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2020 was a tough year all round. For IT, budgets got tightened and many investment plans went out the window as teams scrabbled around to enable new swathes of people to work from home. Naturally, enterprise networks didn’t escape the scrutiny, so countless upgrades and refreshes have been stalled or postponed altogether. The result is that many organisations are now sweating or intending to sweat network assets for longer periods of time than they originally anticipated, plus are looking for new ways to manage their networks more efficiently to a smaller budget. It’s a challenge that comes with some important lifecycle considerations in order to be successful.


  1. Network estate visibility

The funny thing is the first challenge isn’t really new and is actually important whether you’re looking to sweat your network assets for longer or not. The problem with the average IT network is the number of switches, LANs, routers, gateways, and access points that need to be accounted for and managed. Even a relatively small campus network could run into many dozens of devices. Multiply that across different branches and a HQ and that’s a lot of network equipment to tend. Simply discovering what you’ve got becomes a headache. It doesn’t end there though, End of Support and End of Life dates for individual network devices also come into play and could impact your strategy or even put your network at risk because software updates are no longer available for example.


No one is going to feel a sense of joy contemplating a stock-take of your equipment, but it’s probably the most important task you can undertake if you’re looking to save money on the operation of your network. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to involve lots of heavy lifting, there are many tools that can assist in sniffing out what you have and do much of the hard work for you.


  1. Management overheads

It’s no good sweating assets longer and saving money on the one hand and then on the other creating a bigger administration burden. Of course, older devices have a higher propensity to fail which can also rack up time troubleshooting, not to mention the fallout for users who may lose connectivity when they’re offline. Getting ahead of these issues by monitoring devices is a good place to start. Alerts can inform you of all sorts of remedial actions from patching to device health. The right tools will also help craft policies that can automate some of the tasks that might otherwise be conducted manually and help you scale your resources and protect your time.


  1. Maintaining network OS will keep you secure

One of the biggest security gaps organisations face results from not keeping network device operating systems (OS) up to date. A seemingly simple task, but it gets overlooked in the most part because the OS just works. But in truth, the longer a network goes without upgrades and attention, the more exploits it may become vulnerable to. We’ve seen the threat against the network OS grow substantially in recent years, however, fears over inadvertent network downtime making OS updates often deter people from changing something that on the face of it seems fine. It’s important to look at these updates not just as a defensive strategy, but a proactive one too that will keep you ahead of the latest threats. Make sure you listen to the alerts and reminders coming out of your network assets and be sure to make time to see necessary updates through.


  1. Equipment replacement strategies

Sweating assets over a longer lifespan doesn’t mean you’re not going to have to buy new equipment. Inevitably, devices will go wrong, or you’ll need different technology to enable new functionality during your extended management horizon. Operating your network to a keener budget means being more resourceful in how you go about sourcing the new technology you may need. One approach well worth exploring is refreshed technology. This is remanufactured technology that has gone through meticulous inspection, cleaning and packing by the OEM. Sometimes, the products have never even been used and are available at a fraction of the cost of buying new. It’s not uncommon to pay as much as 70% less for a refreshed product versus new. And it won’t be yesterday’s technology either before you ask. Even better, if your company is on a path to social good, you’ll be doing your bit for the planet too, by saving on resource inputs, waste, emissions and energy leakage.


The short of it is this: extending the lifespan of your network assets is more than achievable for most organisations by addressing some or all the points raised in this article. There are many tools to assist you along the way, but on the whole network devices are robust items of equipment that if monitored and managed properly can continue to offer reliable service long beyond your normal refresh cycle. In fact, Cistor has even created some services we call Smart LIFESPAN to meet exactly this need. Smart LIFESPAN helps you maximise your investment in your existing technology by offering a unique network inventory database, proactive protection, and key insight into usage trends. With four different tiers to choose from depending on your needs, it ensures your network devices get the treatment they deserve. To read the service overview and learn more, click here.

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