Optimizing the performance of a remote network

David Ianetta

If you’re like me, you can remember far enough back to a time when businesses had just one computer.

OK, maybe you don’t actually remember this, but you will certainly have heard stories or seen an 80s movie or two.

For those of you who weren’t there, let me explain what this looked like…

Normally the sole office computer belonged to an accountant and probably had a printer attached to it – not like the ones we have today, but a big, loud dot matrix printer. The one we had actually came with a special box that allowed it to print while dampening the noise… good times. This PC with its CRT monitor stood alone in a locked room, and the accountant was probably the admin as well.

232599643As businesses began to recognize how efficient computers could be, software developed around business needs. More computers entered the office.

The network grew and spilled out across businesses everywhere; a bit like Audrey II in “The Little Shop of Horrors”. (Yes, another 80s reference… I was there, so get over it!) For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about; Google “Feed me Seymour!” (or just click on this link… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7SkrYF8lCU)

As this happened, the need for central management became greater and the Network Administrator role was born. Since all the computers were on the same LAN (local area network), services such as Patch Management, Antivirus, Security and PC Health Monitoring were manageable. Challenging yes, but manageable. Active Directory was the Network Admin’s new best friend.

Evolution is inevitable. High Speed Internet paved the way for remote networks. Once again we have an office with one computer, however the paradigm has changed somewhat. That one computer can be anywhere. People are working from home, from coffee shops, in the airport, anywhere they can connect to the Internet.

Sure, the computers are still under the care of an Administrator (probably you) but they seldom make it back to the office. Software updates – those annoying little pop-ups – are promptly ignored, and virus scans cancelled. When the computer is finally handed over it is often in such sad shape it can take days to be made ready for use again.

Today’s admin must keep his network safe as every computer is exposed to the entire world as soon as it connects to the Internet. A multi-level approach to Internet security would involve not just antivirus, but content filtering and most importantly patch management.

With the rising need for security, the requirement of keeping computers healthy has not gone away. Admins need quick access to things like process manager and service manager, event logs, drive space monitoring, etc. Keeping the pulse of your computers with regular “checkups” is essential to avoid unnecessary down time.

And what do you do at those times when you simply need to sit on the user’s machine and see the problem for yourself? Or even assist a user with something as easy as document management, or a stubborn spreadsheet that just won’t cooperate?

The same innovation that “caused” the problem can become an amazing ally. What do all these systems have in common? The Internet. Therefore a solution that can take advantage of that Internet connection is the obvious way forward. The modern admin must manage all his (or her) machines from the cloud.

In this series we will take a look at the various disciplines essential to keeping a network healthy and safe; how to make the best and most efficient use of the tools available; and what to look for and how to be proactive in our approach.

Look out for my next blog on network health where we will examine system checks, event logs and more!