When discussing optimal network performance, it’s important to understand that what’s considered optimal for one network might not be the same for another. Different industries will not only have different devices operating on their networks, but will have unique requirements for functionality and bandwidth as well. As such, determining how to optimize your network begins with becoming aware of what your industry-specific needs are.
A financial institution, for example, requires more real-time information and high-end equipment than a mom and pop shop. Many financial organizations utilize real-time market data or video streaming to gain up to date, accurate information in order to make their trades. After all, in the financial world, a second can cost you millions. The demands of these high-stake networks are more intense compared to smaller businesses who may not have the budget—or the need—for that level of network speed.
No matter what industry your organization is a part of, there are still three tenets to consider when looking to optimize your network performance in a way that makes sense for you.
Three Keys to Optimizing Network Performance
1. Discover devices
Before you can determine if your devices are configured properly or behaving as they’re supposed to, you need to have a solid awareness of all the devices running on your network. You can use a network mapping software to auto-discover your devices, giving you total visibility into your network status at a glance.
2. Validate device configuration.
Once you discover your devices, you’ll want to take a deeper look to validate how those devices are behaving and functioning in respect to their configuration.
3. Compare your current configuration to industry baselines or standards.
Now you need a way to measure how your current device configuration measures up to its ideal industry configuration. For this information, you’ll need to go to your vendor and ask them how they recommend your device be configured. Your vendor should have information regarding the ideal configuration of your device, which is what you want in order to better optimize your network. This way, you can look at how to tailor your existing configuration to meet those standards and your own internal requirements.
What is the importance of taking these steps? Why do you want to optimize your network in the first place? Let’s consider a network switch. Network switches have different capabilities; they can run at different speeds. A switch can run at Fast Ethernet speeds, for example, and it can also run at Gigabit Ethernet speeds. If your device is running at Fast Ethernet speeds and your infrastructure is geared to support Gigabit Ethernet speeds, you want to be able to take advantage of the increased performance levels of your network. It’s imperative that you optimize your switch to support that gigabit speed in order to achieve the network speed you’re paying for. Oftentimes, if your infrastructure is not configured to support the speed it was meant to, you’ll not only lose bandwidth, but the money you spent on that higher network speed.
Surprisingly, it’s fairly common for a network administrator to improperly configure a device. Just because a device comes preconfigured a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best configuration for your particular network. As a default, a switch might support Fast Ethernet speeds or Gigabit Ethernet speeds, but you may have to physically go into configuration to alter those metrics. Similarly, if the duplex option on a switch is not updated, it can cause serious problems; if it’s set to half duplex, that means it only supports one way at a time transmission, versus full duplex, which allows the device to send simultaneous transmissions at a time. When explicit changes like these are required, it’s certainly possible for administrators to miss them.
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Roadblocks to Network Optimization
When taking steps to optimize your network, there can be several roadblocks. Here are common factors that can inhibit you from achieving network optimization:
A major roadblock for many organizations is budget. If you lack the proper equipment on-premises then it becomes difficult to provide a network that can scale to meet your demands.
Human error can also be a roadblock to optimal network performance, both on the side of the IT administrator and the end-user. For example, you can have the best equipment on the market, but if it’s not configured properly, then it’s simply not going to work. Similarly, end-users often use an application incorrectly. When they come to you with complaints, with a little troubleshooting, you can often deduce that the way they are interacting with the application is part of the problem. User education and user training are very important to ensure that a network is running smoothly and operating within the parameters defined by your business.
Lack of visibility
Perhaps the most crucial roadblock to network optimization is not having visibility into your network that allows you to discover your devices and see how they are configured in the first place. Without this insight, you miss out on two keys to achieving optimal network performance: discovery of devices and validation of device configuration. Without these key pieces of information, you have no way of knowing if your device configurations measure up to industry standards.
How to Gain Visibility Into Your Network
If an end-user is using an application incorrectly or inefficiently, how can you know before receiving a complaint? How much can a network monitoring software help in terms of giving you visibility into your network?
Intermapper is a first class network monitoring, mapping, and alerting software that provides in-depth visibility into the status of all devices in your network. It auto-discovers every device on your network, creating physical, geographical, hierarchical maps and notifying you if a device isn’t responding the way it’s intended. From there, you’re able to detect issues and see how the devices were initially configured, perhaps improperly. Intermapper raises the red flag on anomalies and gives you the power to react to them before they become major problems.
For example, if a user plugs in a hub and uses it in conjunction with their PC or laptop, the hub won’t speak the same language as these current, higher end devices. The hub uses a broadcast model to route traffic, which is outdated compared to a laptop or PC. With that mismatch, optimal network performance is impossible. In this case, Intermapper can provide insight into how well the device is behaving and whether the configuration matches the performance of the device. What’s more, Intermapper can alert you of this issue before an end-user may call to complain.
As a busy IT professional, you’re not only tasked with ensuring you have a network that’s running smoothly, but you’re also responsible for capacity planning and managing your IT budget. Intermapper’s ease-of-use makes it painless to explain to someone who’s not an IT professional—say your CIO or CEO. With Intermapper, it’s easy to visually display the faults in your network and show upper management why you need the budget to fix them.
Without proper visibility into your network, it’s impossible to optimize it. A network monitoring tool like Intermapper provides real-time visibility into the health of your network, allowing you to discover your devices and understand how they are configured. Plus, Intermapper is the perfect tool to help you plan and forecast your IT budget because it allows you to easily relay information to upper management and secure the funds you need to make sure all your devices are performing the way they should be.