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5 common networking mistakes

NetworkTigers discusses the five most common network mistakes and how to avoid them.

Proper network maintenance demands attention to detail and adherence to processes and protocols that keep traffic running smoothly, prevent crashes, and keep cyberattackers at bay. While senior administrators are well versed in the organization and management skills needed for reliable operations, even those with years of real-world experience can make networking mistakes capable of bringing business to a halt. Here are the five most common mistakes that IT professionals make and tips on how to avoid them:

1. Neglecting cybersecurity

Many network administrators and company owners still have the impression that small businesses aren’t worth a cybercriminal’s time, making it one of the most critical networking mistakes.

However, small businesses are frequently targeted by threat actors deliberately or simply fall victim to widespread phishing scams or system vulnerabilities. What’s more, most small businesses that succumb to a cyberattack are simply unable to recover. To avoid making this critical mistake:

  • Keep your system up to date. IT teams should put forth comprehensive security plans that mandate automatic updates across their entire system to keep their networks fortified against hackers looking to take advantage of any entry points left open. 
  • Enforce strong passwords. Easily guessed passwords are a favorite weakness for hackers who can employ tools to crack into accounts that aren’t adequately protected. All network users should maintain strong passwords that adhere to character amount and complexity requirements from a knowledgeable IT administrator. Multi-factor authentication, while not foolproof, should also be implemented where possible.
  • Train employees to spot threats. Social engineering tactics continue to put organizations’ data at risk. From emails that purport to come from a trusted company to text messages claiming to be from a superior, all employees need to be able to know what correspondences they can trust and what may be dangerous. 

2. Poor network documentation and recovery planning

When a network spins into chaos or needs unexpected maintenance, knowing where to find what information and how to bring your operations online can make the difference between a relatively painless fix and days of downtime. To prevent catastrophe:

  • Keep your information organized. Keep a current list of all of your hardware specifications, serial numbers, and configurations. Build network diagrams and IP address inventories that are easily understood not just by you but also by anyone else in the event that your organization’s network fails while you aren’t personally able to address it. 
  • Prepare for recovery. Making sense out of a network in shambles is a nightmare scenario. To roll with any punches, develop a disaster recovery plan that allows you to pull your system together without getting lost in the weeds. Ensure your configurations are easily accessible and regularly update your records to reflect your current setup.
  • Prioritize redundancy. Depending completely on single pieces of infrastructure or equipment can prove to be disastrous in the event of a crash. Your network should be built and organized in such a way that another swiftly compensates for the failure of one component. While your system doesn’t necessarily have to work at 100% capacity if something goes wrong, you should at least have some redundancy in place to allow it to work well enough to still operate while you sort out the issue.

3. Skimping on robust network monitoring

Without knowing how traffic is moving through your system, you’re flying blind. Keeping a sharp eye on your network allows you to understand typical traffic patterns, notice unusual behavior, and chart your network’s analytics. To keep your finger on the pulse of your system:

  • Use network monitoring tools. With so many tools available, IT administrators are spoiled for choice when it comes to network monitoring. Real-time insights are invaluable. Once you have a grasp on how your network runs, set up alerts that let you know if something is behaving in an unusual way.
  • Conduct regular audits. Audits allow you to take a hard look at your network’s compliance, security, and efficiency. The information gleaned from an audit can be used to improve your network’s workflow and fine-tune it for peak performance.

4. Not keeping future growth in mind

Every organization looks to grow and their networks need to react accordingly. Crystalizing a system in a manner that requires deep reconfigurations or even total architecture replacements in the event of new business or more employees will burn a tremendous amount of time and money, making it one of the more costly networking mistakes. To set the stage for painless growth:

  • Anticipating the future. What is the trajectory of your organization? How much growth is expected in the coming years? The more you know about your company’s path, the better you can predict and accommodate future networking needs.
  • Invest in scalable equipment. When building a network, it’s wise to do so with gear that can be used for as long as possible. You can do so by looking for configurations with modular capabilities that can be added or removed as needed. A network is never said and done, so getting too comfortable with a particular setup can work against you. Always think two steps ahead of your current needs and budget by purchasing refurbished network equipment from a seller you can trust.

5. Poorly maintained hardware

One of the more common networking mistakes is thinking of a system only in terms of ones and zeroes. Every piece of hardware in your network has a lifespan that can often be extended with proper maintenance and updates. To prevent your physical architecture from deteriorating:

  • Update it regularly. Keep your gear up to date as per manufacturer recommendations. While components may still appear to function as expected at first glance, mysterious compatibility problems can arise if firmware is not updated. This kind of issue can be nipped in the bud by enforcing regular updates.
  • Perform scheduled physical inspections. Create a hardware maintenance plan in which you physically inspect your equipment for signs of malfunction, wear, or other deterioration. Dust buildup can result in hardware becoming too hot to perform adequately. Unexpected moisture from an air conditioner or leak in the ceiling could cause equipment to corrode, short circuit, or even create the risk of an electric shock. Don’t forget to check your cables, as they may be subjected to damage from rodents.
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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