Should You Get a Network Audit?

You know how when you first move into a house, everything gets put in its place? The kitchen’s in order, the cupboards are tidy, the closets are laid out perfectly. Before you moved, you got rid of excess clothing and other junk that was doing nothing but hogging space. There’s no expired food at the back of the shelves, or mostly empty bottles of lotion, sunscreen, mosquito spray, hairspray, shampoo, soap, acne cream, hot sauce, soy sauce… you get the idea.

And then you live in the house for what feels like a short time.

And somehow, someway… clutter. You can’t find stuff. You run out of storage space. How did this happen?

Well, a network is a lot like a house.

Audit
[Photo credit: Got Credit]

Network audits increase performance and security.

When you first set up a network, if it’s done properly, everything is neat. Then software updates and new programs and cable extensions and repurposed routers and all the different things that different users do on the workstations make a clutter.

Your network becomes overloaded with junk. Your house gets cluttered.

A computer network is a complex ecosystem. Ideally, data flow smoothly and reliably from one node to the other. You print off a report in a few seconds. You conference with a client in HD. Your files are backed up and secure.

Anyone who’s used a business network, however, knows that this ideal is rarely achieved. Mostly, people try to solve immediate problems, which can lead to problems down the road.

If it was just a decrease in network speed, maybe it wouldn’t be quite so bad. Sure, a slow network makes you lose time, but you can deal. However, with network clutter also comes performance failures and security risks.

Clutter produces vulnerability. What’s the solution?

A network audit.

Network audits start with a complete inventory.

Remember that analogy between keeping house and a network audit? Well, when you move house you probably find all sorts of things you didn’t even know were there, that you don’t even remember where they came from.

If you’d kept a spreadsheet of all your possessions from the beginning, there’d be no surprises. But seriously: who would do that?

Even a full-time network administrator can’t keep track of every little thing that every worker is doing every day.

This is why a network audit starts with a complete inventory of your network assets: not only data, but printers, routers, telephones, cables and so on. Everything that accesses the network needs to be accounted for in order to determine what’s valuable, what’s neutral, and what’s damaging.

Network audits reveal data blockages.

Data blockages are a common source of network slowness. There are many different causes. For instance, you might have set up your wireless network to run on multiple channels, but then all the data could be running through only one, saturating that channel, creating a traffic jam. This is a common problem! And it often goes undiagnosed in the absence of an audit.

Transmission errors, inefficient loading patterns, slow response times: all these are revealed by a network audit.

Scanning your network to see how data are flowing as part of the audit reveals how your network should be configured to optimize your data flow.

Network audits provide analytical data.

We’ve all heard of Moneyball by now, how the creative analysis of data led to success for the Oakland A’s. The important lesson to take away is that data allow you to overcome your innate prejudices and see hidden efficiencies.

Scanning a network to create an inventory gives you the data needed to look at your network objectively. An objective viewpoint is particularly important when considering if you can repurpose existing hardware and what new hardware is necessary to install.

Network audits reveal security vulnerabilities.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world free of malware, of viruses, of spyware? And wouldn’t it be perfect to live in a world where all your programs work nicely with each other?

Of course, we don’t.

Monitoring the security procedures in place—password strength, which protocols are being used, how the firewalls are set up and so on—will reveal gaps that have emerged in your network through which malicious entities can attack your company.

Scanning your system will uncover software incompatabilities as well. People will be people: they’ll install what they’ll install. It’s impossible to keep track of it all, but what you miss can lead to security issues.

Don’t let this clutter produce vulnerabilties.

Get a network audit!