In the iconic comedy Office Space, unhappy programmer Peter Gibbons despises his boring job at software company Initech. After Peter gets stuck in a state of hypnosis following a therapy session, he completely “checks out” of his daily responsibilities. Despite ignoring dress code and not showing up to work on time, Peter is identified by his boss as a candidate for upper management. But when Peter finds out that two of his friends’ positions will be eliminated as part of downsizing and outsourcing activities, the three of them set out to get even with the company.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t give away the ending. But one of the best lines in the movie comes from the two consultants who are brought in to guide the company through downsizing. The consultants (incidentally, both named Bob) sit down with every employee at Initech and ask this: “So, what is it that you do here?”
This is a question that is familiar to most network administrators. IT staff are always being asked questions around what they do. If you want to give a better response to that question that proves how indispensable your role is to the company, let me help you answer it.
Keeping an eye on the network – here, there, and everywhere
One of the most important parts of any IT administrator’s job is to keep an eye on the network for performance, bandwidth usage, and availability of IT functions. You’re also responsible for mitigating issues when they arise to prevent downtime before they affect your users and customers. A huge part of your value comes from the daily monitoring and troubleshooting you do that could save your company thousands of dollars in lost productivity due to a network outage.
As networks change and grow, your role is going to continue to grow. It’s important to note that most organizations are expanding beyond just one office location. Firms are growing and branching out their businesses. Whether your business is growing domestically or internationally, you will need a way to monitor geographically disparate locations outside of your imminent local area network (LAN). (See other challenges that network administrators like you are facing in this infographic).
When the burden of network uptime rests on your shoulders, you want peace of mind that everything is being carefully monitored so you’re in a much better position to confidently answer “So, what is it that you do here?”
How the right tool helps you do your job better
As networks become more complex, you shouldn’t be expected to manage it alone. Having tools or solutions that can scale and provide you with the network visibility will make your job easier. Network visibility allows you to take a more proactive approach to overall network management. Having a network monitoring tool allows you to watch the network from one end to the next, all the while capturing important data metrics such as performance, bandwidth, latency, and the responsiveness of devices.
So what are some of the basic foundations of a good tool? Some of the most important features you’ll want in a software solution are:
- Tracking and identification of network behavior
- Exception-based alerting when performance thresholds have been breached or exceeded
- At-a-glance network mapping (which helps you identify potential risk in a timely and cost-effective fashion)
- Easily navigable interface
- Ease of use to deploy and maintain
- Seasoned, professional support staff
- Competitive price (to fit the ever-shrinking IT budget)
Some additional nice-to-have network monitoring features are as follows:
- Support of both IPv4 and IPv6
- Agentless support for monitored devices
- Application-aware support (your tool should support a wired or wireless infrastructure and scale to support enterprise-level environments such as distributed networks or software-defined networks (SDN))
- SMNP-based monitoring, flow-based monitoring and data capture, or packet-based monitoring and analysis
In addition to having a good feature foundation, the tool has to be able to run 24/7/365 while keeping tabs on the overall health of your network, providing you with intel on possible proactive approaches, and feeding your justification and recommendation for additional IT expenses.
There are literally thousands of network monitoring solutions. Choose a tool that helps you do your job well, and you’ll never have to worry about questions from the Bobs again.
Use this handy reference checklist with over 60 features to compare and contrast solutions.