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IT Insight: Network monitoring important as disruption is the new ‘normal’

The year 2020 has taught us that a business’ ability to respond will dictate their ability to survive. The work-from-anywhere model was embraced often before many companies and businesses rethought their network infrastructure and protecting it. What was once easy to manage behind your business network firewall has become complicated with many employees working remotely, often using their own devices. In prior columns, I have discussed Risk Assessment and Security issues. Now we will look at Network Monitoring.

Your network infrastructure is more important than ever with more data and applications moving to the Cloud. You want the right network infrastructure from your wiring, switches, firewalls and wireless in place to give you the best possible access to this data. Your users deserve the best possible access to your companies’ resources. But how can you ensure the best possible experience and manage this equipment while verifying that all your switches, firewalls and wireless access points are always available?  Like traffic jams on the highway during rush hour, you want to minimize congestion and optimize your performance with the right equipment and management of your network infrastructure. How do you avoid guessing what is wrong within the network?

Your IT provider can help you isolate network problems and fix them proactively by utilizing network monitoring for every aspect of your network: IT Infrastructure, connectivity, web traffic and security. A thorough network monitoring system will watch trends in uptime and downtime, user requests, response times, errors, faulty equipment and network faults. The goal is to isolate and repair problems before your network “goes down”.

With more applications moving to the cloud and users working remotely, you need redundancy, resiliency and a plan to have the best possible network infrastructure that you can manage, grow and adapt to. Your network is at full capacity now with more users video conferencing, virtual private networks, remote access and meetings. The load has more than doubled. Without network monitoring in place, you could be living on the edge with an accident ready to happen.

Management software will monitor the type of traffic on the network and block unnecessary traffic like music, streaming, certain website surfing, downloads, and other data requests that are not approved by your company. If you do not manage or control this, you could be sitting in “traffic jams” every day.

Other items to consider are internal circuits and speed. Having a redundant Internet circuit with fail over is necessary, like a generator at your home should you lose power.  Older firewalls cannot handle the traffic or volume or current internet speeds. Verify your model and confirm it can handle a dual circuit and the upload/download speeds you need.

Consumer grade and basic business switches do not have the capacity to optimize the traffic on your network or block certain types of traffic (music streaming, voice traffic).  Think of switches like your electrical panel and wiring within your house. It is critical to have all wires go to one location and in the properly managed switch so you can control the traffic on your network. Adding a collection of smaller, unmanaged switches in the office could wreak havoc as you will have no insight to where the issue or bottleneck is emanating from. Additionally, many wireless access points cannot handle the next generation of wireless signals, the density of users, resulting in degradation and poor performance.

Confirm that all your key equipment is under warranty with known turnaround times such as next business day, 24×7 for known business outcomes. You may need hot spares for key equipment if downtime is critical to your business.

Trying to monitor your network internally can be expensive and time-consuming.  Managed Service Providers have the services, tools, technical talent and expertise to do this at a fraction of the cost. Look for tailored packages with predictable costs and necessary 24X7 support that is within your budget yet gives you the flexibility to grow and adapt to your business needs.

With access to newest technology and enhanced security, your MSP is committed to your return on investment and Peace of Mind in 2021. Happy New Year from your friend’s at PCG, Portsmouth Computer Group!

JoAnn Hodgdon is vice president and co-founder of Portsmouth Computer Group (PCGiT) with her husband David. PCG provides comprehensive managed IT services, business continuity, security, cloud computing and Virtual CIO services to their clients.  You may reach her at joann@pcgit.com  or through www.pcgit.com.