As a managed services provider (MSP) it is your responsibility to manage and maintain not only the endpoints on your clients’ networks but also the networks themselves. This may not be terribly important for very small businesses, especially if they are just starting out. However, as your clients grow and add things like VOIP and guest WIFI, the need to optimize and maintain network performance becomes increasingly important. In addition to this, as clients increase their usage of cloud services for their line of business software, ISP connectivity is critical. There are some of us who still remember when loss of internet was not a priority-one emergency—today, it is perhaps the single most important thing for any size business.
So what do you need to look at?
Reliability is perhaps the most important function of the network. It is also one of the most ignored. Networks today are usually super reliable and that causes two things to happen. First, we tend to forget about them until a problem arises and causes an outage. Second, performance slips over time, causing frustration and lost productivity for your client.
Outages can be caused by several things, but here are the ones to look for:
Faulty switches and routers can begin to slow down or lock up intermittently. The sooner you recognize this as the early stages of a permanent failure the better.
Issues between the client and their ISP can also degrade over time. Monitoring the connection quality between your client’s perimeter device and the ISP can predict failure as well.
During the lifecycle of a network, devices are added and shifted across the network. Making sure that devices are distributed correctly across switches and VLANs can significantly increase performance. Monitoring the bandwidth and health of your network devices can help you find these issues and make the proper corrections.
Network efficiency, while not as important as reliability, can make a big difference in your clients’ productivity. One of the biggest problems with putting your clients’ critical software applications in the cloud is that without the proper bandwidth, applications can slow to a crawl and cause huge losses in employee productivity. Monitoring availability as well as speed and latency between your clients’ networks and their cloud services is essential for maintaining optimal performance and availability of those services. In addition, the advent of VOIP in the workplace has generated a need to prioritize certain network traffic internally as well as externally. Without monitoring this prioritization, your clients could end up frustrated with dropped calls.
Last but certainly not least, regular network maintenance is how many security issues are prevented—and sometimes discovered. All your routers, switches, and all non-workstation/server devices are, themselves, small computers. Those devices contain firmware that must be updated and maintained. It is also wise to make sure that passwords, just like for users, are changed on a regular basis. In addition to updates, simply making sure that there are no unknown devices connected to your clients’ networks is important. These devices can be as innocent as a WIFI-enabled toy, but because they contain mini web servers that can be hijacked by malicious attackers, they need to be found and placed in a secure place on the network.
There are many tools we can use in our RMM toolkits to monitor your clients’ networks, but using that data to perform scheduled maintenance to prevent outages and performance issues is at the core of what an MSP is meant to do. By evaluating their networks for reliability, efficiency, and security, you can help keep your customers happy and safe while also contributing to their bottom line.
Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP
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