IT for mere mortals - Network management 101
Even when you hold a degree in IT, to actually manage a network could be daunting at first. Those countless hours in labs and months of internships in SOHO would seem such a waste of time because they seem to have zero impact on your confidence and skill to actually manage a network.
That is unfortunately not entirely wrong. Schools are designed to harness intelligence, not creativity and certainly not common sense. Internships gears towards services, not building or designing. But they are not, and this is why it is not entirely right too, a total waste. Once your creative side kicks in and your senses connect with common practices what you have learned in school will take you farther and faster than those who travel a more practical path in pursuing the career in IT.
But for now, I’ll share a generic perspective of network management that anybody who knows how to work with a single pc could do. This will be useful be it applied in SOHO or an enterprise as a starting point. The complexity, however, will go up exponentially as the scale grows.
First thing you should do is update the documentations. Gather any existing list or manuals and complete it to match the current state. How many machines are there? How many servers? How many desktop? How many mobile? Where are they? What are their specs? Everything down to what software people are using, how many license and so on.
Acquire copies of building blueprints focusing on stuff related to IT like wiring, power, maintenance access and surveillance.
Once you know your asset, you will have an idea of the risks. Start with the obvious physical security. How many machines are in public area? Who is public? What are those machines are for? Who is in charge of the mobile devices ?
Create and enforce new policies (such as implementing access right and strong password) if you have to and to quickly secure the network. Volunteer to manage orphan assets. The extra work is nothing compares to the headache you are going to have when you have no control over a network “leak”.
It's what makes the ROI of a network achieved almost instantly - shared resources. Don't settle for any solution that requires pc to pc installation unless it is automated and controlled centrally. Move from free products to network aware suites.
Centralize the files with file server. Centralize printing with print servers. Centralize clients with desktop management system. Centralize service with helpdesk system. Centralize documentations with asset management. Get the picture ?
The direct impact of centralizing everything is you now have most of the process standardize. Anything standard can be automated. Aim for process which generates most manual labor and or those which are crucial but prone to human error. This can be as simple as scheduling backup and up to shopping for workflow solutions.
When shopping for solutions cover at least 80% of the process cycle. Anything less you are asking people to work twice as hard. Resistance will be high.
It is actually a form of automating but instead of optimizing processes, monitoring is your fire alarm. Look for threshold, triggers and notification, in all your assets and set them up. Typical things to be monitored would be capacity, service availability and system activity.
Select notifications that can follow you. A pop up window or event log entry is useless if you are not on your computer but e-mail can be forward wherever you are. Notification with escalation scheme would be perfect.
Many see outsourcing as a declaration of incompetence. As a result they let the problem catch up on them and finally totally lose control over them. Proposing to outsource what clearly out of your hands or something you are over qualified to do is probably the best signal to your boss that you are in control. You know your priority and committed to get things done. Needless to say the proposal must be sound financially and strategically.