The Benefits of Network Automation – Cost Savings, Time Efficiency, and More
Network automation is the process of executing network management tasks without the need for manual intervention. This enables businesses to reduce overhead while improving operational efficiency and reliability. The transition to network automation can be gradual, and even moderately modern networks can leap to fully automated processes. Start with network discovery and monitoring, then move into more complex tasks like backups and configuration changes.
One of the main benefits of network automation is cost savings. Manual processes are costly, and even minor mistakes can add up over time. Having software take over routine tasks allows engineers to allocate their efforts elsewhere. This can free up resources to work on other projects or reduce staffing needs, resulting in significant savings for the business. For example, imagine you have 1,000 locations nationwide and three networking engineers on your team. Making a simple change to all these sites manually is a huge undertaking that could take up an entire week. What is network automation? Network automation can streamline this process and enable implementation changes at scale with less effort and cost. Standardizing configurations with templates and scripts can also lower costs and improve efficiency. This reduces the likelihood of errors and creates consistency throughout the network. Additionally, using version control systems to manage the scripts and templates can make reverting to previous versions quickly if necessary. Thoroughly testing and monitoring changes in a non-production environment can ensure they do not have unintended consequences or impact network performance. Networking automation can also perform backups and restores of switch and router configurations at scheduled intervals or when a change is made to the network. This can save valuable time restoring a network after an outage or implementing new services.
Many network teams need more time and resources to manage their networks. It can be easy for critical, time-sensitive tasks to fall through the cracks, leading to problems that could be costly or even put your company at risk. When you automate routine network management tasks, you free up time and resources for your team to focus on more important work. This allows you to achieve business goals more quickly and save on operating costs by reducing processes, eliminating redundant work, and reducing power consumption by cycling devices off when not in use. For example, many small businesses manually rely on IT teams to perform network adds, moves, and changes. These manual processes are very labor-intensive and can often cause unexpected issues that require additional time to resolve. However, when you implement network automation, these changes are made faster and with fewer errors. Many teams must prepare to take the plunge with full-fledged, zero-touch automation. This is why it’s best to start with some network automation processes, such as automated discovery and network monitoring. Once these are in place, you can begin to understand the benefits of automation and plan how to move forward. Ultimately, the goal is to create a cognitive and intent-based network that can predict future performance, reduce human error and improve network reliability.
Network automation replaces manual processes with software that eliminates human error. Even the most experienced and capable IT staff make mistakes. And when it comes to network management, errors are costly and frustrating. They can affect performance, security, and reliability. In fact, according to one study, human errors account for 80 percent of network failures. Automating repetitive tasks can eliminate many of these mistakes, keeping your network up and running more reliably. However, it’s essential to start small with your network automation efforts. Begin by automating single-use cases, focusing on those that deliver immediate value to the business. For example, you might begin by automating network discovery and mapping, then move on to device configuration changes and backups. Another approach is implementing script-driven network automation, which leverages scripting and programming languages to execute automated workflows. This can work well, but handling the wide range of vendors and devices in modern networks can be challenging. Plus, this type of network automation requires IT to have a deep understanding of multiple programming languages and commands. On the other hand, an agent-based network automation solution can provide you with greater flexibility and scalability by removing vendor-specific requirements. This means you can automate more of your network processes, such as access port turn-ups and turns-downs based on employee onboarding and offboarding information.
When your team is tasked with manual tasks, it can take time to prioritize them. As a result, some lower-value tasks can fall through the cracks and create significant problems. Fortunately, network automation allows your team to efficiently execute routine tasks and reduce the risk of human error. A minor mistake like applying the wrong configuration change to a device or missing a critical patch can lead to service errors and downtime. Network automation tools automatically update and test configurations for consistency and accuracy. This streamlined approach to network maintenance eliminates the chance of human error. It helps keep your team focused on higher-value activities that significantly impact business goals. Of course, implementing network automation takes a lot of work. Ensure you take the time to analyze your current network infrastructure, determine what processes can be automated, and create an action plan that will guide you toward the best possible outcome. This will help you save money, increase efficiency, and reduce the risk of costly mistakes. This, in turn, will improve the reliability of your network. In the end, it’s worth the effort!