Network managers play a vital part in any network system, the organisation and maintenance of networks so they remain functional and efficient for all users. They must plan, organise, direct, control and staff the network to maintain speeds and efficiency for all users. Once these tasks are completed the four basic functions of a network manager will be complete these are the network; performance, fault management, provide end user support and manage the ongoing costs associated with maintaining networks.
Network Managing Tasks
The five key tasks in network management as described in Networking in an Internet Age by Alan Dennis (2002, p.351) are:
Careful planning of the network which includes the following; forecasting, establishing network objectives, scheduling, budgeting, allocating resources and developing network policies.
Organising tasks which includes developing organisational structure, delegating, establishing relationships, establishing procedures and integrating the small organisation with the larger organisation.
Directing tasks- initiating activities, decision making, communicating, motivating
Controlling tasks establishing performance standards, measuring performance, evaluating performance and correcting performance.
Staffing tasks interviewing people, selecting people, developing people
It is vital that these tasks are carried out neglect in one area can cause problems later on down the track. For example bad organisation could mean an outage lasts double what it should, or bad decision making when creating the topology of the network and what communication methods to use could mean the network is not fast enough for the organisations needs even when running at full capacity.
Four Main Functions of a network manager
The functions of a network manager can be broken down into four basic functions
Configuration management; performance and fault management, end-user support and cost management. Sometimes the tasks that a network manager will perform can cover more than one of these functions, such as documentation the configuration of hardware and software, performance reports, budgets and user manuals. The five key tasks of a network manager must be done in order to cover the basic functions of a manger as this will keep the network working smoothly and efficiently.
Configuration management is managing a networks hardware and software configuration and documentation. It involves keeping the network up to date, adding and deleting users and the constraints those users have as well as writing the documentation for everything from hardware to software to user profiles and application profiles.
Keeping the network up to date involves changing network hardware and reconfiguring it, as well as updating software on client machines. Innovative software called Electronic software distribution (ESD) is now available allowing managers to install software remotely on client machines over the network without physically touching the client computer saving a lot of time (Dennis, 2002)
Performance and Fault Management
Performance and fault management are two functions that need to be continually monitored in the network. Performance is concerned with the optimal settings and setup of the network. It involves monitoring and evaluating network traffics, and then modifying the configuration based on those statistics. (Chiu & Sudama 1992)
Fault management is preventing, detecting and rectifying problems in the network, whether the problem is in the circuits, hardware or software (Dennis, 2002) Fault management is perhaps the most basic function, as users expect to have a reliable network whereas slightly better efficiency in the network can go unnoticed in most cases.
Performance and fault management rely heavily on network monitoring which keeps track of the network circuits and the devices connected and ensures they are functioning properly (Fitzgerald & Dennis 1999).
End User Support
End user support involves solving any problems that users encounter whilst using the network. Three main functions of end user support is resolving network faults, solving user problems and training end-users. These problems are usually solved by going through troubleshooting guides set out by the support team. (Dennis, 2002)
Costs increase as network services grow this is a fundamental economic principle (Economics Basics: Demand and Supply, 2006) Organisations are committing more resources to their networks and need an effective and efficient management in the place to use those resources wisely and minimise costs.
In cost management the TCO (total costs of ownership) is used to measure how much it costs for a company to keep a computer operating. It takes into account the costs of repairs, support staff that maintain the network, software and upgrades as well as hardware upgrades. In addition to these costs it also calculates wasted time, for example the cost to the store manager, whilst his staff learn a newly implemented computer system. This inclusion of wasted time is widely accepted however many companies dispute whether it should be included. NCO (network cost of ownership) focuses on everything except wasted time. It exams the direct costs rather than invisible costs such as wasted time.