The challenge of controlling IT complexity

IT teams fear losing control of business transactions, apps and infrastructure.

With enterprise networks becoming busier than ever before, supporting an abundance of new technologies now represents a significant addition to the IT management burden. And, according to IT pros, that’s putting their ability to securely control of business transactions, applications and infrastructure – across cloud, virtual and network environments – at risk.

Today’s IT professionals are struggling to keep up with the fast-paced rate of technological change. According to a recent survey by Ipswitch, 66 per cent of IT professionals feel that increasing IT complexity is making it more difficult to do their job, especially when it comes to assuring zero downtime.

The digital enterprise is more dependent than ever before on the availability, reliability and performance of mission-critical networks, servers and business applications. This digital transformation has come at a cost for IT teams, which have faced an unending wave of new technologies such as the Cloud, BYOD, the Internet of Things, virtualisation, wireless and mobile – all of which require increasingly large amounts of high quality bandwidth.

While these technological evolutions have benefited enterprise productivity, IT departments now find themselves increasingly weighed down by the challenge of maintaining network availability while supporting an ever-growing array of device types, operating systems, software applications.

Dealing with apps and mobile devices that threaten to congest business networks is just the start of the challenge. IT teams are also responsible for thwarting hidden threats to network stability like non-sanctioned devices and ‘shadow’ IT. However time and staff resource pressures mean IT professionals are struggling to keep tabs on everything they’d like to monitor on their networks.

The lack of common IT management tools across IT teams isn’t helping matters, making a holistic view of today’s increasingly complex technology stacks difficult to achieve; 44 per cent of IT teams report using three or more tools – with many using between 10 and 20 tools. This means time is wasted switching between tools to gain an accurate view into application and infrastructure performance.

With all this to consider, improving network monitoring and visibility within budget and headcount constraints can seem a daunting, but it’s not an impossible task:

1. Availability monitoring 

IT teams should strive to ensure everything they know about their networks is accurate. That means discovering how many laptops, mobile devices, servers and virtual machines the network supports - using the right tools to find the clutter - and being clear about network set up. Critical business assets should be identified and categorised as ‘business use’, ‘non-business use but allowed’, ‘non-business use and not allowed’ and ‘rogue or unknown’, and policy guidelines created for each category. 

2. Performance monitoring 

Monitoring all applications and users to determine which use the most bandwidth is a must - as is properly segmenting the network to prevent downtime. High priority assets should be appropriately monitored, with alerts set up for critical resources. Initiating unified monitoring across all wired and wireless networks, physical and virtual servers, applications and databases will deliver a single version of the truth that enables better application/network performance optimisation and troubleshooting. 

3. Security monitoring

Here the focus, at a minimum, should be on security appliances like firewalls, intrusion prevention systems and web application firewalls, using data collected from these devices to detect possible breaches and threats. To protect the IT infrastructure from the malware risk posed by BYOD, security controls ideally need to be in place to detect and monitor lateral movement in real-time.

Network monitoring doesn’t have to be a complex task. Teams just need to take a step back and make sure they are adopting the right approach and making the most of the tools available to them.

Michael Hack, SVP for EMEA at Ipswitch