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Do Small Businesses Really Need Network Management?

We meet a lot of small business owners who experience a LOT of business pain because of badly performing or just downright failing networks. Network connections, (or put more simply your broadband connection and the ability to transact and communicate) have become essential for all but the tiniest fraction of businesses nowadays. Of course, its been the dilemma for as long as technology has been a factor in business that small businesses simply cannot afford to support their technological infrastructure in the way that they know they need to.

So whats to do? Most people are just winging it to be fair. The systems we buy nowadays for business are pretty good but far from perfect.

Of course the real trouble is never expected until it arrives.

So when the perfect storm of unaffordable costs to cover the systems we need and systems failure hits, we need to make decisions we really don’t want to have to make. Unjustifiable costs suddenly become justifiable in the face of the totality of the eclipse and the value proposition changes dramatically until everything is fixed, the network goes back to sleep and calm is restored. Until the next time.

This is where a low cost management solution from Rustyice Solutions really becomes your greatest asset. Our small unobtrusive RCAD (Rustyice Control & Access Device) will sit quietly inside your network continuously monitoring the health of your network devices and also your connection to the outside world.

Our systems offer 24x7x365 real time visibility of a multitude of measurable metrics within your network ensuring that, when coupled with our realtime SMS, Email and Messenger alerts component you are always fully informed about the health of your network systems.

Imagine your business broadband connection goes down in the middle of the night. You don’t want to be in the position where you are making the necessary telephone calls having just realised the problem when you arrive at the office at 8.30. With an RCAP that process can begin via our automated systems while you sleep and can potentially be resolved by the time you get to your front door.

An RCAP is much more than a broadband & network monitor however. Through your RCAP you can monitor anything on your premises such as motion sensors, fire alarm panels, smoke alarms, in fact anything that can be measured by a sensor. You can collect statistics on printer paper use, ACU health, HVAC system performance and even the levels in the coffee machine. The RCAP from Rustyice solutions really does it all and, with a customised dashboard designed by our engineers you will have all the data you need at your fingertips, alerting you at precisely the trigger points you require to ensure your business runs smoothly.

At the superbly affordable price of £14.99 per month why wouldn’t you?

Interested? Contact us today for a test drive. With no contracts and no commitments it really is an offer you can’t afford to refuse.

Contact us today to order your new RCAP.

Reporting As A Business Tool

reportingThe business IT environment is changing rapidly as more enterprises move to the cloud. The resulting dependence on bought-in applications will make service assurance a key issue for both enterprises and service providers.

Enterprise managers and service providers alike need a service assurance tool that is easy to use and accepted as an industry standard.

Therefore, just as enterprises have long outsourced business functions such as fleet management, building maintenance and training, they are now increasingly happy -doubtless in many cases deeply relieved – to outsource their IT systems. As a strategy it’s entirely consistent with the general imperative to make businesses leaner, more efficient and less burdened with overhead.

So as IT comes of age, it leaves home. The situation changes from:“Our business is successful because we control our own applications running on our own servers’ to: “Our business is successful because top-quality service providers deliver all our IT.”

Once the basic need for service assurance is recognised, the next logical step is to look at the scope for standardising it. Because without a standard service assurance platform, an enterprise customer could end up with as many reporting formats as it has service providers. This is already happening, as service providers agree on the need to give customers a service monitoring facility but don’t agree – or haven’t yet agreed – on the need for all customers to use the same reporting format.

From the customer’s point of view this is a messy and increasingly unacceptable situation. They find themselves having to learn to use several different tools, all with different login procedures, all with different reporting formats, and probably none of them directly comparable with any other provider’s reports. And to cap it all, most reports are in technical language that enterprise managers may not be able to interpret without help from their own IT engineers – if they have any, with many of their services in the cloud.

An unsurprising outcome is that in practice, enterprise managers have access to service assurance tools but don’t use them as much as they should. And given that the data is largely incomprehensible anyway, there may be a strong sense that they’re not missing much. This isn’t good for either enterprises or service providers, and it doesn’t help the cause of service assurance or the cloud.
It’s a compelling argument for a single service assurance tool that everyone can use. Not just IT engineers, but also – primarily, in fact – enterprise managers who want information in a format they can use to make management decisions. They want a tool that is actually helping them to run and improve their business, and isn’t just paying lip service to a clause in an SLA about providing service assurance data.

Alerting On What Matters

alertAs a network becomes larger and more complex, the amount of alerts generated increases and in turn causes network managers to be bombarded with multiple notifications about all the activities and issues in their network. Having a robust alerting mechanism helps network engineers to troubleshoot key issues faster.

