All network managers are managing changes in their organization all the time. People come and go, access and security details change, and new hardware and software is being installed on a frequent basis. Most of us manage change on an ad hoc basis, perhaps documenting changes as we go – definitely not a best practice approach. It is better to create a set of policies and procedures that formalize change into a process that can be managed. Software that offers automated solutions for managing change in your organization often include the following features:
- Device discovery, enumeration, and documentation
- Inventory management
- A historical log of all changes made to your network and network devices
- Policy creation and management engine that controls who can make changes, when those changes can be made, and the rate of change.
- Software licensing
Your planning process should create a set of results and effects of any change along with an assessment of the risks involved. Risk mitigation is an important part of the change management methodology. You should also have a plan in place to roll back any change should the result not be what you wanted. For example, you should have a copy of your router tables in case they get corrupted in an upgrade. This methodology should also evaluate the level of benefit achieved; reducing high-risk low benefit changes while stressing low risk high benefit ones. The principle goal is to avoid risk, and mitigate recovery.
Your management policy should include a protocol for all administrators to follow. Depending upon your management structure you may want to have each major change documented and approved by a senior technical manager/and or business manager; and emergency changes should be signed off on by a couple of senior managers. Minor changes might only require a more junior level permission, and -- for certain operations -- a system for simply documenting the change may be sufficient.
Here are three resources for you to read to learn more about change management:
- The University of Kentucky's Change Control FAQ.
- Cisco System's white paper.
- Alterpoint's RealTime Publishing's eBook.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.