This is how the beginning of an IT horror movie would start:
The scene opens with a normal day at work. Amy from HR is grabbing her coffee, Paul and Jerry from finance are chatting about their weekends – when BAM… the network goes dark. The office goes silent, then chaos ensues. Without a network to connect to and work to produce, employees turn to the darkest corners of their imagination…
In all seriousness, network downtime can cause real damage to a business’s operations, finances, productivity, and reputation.
So, what can you do? Putting network resilience practices into place can help prevent unplanned downtime and keep business running as usual, sans horror movie scenarios.
That said, what is network resilience?
A resilient network is one that can respond and recover quickly to enable operational continuity in the face of disruption. Disruptions can include anything from network maintenance to cyber threats, failed equipment to natural disasters. A less resilient network is less equipped to face these risks, which can lead to more frequent network downtime.
Resilience vs. Redundancy
Let’s break down one of the key components of network resiliency: redundancy. While network redundancy plays a critical role in network resiliency, the two are not synonymous.
First, let’s explore what network redundancy is. A redundant system includes backups of key network components such as routers and firewalls across data centers. This way, if one of the network system components fails, the entire network doesn’t go down with it.
Resiliency takes redundancy a few steps further. A resilient network requires regular testing, planning, grooming, and monitoring to ensure it’s working optimally. A resilient network includes not only route redundancy but diversity, as well – giving traffic multiple alternate routes in case of congestion.
What’s more, network resiliency requires more than just additional equipment. It requires teams to be agile, updating configurations and exploring new technology as needed. A resilient network is one that has backup plans and systems to ensure business continuity in the event of disaster and recovery plans in the case of outages.
Resilient Network Configurations
Replacing or augmenting physical infrastructure with virtual infrastructure can mean more resilient, more automated, and more manageable networking.
There are a few forms of virtualized network design that lend to a resilient network.
Software-defined networking (SDN)
The beauty of a software-defined network (SDN) is that IT admins can monitor, manage, and configure network resources in a central location. This lends to greater flexibility and agility, which enables greater resilience.
Software-defined wide area networking or SD-WAN is one such form of software-defined networking that can make the network more resilient. SD-WAN is a network overlay that optimizes the performance of your WAN using load balancing, multiple pillars of security, and the most efficient routing to increase productivity and decrease downtime.
Like software-defined networks, virtual networks make managing and configuring the network a breeze for IT. Virtual networking allows customers to segment different department networks on a single physical connection. This not only saves money, but simplifies network management. Customers can use a single interface to manage multiple virtual networks, vs. managing multiple physical devices.
Further, with virtual networking, policies can be automated. Automation can include monitoring, traffic routing, and configuration. This frees IT up for more critical tasks while minimizing the possibility of human error when it comes to more menial network tasks.
In a cloud networking model, networking infrastructure and management happens in the Cloud. Networking resources are virtual and can be accessed from anywhere, at any time by IT. Plus, the Cloud offers near-limitless scalability. As your business operations grow and you need to allocate more resources to your network, a cloud-based network says “How much do you need, and how fast do you need it?” and then it delivers.
Network resilience checklist
Ask yourself the following questions about your network to ensure you’re configuring it for maximum resilience.
Is my network redundant? Ensure you have duplicates of critical network components to ensure the system won’t go dark if one component does.
Is my network dynamic? Software-defined networks, virtual networks, and cloud-based networks offer more resilience because they can be easily reconfigured, updated, and managed.
When did I last test and update my network? Make sure your team is scheduling regular network tests and updates.
Do I have a plan in place if the network fails? If the system fails, your number one priority should be recovering the network as soon as possible. Planning for worst-case scenarios – and what to do if you face them – is key.
Does my team know what to do if my network fails? Train your staff on things like disaster recovery to ensure that the situation described at the beginning of this blog doesn’t happen to you…