Networking optimize

10 ways automated tools can help you meet the tech challenges of 2013

2013 promises to bring increased demand on IT resources, but automated solutions can help organizations save money, reduce downtime, and operate more efficiently.

Cloud computing, virtualization, Big Data, and high profile network vulnerabilities made IT headlines in 2012. In 2013, we will continue to see growth in the network -- including servers, applications, and storage -- resulting from the continuation of these trends. Relief in dealing with these challenges probably won't come from an increase in headcount, but certain automated solutions can help. Here are some tips (and price estimates) to guide you in selecting the tools you need to respond to these trends in the year to come.

1: Manage your traffic

As networks grow, so does network traffic -- which has a large impact on network performance and thus drives the performance of business-critical applications. Before IT departments pay for pricey upgrades to their routers or WAN to respond to this continued growth in the network, they should make sure network traffic is being used efficiently and in the best interests of the company. By choosing right-size network performance and traffic monitoring software, which can range from just under $5K to $50K, IT pros can effectively manage the high growth expected to hit networks in 2013 and ensure top performance.

2: Monitor your servers and apps

When business-critical apps are adversely affected, IT must be able to figure out what caused the failure immediately. But without the right tools, it can take awhile to check the hardware, operating system, application services, and so on. Server and application monitoring software can range from $3K to $30K and will be an integral component in preventing these crucial functions from going down. As we've seen from recent network outages, these events can compromise efficiency, profits, and the ability to serve customers.

3: Manage your virtualization

With some analysts estimating that server virtualization is as high as 60% of server workloads, it is critical that you have a way to manage your virtual machines. Virtualization performance monitoring and management, VM sprawl control, capacity planning, configuration management, and chargeback automation can be had for as little as $3K.

4: Reduce your risk

As the network expands, so do network threats. IT pros need to ensure network security amidst this heightened risk while keeping their networks efficient. With real-time security information event and log management, available from around $5K to upwards of $100K, IT admins can protect their networks, regardless of size.

5: Get control of your IP addresses

Whether we like it or not, IPv4 address space has been exhausted, IPv6 transitions are imminent, BYOD is not going away, and using a spreadsheet simply does not cut it anymore. IP address conflicts can result in network downtime and/or lost worker productivity, which leads to direct and indirect costs -- costs that can be avoided by preventing the conflicts from happening in the first place. By centrally managing, monitoring, alerting, and reporting on the entire IP infrastructure via automated tools, IT pros can avoid IP conflicts and manage address allocation while alleviating the burdens of IPv6 transition and BYOD. These tools range from $2K to $15K annually

6: Check your configs

You've heard it before. More than 70% of network issues are a result of faulty device configurations. Automated change and configuration management tools can reduce the chances of (and accelerate the detection of) configuration-related issues. They range in price from $3K to $30K.

7: Monitor VoIP performance

If you've deployed VoIP at any level, you certainly have heard complaints from end users about call quality. The performance of a VoIP call directly correlates with the performance of the network that routes the calls. If you don't have a way to monitor and measure the performance of the network, it's going to be next to impossible to troubleshoot and resolve poor VoIP calls. For between $2K and $20K, you can get into monitoring software that will alert you to poor VoIP performance and correlate with the underlying network to aid in troubleshooting.

8: Monitor Web performance

Not only do you need a way to measure the performance of your customer-facing Web sites, but you also need a tool that can help you track the response time of your critical Web-based applications. With a price range of $2K to $30K, Web performance monitoring tools will allow you to continuously monitor your end users' experience by measuring the time it takes to perform each step of a transaction.

9: Don't forget your remote users

The seemingly formidable task of providing the same level of monitoring and reporting support for onsite and remote staff can be streamlined with automated tools. With the ability to support all end users from one location, technicians can cut travel time between sites while increasing the number of service requests they can handle in a day. End-user support tools can range from less than $1K to $20K per year.

10: Embrace mobility

Issues can crop up at any time, and you can't be chained to your desk waiting to for the next problem to arise. Mobile solutions that allow you to diagnose, triage, and resolve issues in a few clicks from a smartphone or tablet can be had for as little as $700.

Summary

For small businesses that may not have the annual budget allocations for the types of solutions listed above, there are also free tools that offer some assistance in keeping simple IT environments running smoothly.

From automated tools that administer networks, servers, and applications to IP address management solutions and beyond, there are services available that can help ensure peak performance and overall success in 2013.

About the author

Brad Hale is Product Marketing Principal for SolarWinds.

