Networking

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.

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