What Is Network Availability?

What Is Network Availability?

How to Calculate & Improve It

Network availability refers to the amount of time a network infrastructure is up and accessible to users for connectivity and digital data transmission. It's typically measured as a percentage of the total time (such as a month or a year), representing when the system was fully functioning and available. 

This concept refers to the measure of time that a network is operational and available for use. It's a cornerstone in understanding the overall health and efficiency of a network, reflecting its ability to meet the demands of users and applications. As we delve into this topic, we'll explore how network availability is not just about having a connection, but about ensuring that the connection is robust and dependable.

Why is network availability important?

Network availability is paramount in today's digitally driven world. It ensures that vital online services and resources are accessible when needed. Strong network availability supports seamless workforce responsibilities and learning in educational environments, as well as research, and administrative operations. 

It's not just about convenience at Nile; we believe it's a matter of operational continuity and efficiency that should be expected from any network. When availability is high, organizations can trust their digital infrastructure to support critical tasks without interruption, thus maintaining network performance and stability.

What are the benefits of monitoring network availability?

Maintaining a high level of network availability is crucial for organizations, as it directly impacts their operational efficiency and user satisfaction. This section explores the significant benefits that come with diligent monitoring of network availability.

Enhanced network performance

Monitoring network availability is key to identifying and resolving issues promptly, which leads to enhanced network performance and a more reliable user experience. Availability is one of the core pillars in Nile’s guaranteed performance promise as part of its contract with enterprise IT teams, when it comes to wireless network coverage, overall wired and wireless network capacity for the relevant campus and branch locations, and overall network availability. One of the capabilities within a Nile network that enables this industry leading offer to enterprise IT organizations is the use of dedicated sensors that continuously check the availability of all components delivered as part of the Nile Access Service.

Reduced downtime

By proactively identifying potential issues, organizations can significantly reduce network downtime, ensuring that vital services and applications remain accessible when needed. Nile Access Service automates proactive monitoring of service quality for all connected users, devices and applications within a Nile network, enabling resolution of potential issues before they can cause any disruption in the future network experience.

Informed decision-making

Regular monitoring provides valuable data that aids in informed decision-making, allowing organizations to optimize their network resources and plan for future growth effectively. With Nile, we work with customers to provide them monthly details on availability and other guaranteed performance metrics as part of the service. Nile’s customer success team also proactively manages any hardware infrastructure replacement or scaling needs that would improve user satisfaction.

How does network availability work?

Understanding network availability involves grasping how networks are designed and maintained to ensure maximum uptime. It encompasses deploying redundant systems, regular network diagnostics, and proactive network management strategies. Let’s explore:

Network redundancy

Redundant systems form a critical backbone for network availability, ensuring continuous operation despite failures in components or connections. Nile uses additional switches if needed and even the back-hauling of APs to separate switches in a salt-n-pepper design for access to wired network connectivity, in order to enhance the network's resilience. 

Network monitoring

Continuous monitoring is pivotal for identifying and addressing issues like traffic congestion, equipment malfunctions, and power disruptions within the network infrastructure. Automated AI-powered thresholds and alerts notify Nile and IT administrators of potential problems, enabling prompt and effective resolution.

Network maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential for network longevity and performance. This involves updating software, replacing outdated equipment, and conducting thorough tests to ensure optimal network performance and network capacity. Nile works with customers to update software and replaces outdated hardware as needed as part of the Nile Access Service lifecycle commitment.

Network traffic management

Effective management of traffic is achieved through systems that ensure smooth data flow. Techniques like load balancing distribute network traffic evenly, while Quality of Service (QoS) features prioritize crucial data, optimizing network bandwidth and network utilization. Nile uses a variety of automated techniques within standards to prioritize certain types of traffic over the others to ensure voice, video and other critical application requirements, for instance, in order to ensure that latency sensitive traffic is handled properly. 

Network security

Protecting the network and rest of the digital IT infrastructure from cyber threats is a top priority to ensure uninterrupted availability. Implementing robust security measures like firewalls, anti-malware software, and encryption safeguards the network against disruptions. Nile Access Service integrates campus zero trust where each endpoint is isolated from each other by design for more granular protection in an effort to minimize network disruptions.

