Larry was planning an entire refresh of his organization’s storage array. Big-name vendors like Dell and EMC were asking for meetings once a week. Bids and proposals were arriving almost daily. Budget dollars for the project were allocated and the company CIO told Larry, the head of in-house IT, that the project was to be completed by the end of the quarter. Larry was spending all day, every day learning about exciting new systems and services that could benefit the company and make the entire IT backbone stronger for years to come.

One day, the CIO asked Larry what the holdup was. Surely there had been enough time to consider all of the options and make a decision. In fact, Larry had presented his ideas just last week to the entire board and a consensus was reached on which direction to go with regard to the hardware, software, and services needed. Why wasn’t the project moving forward?

The truth was… Larry didn’t know where to start.

Server room and worker

Tracking all hardware is imperative to your IT success.
Image courtesy of Flickr’s Creative Commons, user Reynermedia

Like countless IT professionals and decision-makers in the same position, Larry wasn’t sure how to implement the agreed-upon solution because he wasn’t entirely sure what his current environment looked like. Over time, the complexity of the organization’s hardware and software assets had extended far beyond Larry’s comprehension. From license compliance issues to the network itself, Larry possessed neither the granular detail nor big-picture perspective necessary to efficiently and effectively implement the new IT solutions his company needed. All too often, as companies grow, the complexity of systems and processes grow in such a way that eventually those charged with controlling the network move from a mode of asset management to a mode of simply fixing something when it breaks.

What Larry needs is a network assessment. By evaluating his entire IT infrastructure in an organized and measured way, Larry can get a grasp on what assets and systems are working for his organization and how to leverage those assets as the company grows. A successful network assessment involves four key components:

  • Hardware assessment.  A shocking number of organizations do not keep an accurate and up-to-date central repository of information about the hardware they own. Serial numbers and warranty support should be compiled for all hardware. Additional information such as user names and software installations can help with refresh planning, as well. Make a comprehensive list of each piece of IT hardware within the organization. Furthermore, any licenses or software installations need to be tracked to ensure that you are compliant with your software agreements.
  • Network blueprint.  Perhaps the most overwhelming part of a network assessment is the network blueprint. That said, mapping out (quite literally, with a drawing or diagram) the network, showing how every port of every router, server, printer, and workstation is connected, is imperative if you are going to be in total control of your network. Understanding and documenting how different machines and systems are working together is the only way to determine any security vulnerabilities in the network and demonstrate the return on investment provided now and in the future by the entire IT solution.
  • Security assessment.  The most likely part of a network assessment to require third-party help, your security assessment is key to the stability and reliability of the entire business. Testing for vulnerabilities and potential risks within hardware, software, and connectivity is critical if your business is to operate as intended. Assessing your vulnerabilities and the potential pitfalls within your network will also help with any future planning as you work to address any potential issues.
  • Management assessment.  The systems and processes in place to manage and monitor the network are vital to everyday operation. From pushing software patches and updates to administering global permissions, understanding and defining management procedures and tools is an important part of a successful network assessment.

Managing the current infrastructure with one eye and planning for the future with the other is a complicated task. Thankfully, best practices, tools, and processes like those suggested above can help you retake control of your IT environment. From visual maps to recommendations for best practices, a successful network assessment will discover many vulnerabilities and issues present while also helping the organization know exactly what hardware and software assets are working to their advantage…and which ones are sitting in a closet unplugged. If your network is getting out of control and you don’t have the clear visibility needed to make sure your organization is properly supported and moving in the right direction, contact Mosaic NetworX for help!