15 comments
testing-whiz
testing-whiz

Hey Brade. That's really nice post you have shared. One more point I would like to add to your post. Managing the huge database with new age testing tools is also possible that makes quite easy for testing database interface too.

gabbynizri
gabbynizri

Brad, nice post but i think monitoring is obvious and common sense, when you write about automated tools, you can spend all the time in the world monitoring your systems, but if you are not able to quickly identify, analyze and resolve the problems, you’re really no better off than you were at the start of the process. Simply put, monitoring just isn't enough to keep IT operations running efficiently (i believe this is the big challenge). Think about what happens in the event of a system outage. Whether it’s internal IT or a managed service provider, the focus immediately becomes about time to resolution. The longer critical systems are down, the more devastating an impact it will have on an organization. With regular monitoring, time is not on your side. Every moment you spend manually working to resolve the situation, your service levels are dropping. This is where automated tools get's in! I would suggest taking sometime and writing about the benefits of automation tools and also to list some of them, i can also think of at least 100 ways sysadmins can use automation tools, i can work with you on listing those... BR, Gabby Nizri

csu-tfoschini2
csu-tfoschini2

This is a good list of skills / characteristics I'd like my co-workers and employees to have. You might want to re-work this and call it '10 skills to Evaluate in an Interview.'

sermic
sermic

Brad, I see that you work with SolarWinds, so I'm not sure if you were conflicted with making recommendations. However, it doesn't make sense to post your recommendations without providing leads and examples. Why bother writing if you're basically telling us nothing we don't already know? On a separate note, IPv4 is not going anywhere, and as others have noted, it's fine for private networks. What you should have talked about was the advantages of moving internal networks (or external) to IPv6. For example, aren't there significant security advantages there?????

Dereckonline
Dereckonline

So the spreadhseet doens't work - what utils are out there that do a good job of this And I concur with mark1408 - internal networks should be fine on IPv4 The public side will be managed by the ISP.

misteng
misteng

Was excited to see the vision of the list but would have been awesome to see some examples. One of the most time consuming tasks that Admins have is researching known good, quality solutions...if I had someone to do that for me (Read: Brad Hale), I would be eternally grateful.

happykinds
happykinds

Next episode might be worthy. If you defined the price range you might probably also share with us which are the solutions name for each of the ten topics. Yes, advertising will be the included for free, but if you do not share them, google will gain for all the time we will search for them ;-) However, very useful. Great vision. Best Regards

mark1408
mark1408

...but not on my internal network, which is what I'm most concerned with. I know I can't ignore it entirely but mostly I can.

brad.hale
brad.hale

Great suggestion. I will keep that in mind for the next series we write

brad.hale
brad.hale

Thanks for the comment. I always have to walk a fine line between providing some guidance or insight and not wanting to come across as complete marketing spin while remaining in my word limit for the article. With that said, however, I will give you some ideas that come from SolarWinds. 1. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA) manages and monitors bandwidth usage by taking advantage of the built in flow technologies within your routers. 2. Server & Applications Monitor (SAM) delivers agentless performance and availability monitoring, alerting, and reporting for hundreds of applications and server types. 3. Virtualization Manager delivers integrated VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V capacity planning, performance monitoring, VM sprawl control, configuration management, and chargeback automation. 4. Log & Event Manager (LEM) is a Security Information & Event Management solution that combines real-time log analysis, event correlation, and IT search. 5. IP Address Manager (IPAM) offers DNS, DHCP, and IPAM monitoring and management. 6. Network Configuration Manager (NCM) offers change and configuration management. 7. VoIP & Network Quality Manager (VNQM) allows you to correlate VoIP call quality with the underlying WAN performance to pinpoint and troubleshoot poor VoIP calls. 8. Web Performance Monitor allows you to continuously monitor internal (behind the firewall), customer-facing, SaaS and cloud-based applications, as well as websites. 9. Dameware Remote Support provides remote windows administration and desktop remote control. 10. Mobile Admin provides agentless IT management & monitoring from any mobile device. Yes, there are commercially available products that compete with each and every one of SolarWinds solutions but coming up with that list would be a VERY long article. Where SolarWinds believes that we differentiate is that we provide solutions to the every day problems of IT professionals at a great value. The price ranges that I indicate in the article are the price ranges for SolarWinds products. We feel quite confident that are products provide the greatest value in the marketplace. Lastly, all SolarWinds products are downloadable and offer a free fully functional 30-day trial so you can see exactly how it works in your environment.

brad.hale
brad.hale

I agree that your internal network should be fine on IPv4 for some time using NAT, CIDR, or dual-stack technologies. But let me ask you this: do you ever have IP address conflicts? If you do, what is the cost of those IP address conflicts? The cost of a conflict is more than just the cost of your time troubleshooting the conflict. It is also the cost of the network downtime. Perhaps it is not that large for your situation, but it can easily run into the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars for large enterprises. As for utilities, there a number of free and paid tools that do a great job of not only managing IPv4 address space, but also help in the planning of and IPv6 migration when you get ready to make the move. Take a look at SolarWinds free IP Address Tracker, or if you need more power, look at IP Address Manager. The latter offers a free fully functional 30-day trial so you can try it our in your environment.

brad.hale
brad.hale

Take a look at my reply to Tell Me Something I don't know

brad.hale
brad.hale

See my reply below to Tell Me Something I don't know for a list of solutions.

brad.hale
brad.hale

Yes you may be able to mostly ignore IPv6 on your internal network for a while, but can you ignore basic IP address conflicts and the costs, direct and indirect, of them? if you experience occasional IP address conflicts, then take a look at products that will reduce those and most of the time you get the added bonus of a tool that will help you plan an IPv6 migration.