Preventative Maintenance Overview

Preventive Maintenance- Contents

Abstract

The key to a healthy network is a consistent maintenance schedule. Servers as well as workstations must be regularly cared for to keep all internal and external components, including the installed software, functioning correctly. Network equipment such as hubs, routers, printers etc. all must be cared for and tested on a regular basis to ensure sound network functionality.

Preface

A secure and healthy network does not happen magically. It takes a watchful eye and careful network management.

The problem arises in deciding to what extent we should commit resources to hardware and software maintenance? Is a strategy of self-maintenance best? Is contracting out maintenance services the way to go? And how should it be done? Contract a single vendor to maintain all hardware and software? Or maybe have several contracts with different vendors, specializing in specific areas?

What is preventative maintenance?

Preventative maintenance is the term used in connection with computer networks to describe the function of keeping hardware and software in top working order, thereby preventing costly breakdowns or slow-downs in business.

From local area network components to offsite wide area network equipment, all links in the network "chain" must function smoothly and seamlessly in order for company operations to continue without incident or disaster. Simply backing up data is not a sufficient substitute for a well-implemented preventative maintenance program.

The Challenge

Preventative maintenance can be split into two broad categories:

  • Software
  • Hardware

Software

Keeping track of the maintenance and support covered by software licenses can be a nightmare. You have operating systems, applications and tools from various vendors, and their license issues differ widely, so it's vital to keep software license documentation updated and regularly checked. This documentation can be maintained in-house, but there is much to be said for letting an objective and knowledgeable outside service provider take the responsibility. Too often, in-house functions such as these are pushed aside to make time for perceived 'more important' issues. This can lead to license infractions and a lack of support when you need it most.

An outside service provider has the experience and specialized knowledge to be able to advise you on issues such as contract support or 'per-incident' support, and volume software purchases offered under the guise of site licenses.

Bear in mind also that all software is not usually purchased at the same time. So a method of tracking the details of who is covered and for how long is vital.

Hardware

In the past, it was a relatively simple matter for system and operations managers to maintain their own hardware. By taking advantage of equipment warranties and acquiring spares to swap into service was a quick and economical method of maintaining hardware.

But now, hardware is moving away from commodity component construction and is becoming more intelligent. Manageable network hubs and switches may include firmware that requires updating as changes are made to network management software. Access to these firmware updates is often only available from the vendor by means of a maintenance agreement.

The maintenance of server hardware may be a simpler matter to some extent, but one vital question needs to be asked. Is your company able to support a dedicated IT maintenance department, and do you have the resources to keep the member/s of this department updated with the latest relevant knowledge?



Solutions

Preventative maintenance needs to be approached from several different areas:

Data preservation

From simple tape backup systems to storage area networks and offsite backup solutions, data preservation is the single most important aspect of your network because if every other aspect were to fail, data preservation will return your network to working order quickly.

Data preservation regimes include good hardware and software, a schedule of verification and education of the end-users.

Physical Layer Documentation

Communication from your PC to your servers and routers takes place through hubs and communication cable.

When there is a communication issue with your network and it is found to be at the physical layer, lack of proper documentation makes trouble-shooting and repair both costly and inefficient.

Physical Layer Documentation (PLD) service creates a map of the network cable connections and routes, making it easy to get to the heart of the problem.

Network Consulting Documentation

The Network Consulting Document (NCD) is a comprehensive overview of the network, as it is in place. This allows simple consultation to determine technical network solutions and effectively engineer for network and data needs. Emphasis should be placed on the most critical portion - data preservation and disaster recovery.

This document package provides a detailed overview of the local area network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN) structures. The servers are individually documented. Details of routers and firewalls are also individually documented. Workstation documentation completes the package.

Easy-to-read, understandable information about the network enables future improvements and expansions to move forward in a productive and efficient manner.

Compliance Inspection

The Compliance Inspection (CI) consists of a hardware and system verification process of the network. This allows for advice on the correct path to be followed for system and software changes and enhancements.

The compliance inspection is great insurance against unpleasant surprises during system enhancement processes.

Data Disaster Recovery Planning

Data disaster recovery planning allows for solutions to everything from total office destruction to virus infection.

An annual Disaster Drill Process (DDP) should also be considered. This data "fire drill" involves the simulation of a catastrophic disaster with reconstruction of your company's critical operations in a virtual office offsite.

Conclusion

Just as with any other tools, your computers and networks must be well maintained. A company cannot succeed unless it is well organized and productive. Proper maintenance of your network protects your company against disruptions that could reduce or prevent productivity.

Prevention is always better than cure.

About Creative Computing Enterprises, Inc.

Creative Computing Enterprises, Inc. is a progressive Information Technology company formed on a foundation of honest and conscientious customer focus with high quality service.

CCE, Inc. was founded on the realization that an IT company with the proper attitude was necessary to restore confidence in computer networking for data needs.

Creative Computing Enterprises, Inc. offers the best service available while providing the optimum technology for your company's computing needs.