Disaster recovery plans

In the event of major incidents like power outages or cyber attacks, disaster recovery plans are crucial. These plans are designed to restore network operations swiftly, minimizing downtime and preserving network reliability. Redundant cloud instances are used by Nile to ensure that customers experience the least amount of downtime possible. 

How to measure network availability

Understanding how to measure network availability is crucial for ensuring that an organization meets its operational demands effectively. This involves a combination of quantitative metrics and qualitative assessments to gauge the network's performance and reliability.

Key performance indicators

Measuring network availability effectively requires tracking specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These include uptime, response time, and network throughput, which provide quantifiable data on network performance and reliability. Nile Access Service proactively monitors user, device, application, network element, network software process and many other deep data sets on overall service performance in order to satisfy its requirements to maintain guaranteed performance for availability, coverage and capacity.

Availability Metrics

Availability metrics are often expressed as a percentage, representing the proportion of time the network is operational. Calculating this involves monitoring the total time the network is available over a given period compared to the total time in that period. Nile’s availability SLA as part of its guaranteed performance promise comes with a financial credit back to IT teams as part of the monthly billing cycles if the SLA expectations are not met. 

Network diagnostics tools

Utilization of network diagnostics tools plays a crucial role in assessing network availability. These tools help in identifying potential issues and inefficiencies, allowing for timely interventions to maintain optimal network performance. In addition to AI-powered features that provide continuous insights, Nile includes a variety of tools that allow for engineers to test different aspects of the network - from wired switching performance to RF coverage.

User experience monitoring

Finally, monitoring user experience gives insights into the practical impact of network availability. This involves tracking how network performance affects the end user, ensuring the network meets the needs of its users. While Nile’s guaranteed performance plays a large role in determining user experience, the MyNile user portal allows users to see the status of their connections, run tests for connectivity and application availability, and submit trouble tickets directly within the app, accelerating overall troubleshooting experience. 

How to optimize network availability

Optimizing network availability is a key goal for any organization, especially in an era where digital connectivity is vital for operational success. Here’s how you can improve availability in your network:

Streamlining network infrastructure

Streamlining and upgrading network infrastructure plays a crucial role in optimizing availability. This includes boosting network capacity and bandwidth to handle increased traffic and data loads efficiently. 

Prioritizing regular updates and maintenance

Regular updates and maintenance are critical for keeping network systems running smoothly. This proactive approach helps in addressing potential vulnerabilities and ensuring optimal network performance. 

Partnering with an as-a-Service provider

Partnering with Nile offers organizations a transformative approach to enhancing network availability. Nile Access Service, a premier offering, delivers a simplified, yet highly efficient cloud-managed solution. By choosing Nile, IT organizations enjoy a network experience that allows them to oversee what happens while allowing them to focus on their core functions. Nile’s unique technology automates any repetitive operational tasks. 

This partnership not only elevates network efficiency but also significantly reduces network management burden and complexity, making it a smart choice for organizations aiming to optimize their network availability.

What are "nines" in network availability?

The "nines" method is a popular way to describe network availability in terms of uptime percentage. For example, "three nines" availability means the network is up and running 99.9% of the time. 

Each additional nine represents a higher standard of reliability, with "five nines" or 99.999% uptime being a common goal for many organizations. This method is crucial for setting and measuring network performance expectations, as it offers a clear and quantifiable target for network reliability. 

Understanding and striving for higher "nines" can significantly impact an organization's operational efficiency and user satisfaction.

What is the difference between network availability and network reliability?

Network availability refers to the proportion of time a network is operational and accessible for use. It's primarily concerned with whether the network is up and running at any given moment. In contrast, network reliability goes beyond mere availability, encompassing the consistency of network performance over time. 

A reliable network has high availability and maintains a consistent performance level without frequent disruptions or significant variations in speed and quality. Understanding this distinction helps organizations prioritize both aspects to ensure a robust and dependable network infrastructure.

What is the difference between network availability, uptime, and downtime?

