Network management is one of those jobs that rates the same as dentistry -- necessary but unmentionable. No-one wants to know about you or your problems until there's a cavity in the Ethernet, and even then they're not likely to be very happy when they call. Dentists are forever trying to convince people that prevention beats the drill, but most of us don't listen and eventually pay the price with severe pain of the tooth and wallet.
Managing a network doesn't mean you have to have a LANalyzer and a Sniffer stashed under your chair to allow you to track down that chattering node or discover which packet lost its header this morning.
Those gadgets are essential if things get to that stage, but managing is about planning and prevention most of the time, and spending the least amount of time you can get away with, on repair and resolution.
Are you doing all the work?
Your backup program handles local drives as well as server drives, doesn't it? Are all your applications loaded on the server and distributed on demand? Or do you run around to every node installing new copies every time there's a new version?
Of course, you know what version everyone has and how many people have put a local copy on their hard disk, don't you?
And since users' files are breeding at approximately the same speed as rabbits on an oyster binge, you know how long it will be until you need a new hard disk on the server. Or maybe you'll just front the boss one morning and say, "sign this order for a new disk before lunch or the network is down for the count". Better "gimme" a side order of RAM to go with that disk, just in case.
You've got plenty of room on the ethernet anyway; it goes right on up to 10Mb. Oh, didn't I mention that? After your ethernet gets about 38 per cent utilised, your data spends more time on the side of the highway waiting for the tow truck than it does travelling.
Can you spell switch? Heck, you installed a second server and a couple of extra Ethernet cards and what, nobody thinks it goes any faster? Must be their imagination. You just spent $18K on the thing, it's simply gotta be faster. And down there in marketing they just decided that every single one of their people needs their own PC, just after you decided that you'd never need more than a 50-user licence.
I guess nobody told you that all those print and fax servers that have been growing like mushrooms when the lights are out insist on being seen as a user. Heck we use them, what makes them think they are users? Sheesh, some of the beasts think they are more than one user!
The fact is, you probably don't know what's out there, who's using it, how many of them there are and how it's performing until it fills up, drops dead, or rings you and suggests that your parents weren't formally introduced until after you were conceived.
If you currently employ the crisis management approach, that is, wait for a crisis and see if you can manage, it's time you took a look at the new breed of software that has been designed with you in mind.
If you manage a NetWare network do yourself a really big favour and have a look at Intel's LANDesk software. Team it up with Novell's own Netware Management Services, a decent backup program from Cheyenne or Seagate, and a security and control front-end from Network Associates, and relax. This stuff does it all for you and allows you to be in control for perhaps the first time ever. You can even put forward proposals for expenditure in next year's budget, knowing that you'll still have a network by then.
Don't bother drawing a network map, the management software did that for you while you were at lunch.
With all your new spare time, you can get a diagram drawn up showing where all that wire goes, in case you have to fix an actual physical fault. I haven't seen any code that crawls between walls and figures that part out for me yet. I didn't say there isn't any, I just haven't seen it yet.
If you're thinking this doesn't apply to you because I'm talking about dinky little networks running NetWare -- you're right. If you manage a wide area network running TCP/IP, IPX, AppleTalk, SNA, routers, bridges and a swag of Unix nodes, and you don't already have management software from someone like HP, Sun or even IBM, a tape jukebox and a strategic plan, then you don't need to read this.