. This process may become habit-forming as you solve more problems in your infrastructure before financial or reputation disasters strike.

Anthony Sequeira, a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), is an author, speaker and CBT Nuggets trainer who specializes in all levels of Cisco certification.

 Keith Barker, CCIE, is a CBT Nuggets trainer and consultant, and the author of technical books and articles, including several Cisco Press certification guides.

Barker and Sequeira co-host the “Cisco R&S Troubleshooting Mastery” training course.