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What is a Network Management System (NMS)?

Network management can be an important part of creating an efficient and secure workplace. Having a secure network ensures that the organization’s data remains secure. If you’re a network administrator or IT associate, a network management system may be one of the most important tools you have when trying to improve the performance, maintenance, and security of a network.

What is a Network Management System (NMS)?

A network management system, or NMS, is an application or set of applications that lets network engineers manage a network’s independent components inside a bigger network management framework and perform several key functions.

An NMS identifies, configures, monitors, updates, and troubleshoots network devices – both wired and wireless – in an enterprise network. A system management control application then displays the performance data collected from each network component and enables network engineers to make changes as needed.

Network element vendors make their performance data available to NMS software either through APIs or through protocols like NetFlow, a de facto industry standard originally developed by Cisco that lets NetFlow-enabled routers transmit traffic and performance information.

network management system

Why use an NMS?

In small networks, such as a residential or home network, an NMS is not necessary. However, it is important for any large network, such as those found in enterprise configurations. Server farms, data centers, and corporate networks may have hundreds or thousands of connected devices. It is important to have a central network monitoring system in place to manage the devices. An NMS provides an efficient way to locate, update, repair, and replace network equipment as needed.

What are the benefits of Network Management Systems?

Network management systems may give a business the following advantages:

  • Lower costs: Network management systems can help lower hiring and payroll costs by enabling a single administrator, or a small team of IT employees, to manage an entire network.
  • Improved network performance: Many network management systems collect and aggregate data on network performance and often offer options for improvement.
  • More efficient data sharing: A network management system can help a company save time by allowing each member of a team to access data from their workstations. Administrators can decide what level of access each employee requires.
  • Increased productivity: A network management system can immediately report any malfunction to the administrator, which can help the IT team fix any issues quickly. This can keep productivity from slowing down and prevent data loss.
  • Enhanced data security: Administrators may resolve security threats more quickly if they have a network management system that automatically reports any breach.
  • Better device integration: Network administration systems can ensure that hardware and software from different vendors operate effectively together.

Types of NMSes

Enterprises can install Network Management System software on-premises on a dedicated server and manage on-site, or they can access NMSes as a service. Vendors supply tools for the enterprise to administer and monitor its network. NMS software can manage a wide variety of network components, manufactured by multiple vendors.

Early versions of NMS software sometimes worked only with hardware manufactured by the same vendor. However, those limitations have largely disappeared as networks have migrated to architectures based on equipment from multiple suppliers.

On-premises NMS installation can enable better control and customization of the software to meet specific goals. Managing the software internally can require additional IT staff and resources, however. As the software ages, the organization must upgrade or replace it. A vendor-based NMS can enable a quicker return on investment, but access to the software can be compromised if an outage occurs at the provider’s data center.

NMSes can monitor both wired and wireless network elements. In the past, a separate NMS would be required for each kind of element. However, as wireless networking becomes more prevalent, unified NMSes, which enable a network engineer to track both wired components and wireless network elements through a single management console, become available.

NMS software can also enable companies to track performance throughout their own networks, as well as through external networks, such as those operated by cloud and as-a-service providers. Visibility is enabled through APIs and other means through which an enterprise can access performance flow data, or logs, to analyze security or performance.

network management system

Challenges in the absence of a Network Management System (NMS)

Below are some of the most prominent roadblocks that a business faces without a network management system:

  • Fault diagnosis: Network components are susceptible to performance degradation. Without a network management system, it’s difficult to diagnose network faults, which impedes troubleshooting.
  • Unforeseen downtime: Businesses can expect frequent outages and prolonged downtime without a network management system. This can adversely impact operational continuity and productivity levels. On top of this, not all businesses possess enough resources to bear the exorbitant costs of network downtime.
  • Service interruptions: Without a network management system to keep networks in check, businesses may experience disruptions in service delivery, which will make it hard to meet SLAs.
  • Security threats: Erroneous network configuration changes and poor network security can expose networks to security vulnerabilities, leading to data appropriation.

NMS trends

As network hardware vendors continue to make their systems more open, NMS software is enabling interoperability as enterprises use NMS tools to control and add features across a wider variety of devices. NMSes also serve as the framework for intent-based networking, a developing methodology that automates network oversight, configuration, and troubleshooting.

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