8 Network Projects You Can Finally Tackle This Year
Every network professional has a list of projects that never seem to get done. Equipment upgrades. IT team training initiatives. Documentation updates. Looking for practical tips to get started with those important, but time-consuming, projects?
Recently I presented on the eight projects IT most often procrastinates, why they’re worth tackling, and how you can make progress toward accomplishing your goals. Keep scrolling for some fast, actionable takeaways you can use this year.
Are these projects on your network management to-do list?
1. Updating network documentation
Keeping network diagrams, hardware and software inventories, and other documentation up to date is admittedly tedious, but in the moment of crisis, it’s a lifesaver. If I’m a level 1 technician, updated network documentation helps me understand my environment faster and maybe even figure out why a router failed without having to bug my boss or peers for additional information. Faster troubleshooting means less downtime. Less downtime means more revenue and less compliance issues. See the domino effect?
As your network evolves, at the very least, you’ll want to make regular updates to documentation to simplify life for your network team. I’d also recommend transitioning away from static diagram tools like Visio. Yes, we’ve all used it, but as your network changes more frequently and grows bigger, I guarantee you’ll start to outgrow it.
- Create a consistent naming structure for network devices.
- Create a color-coded cabling system.
- Regularly update your list of software versions and hardware components.
- Consider investing in a dynamic network mapping tool.
2. Network configuration management
When your network team is consistently following set standards and policies for network configuration management, maintaining the network costs less (something every boss likes to hear). Standards streamline maintenance, minimize errors, and help you avoid security risks.
What are your team’s standards for making changes in your network environment? Make sure no changes are happening behind your back—and that best practices are being followed by every team member.
- Create and implement standards for how your team can make changes in your network environment.
- Have a plan in place for making vendor updates, then track and control them.
- Implement roll-out procedures/processes.
- Reassess your standards frequently to make sure they’re still valid today.
- Manage security risks and ensure you’re not omitting any necessary protocols.
- Consider tools that can help with configuration management.
3. Fixing bugs
No technology is perfect, and you’ll undoubtedly run into bugs or errors in your software and hardware. When you don’t address bugs quickly, they compound, even if they’re not critical. Get to them as quickly as you’re able to so that your products work as you need and expect them to.
- Identify and locate product bugs (where are they in the code?).
- Analyze and reproduce the bug behavior so you can mitigate them.
- Ensure there’s no collateral damage to other features when you make a bug fix.
- Fix and validate the solution.
- Find software to track issues.
- Streamline your process for identifying and testing bugs as much as possible.
4. Upgrading equipment
The main reason to upgrade equipment is to improve technology performance. Upgrades ensure devices are running as they should be—and that you’re always using the best, newest features. A secondary reason is to increase security, as new security threats are constantly arising and upgrades include patches to protect against those.
It’s important to understand that you won’t be able to make every upgrade you want to. So figure out where the biggest holes or needs are, and start there.
- Socialize the plan with users and ask for their input.
- Identify and recommend the need (should equipment be repaired, or replaced?).
- Survey your environment before you start upgrades to determine who will be impacted and what the security implications are.
- Create an implementation plan to ensure the upgrade goes through with minimal impact.
- Have a fallback plan in case it goes south.
5. Conducting training
It’s easy to assume that everyone already knows what they need to know. Don’t assume. It’s likely that you entire team does not share same technical knowledge or care for the network as you. Regular training helps ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding what to do in different contexts and where to find information. Training equips team members to serve as backup when team members are out of the office and enables them to get to work solving issues immediately, instead of wasting time trying to figure out what to do next.
Staff training is also a great way to build morale. If your staff are learning new skills and sharpening old ones, they’re likely to stay more interested in what they’re doing.
- Create step-by-step training materials on how to approach the infrastructure.
- Cross-train your team to allow for faster remediation.
6. Creating management-friendly reports
Do you have a “State of the State” report that clearly communicates how things are performing and what you’re doing to get better? Management-friendly reports can help showcase IT’s value and make it easier to get buy-in for your ideas and recommendations.
- Extract important data that you want to report on.
- Use a basic reporting template.
- Include visuals to make it easy to read.
7. Getting the most out of monitoring solutions
Within the IT space, a lack of visibility into network activity is one of the biggest worries network professionals face. The degree to which you’re monitoring your network is how you’ll be able to see live device statuses and get alerts when things go wrong. Network monitoring solutions help improve network performance, reduce your risk of downtime, and help with capacity planning.
If you’re not already monitoring your network, this is a critical project that can have immediate return on investment. If you are, it’s worth digging in to make sure you’ve covered your full device count and identifying if there are gaps or metrics you’re not getting today that you could be.
- Identify which devices are most important to your operations.
- Determine which metrics you want to monitor on those devices.
- Identify what you consider “optimal” performance for your business.
- If you’re not already, find and install a monitoring tool.
- Optimize your existing tool to get total visibility and important data.
8. Investigating new technology
We all want to work smarter, not harder. New technology helps us work more efficiently and stay ahead of the competition. If you’ve been meaning to leave behind some legacy systems in favor of something new, putting it off for too long will become a detriment to your organization’s productivity and ability to stay current. It’s on you to find ways to improve your environment and solve your critical infrastructure concerns.
Research industry-leading sources for solid tech recommendations, from tradeshows to word-of-mouth recommendations.
Thinking about simplifying your network management with a monitoring tool this year? Our 20-page buyer’s guide will help you successfully navigate the research and vetting process.