Eliminating the 10 Worst Habits of Network Administrators

Jason Baudreau
By Jason Baudreau October 18, 2017 4 minute read
Jason Baudreau has a passion for enterprise networking, writing and geeking out with Smart Home technology. With 8 years' experience in Systems and Network engineering, Jason now specializes in network automation technologies at NetBrain.

While it may come as a surprise to some, network administrators are indeed human. They can fall into bad habits just like anyone else. Tech Republic recently took a look at this and wrote a piece on 10 bad habits network administrators should avoid at all costs. The article rightly points out several areas where network administrators can put their organization at risk. With NetBrain, network teams can eliminate these bad habits by turning to automation. Let’s look at the habits and how each one can be solved:

  1. Failing to update policies frequently

Validating network configurations against a common set of compliance rules (e.g. device passwords are encrypted, timeouts are configured, no vendor defaults are present) is critical for every network. Yet, with networks undergoing constant change, this becomes a tedious and often forgotten task. With Executable Runbooks, network teams can standardize and automate design guides and best practices to ensure that all policies are updated and implemented.

  1. Doing everything manually

Manual processes are putting networks at risk, from documentation and mapping to operations workflows like troubleshooting and security. NetBrain automates these processes and gives instant visibility into network infrastructure and actionable information for network teams to work from. This is perhaps the most common and most painful bad habit for most organizations.

With Dynamic Network Map software, organizations can automate the existing network in detail to not only provide end-to-end visibility, but offer detailed asset reports and more.

  1. Making changes without logging them in change control

NetBrain benchmarks the network routinely to capture network changes, which is essential for minimizing network outages. NetBrain integrates into existing change management workflows at each phase to minimize human error and validate change impact. Within a single workflow, network engineers can define a template, deploy the configuration updates and verify the impact of the changes. This allows an organization to see what has changed in the network in the case of an outage, and quickly understand the source of the issue.

  1. Believing that your network is impenetrable

Currently, most organizations are manually checking against network hardening regulations to ensure that devices are configured to the correct standard, that traffic is not permitted in restricted areas and that hardware is frequently patched to close vulnerability gaps. For enterprise organizations it’s tedious, and mostly ineffective, to manage the hardening process and it can take days to understand the impact of a single vulnerability. With NetBrain, network teams can gain instant visibility into the network to see where vulnerabilities exist and what assets have the potential to be compromised. This results in a more efficient and effective network hardening process.

  1. Experiencing alert fatigue and short-term thinking

Advanced organizations tie their ticketing system into NetBrain for faster response times. The ticketing system will trigger NetBrain to map the path to the problem device and execute a runbook to diagnose the performance as soon as the problem occurs. This critical automation takes the reaction time away from the human and allows them to get instant visibility into the source of the issue.

  1. Failing to keep skills updated

Many network teams have key skills that only reside with certain “tribal leaders” who have worked on a specific network or in a particular area for many years. This can lead to a skills gaps among other network engineers for some critical network tasks. With NetBrain’s Executable Runbooks, teams can share knowledge simply and effectively to democratize the best practices of these “tribal leaders.” NetBrain’s programmable automation helps bridge the NetOps and DevOps gap without the need for scripting.

  1. Using command-line interface (CLI) to troubleshoot your network

While still an effective tool, the CLI limits the breadth of information a user can analyze, because it accesses one device and one command at a time. Dynamic Maps, Executable Runbooks and triggered diagnosis can eliminate, or at least minimize, the need for the CLI. By automating the troubleshooting process, network teams have a better view of the network and don’t need to spend hours going through each device.

  1. Allowing ports and protocols outbound to the internet

Mapping outbound traffic flows with NetBrain’s A/B path calculator allows organizations to carefully monitor access to ports and protocols. For example, NetBrain’s A/B path calculator works at the layer-4 port-level to analyze ACLs and policy-based routing to visually present the application paths and allow the automation of compliance checks across relevant traffic flows.

  1. Using scripting to hack at automating networking

Network automation is critical, but scripting only adds complexity. NetBrain offers visual programming without scripts that simplifies the process with the same result. With NetBrain acting as the single pane of glass into the network infrastructure, engineers can customize their own repeatable troubleshooting logic and avoid the pain that comes with scripting. Most organizations that attempt to streamline through scripting end up with inconsistent processes and more problems than they started with.

  1. Poor monitoring discipline

Pinpointing the primary cause of network issues is difficult, but by integrating NetBrain with monitoring tools, network teams can stay a step ahead. When a monitoring system triggers a diagnosis through NetBrain, engineers are immediately given information on the source of the issue and the potential problem. With Executable Runbooks, many of these issues can be mitigated through NetBrain and entirely automated.

For more information on how NetBrain can help solve common network bad habits and problems, visit our Solutions page.