What Is Network Management? How It Works, Explained

What Is Network Management? How It Works, Explained

Network management is the process of administering and managing the computer networks of one or many organizations. This includes a wide array of tasks including deploying, integrating, and monitoring network infrastructure and devices.

The main purpose of network management is to maintain the network, monitor network operations, perform troubleshooting if any problems are identified, and carry out routine updates.

It balances the needs and resources of networks, including their operation, maintenance, and administration. Levels of network management can include operation, administration, maintenance, and provisioning.

Aspects of network management also involve securing the network (and all its systems) from hackers and data breaches. This includes tasks such as limiting access to the network, setting different access levels, and regularly updating the security system.

In summary, network management is crucial for ensuring reliable and robust network performance and security.

What is the importance of network management?

Network management is a key pillar in an organization's IT infrastructure, and its importance cannot be overstated. Continuous network monitoring can effectively minimize network downtime. This proactive approach allows for the identification and resolution of issues before they can cause significant disruptions.

Efficient network management also plays a pivotal role in maximizing network performance. It involves careful management of bandwidth, ensuring that resources are effectively utilized, and promptly addressing latency issues. This optimization process allows for peak network performance, contributing significantly to the overall productivity of an organization.

Another critical aspect of network management is enhancing network security. This includes setting up robust firewalls, identifying system vulnerabilities, installing necessary patches, and swiftly addressing any security threats. Effective management of these components aids in the protection of sensitive data from unauthorized access or potential cyber-attacks.

Network monitoring tools aid in effective troubleshooting. These tools aid in the rapid identification of the sources of issues such as malfunctioning devices or unacceptable service levels. This quick pinpointing of problems leads to faster troubleshooting. Faster troubleshooting improves service levels and overall system reliability.

Network management also improves budgeting and planning within the organization. Understanding how the network is utilized can significantly impact budgeting decisions, capacity planning, and the need for infrastructure upgrades. Network management allows organizations to maintain network compliance in industries with stringent regulations.

A well-managed network ensures smoother, more efficient work processes, leading to increased productivity among employees. As a business grows and evolves, scalability becomes crucial. Effective network management allows for the swift and smooth scaling of network capabilities, accommodating increased traffic and load to avoid potential disruptions.

What are the key components of network management?

The key components of network management include:

Network fault management

This involves detecting, isolating, and rectifying faults that occur in the network. Basic functions of fault management include fault detection, fault isolation, fault correction, and fault logging.

Network configuration management

Configuration management deals with network changes. It keeps track of network component configurations and ensures that all changes made to these configurations are done in a controlled manner.

Network security management

This is critical for network administrators to prevent and respond to security breaches. It includes monitoring network access, controlling user privileges, protecting against malware and network attacks, and ensuring data privacy.

Network performance management

This concerns the monitoring and maintenance of network performance. It involves identifying bottlenecks, troubleshooting issues, optimizing resource allocation to prevent slowdowns, and ensuring Quality of Service (QoS).

Network accounting management

This involves tracking how network resources are used. It includes measuring network utilization, allocating costs, and making predictive analyses for future resource needs.

Network inventory and device management

Network inventory management involves compiling an audit or database of all network devices, configurations, and status.

Network resiliency and redundancy

Network resiliency refers to the network’s ability to withstand disruptions and continue normal operations, while redundancy refers to backup systems or failover mechanisms that ensure continued operation in case of network failure.

Network provisioning

This involves setting up and allocating network resources for user, device, and application access.

Network automation

A key pillar of network management that helps streamline and automate repetitive tasks, improving efficiency and freeing up IT staff for more critical tasks.

Network reporting and analytics

Reporting and analytics provide valuable insights into network usage trends and patterns. It helps in decision-making and strategic planning.

Network management often becomes overwhelming for organizations to handle alone. With Nile Access Service, we are automating all these steps into a single consumption model across your sites and buildings for wired and wireless connectivity. Management requirements are drastically simplified and coverage, capacity and availability guarantees get all the required attention when it comes to monitoring the health of user experiences on the network. With all aspects of network management automated and incorporated within the Nile Access Services, enterprise IT teams can tackle their network management tasks in a few steps and allow the rest of their operational focus to be spent on critical digital initiatives for their organizations. 

How does network management work?

Network management works through a centralized system that monitors, controls, and manages the network. Here's a breakdown of its operation:

Network discovery

Network discovery is the initial phase in network management, where the goal is to identify and locate all devices connected to the network. SNMP and ICMP are common protocols used to map a network and discover devices. For instance, when a new office space is set up, the IT team scans the network to identify various connected devices like computers, routers, switches, printers, and servers, ensuring everything is identified and secured.

