Plugging the Gaps in Network Complexity

By Leon Adato, Head Geek, SolarWinds

Plugging the Gaps in Network Complexity

Business growth can be a double-edged sword. As an organisation expands, so do the complexities of its networks, as well as the IT resources required to maintain them. What this means is growth can only go so far. There comes a breaking point when the IT teams have maxed out their time and energy, and the risks that come with rapid growth begin to go unchecked, resulting in the erosion of both efficiency and security.

The answer to these problems seems straightforward enough—get more resources to support the expansion. However, with approximately eight in 10 chief information officers in Singapore saying it’s increasingly difficult to attract qualified IT professionals to their organisations, it is evident that the country is experiencing an ongoing skills shortage within its IT sector.

As such, it’s important to keep existing IT teams operating at their best efficiency by investing in optimization. According to SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2019, three out of four IT professionals (DevOps teams, web product managers) surveyed spend less than a quarter of their time proactively optimising systems, application, and network performance.

Although the Singapore Government has initiatives like the Digital Proficiency Programme to boost the digital skills of non-IT specialists like professionals, managers, executives, and technicians, the onus is ultimately still on organisations to be in control of its rapidly-growing networks.

It’s clear that businesses have two choices: reduce complexities and increase visibility in their business or risk being susceptible to external security breaches. According to a study by Trend Micro, these attacks are increasingly commonplace.

For instance, business email compromise scams are a pressing issue among companies based in Singapore. Although these attacks are less frequent than phishing attacks, they’re more complex and would require a sophisticated network management system to combat them.

The right tools for the job

An important measure in preventing such complexities from accumulating is installing the right network management software (NMS). Designed to help IT teams detect and stop threats across the network through user logging, tracking, and access control, NMS also aids in helping them monitor the flow of data in real-time, while identifying potential bottlenecks in both hardware and software. This will provide IT teams with a framework to manage their current network footprint, as well as map out future growth.

Furthermore, a strong NMS can bridge the extension of a network into the cloud. This is done by enabling IT teams to control network access levels for different classes of users, depending on how they interact with the public or private cloud, or on-prem components of an infrastructure.

Platform-based automation can also further reduce complexity by assigning IP addresses, flipping server switches, or scanning networks. Ideally, IT teams should be spending the bulk of their time optimising and strengthening networks, paving the way for future growth, instead of navigating the complexities that arise.

Looking in the right places

NMSes exist in a crowded marketplace with a huge variety of tools. In the last few years, these network monitoring tools have been undergoing constant evolution amid a relentless demand for more scalable, more comprehensive, and more feature-rich solutions. Selecting the right tool in a market that is both saturated and extremely varied is now even more challenging, but at the same time more important because of the ability for this new breed of tools to save time and become a force multiplier for IT teams as they monitor their networks.

An efficient NMS can frame data into maps or reports that are visual and specific to each context, which would provide IT teams with an overview of a network with one glance, even for those that are less technologically savvy. The ability to gather data from multiple areas of IT, and then correlate them together, creates meaningful dialogue between teams to establish and justify where to prioritise investments in additional infrastructure or to conduct better risk-benefit analyses. This would help IT teams spot discrepancies or vulnerabilities in the system and allow them to address these issues armed with all the necessary information.

Some NMS platforms also use design features like placing configuration data besides key performance metrics. Take SolarWinds® Network Insight for example, which displays the relationship between component statuses graphically, providing network managers with better clarity in gathering insights amid evolving environments.

The result is greater clarity among IT teams that would enable them to predict points where the network is expanding beyond control or struggling to keep up. Additionally, when it comes to security compliance, IT professionals can also identify incoming threats faster and with less false positives, which would, in turn, let them assign the right responses accurately in a shorter amount of time. This also means that potentially costly network issues are avoided, and the risks of a breach occurring can be averted.

The enterprise IT ecosystem is complicated as is, but with the right tools, businesses can help resource-stretched IT teams navigate it much more easily. A scalable and simple NMS platform can help IT teams cut down complexities and keep threats at bay alongside expanding network perimeters. It’s only with the right network monitoring foundations that IT teams find time to focus on what matters without compromising on their operational goals.

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Mark Ko

Besides tech, I love chicken rice. Point me in the right direction and I'll go and try it. :)

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