Active network infrastructure management is a key element of any managed service offering. Traditionally, network management has involved a lot of tedious manual work, making it expensive and very hard to scale. And that’s why many MSPs have shied away from actively managing the network.
But not managing network infrastructure at all is a risk to your business. Your clients likely expect you’re looking after the network whether you’ve promised it or not. So finding a way to manage network infrastructure efficiently is critical to your MSP success. Here are seven tasks to stop doing manually because they’re insanely inefficient and potentially damaging to your business.
1. Stop creating Visio diagrams
Drawing a client’s network map in Visio (or using some other manual method) is incredibly time-consuming. We often hear from MSPs who are spending dozens of engineer hours on Visio diagrams every month. And what they get for all that effort and expense is a static client map that’s out of date the minute it’s done. How can you troubleshoot a network if you’re looking at an outdated view that’s no longer relevant?
2. Stop backing up configurations manually
Many MSPs are quick to think about backing up client data but are less rigorous when it comes to backing up the configuration of network infrastructure devices. Config backups tend to be on a periodic schedule (say, once a month), and your technicians have to remember and take the time to do them. There are lots of places where the process can fall down.
Yet the risk of not doing configuration backups is huge. If a client’s router or switch fails and you don’t have those device configs backed up, you’ll be scrambling while the client fumes. How long will it take you to rebuild the configurations from scratch?
3. Stop tracing wires by hand
Early in her career, one of our network pros here at Auvik worked a summer job for a mid-sized engineering firm. The company’s network maps and documentation were three years out of date, and she was given the task of updating the information. She spent weeks tracing cables by hand and logging port destinations into Excel.
It was very slow, very expensive, and—let’s face it— prone to human error.
Sound familiar? Rolling trucks for your techs to crawl through dusty closets, under desks, and up into ceiling tiles is hugely inefficient.
4. Stop keeping client passwords on sticky notes
More than 80 percent of MSPs store client passwords on Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, homegrown databases, and unprotected fields in their CRM or PSA system.
80% of #MSPs store client passwords on spreadsheets, Word docs, homegrown databases, or unprotected CRM/PSA fields
Not only is that a major security issue, but when you store access information in a Word doc or on a wiki, it’s an administrative nightmare when an employee leaves your company. If you’re conscientious about that potential security gap, you’ll change all the passwords the person had access to. Talk about a time sink.
5. Stop using the CLI for everything
Oh, the command-line interface. It’s a powerful tool in many respects but one that’s remained largely untouched despite decades of improvements in usability and design. We get that the CLI can be important as a network data source, but it doesn’t have to be the only way you can access information.
Manually querying one device at a time and trying to parse and correlate the flood of information that flows back means important details can be missed. Not to mention how time-consuming a process it is.
6. Stop wasting time trying to remotely access network infrastructure
Traditionally, of course, MSPs would travel on-site to maintain or troubleshoot network infrastructure gear. Now we have tools that help us do that work remotely.
Using a hodgepodge of screenshare, documentation, and SSH/Telnet client tools works—but, what a pain! You have to find a box you can remote into that’s not currently in use, track down the IP addresses for the device, pull up the passwords. And, of course, your documentation is perfectly up-to-date, right?
7. Stop doing manual network inventory and assessments
Finding network devices and recording all the serial numbers, makes, models, and firmware versions is an extremely tedious task that often gets ignored. But I can’t stress how important it is during your client prospecting and onboarding. It’s far too easy to take a quick look around and estimate the complexity of the environment—then realize later you’re in over your head.
If you don’t have an accurate inventory of all assets before you take on the client, you could be incorrectly quoting them for your services. Think of an environment that’s twice as big as you thought. Oops! Or imagine a client has really old infrastructure in dying need of a refresh but refuses to take your recommendation to upgrade it. Clearly not a recipe for success!
A good network monitoring and management system can automate all of these tasks so you can focus on revenue-generation activities. Automating network management is key if you hope to boost your MSP’s efficiency, make the most of your resources, and optimize your techs’ time. Imagine what you could do with some extra hours in the day—and without network headaches.