On any given day, a company’s network will undergo changes and updates. New employees will come on board and others will leave. Someone will complain that the Wi-Fi is slow. Access points will go offline. People will hog bandwidth. And at least one person will have trouble printing something.
As the manager of a network for an MSP, an enterprise, or an SMB, these are problems that can quickly add up and become issues on your network. Especially the printers. Printers are the stubborn child of an IT network and no matter how much you try, they will always be defiant.
If you’re considering implementing cloudmanaged networking solutions for part or all of your any of the networks you manage, here are 12 features you should consider to help alleviate the everyday problems that can plague networks.
1. Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP) Reduces Setup and Network Expansion Time and Cost
For all the benefits the command line interface provides, reducing setup time is not one of them. Unless you need an excuse to disappear from the world for a few hours, individually configuring every switch on a network probably isn’t what you consider a good use of time in your busy schedule.
Or you could save even more time by having each switch and access point take care of that work for you. With ZTD, you can configure everything beforehand. Then, once everything’s ready to go, each product can download the configuration image, unpack it, and apply the settings automatically.
ZTD/ZTP also eliminates other time-consuming functions of network management including, but not limited to:
- Updating the OS
- Downloading and running patches
- Adding features
- Running basic and advanced configuration files
- Connecting to configuration management platforms
- Expanding networks to changing business needs
2. Role-Based Access Control Can Relieve Administrative Work, IT Maintenance, and Legal/HR Headaches
Networks would be a lot easier to manage if everyone who worked for a company never retired, quit, or received promotions. That’s not how the world works, though. The people needing access to databases, servers, and confidential information is constantly changing. Not only that, but the people who implement the user permissions changes on your network can range from in-house IT administrators third-party contractor.
Good CMNs will simplify the management of these settings either through an intuitive layout or interface that makes it easy to configure permissions, responsibilities, and privileges on the fly. This system can reduce the amount of paperwork you might need to fill out when someone is hired or moves into a new role, too. Not to mention, this automated feature can also greatly limit any errors that might be made if setting up a new user account manually each time someone was being added to your network.
Other benefits to this feature include:
- Quickly creating broad and detailed user accounts
- Creating clearly defined permissions for administrators, end-users, and specialists
- Separating student, faculty, and administrative access
- Providing Wi-Fi access to campus visitors
- Separating guest and employee access
- Easily granting or revoking privileges during employee transitions
- Granting third-party vendors temporary access to your network
- Maintaining compliance and security
3. Auditable Changelogs Makes Diagnosing Network Problems Easier
Almost every IT manager has had to track down what’s causing a problem to a network. Sometimes it’s a simple change that was made to a network SSID. Sometimes it was not hitting the “0” key hard enough and mistakenly setting an APs bandwidth limit to 1 Mbps. And sometimes it’s an issue you never would have expected to be the cause of the problem.
Your auditable changelog, or audit trail, should document both administrative- and user-level events, including changes to configurations, debugging, API calls, and more. Beyond diagnosing potential network issues, the audit log should also supply supplemental evidence in proving network compliance or operational integrity. They can also help IT personnel identify any non-compliant issues within their network and proactively address them. This includes potential threats to a network including security breaches, cyber threats, and data corruption.
Along with this, a good auditable changelog should keep track of useful
- The date and time the changes took place
- User information associated with each change
- The configuration settings that were modified
- Product and security updates and/or patches
- Compliance integrations
4. Authentication via Customizable Captive Portal, 802.1x, and a RADIUS Server Can Help Limit Network Security Risks
In a perfect world, no one would steal laptops and cellphones and employees wouldn’t lose their devices. It isn’t a perfect world, though, and these things happen, risking the exposure of confidential, personal, and private information.
Since 802.1x operates on the RADIUS service, it nearly eliminates the issue of scalability, helping you maintain security measures even as your network expands to accommodate more people and devices. Additionally, with authenticated networks, you can easily restrict the access of anyone on the network if their devices become compromised or they’re trying to sneak into networks themselves.
