Monitoring your network in the time of COVID-19

Editorial Type: Opinion Date: 2021-03-01 Views: 2,016 Tags: Networking, Network Monitoring, Covid-19, Progress
By Mark Towler, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Progress

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that network monitoring is more important than ever. While there’s always been the background awareness that network outages are expensive and the business can’t run without a functioning network, the onslaught of COVID-19 brought that awareness firmly to the forefront. First off, everyone went home and network administrators had to cope – almost literally overnight – with supporting a remote workforce with the network they had. The VPN and the firewall systems suddenly became even more urgently critical resources than they’d been a week ago. For a few weeks administrators struggled to adapt, to support more remote workers than normal and to shore up systems that were suddenly under strain. Those with comprehensive network monitoring systems found this far easier to do than those without.

However, once this task was complete there came months of adapting to the new reality. Workers literally could not work if they couldn’t access the network. They couldn’t just move to a different office, or an unused conference room or the cafeteria if they had network problems. They couldn’t just walk down to the IT department to get a loaner laptop if their own stopped working. They couldn’t even run down to the nearest coffee shop or library to use free WiFi. On top of all of this, every single employee was now consuming massive amounts of bandwidth for videoconferencing. Those smart enough to buy stock in Zoom were rewarded, but the network administrators responsible for providing the stable connections that made it work found it a challenge. Again, those with a comprehensive network monitoring solution had an easier time of it. In fact, one of the key questions answered by network monitoring is, “Where is all my bandwidth going?”

As a result, the organizations that adapted to the new COVID normal (and not all of them did) are now dealing with a world where the health of their network has become even more important than ever. When an employee can’t connect in order to do any work all day, the cost of network downtime escalates dramatically. As a result, we’re seeing changes in the priorities of network monitoring customers. Solutions that simply monitor status and report upon it are no longer adequate; network administrators need to be alerted before network issues start to impact end-users so they can fix them. In addition, network monitoring systems that can apply ‘self-healing’ actions are becoming far more popular since they can automate responses to common issues. For example, if your network monitoring solution can automatically allocate more bandwidth to a server when traffic levels exceed 85%, that can mean the difference between an emergency midnight phone call and a minor notification the next day.

Finally, the ongoing trend towards systems integration is reaching a tipping point. It’s now easier than ever to integrate physical, virtual and cloud resources with any business system – and the advantages of doing so are legion. The network monitoring industry is keeping pace with a shift towards open APIs that allow easy integration and automation. Not only should your solution monitor these diverse environments, it should be able to feed monitoring data to any system that can use it. Similarly, other systems should be able to provide information to the network monitoring system so it can use that data to make changes to either the network itself, or how it monitors the network.

Your organisation has become more agile and adaptable in the face of our new reality; your network monitoring system will need to do the same.