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By now, we’re all fairly aware that the ongoing crisis has changed the way people work. Businesses around the globe have adopted the remote working model. Many jobs today are compatible with remote working, with business-critical applications readily accessible through the internet. However, not all applications deployed in an organization are available through the internet. Some of them are available only on the business’ LAN due to security concerns.

Access to such applications can be established using a virtual private network (VPN). Although a VPN can give users secure access to the resources they typically use while working from the office, its functioning largely relies on how deftly the network admins have configured it.

This change in how users connect to the corporate network to access applications will affect bandwidth consumption. To accommodate these new bandwidth requirements, businesses might have to disable access to some services through the VPN. Implementing a change like this to the network would require network admins to reconfigure network devices manually, but manually changing network configurations can be tricky, as a single faulty configuration could cause a network outage and bring all business-critical services down.

Also, since devices that are not within the business premises are connected to the network, firewall rules need to be modified to control inbound and outbound traffic. But if these rules aren’t properly analyzed, they could turn into potential security threats.

Let’s discuss how network configuration and firewall rule changes can impact your network, and how to reduce the chances of experiencing a network disaster.

 1. Network configuration management

What happens when uploading faulty configurations?

When faulty configurations are uploaded to network devices, they can cause disasters ranging from performance degradation to a full-blown network outage or data breach. Business continuity would take a hit, with critical services rendered inaccessible.

If there are no available records of changes made, manually identifying the root cause and troubleshooting can be time consuming. But with change tracking technology, the time taken to identify faults and restore networks can be substantially reduced.

Why is configuration change tracking important?

Even before this sudden shift to work-from-home environments, network admins made frequent network device configuration changes to serve different business needs. In times like these, however, where remote work is increasingly being adopted, network admins are making more changes than ever.

In such cases, network admins need to maintain a record of all configuration changes made, when they were made, and who made them. Maintaining a history of configuration changes will help identify the root cause of an issue whenever one pops up.

What is the best way to manage configuration changes?

In larger networks with multiple network admins or operators, it’s crucial to have a change management mechanism in place. This keeps admins notified whenever a user makes configuration changes. Additionally, this would enable the admin to take complete control over what configuration changes are made to the network.

Another important aspect of change management is a rollback mechanism. In many businesses, network admins may have a group of network devices they’d prefer to keep untouched. Those devices might be mission-critical firewalls or routers, and any changes made to these devices may leave the organization vulnerable to data breaches or network outages. For such devices, admins need a strict rollback mechanism in place to immediately revert any unwanted changes.

Apart from these two key functions, network admins also need complete control over user access. Admins need to be able to restrict users’ access to network devices, so they can only make configuration changes in certain devices. This can help admins organize their networks better and reduce the chances of the entire network going down due to a single manual error.

Today, many businesses make changes to network device configurations using consoles like Telnet or PuTTY. While these consoles are quite simple to use, they lack the critical configuration change management capabilities. Since we’ve already discussed how faulty changes can bring down an entire network, a tool with end-to-end configuration management capabilities is vital to a stable network.

2. Firewall rule management

 How do you manage your firewall rules?

Firewall rules are usually modified for performance optimization or to comply with certain industry standards. And just like the sharp increase in the number of configuration changes due to the current work-from-home scenario, there’s been an increase in firewall rule changes as well.

Since firewalls are virtually stationed at the outer perimeters of a network, all firewall rule changes must go through strict screening and analysis. This includes documenting all existing rules and the changes made to them, and then analyzing them for anomalies.

Apart from anomalies in rules, which could pose potential threats to the network, network admins will also have to identify unused rules and interfaces. They have to be deactivated promptly to ensure attackers can’t leverage them and infiltrate the network.

 Manually performing an audit of all firewall rules and implementing changes is somewhat manageable on small networks. But in larger networks with multiple firewalls to manage, manual analysis and operation will be too time consuming. Using tools that offer rule management and impact analysis capabilities, admins can understand the possible outcomes of a rule change and make appropriate decisions quickly.

Network admins need to ensure that the tools they choose for their network configuration and firewall management requirements come with approval-based change capabilities. This will ensure that when a network user tries to make a network configuration or firewall rule change, it is sent as a request to the network admin instead of implemented immediately.

This gives admins the chance to review the proposed changes and choose to approve or reject them accordingly, reducing the chances of an erroneous configuration or rule being uploaded to network devices. Also, network admins should check if the changes applied to network configurations and firewall rules comply with industry standards and internal policies. To ensure this, the tools they adopt should offer compliance management capabilities.

ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager and ManageEngine Firewall Analyzer are tools that can help network admins address their network configuration and rule management concerns respectively. Take complete control over what happens in your network with the advanced visibility these solutions have to offer. You can download and try them free for 30 days.

Start your free trial of Network Configuration Manager and Firewall Analyzer now!

Apart from configuration management and firewall log analysis, ITOM also has solutions to streamline network monitoringserver monitoringapplication monitoringbandwidth monitoring, IP address management and switch port management. Truly, this makes ITOM solutions an ideal choice for over 1 million IT admins, worldwide.

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