Your network is a key part of your business IT system. To keep it running smoothly it’s important you perform some basic network management tasks.
Why IT network maintenance matters
There are several reasons why good network management is important.
- Prevent problems. Much like servicing a car, good network management will stop problems occurring and prolong your network’s life.
- Work efficiently. Good management ensures your staff have access to the IT they need to do their jobs effectively.
- Maintain security. Even if you set your network up securely to begin with, you need good management to ensure it stays that way.
- Stay up to date. Although network technology doesn’t move as fast as other areas of business IT, careful upgrades may help improve performance.
A well-managed network will serve your business better, reducing the time you spend solving problems and allowing you to get on with running your company.
Network management tasks
There are six important areas of network management:
- Software management. This involves taking care of the software installed on your network or accessed via cloud services. It includes keeping track of installed software, applying any important updates and deciding whether to upgrade when new versions become available.
- Hardware management. You need to maintain the physical equipment which makes up your network. This might involve inspecting servers, cleaning dust from vents and testing key hardware like uninterruptible power supplies and backup drives.
- Device management. In addition to hardware management, you need to get a handle on the various devices that will connect to your network. It’s highly likely a vast array of laptops, smartphones and tablets will request access, and some will be employee-owned. It’s therefore vital that you possess the ability to manage their security credentials centrally.
- File management. Particularly important if you operate a central file store on a server, file management involves keeping all the files on your system organised, deleting temporary files and archiving old data so there’s room to save new files. These tasks are just as important when using cloud-hosted file storage services such as Dropbox, too.
- Security management. Keeping your IT network secure and protected against cyber threats is very important in the digital age. Security-related tasks include running and testing backups, regularly scanning for viruses and testing your firewall.
- User management. You can reduce administration and boost your network’s security further by giving employees different levels of access depending on what they need to do, removing access rights when staff leave and controlling what files people can change.
It’s important you stay on top of these things. Performed regularly, network management and maintenance needn’t take a great deal of time or cause much disruption.
Keeping on top of network maintenance
To make sure network management and maintenance tasks are carried out regularly, make someone in your business responsible for them and build the tasks into your company’s schedule. If you leave them until someone has a spare moment, then they’ll probably never get done!
To minimise disruption, always perform network maintenance outside of normal working hours. Tasks like optimising hard drives, running virus scans or testing backup systems can slow down a network server.
You may also be able to automate some management tasks. For instance, virus scanners can be set to perform a full scan at a specific time and if you opt for cloud backup, the service provider will do most of the heavy lifting for you.
Network management costs
If you don’t have a suitably experienced member of staff to take care of your network management tasks, it’s wise to find an external IT supplier who can do it for you.
If you already work with an IT supplier or support company they may offer a network maintenance contract. These typically cost about £100+ a month for a small company network with a server and five devices.
Although this may sound more expensive than doing it yourself, it certainly reduces the hassle - and will pay for itself if it prevents just one significant network failure.