Network maintenance basically means you have to do what it takes in order to keep a network up and running and it includes a number of tasks:
- Troubleshooting network problems.
- Hardware and software installation/configuration.
- Monitoring and improving network performance.
- Planning for future network growth.
- Creating network documentation and keeping it up-to-date.
- Ensuring compliance with company policies.
- Ensuring compliance with legal regulations.
- Securing the network against all kind of threats.
Of course this list could be different for each network you work on and perhaps you are only responsible for a number of these tasks. All these tasks can be performed in the following way:
- Structured tasks.
- Interrupt-driven tasks.
Structured means you have a pre-defined plan for network maintenance that will make sure that problems are solved before they occur. As a network engineer this will also make your life a whole lot easier. Interrupt-driven means you just wait for trouble to occur and then fix it as fast as you can. Interrupt-driven is more like the “fireman” approach…you wait for trouble to happen and then you try to fix the problem as fast as you can. A structured approach where you have a network maintenance strategy and plan reduces downtime and it’s more cost effective.
Of course you can never completely get rid of interrupt-driven tasks because sometimes things “just go wrong” but with a good plan we can reduce the number of interrupt-driven tasks for sure.
You don’t have to think of a complete network maintenance model yourself; there are a number of well-known network maintenance models that we use. It’s best to use one of the models that is best suited for your organization and adjustments if needed.
Choosing which network maintenance model you will use depends on your network and the business. You can also use them as a template to create your own network maintenance model.
To give you an idea what a network maintenance model is about and what it looks like, here’s an example for FCAPS:
- Fault management: we will configure our network devices (routers, switches, firewalls, servers, etc.) to capture logging messages and send them to an external server. Whenever an interface goes down or the CPU goes above 80% we want to receive an e-mail so we can see what is going on.
- Configuration management: Any changes made to the network have to be logged. We will use a change management so relevant personnel will be notified of planned network changes. Changes to network devices have to be reported and acknowledged before they are implemented.
- Accounting management: We will charge (guest) users for usage of the wireless network so they’ll pay for each 100MB of data or something. It’s also commonly used to charge people for long distance VoIP calls.
- Performance management: Network performance will be monitored on all LAN and WAN links so we know when things go wrong. QoS (Quality of Service) will be configured on the appropiate interfaces.
- Security management: We will create a security policy and implement it by using firewalls, VPNs, intrusion prevention systems and use AAA (Authorization, Authentication and Accounting) servers to validate user credentials. Network breaches have to be logged and a appropiate response has to be made.
You can see FCAPS is not just a “theoretical” method but it truly describes “what”, “how” and “when” we will do things.
Whatever network maintenance model you decide to use, there are always a number of routine maintenance tasks that should have listed procedures, here are a couple of examples: