This should come as little surprise: People are the biggest cause of network performance issues, outages and downtime. As one writer put it, if you look at the root of most network problems, “they typically come with hair on top.”
However, network threats aren’t always the result of human error or humans out to ruin your organization (such as the WannaCry ransomware attack). In some cases, it’s simply too many users and devices on your network. In others, it’s because you don’t have enough people trained, focused or even available to monitor your network.
As today’s networks continue to become more complex — mixing physical and virtual infrastructure, programmable services and the cloud — having expert technicians monitoring and managing your network daily is more crucial than ever.
Continuous uptime is often taken for granted by users, and peak performance is viewed as table stakes. A slow network, on the other hand, can result in a serious drag on business. It’s imperative that networks are treated as the conduits of business that they are.
These are some the biggest threats to your network:
1. People seeking to do harm
Malicious hackers targeting your organization continue to present the most serious threat, using malware, viruses, ransomware and other means to compromise networks and steal data.
In 2016, reported data breaches increased by 40 percent from the previous year, according to IdentityForce, an identity protection solution company. That included the largest data breach in history, Yahoo, affecting more than one billion accounts. Regarding 2017, IdentityForce says, "we’re hoping for the best, but you may just see 2017 data breaches get even more messy and serious."
That’s why taking a proactive approach by investing in systems to analyze risks and threats before they become problems is a smart move.
2. Too much demand on your network
Networks aren’t human, but they do falter with overwhelming use. If you underestimated the impact of your new Internet of Things (IoT) systems, your brand-new applications or even your new Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, your network may suffer or quit.
A massive influx of new devices such as mobile phones and printers, for example, can slow your network to a crawl, causing delayed access to resources while creating other problems. While a poor-performing network is better than a non-functional one, both situations leave an organization with unhappy, less productive users.
Managed network services can help you continuously monitor performance and demand to make sure bandwidth requirements and other increased capacity needs are met.
3. Shrinking IT budgets
This threat is potentially the worst because it leaves you vulnerable to security attacks, as well as significant harm caused by too much demand on your network. Declining budgets may mean you can’t hire or train enough people to maintain your network systems, can’t afford needed hardware, software or security upgrades, and can’t buy or even research the best devices to use with your network.
Organizations everywhere are faced with trying to do more with less. All should be on the lookout for ways to maximize their IT spend. Finding a way to outsource to expert network monitoring and management is more cost-effective than trying to handle it in-house.
4. The inability to keep pace with the speed of change
This is a slight variation of the problem of dwindling IT dollars. Some organizations aren’t seeing IT budgets shrink, necessarily. But their IT staffs continue to pay more and more just to maintain existing levels of service — so they have little or no money left to adapt their networks and infrastructure for the future.
Surveys in recent years suggest that anywhere from 57 to 63 percent of IT budgets are allocated to simply maintaining existing service levels. Some federal government agencies reported spending more than 90 percent to maintain legacy systems in 2016.
As long as humans oversee networks and other IT systems, there will always be a chance of error, as this NetworkWorld article suggests. But finding a way to have your networks managed and monitored daily, preferably by specialists who are certified, trained and focused on the assignment, is likely your best defense.
Do you have regular network management and maintenance? If you do, has it helped you, and if you don’t, has it hurt your organization? Please share your insights by leaving a comment below.