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Network operations teams struggle daily with many aspects of network operations management in organizations. Some factors that have led to network operations management challenges are the rise in digital transformation across all enterprises and the operational changes that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The development has led to rapid changes in the networking landscape from static, manual networks to programmable, dynamic, software-driven and more complex networks capable of servicing a wide range of users.

SEE: 20 good habits network administrators need–and 10 habits to break (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Due to these emerging complexities, network operations managers face new challenges in maintaining successful network operations. So what are these challenges? What are the best ways to handle them? Let’s find out.

Challenges faced by network operations management

Staffing insufficiencies

Many businesses’ network operations management teams struggle with a limited number of experienced networking professionals. One may rightly argue for more networking professionals to be employed to solve this challenge, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Many enterprises have reported frustration in hiring networking professionals due to the limited skill sets of many candidates. Some of the skill sets most valuable to network operations include network monitoring, automation, security, troubleshooting and public cloud networking skills. Hiring candidates with all these skills is a big challenge to network operations management.

Reliability vs. growth

Not only are networks becoming more complex, but they are also growing larger. This is because networks are used for various purposes, increasing the number of connected devices. As a result, distributed networks must also increase to accommodate more users.

For example, more organizations’ operations need to be connected to the data network. Remote locations require connections to centralized locations, and even areas without personnel require network connections for surveillance or environmental monitoring.

With this growth comes more points of failure, which affects reliability. This is a big challenge to network operations managers as they struggle to figure out more ways to ensure that network reliability is not compromised or lost in the growth and expansion of network operations.

Flexibility vs. security

As we embrace the flexibility that comes with digital transformation, network security risk continues to evolve.

Enterprise network elements are currently experiencing an increase in mobility and variety. Users are operating an expanding variety of hand-held computing devices. At the inner edge, what was formerly just a simple cluster of static servers is now being replaced by virtualized servers, new storage devices and data backup systems. In addition, more requirements are being added to the list of functions that a network must enable due to personal and business considerations.

In a quest to add more flexibility, there are hardly any limitations on which devices can connect to networks, thereby significantly increasing access for potential malicious users. It was pretty easy to list permitted devices in the era of stationary desk-bound PCs, preventing connection to any other devices. This is no longer obtainable as network users enjoy more flexibility.

Cloud complexity

The cloud has become an integral part of network operations management. Within the network operations initiative, the cloud has overtaken server virtualization. This development has brought its share of challenges for network operations as more network operations managers struggle with running a multi-cloud architecture. While there are new plans to unbundle how network teams can simplify this cloud architecture complexity, more work is still needed — especially in what should comprise best cloud practices.

With more applications being hosted in the cloud, more network teams are being forced into adopting software-defined wide area networks to help improve the efficiency and reliability of their WAN. Unfortunately, this new drive is also creating a lot of headaches for network managers as they figure out how their organization can take advantage of the benefits of cloud architecture.

How to improve network operations management

Network operations management teams can take measures to adopt best practices that will help them simplify network operations management. Establish cloud visibility for end-to-end network operations and ensure that standard network operations centers are upgraded to cross-domain network operation centers.

More network operations managers must embrace new technologies that could enhance network operations. Apply machine learning to automate processes like root cause analysis.

Furthermore, the need to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning in network operations will grow as the network environment continues to get more distributed. Network professionals must familiarize themselves with the workings of artificial intelligence, especially with regard to helping their organizations run effective network operations.

Network specialists should know that merely adhering to best practices or using new technology may not be sufficient. Network teams should adhere to procedures most consistent with their organization’s overarching objectives and business plan.

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