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Widespread gaps in basic network management proficiency - study

By Shannon Williams, Tue 19 Jan 2021

A new study has indicated potential blind spots basic network management activities, with three-quarters of IT professionals having high network confidence without full network knowledge.

The study, from cloud-based network management software provider Auvik Networks, looks in-depth at how in-house IT administrators manage their networks, and how knowledgeable and confident they are in their networks. 

The objective of the report was to better understand the current state of network management practices, from backing up configurations to maintaining network documentation. The survey, which draws comparisons to a similar study completed by Auvik in 2015, also explores which tasks occupy the majority of an IT pros time, how IT pros are evaluated, and how often they outsource network-related tasks and functions.

The results reveal a significant portion of companies have basic network management deficiencies, including a lack of network visibility, network device configuration backups, proactive network planning, and up-to-date documentation.

Notably, findings indicate a need for improved network hygiene practices and show a discrepancy between network knowledge and confidence. More than half of IT pros have incomplete knowledge about how their networks are configured, yet 77% of these same people also report a high or very high confidence in their networks. This could indicate a potential mismatch between perception and reality, with IT pros unaware of the weaknesses in their network management practices.

"It is important that the network just works all the time, so our report findings are concerning," says Alex Hoff, chief product officer of Auvik Networks.

"Not only are companies falling down when it comes to basic network maintenance but they're also wasting significant time on manual tasks that could be automated.

"It all adds up to inefficiencies and network risks that really do not need to be there, when there are so many viable software options that can easily solve those problems."

Other key findings include:

Network device configuration backups: Only 36% of organisations back up their network device configurations daily or weekly, despite additional data showing that configuration changes are frequent. Newer, small organisations are most at risk of never backing up.

IT efficiency and productivity: IT pros are working fewer hours on reactive tasks (48%) than five years ago (59%), but they still spend much of their time on tasks that could be easily automated, including documentation (58%), mapping (55%) and network configuration backup (61%). Software tools can help manage or entirely automate these activities.

Project engagement: More than half (52%) of an IT pros time is spent on projects they hate or tolerate. Nearly half (45%) say that not enough time is the primary reason for not doing the projects that interest them.

Success measurement: Cost of IT overall is the main success metric, with 54% of IT pros saying they're measured against it. In contrast, only 30% of IT pros are evaluated based on uptime/downtime percentage or number of closed tickets. Taken together, these findings could indicate that network stability is less of a focus for organisations than cost reductions.

Network planning and research: Nearly half (41%) of organisations spend no time on network planning.

Updating network documentation: More than a quarter (27%) of organisations never or rarely update their network documentation despite changes happening frequently at companies of all sizes.

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