Monitoring

Once all devices are identified, the process of continuous monitoring commences. This includes checking user activity, traffic flow, bandwidth usage, and CPU utilization, among other things. For example, in a busy data center, constant monitoring helps identify network slowdowns, or failures, sending alerts to administrators so they can address the issue promptly.

Management

Network management involves remote control and supervision of the network devices. This might involve configuring devices, installing updates, managing security settings, and troubleshooting issues. For instance, a college’s IT administrator can remotely manage and troubleshoot tablets used by students, ensuring they have the latest updates and the appropriate access rights.

Security

Network security is another crucial aspect of network management. It involves detecting unauthorized access or suspicious activity, identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities, and enforcing network security policies. For example, a campus needs to have robust network security measures in place to protect sensitive student data, detect potential cyber threats, and prevent unauthorized access.

Reporting

Reporting involves the continuous collection of data about the network's performance and the generation of relevant reports. A college could use these reports to analyze campus internet usage trends, plan capacity for peak registration periods, and enhance student and faculty experiences.

Maintenance

Regular network maintenance activities, like software updates, equipment replacements, and problem resolution, ensure optimal network functioning. For instance, a university's IT department might regularly update the network's software, replace outdated routers, and resolve connectivity issues to ensure uninterrupted internet access for students and staff.

Automation

Network management often involves automating routine tasks to reduce the need for manual intervention. An enterprise company might automate data backups, software updates, and certain troubleshooting procedures to improve efficiency, ensure data safety, and free up IT staff to focus on more complex issues.

With Nile Access Service, these requirements and steps are not left only to the IT teams to tackle and be responsible for. As the technology provider for a next-generation wired and wireless access network, Nile’s customer success and production engineering teams continuously monitor the health of the network and user / device experiences. With Nile, you have a partner in tackling network management, equally responsible for its success. 

What kinds of devices can a network management system control?

A network management system can control a wide variety of devices including, but not limited to the following infrastructure components.

Routers and switches

A network management system can control routers, which direct traffic on the network, and switches that connect multiple devices, enabling data packet processing and forwarding.

Servers and firewalls

The system also oversees servers that provide various services to the network, as well as firewalls designed to monitor and control network traffic for security purposes.

Wireless Access Points (APs)

These network devices in a wireless LAN are managed by the system, ensuring users can connect seamlessly to the network.

IoT and storage devices

The management extends to Internet of Things (IoT) devices like smart cameras and thermostats, and network-attached storage (NAS) devices that offer centralized storage solutions.

What are the challenges of network management?

Several challenges come with network management, with many challenges scaling with network size and the user’s demand for more resources.

Complex infrastructure

With the evolution of technology, network infrastructure is becoming more complex with numerous devices. Managing all these moving parts can be quite challenging.

Security threats

With increasing cyber threats, keeping a network secure is a constant challenge. IT staff duties often include, securing data, setting up firewalls, and monitoring the network for threats.

Performance issues

Ensuring optimum network performance at all times can be difficult, especially with growing traffic and users on the network. Network congestion, bandwidth issues, and equipment failure can all lead to performance slowdowns.

Scalability

As an organization grows, its network needs to scale accordingly. Planning and managing this growth without interrupting services can pose a significant challenge.

Diverse devices

Networks now include a large variety of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, sensors, and other smart devices. Ensuring all devices have enough coverage and network resources can be challenging.

Compliance

Regulations dictate how certain data should be handled and stored. Ensuring the network complies with these rules while still being efficient and secure presents a notable challenge.

High availability

Networks need to be available and reliable around the clock, especially in industries that cannot afford downtime, like healthcare and finance. Achieving this high availability can be challenging, especially during updates and maintenance.

Cost management

Network management also involves controlling costs, from procuring and maintaining hardware to energy costs. Finding a balance between budget and performance is a consistent challenge.

Lack of skilled staff

Keeping up with the latest network technologies requires continuous learning. Often, companies struggle to find or train staff with the necessary skills to manage increasingly complex network environments.

Rapid technological change

The pace of change in networking technology can also present a challenge. Network managers must keep up to date with the latest innovations and update their systems accordingly, often while maintaining legacy systems.

