Network managers will need to update their network monitoring and troubleshooting tools to support the huge increase in end users who will continue to work from home even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Enterprise Management Associates found that 96 per cent of network infrastructure and operations teams are allocating budget to enhance their toolsets to support users who work from home.
This budgeting is driven by the fact that 85 per cent of IT organisations believe that the pandemic had permanently expanded their work-from-home (WFH) user base.
Unfortunately, only 31 per cent of network operations teams have been fully successful supporting this expanded remote workforce. The top three challenges they face when trying to monitor and troubleshoot home-office experience are insufficient budget (24 per cent), infrastructure complexity (24 per cent), and poor IT leadership (22 per cent).
Budgeting for a retooled NetOps team
Already, 73 per cent of research participants have allocated budget to address the shortcomings of their network monitoring and troubleshooting tools. Another 23 per cent expect to have budget after 2021.
How will this budget be spent? It’s a multi-faceted approach. First, 64 per cent are assigning budget to internal development teams to develop new tools. Next, 63 per cent are purchasing new capabilities from their incumbent tool vendors. And 57 per cent said they are planning to acquire new tools from new vendors.
Work-from-home network-management requirements
Networking professionals said they are enhancing their network operations toolsets in three primary ways. First, 54.2 per cent are looking for tools that deliver security-related insights into home-office environments.
This will help them collaborate with security teams to ensure that their increasing distributed networks are compliant with policies. It will also help them discern whether a user-experience issue is related to a security problem.
Second, 52.6 per cent need new dashboard and reporting features that allow them to focus on home offices and remote workers, which will help admins and engineers spot problems and troubleshoot them more efficiently. If their existing tools lack adequate dashboard and reporting customisation, they’ll have to look elsewhere for this view into their networks.
Third, 49.4 per cent need to upgrade the scalability of their tools. They may find themselves collecting data from more locations, which could impact the performance of existing tool installations. For example, pre-pandemic a network manager may have been monitoring 30 routers in 30 branch offices.
EMA’s research found that 75 per cent of IT organisations are deploying network hardware to home offices, especially network security devices and Wi-Fi access points.
Thus, in addition to the aforementioned 30 branch routers, the monitoring tool for that network may need extra capacity to support another 500 network devices in 500 home offices. This might require an upgrade to the hardware that hosts the tool and a license change to account for the larger number of network elements under management.
Network tools need better integration with other systems
Network teams will need to integrate their tools with other systems to improve their ability to support home workers. For instance, 43 per cent said home-office monitoring requirements are producing a need for their monitoring tools to integrate with their SD-WAN or secure access service edge (SASE) solution.
Additionally, 33 per cent need enhanced integration with help desk or service-management systems, which should streamline the network team’s response to complaints of remote workers.
Network operations teams also need to unify their toolsets to better support home workers. Nearly 32 per cent of research participants said they need to improve correlation of insights across data silos such as logs, device metrics and flows.
As one network engineer with a large regional bank told EMA: “We need to integrate [flow and endpoint monitoring tools] into one system, where we can have a user-experience dashboard that shows us which users are having a bad experience that day and call them before they reach out to us.”
In the early days of the pandemic, IT organisations scrambled to support the massive surge in remote workers as people sheltered in place to protect themselves from COVID-19. More than a year later, it’s clear that the nature of work has permanently changed for thousands of companies. Network-operations teams need to invest in tools and processes that can support this new reality.
And yet, EMA has found via its interactions with IT professionals that many of them are being too conservative. They are trying to get by with poorly aligned network monitoring and troubleshooting tools. They need to invest in the right toolsets. Our data shows that budget is available. It’s time to spend that budget wisely.
Enterprise Management Associates published research -- Post-Pandemic Networking: Enabling the Work-From-Anywhere Enterprise -- surveyed 312 network-infrastructure and operations professionals. Shamus McGillicuddy is Vice President of Research Networking at EMA.