6 Networking Mistakes That Can Cost You Your Job

Networking jobs can be hard to find. Here are 6 mistakes to avoid if you want to keep yours.

By Elizabeth Harrin | Posted Mar 25, 2014
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Gone are the days when IT administrators sat in a dingy basement, pretty much left to their own devices. Today's network professionals have to ensure that they are not just on top of everything, but are seen as on top of everything. Managers demand transparency and are no longer afraid to challenge technical staff, so you’ve got to stay on the ball if you don’t want your job to turn into a vacancy.  Below, we lift the lid on six mistakes that could cost you your position. Is your networking job at risk?

Networking Job Mistake 1: Failing to implement security patches

This sounds obvious, but with the pressures of keeping the day-to-day stuff running, it’s remarkably easy to leave the latest batch of patches until next week. Unfortunately, next week could be too late. When someone breaches the network and makes off with your company records (think Target), your name might not make the papers, but it'll certainly come to management's attention. Network security should be a top priority for you and your team. Make sure everyone takes it seriously.

Do now: Check that your patching is up to date and create a policy to implement new patches immediately and consistently.

Networking Job Mistake 2: Failing to consider interoperability

These days, no one expects you to stay wedded to one vendor. Advancements in interoperability let you select what’s right for your network and ensure it all hangs together. If you don’t take this into account, you could end up with an expensive kit that won’t interface with the rest of your architecture. Alternatively, you might end up having to buy extra elements to join everything up. This adds more cost and potentially shuts the door on some great technology. Your boss won’t thank you for that, so don’t get swayed by a slick sales presentation. Do your homework before committing to any new purchases.

Do now: Review your future procurement plans so you only buy what fits with your existing architecture.

Networking Job Mistake 3: Failing to carry out adequate testing

Testing isn’t the most glamorous part of a network admin’s job. Fail to test, however, and you could find yourself with backups that won't back up or without a working disaster recovery solution. You don’t want to be the one who has to tell the CEO that you can't recover anything from the data center because the backup routine wasn’t working or that you can’t retrieve the network analytics from last month because they were accidentally deleted. Run tests on all elements of the network and work with your colleagues across IT to test everything that depends on that network so that you can all be confident the business will remain operational if the worst happens.

Do now: Test your DR and backup processes for all network components, especially management systems and security tools.

Networking Job Mistake 4: Failing to keep good records

Paperwork can be a dull part of the job. You might think your memory is fine, but can you really recall what protocols you created last year? Or what IP address ranges have already been used? These things need to be recorded. Failure to keep good records results in missing or poor documentation about what you’ve done and how you carry out your basic networking administration tasks. This type of information is essential to avoid reinventing the wheel or making more serious mistakes like reallocating IP addresses and bringing critical systems to a halt. Clear, thorough record-keeping is also important to maintain continuity. When you're off sick or on leave, other team members can keep the business working without interruption. People higher up the ladder might question your professionalism if you don’t maintain adequate records.

Do now: Review what documentation your team already has and put policies in place for documenting common processes and procedures.

Networking Job Mistake 5: Failing to monitor performance

Will it be you on the phone when the Operations Director calls to say that customer service staff can’t do their jobs because the system is so slow? Think about how many sales will be lost due to network downtime or slow performance. If this becomes a regular problem, management may well start to search for someone who can manage the network better than you do. Stay on top of performance monitoring so you can identify issues and analyze root causes quickly (or, better still, prevent slowdowns from happening at all).

Do now: Review your LAN and WAN optimization strategies and the setup of your analytics and monitoring tools.

Networking Job Mistake 6: Failing to understand business pressures

You might think a new configuration management tool is the best use for your networking dollars, but if the business strategy is to adopt BYOD, then endpoint encryption solutions matter more. If you don’t understand your employer's business pressures and management direction, you risk being out of touch with what the business actually wants. When your boss asks you to investigate mobility-enabling solutions, you don’t want to have to confess that you blew your budget on shiny new cables. Failure to support the business strategy can be job-killing

Do now: Build good working relationships with operational business teams to get an understanding of business strategy. Use that understanding to decide how to make your technical plans support business growth.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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