As you might guess by now, with the Nile Access Service, these challenges are tackled as part of the service guarantee offered by Nile’s next-generation access network infrastructure components designed and delivered by Nile, along with its microservices based modern cloud software architecture that’s maintained by Nile with the latest capabilities automatically. In other words, these challenges used to be handled reactively after the networks were designed and deployed as part of the management workflow. With Nile, agility to adopt to new sites, new technologies and new cost requirements can be handled dynamically and often proactively.

How do network elements send data to the system?

Network elements such as routers, switches, and servers send data to the management system through various protocols. For instance, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is a common one. It's used for collecting information from various network devices. Other protocols used can include NetFlow and Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP).

Below is a brief list of commonly used protocols and their strengths in network management:

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

This is the most widely used network management protocol. It's great for collecting and organizing information about managed devices on IP networks and for modifying that information to change device behavior.

Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP)

This protocol is integral to the IP layer, and it's used to convey network-related status and error information. It's especially handy for troubleshooting network connectivity issues (like using the "ping" command).

NetFlow

This protocol collects and analyzes network traffic flow data. It's particularly useful for gaining insights into network traffic patterns and volume, which aids in capacity planning and security analysis.

Network Configuration Protocol (NETCONF)

This protocol provides mechanisms to install, manipulate, and delete the configuration of network devices. It's especially useful for network configuration and change management, providing a robust and standardized approach.

In all of these methods, the system uses the gathered data to provide a clear picture of the network's state, helping network administrators detect problems, analyze network performance, carry out routine maintenance, and more. Next to network management requirements, it is hell of an ask for an IT team to manage tools and procedures to tackle these protocols as well. With the Nile Access Service, our customers focus on simple to understand dashboards highlighting key performance outcomes and provision network rules via radically simplified workflows - instead of having to worry about how to consume, store, analyze and understand large data sets from multiple groups of network infrastructure elements. 

What are the most important network management capabilities?

Performance monitoring

Network management software should have robust performance monitoring to collect and monitor data about the network performance in real time. This helps in proactively identifying potential bottlenecks before they evolve into larger issues. This is vital as it helps to ensure network availability and reliability, prevent disruptions, and maintain optimal user experience.

Network security

Advanced security measures are crucial, including firewall management and  intrusion prevention systems. The system should be able to protect the network from both internal and external threats. Security measures are fundamental in protecting sensitive data, preserving network integrity, and maintaining user trust.

Network diagnostics

They should be able to run routine diagnostics to identify problems, analyze their causes, and guide IT professionals in resolving them. This capability ensures quick resolution of issues, minimizing downtime and enhancing overall network health.

Configuration management

Managing and modifying network device settings and configurations from one central location is essential in large networks with numerous devices. This streamlines operations, reduces errors, and facilitates efficient and consistent network configuration.

Fault management

Fault management involves detecting, isolating, troubleshooting, and resolving faults in the network. Quick fault resolution can significantly reduce network downtime and the loss caused by it. Timely fault resolution maintains network performance, minimizes user impact, and saves costs and resources.

Compliance and reporting

Network management software should provide compliance and reporting capabilities. It should detail network performance and usage in comprehensive reports, which help in decision-making, regulatory compliance, and audit purposes.

Automation

Automation helps reduce manual intervention for routine jobs and allows IT professionals to focus on more strategic tasks. Automating tasks boosts operational efficiency, minimizes errors, and allows for better use of IT resources.

Scalability

As businesses grow, the network should adapt and grow too. Therefore, scalability is critical, allowing network infrastructure to expand and contract based on demand. Scalability ensures that the network can accommodate growth and changes in business needs without impacting performance or requiring major overhauls.

Bandwidth monitoring

Monitoring and managing bandwidth usage guarantees high-speed internet and a reliable network. Effective bandwidth management ensures optimal usage of available bandwidth, prevents network congestion, and ensures a satisfactory user experience.

Redefining what it means to manage a network

Network management doesn't have to be complicated and certainly cannot stay the way it is if we want to drive better outcomes for the investment we make for connectivity across enterprise campuses and branch locations. The Nile Access Service relieves you of the traditional burden of managing network infrastructures at multiple layers, recapturing your demand for predictable return on investment. It offers a seamless network experience that aligns with your strategic business requirements, dramatically reduces network complexity and enables you to redirect capital expense away from hardware and features that you do not use.

With Nile, you can rest assured knowing your network performance outcomes are guaranteed. This includes built-in zero-trust security measures and usage-based billing for flexible consumption. The service dramatically simplifies network management by offloading key lifecycle management tasks with AI automation, helping you to focus on what you do best.

Discover how Nile can design and implement a next-gen network for your organization.

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