It also helps you:
- Deploy a large-scale, authenticated network
- Monitor network access
- Limit open network access
- Increase network security measures
5. Advanced Traffic Reports and Data Analysis Helps You Improve Network Speed
The rapid growth of IoT devices and the number of personal devices available today
have shifted the role and scope of a business network. Along with managing the
bandwidth available for critical business operations, including voice, video, and
data connections, your network also needs to handle the thousands of tasks that
may require small amounts of bandwidth but depend more on low latency. This is
especially true for networks that serve critical services depending on split-second
decisions, such as hospitals and healthcare facilities.
6. Automatic Monitoring and Alerts Encourage Proactive Network Management
Monitoring and managing a network comes with a host of responsibilities, daily tasks, and short- and long-term projects. Because of that, it’s nearly impossible for you to check every device on a network to make sure it’s up and running. As much as you don’t want to be blindsided by a preventable network problem, you also don’t want to be alerted every five minutes by issues that might resolve themselves.
CMNs with automatic monitoring can help take on some of those tasks and provide you with the resources to proactively manage a network. Through the feature, you should be able to select the specific alerts you want to receive and receive them on a tablet or computer. These can include alerts regarding firmware upgrades, patches, added devices, and offline access points. Additionally, your monitoring system should provide an option to receive a notification based on the amount of downtime experienced by an access point.
7. Over-the-Web Firmware Upgrades Decrease Server Down Time
Over-the-web firmware upgrades are nearly a standard feature now, especially for CMNs that oversee hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of switches, access points, and cameras.
However, the better systems will provide scheduling features that allow you to pick the best time and date to apply upgrades. It should also provide you with several options when it comes to upgrading firmware, including picking the date and time you want to apply either a partial or complete upgrade.
8. Searchable Network-Wide Event Logs Help IT Managers Focus on Important Tasks
On a multi-site cloud network, the number of events that occur each day can quickly climb into the range of tens of thousands, and having to manually comb through the log looking for specific events will eat up a valuable chunk of time that an IT manager could be devoting to other projects.
If you know the day that a problem first occurred, you can use the list to help track down potential causes. You can also use it to:
- Identify potential security vulnerability
- Improve system performance by diagnosing potential bottlenecks and
- Save time by identifying minor network issues before they cause
- Gain detailed insight into the network’s system metrics
- Automatically correct network issues through the use of monitoring software
9. Intuitive VLAN Configuration Can Automatically Balance Network Bandwidth Needs and Channels
An intuitive VLAN configuration can take some of the time out of that process by automatically filtering traffic to the appropriate VLANs across your network, whether it’s centered in one location or spread out across multiple sites. So, as your a business expands, and adds cubicles, desk phones, computers, video conference centers, and even new office buildings/sites, the intuitive VLAN automatically identifies the traffic and assigns it to the corresponding data channels you have set up on your network.
10. Cloud-Based RF Optimization Delegates Traffic and Signal Strength as Needed
Cloud-based RF optimization lets you manage and monitor the network from afar, including giving you the option to enable/disable autoconfiguration settings, such as the channel. A more elaborate system will open up the ability to select which channels an AP can use to help you customize the network even further and limit the slowdown that packed networks and bandwidth hogs can have. Furthermore, it can even help adjust the signal strength of those APs for you in case one does do down. All of this goes a long way in keeping the network flowing smoothly even as the bandwidth needs shift and change throughout a network and all the location it serves.
“More importantly, it can help you ensure that networks serving critical services, such as the ones healthcare professionals depend on in hospitals and clinics, have the bandwidth required to access vital and time-sensitive information”
11. Social Login Wi-Fi Access Support Can Increase and Simplify Account Signups
Whether you’re managing your own network or implementing one for a business, at some point you may want to have customers sign up and create accounts so you can send them marketing materials and other relevant information. The problem is that up to 86 percent of people hate having to create an entirely new account to access content or Wi-Fi,¹ and 92 percent of people say they would rather leave a site if they forget their password than try to reset or recover it.
12. Intuitive Web-Based Interface with Multilingual Support Makes It Easier to Support Multiple Regions
In a global economy, localized and national CMN solutions need to serve the needs of IT professionals from varying backgrounds. Without a web-based interface that has multilingual support, you limit the areas you can deploy it and the people you can hire to help manage it.
While multilingual support might not be a necessity for networks that include only a few buildings or local sites within a city or a state, it could be a lifesaver for multinational corporations that want to unify their network on one CMN.