The rise of network configuration change management tools

A decade or two ago, you probably wouldn't have heard of configuration change management or configuration change management tools because of low demand and close-knit enterprise models. Now, with more enterprises moving toward a distributed model and with business demands and competition skyrocketing, network configuration change management or network configuration change management tools are being heavily sought after.

While it is good to acknowledge the importance of network change management, it should also be noted that config change management has become difficult and complex in the past decade, which is why “good enough” management tools simply won’t help an organization grow its business and align with emerging markets. Roping in the best possible configuration change management tool is essential to fuel revenue and build greater resilience to security threats.

Five boxes your configuration change management tool should tick

A. Configuration change tracking

Documenting and tracking configuration changes in real time with configuration change management not only helps you maintain an account of who has made what kind of change to your network, but it also helps improve troubleshooting and simplifies audit processes.

Let's take a scenario where more than one person is assigned a client project. With one person being the main point of contact, they make configuration changes that involve opening certain gateways, as per the client's requirements. This information is not shared with the other parties involved and can therefore lead to failed implementations if one of the other parties makes changes that can reverse the changes made by the main point of contact. Mishaps like these caused by poor communication can be avoided if there's a tool with network configuration change management in place to capture all the changes made in real time and display them to all personnel assigned to a client project.

B. Configuration versioning

Maintaining a record of configuration changes using network configuration change management will be more beneficial if it is combined with a versioning mechanism. Which is why version control is critical for all IT infrastructure.

For example, an organization expects its network team to keep improving and updating its network to keep up with market requirements. This means IT admins will be required to do a lot of testing by making configuration changes. Changing one aspect of a network is complicated enough. If you make several changes at once, the risks multiply. This is why it is advisable to maintain a stable baseline version with configuration change management and work on adding more versions to it, so that it will be easier to revert to a version that is not error-prone incase of negative outcomes.

C. Compare configurations

Using network config change management, comparing configuration changes will help you get the highest level of efficiency out of versioning configurations.

Let's say there are two configuration versions. One is the baseline and the other one is V9. There are seven different versions with slight modifications between version V9 and the baseline. You make a lot of changes in V9 and you are responsible to document the changes and inform your manager about these changes. So, you need to assess:

  • What changes were done when compared to the baseline configuration.
  • What problems from an older configuration version were solved with the current version?
  • What has been newly added to the current configuration.
  • Where the planned changes implemented in version V9?

It would be a tiring task to manually go through configurations line by line to find the answers for the above questions. Even if you do have a tool that fulfills versioning, it will be quite hectic to put together the data required. This is why your configuration change management tool with configuration change management feature should allow you to compare configurations so you will be able to analyze them more effectively.

D. Configuration control

It is vital to monitor all the changes that take place in your network environment to prevent unauthorized configuration changes. It is a good practice to assign organization-level roles that clearly define who can access what part of your network. This access control mechanism should not stop with merely adding name tags that can tell apart an unauthorized user from an authorized one and preventing access to unauthorized users. A good configuration change management tool must be automated so that it allows IT admins to review configuration changes before they are applied to network devices.

Let's take an example of an intern who joins your organization. They are assigned just the Cisco devices and they start making configuration changes. They get manual approval from the IT admin on all the changes they make, but one change goes unnoticed. This change that the admin missed turns out to be a faulty configuration change, which leads to a network outage.

In a typical scenario like this, an outage could have been avoided if there had been an automatic workflow that notified the IT admin about all the changes made along with means to approve or reject a change before it is applied to the network devices.

E. Configuration change notifications

Network admins who cannot work on-premises might miss out on important configuration changes. In order to avoid this, it is crucial to set up an automatic change notification mechanism with configuration change management, which will help admins stay connected to their network.

Especially with hybrid workforces becoming the norm, network configuration change notifications via mediums like email and SMS can be essential, because they enable you to check what's happening in your network by simply scrolling through your phone.

How change management works in Network Configuration Manager

Network Configuration Manager, also called as network configuration change management tool or network configuration change management software, with network configuration change management, provides an efficient configuration change management mechanism to keep you updated on all the changes made in your network. Using this feature, you can:

  • See all the changes made in your network, along with the exact date and time of each change.
  • Revert undesirable changes to previous versions or baseline versions if new changes are found to be faulty.
  • Spot changes between the latest configuration version and previous versions using Diff View.
  • Assign user roles and scope for reviewing changes, which can be vital in a multi-user network environment.
  • Get real-time change notifications in the form of emails, syslog messages, SNMP traps, or trouble tickets.

Learn more about configuration change management. Or, if you'd like to try Network Configuration Manager yourself, download a free, 30-day trial.