Network resilience, or the ability to prevent and withstand network disruptions, is becoming an increasingly critical component for business continuity. But while a recent Opengear survey found that most IT departments (73%) and board members (70%) see network resilience as a top priority, it also revealed that two-fifths of U.S. businesses lose more than $1 million annually to outages.
The need for better tools to prevent and recover from disruptions is not going to let up either. Network complexity is growing by the day, as new cloud, IoT, and edge deployments, along with an increasing number of SD-WAN routers and switches, introduce more complex endpoints. And that’s not to mention new and emerging challenges, such as the explosion of work from home and the needs of managing a distributed workforce remotely.
But securing your network doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, organizations can prepare for the complex network ecosystems of tomorrow by following three basic pillars of network resilience. Once organizations develop a clear plan around these pillars, they will be able to ensure a robust network infrastructure for years to come.
Pillar 1: Streamline Recovery During Outages
It’s not a matter of if an outage occurs, it’s when — and, remember, truck rolls are expensive. With this in mind, organizations should ensure they have the right tools to get networks online as fast and efficiently as possible during a disruption.
Networks are becoming more geographically dispersed, more people are working remote, and many organizations operate globally. Due to these factors and more, network resilience tools must have the presence and proximity to plug into and map all data center or edge site equipment, regardless of location. This capability can help determine what is online and offline at any time and enables teams to provide immediate assistance and resolution should an issue arise.
As an example, a team may benefit from being able to rapidly reboot a system remotely. If the reboot doesn’t solve the issue, the network disruption may be due to a faulty software update or another preventable problem. With tools that enable a separate management plane, organizations can use functions like automatically generated back-up configuration images to rapidly repair and rebuild mission critical infrastructure.
During an outage, it is also possible to provide further resilience via tools like failover to cellular. This would enable a business to keep running even while the primary network is down and technicians are addressing the fault remotely.
Pillar 2: Maintenance and Operations
While enabling better methods of remediation is vital, organizations should also invest in ongoing operational support. The goal of this should be to minimize as many disruptions as possible before they start, and one of the best ways to do this is to create a smart, separate management plane for monitoring and provisioning.
No matter what the status of your primary network is, a separate management plane can allow you to monitor and access all devices at all times without impacting operations. This will provide always-on and reliable virtual hands to immediately address issues before they cause disruptions.
Other functions of ongoing maintenance can also be automated. For instance, teams can automate processes for continuous event collection with alerts and analyses as well as software updates. From a secure plane, these features can eliminate human errors and drastically reduce costs.
One more factor to consider is development. In today’s marketplace, organizations need to constantly improve network operations to remain competitive. Therefore, organizations should consider using network management systems that support the latest tools for configuration, storage, cloud management, monitoring, and coding.
Pillar 3: Setup and Configuration
Several years ago, when someone thought of network resilience, they may not have considered the initial setup and provisioning phases, but, now, organizations wishing to stay competitive need secure methods to effectively self-deploy and -configure network infrastructure starting from day one.
Developments, like IoT, edge computing, distributed clouds, and work-from-home environments, are making it hard for engineers to get on-site, while the networks themselves are becoming more complex and dispersed. Simultaneously, many are finding it necessary to rapidly scale capacity or network services and adopt automation to gain the efficiencies demanded in the marketplace.
One impact of this is that cellular deployments for network management, which can be set up near instantaneously, are much more feasible in many cases. For instance, it could take weeks and require extensive on-site work to install an MPLS circuit to host network management on its own separate and secure connection.
Another impact is that certain tools for orchestrating and automating network management are becoming vital to the setup process. By using tools with NetOps automation functionalities, business can remotely set up systems in less than 24 hours and deliver secure provisioning to new sites all from the safe vantage point of a network operations center or even a private residence.
New boxes can even be shipped out to sites securely with embedded TPM chips to prevent hardware tampering, and zero-touch provisioning can enable instant setup without experienced technicians on-site.
Solve Today's Problems While Planning for Tomorrow
The networking world will not slow down, so it is incumbent on management to keep up. Those who deploy the right strategies and tools for a more secure and streamlined network today will find they will be better equipped to remediate, monitor, and configure infrastructure tomorrow — whether IT teams are physically present or not. So, if you haven’t considered the three pillars above, what are you waiting for?