Network availability, as previously discussed, is the measure of the time a network is operational and ready for use. Uptime is closely related, representing the actual time the network is functioning without problems. 

It's a specific measure within the broader concept of network availability. Downtime, on the other hand, is the period when the network is not operational. It includes planned outages for maintenance as well as unplanned outages due to failures or issues.

Does security affect network availability?

Security has a direct and profound impact on network availability. Cyber threats like malware, ransomware, and DDoS attacks can lead to significant downtime, disrupting network operations. 

Implementing robust security measures, such as NAC solutions, firewalls, anti-malware software, and intrusion detection systems, is crucial in safeguarding the network against these threats. Furthermore, a strong security posture involves regular updates and proactive monitoring to anticipate and mitigate potential security incidents. 

By prioritizing Zero Trust security, organizations can ensure their networks remain available and reliable, safeguarding against interruptions that could impact operations and user experience.

The Nile Access Service integrates zero trust networking principles within the wired and wireless network infrastructure to ensure robust security, thereby significantly reducing network downtime and guaranteeing optimal performance. 

By adhering to a 'never trust, always verify' approach, Nile fortifies the network against various cyber and internal threats, ensuring that only authenticated and authorized users and devices can access network resources. 

This comprehensive strategy not only enhances your overall network security but also plays a crucial role in maintaining consistent network availability and performance.

What strategies improve network availability?

Adopting a multi-faceted approach is essential for improving network availability. This includes investing in high-quality hardware, software and ultimately infrastructure to ensure robust and reliable network performance. Nile automates security patch and software release updates for all its customers, ensuring against any potential issues due to use of outdated software capabilities within a wired and wireless access network.

Nile also implements redundancy and failover systems, as they provide backup options in case of hardware failure or other disruptions. Additionally, optimizing network configurations and utilizing network monitoring tools help in identifying and resolving issues promptly. Lastly, training staff on best practices and response protocols ensures that any network issues are handled efficiently and effectively. 

Network availability challenges

Addressing the challenges of network availability requires a strategic approach, focusing on both identifying potential issues and implementing effective solutions. This section breaks down these challenges and explores how they can be overcome.

Increasing demand vs. limited infrastructure

The growing demand for network resources often outpaces existing infrastructure capabilities. To overcome this, organizations need to invest in scalable solutions like cloud-managed networking and regularly upgrade their network infrastructure to handle increased loads. Nile and its partners are responsible for the lifecycle management of each customer’s network from day -1 to day N. This helps provide consistency and minimizes issues that may pop up when organizations run different infrastructure and software everywhere. 

Evolving cyber threats

The constantly changing nature of cyber threats presents a significant challenge. Staying ahead of these threats requires a robust security strategy, including the implementation of advanced anti-malware software, continuous network monitoring, and employee training on security best practices. Nile’s unique approach to campus zero trust security also utilizes a “layer 3 only” design where every connected device is isolated from each other, preventing proliferation of malware and ransomware. 

Technical issues

Hardware failures, software bugs, and configuration errors can disrupt network availability. Regular maintenance, timely updates, and redundancy systems help mitigate these technical challenges. Nile handles all software upgrades for all infrastructure components with minimized network outages, thanks to its modern cloud-native software architecture. 

Environmental factors

External factors such as power outages or natural disasters can unexpectedly impact network operations. Implementing disaster recovery plans and backup power systems are crucial for maintaining network availability in the face of these environmental challenges.

Guaranteed network availability with Nile

By utilizing advanced network planning and design methodologies, and by automating the entire wired and wireless network lifecycle management across campus and branch locations, Nile Access Service ensures that your network comes with guarantees for coverage, capacity and availability performance, effectively eliminating reactive, complex and time-consuming maintenance tasks. 

This optimization enhances the user experience, provides a better platform for new generation of digital connectivity use cases, and leads to significant savings in total cost of ownership for IT organizations looking to improve their network infrastructure uptime. 

With a focus on removing complexity out of day -1/N network operations and offering a reliable, hands-off network experience, Nile helps IT organizations streamline their edge network infrastructure, reducing TCO while maintaining high connectivity and security standards.

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