Network configuration management is a function that comprises assortment, monitoring and storage of information about every component that forms a network. The true purpose of such a solution is to come alive in time of any eventuality; it could be the need to update, upgrade, recover or could even be disaster management. The solution will provide all pertinent information at the hands of the IT operations team, enabling them to decide the course of action going forward.
Configuration management is critical for all businesses and there are some features that are considered essential by customers.
Let’s dive into understand what are the six must-have features in a configuration management solution.
1. Backup startup and running configurations of all devices in the network
Businesses want the networks they run to be undisrupted. We have to also acknowledge that on the other hand, network outages and the resultant downtime are a reality. Downtime can happen anytime and it would be in the best interests of the network operators to have a safety net in the event of failure.
Backup thus becomes a fulcrum of network management, letting you upload the most stable configuration file to be used during an outage. When a network disaster strikes, the backed up configuration setting will be used to get the network back online, and the business will continue uninterrupted.
Here’s how you can secure your network from downtime using backup:
- Ensure startup and running configurations are always in sync, so that no configuration change is missed out.
- If you know that changes are made on a daily basis or within regular time intervals, make sure to back up promptly to save those changes.
- Pick out the most stable and reliable configuration from your repository of configuration settings.
- The stable configuration that you trust, when uploaded as the backup configuration, becomes the fallback mechanism that is relied upon to keep the network up during an outage.
Such a mechanism in place means the IT team won’t have to panic and go into a troubleshooting overdrive. The process will be automatic and the network will stay undisrupted.
2. Track every change that is made, automatically
Network management is a critical and sensitive function because any error can cause a mishap at a wider scale. The key to minimizing configuration change errors is to have a tight leash and eye on the “who, what and when” of the network.
An IT Operations team overseeing a huge network will find themselves overburdened having to manually keep track of all the changes that are made. However, logging remains a vital activity because:
- They act as the record of all changes that are made, helping the team review and correlate them to the event of an outage.
- An admin or an operator would like to be alerted instantly by notifications, when an activity that could be alarming, takes place.
- In the event of an outage, the logs are sifted through to review and compare configurations to arrive at the cause of outage.
Change management ensures that every change made in the network is duly logged and certain changes that you consider more critical be notified instantly when it happens. Change management makes review of outages and decision-making to eradicate future errors convenient.
3. Detect authorized and unauthorized changes using RBAC
Unauthorized access and configuration changes are not ideal from a network management standpoint. Hence it becomes vital to control who has access to devices, what changes can be made and the mechanism to review the validity of those changes. Access Control essentially makes sure that everyone that has access to the network only operates within his/her expertise or jurisdiction, vastly reducing chances of faults in the system.
Imagine a wide and complex network of a multinational company. To ensure that the running is smooth and the integrity is protected, an IT admin would prefer to implement these best practices: –
- Assign devices that fall within each IT operator’s area of expertise so that no one is at a risk of making a mistake or an unauthorized entry.
- Have very few sets of people with access to critical devices so that the exclusivity and integrity is always maintained
- Ensure no change request is gone unchecked and that it goes through a gateway of review where the admin can decide to accept or reject the configuration change.
These best practices when implemented as a result of RBAC, ensures that the network remains secure.
4. Stream-line painstaking tasks for the IT admin with Configlets
During network management, implementing changes and new updates to the network becomes an important task. However, faced with a vast network with many devices, the seemingly simple task of executing a minor change to a device suddenly becomes a painstaking one. Configlets are command script template that lets you write a template asking the Network Configuration Management solution to execute a particular change to many devices at an instant. Configlets feature saves you valuable time letting you create templates for simple but mundane tasks like log-in, password change etc.
Let’s try to understand further by breaking it down:
- Instead of having to access each device individually to implement the same changes, a template with a script can be created, which can be applied to all devices at once, at a click.
- Such tasks are cyclical and repetitive. Therefore, using command script templates, an IT team is saving lot of man-hours that could be used elsewhere.
- Reports can also be produced ascertaining the trend of configuration changes made till now. The patterns thus observed will help to decide what changes to be made going forward.
5. Ensure compliance with industry as well as custom-made standards
Industry standards act as the benchmark and best practice to be met in any area of business. Compliance checks are essential in network configuration management because it monitors the compliance rating frequently with regards to the industry standards and companies’ own internal standards. The importance of auditing network compliance is hence not to be understated. The process is a never-ending one and whenever violations happen, it can be costly if not rectified quickly.
Periodic compliance checks are important because:
- Every region of the world will have their own regulations. We need to make sure the business adheres to them fully and stay clear from violations.
- All organization have its own statute. In tandem with the legal team, ensure you’re fully compliant with the internal standards using compliance checks.
- Run compliance checks in regular time intervals to seek out violations if any, so that you can immediately start working towards rectifying them.
Every industry has industry-mandated standards and the field of network management is no different, with IT standards like HIPAA, SOX, PCI etc. Compliance checks is the fail-safe that protects the network from any vulnerabilities and data breaches.
6. Scan, detect and fix firmware vulnerabilities
Firmware shield each and every device within a network from external threats like data breach, hacking attempts etc.
Firmware vulnerability checks not only protect the device from such threats but continuously updates itself to stay abreast with the latest development in terms of potential vulnerabilities.
Let’s understand how firmware vulnerability check mechanism simplifies it for an IT team:
- A firmware vulnerability check, armed with the latest updates, will scan for firmware vulnerabilities in all devices in the network environment.
- Consequent to identifying any vulnerability, patch should be found to fix the same.
- Firmware vulnerability is dynamic. It is a never-ending process as new vulnerabilities pop up. Periodic checks ensure the latest developments in the area are known, ensuring each vulnerability check is accurate and never miss any loopholes.
The feature thus makes sure that there are no loopholes within the system and the network remains foolproof.
Network Configuration Manager by ManageEngine is the one-stop solution for end-to-end network configuration management needs
Network configuration management as a function entails long hours, repetitive and mundane tasks with a high chance of errors if done manually. Security and integrity of the network is paramount, and having to also execute mundane tasks will reduce time at your disposal for high-priority tasks. Network Configuration Manager (NCM) by ManageEngine is a holistic solution that helps your company monitor, analyze and automate changes over a wider network.
Key highlights of Network Configuration Manager:
- Back up network configurations to overcome sudden outages.
- Detect all the changes made and also keep tabs in real-time on those changes through alerts on critical devices.
- Compare different device configurations and access change management reports drilling down to various metrics.
- Adhere to industry standards as well as custom-made policies through compliance checks.
- Shield the network from potential vulnerabilities and loopholes using firmware vulnerability checks.
- Grant access privileges and assign devices to operators, strictly controlling the degree of changes that can be made, with a review mechanism before each change is executed.
- Automate repetitive tasks that tend to take up time with Configlets.