Intelligent alerting avoids unnecessary notifications so you can focus on those that are most important. In addition, intelligent alerts can be set in various ways. For example, to notify different people on different days, different times of the day, different people for different events, or any combination of times, events, and people.

Automated alerts are essential to monitoring. They allow you to spot problems anywhere in your infrastructure, so that you can rapidly identify their causes and minimize service degradation and disruption.

Not all alerts carry the same degree of urgency. Some require immediate human intervention, some require eventual human intervention, and some point to areas where attention may be needed in the future. All alerts should, at a minimum, be logged to a central location for easy correlation with other metrics and events.

Alerts as records (low severity)

Many alerts will not be associated with a service problem, so a human may never even need to be aware of them. For instance, when a data store that supports a user-facing service starts serving queries much slower than usual, but not slow enough to make an appreciable difference in the overall service’s response time, that should generate a low-urgency alert that is recorded in your monitoring system for future reference or investigation but does not interrupt anyone’s work. After all, transient issues that could be to blame, such as network congestion, often go away on their own. But should the service start returning a large number of timeouts, that alert-based data will provide invaluable context for your investigation.

Alerts as notifications (moderate severity)

The next tier of alerting urgency is for issues that do require intervention, but not right away. Perhaps the data store is running low on disk space and should be scaled out in the next several days. Sending an email and/or posting a notification in the service owner’s chat room is a perfect way to deliver these alerts—both message types are highly visible, but they won’t wake anyone in the middle of the night or disrupt an engineer’s flow.

Alerts as pages (high severity)

The most urgent alerts should receive special treatment and be escalated to a page (as in “pager”) to urgently request human attention. Response times for your web application, for instance, should have an internal SLA that is at least as aggressive as your strictest customer-facing SLA. Any instance of response times exceeding your internal SLA would warrant immediate attention, whatever the hour.

 

Managing Todays Complex Networks

managNetwork management is the continuous process of monitoring a network to detect and diagnose problems, and of configuring protocols and mechanisms to fix problems and optimize performance. Unfortunately, today’s network architectures were not designed with these tasks as a main priority. As a result, managing data networks is, at best, a black art practiced by an increasingly overwhelmed community of network operators. We observe that the design of protocols, control mechanisms, and monitoring systems in- duces the problems that network operators must solve. Rather than just retrofitting network management on the existing infrastructure, we advocate designing network architectures with management in mind in the first place. The key idea is to design protocols and architectures to induce network- management problems that are easy to solve.

Networks need to be managed, thus should be designed for the ease of management in the first place. Ultimately, the design of manageable networks raises important architectural questions about the appropriate division of functionalities between network elements and the systems that manage them.

Optimization produces outputs from network management by setting the tunable parameters that control network be- havior. Solving an optimization problem involves minimizing an objective function subject to a set of constraints. Many optimization problems that arise in data networks are compu- tationally intractable or even have many local minima that are significantly suboptimal.

Network management is an essential factor in successfully operating a network. As businesses become increasingly dependent on networking services, keeping those services running becomes synonymous with keeping the business running.

Properly performed, network management ensures that services provided over a network are turned up swiftly and keep running smoothly. In addition, network management helps to keep networking cost and operational cost under control. It ensures that networking equipment is used effectively and deployed where it is needed the most. It increases the availability and quality of the services that the network provides. At least in the case of service providers, it is also a significant factor in the generation of revenue from networking services. On the other hand, ineffective management can lead to deterioration and disruption of networking services, poor utilization of investment made in the network, and lost business. Network management is hence key to getting the most value out of a network and can be absolutely business critical.

Despite its significance, network management is without much doubt one of the lesser understood topics in the otherwise well-charted world of networking. Reasons for this include the fact that network management looks deceptively simple, whereas it can be difficult to master, and that it is overshadowed by the networking technology itself that it is supposed to manage.

In some ways, managing a network is like throwing a party: Most people enjoy going to a party (read: the services provided by the network) but do not want to deal with the hassle of setting it up, keeping everything flowing smoothly, and cleaning up the mess afterward (read: network management). Yet this is essential to the party’s success (and ensuring that there will be another one). As with network management, many technical disciplines are involved: Food needs to be cooked, rooms decorated, invitations printed, and electrical equipment and lighting set up. And as with network management, organizational and business questions abound: Do I throw it at my home, or do I lease a location? Where will I put the coats? How many drinks do I need? Can I do it all by myself, or at what point does it make sense to use a caterer?