24 May 2024
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How network configuration management boosts network performance (Image by OCTOBITS)

Blog Octobits – Network configuration management (NCM) is a set of tracking changes, backing up settings, ensuring security, and making sure everything works smoothly.

As you know, network configuration errors commonly cause outages or performance issues.

These network outages are caused by human error, many of which stem from configuration changes.

When settings aren’t configured correctly, you might face slowdowns, connection issues, or even system outages.

That’s why analyzing network traffic is crucial—it helps you keep a close eye on your network’s data flow, identifying any unusual patterns or issues.

Dive into our detailed article on ‘What is Network Traffic Analysis?‘ to understand how it can bolster your network management strategy.

Steering back to NCM, you get a clear view of your network’s health and a detailed log of every change.

NCM simplifies troubleshooting and security monitoring, ensuring quick recovery from hitches and safeguarding against potential security breaches.

Moreover, NCM solutions often include tools to enforce compliance standards like PCI DSS (for payment card data) or HIPAA (for healthcare information) to minimize the risk of security breaches and costly penalties.

In this article, we will discuss an NCM in more detail, exploring the process, its importance, and its huge benefits.

What is Network Configuration Management

Network configuration management (NCM) is organizing and managing components’ configurations on a computer network. 

Configuration information can include the operating system versions used by devices, device host names, and addresses, and the services running on each device.

Network configuration management, put simply, is like keeping a detailed diary for your network devices—be it routers, switches, or firewalls.

NCM ensures you have a detailed record of configuring your network equipment, which is essential for troubleshooting problems, maintaining stability, and optimizing performance.

Here’s a bit of context; according to a report by Statista, the number of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices worldwide is expected to be more than 75 billion by 2025.

Now, consider this on an organizational scale, and you can see the complexity and the sheer volume of data and settings that need managing.

Can you see the importance of NCM? If a router goes down, and it’s your job to get the network back up, you’d want to know precisely how that router was set up.

Without a configuration record, you’re going blind, which can significantly increase downtime.

So, NCM helps you have a clear history of your network configurations. This historical document lets you quickly pinpoint issues by comparing past settings to identify the source of the problem.

The next help is NCM tools, which can proactively identify potential misconfigurations, allowing you to address them before they cause disruptions.

Network Configuration Management Lifecycle

The NCM lifecycle is a continuous loop of actions that keep everything on your network working as it should.

Yup, the NCM lifecycle is about something other than taking these steps once and calling it a day.

The life cycle begins with the discovery phase, where you identify every device on your network.

This foundational step is critical; knowing what you have is the first step to understanding how to secure and optimize it.

Once you’ve mapped out the landscape, the configuration phase naturally follows.

Here, you’re not just making arbitrary adjustments; you’re carefully tuning each device to ensure it performs its role flawlessly within the broader network.

This meticulous setup is akin to calibrating instruments in an orchestra to produce a perfect concert.

The aim is to optimize every setting and parameter, reducing the likelihood of vulnerabilities and inefficiencies.

As the network operates, continuous monitoring acts like a vigilant overseer, smoothly taking the baton from the configuration.

Here is the phase of keeping an unwavering watch on the network’s pulse, ready to detect any irregularities that could signal issues or unauthorized changes.

This vigilant surveillance ensures the network’s rhythm remains uninterrupted, safeguarding against disruptions.

Backup follows naturally in this lifecycle, providing a reliable safety net. But before we delve deeper into how NCM ensures robust backups, understanding the nuances of data replication is essential.

For a more in-depth exploration of data replication, consider checking out our detailed piece, ‘Don’t Put Your Data at Risk: Understanding Data Replication for Business.’

Now, let’s refocus on how NCM leverages this knowledge in its backup phase. This phase involves meticulously storing configuration details to enable quick recovery and continuity, no matter what unexpected events might occur.

This proactive step ensures you’re always prepared, maintaining stability and reliability.

Compliance is the next chapter in this ongoing story, where the network is diligently checked against standards and regulations.

This phase ensures every aspect of your network is up to par, safeguarding the data and operations it supports. Additionally, it aligns with broader industry expectations and requirements.

Finally, remediation is the phase where any detected issues are addressed, ensuring the network’s resilience is continuously fortified.

Like a responsive and adept maintenance team, this phase is about swiftly and effectively fixing any issues, ensuring the network remains robust and dependable.

Why is Network Configuration Important?

The significance of network configuration management is deeply underscored by its ability to reduce the financial and operational impacts of data breaches, as detailed in the “Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023” by IBM Security.

This connection further underlines why meticulous network configuration is a technical and strategic imperative.

When a device within your network fails or needs replacement, the speed at which its configuration can be restored directly influences operational continuity and financial stability.

The IBM report states that the average total cost of a data breach has reached USD 4.45 million in 2023.

Effective network configuration management plays a pivotal role in mitigating these costs by ensuring rapid recovery, thus curtailing the downtime and associated revenue loss.

Moreover, network configuration management involves continuous monitoring and adjustment, which is crucial for detecting unauthorized changes – potential red flags signaling security breaches or policy non-compliance.

In an era where external parties identify most breaches, the ability to internally detect anomalous changes or breaches through robust network monitoring can significantly reduce the breach lifecycle and its financial toll.

The report also highlights the value of security AI and automation in enhancing the efficiency of breach identification and containment.

Organizations employing advanced network management tools that include AI and automation capabilities reported shorter breach lifecycles and, consequently, lower associated costs.

Benefits of Using Network Configuration

NCM is about ensuring all network device settings are correct and consistent, which is vital for keeping things running smoothly.

Think of NCM as the diligent caretaker of your network’s health, quickly spotting any issues and fixing them before they become bigger problems.

This is especially important for minimizing downtime. When something goes wrong, NCM helps identify and fix the issue fast, so the impact on business operations is minimal.

Beyond keeping the network up and running, NCM is also a big player in keeping it secure.

Network configuration management watches over your network configurations like a hawk, ready to alert you if anything unusual happens.

You can spot potential security threats early and deal with them before they escalate.

On the compliance front, NCM makes life easier by keeping a detailed log of all the changes made to your network.

This is really handy when you need to show that you’re meeting industry standards or regulations, making audits less of a headache.

And let’s not forget how NCM can make things more efficient. Automating some of the more routine tasks frees up your IT team to focus on bigger projects that can add more value to your organization.

This helps your team do more meaningful work and can save costs by improving resource use.

All in all, NCM brings together all these benefits to support your business’s needs, helping to keep your network—and, by extension, your business—running effectively in today’s digital world.

Conclusion

Network configuration management isn’t the most glamorous IT task, but it is crucial.

You can maintain a healthy, well-tuned network by proactively monitoring systems and automating tasks. This is a big win for IT staff, the business, and its customers.

You can also check out TechTarget’s thorough exploration of the subject of NCM. Their analysis touches on several key aspects we’ve discussed, offering additional insights and perspectives that could further enrich your understanding of NCM’s vital role in IT infrastructure.

If you’re not seriously considering network configuration management solutions, you’re seriously missing out.