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Chapter 13: LAN Maintenance

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Chapter 13: LAN Maintenance. Documentation. Document your LAN so that you have a record of equipment location and configuration. Documentation should include network maps, configuration information, and baseline performance data.

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Documentation
  • Document your LAN so that you have a record of equipment location and configuration. Documentation should include network maps, configuration information, and baseline performance data.
  • You should be able to easily locate which switch port a particular network point corresponds to. Remember to remove the patch cable from the switch if a network point is no longer in use.
  • You should be aware of which hardware device drivers are required for computers. Download and store device drivers somewhere safe, so that they are easily accessible when needed.
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Baselines
  • Monitor server performance during normal working hours.
  • What is the average processor usage?
  • What is the average disk read/write activity?
  • Monitor network performance during normal hours.
  • What percentage of the network bandwidth is being used?
  • What percentage of traffic on the network is broadcast frames as opposed to unicast frames?
  • Keep these statistics and refer back to them regularly. If necessary, you can use historical trends (for example: increasing use of network bandwidth over time) as a convincing argument to management for new equipment purchases.
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Data Retention Policies
  • When designing a data retention policy, you should address the following questions.
  • How long should your company store e-mail?
  • In legal cases, past e-mail can be subpoenaed. Many organizations now have a policy where by e-mail is deleted after a certain amount of time from the mail server.
  • Should your organization keep archival backups?
  • How long should files that are no longer accessed be kept before they are deleted from your file server’s HDD?
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Patch Management
  • Vendors regularly produce updates, hotfixes, and service packs for operating systems.
  • These updates should be tested in a limited environment before they are deployed to all computers on the LAN. It might be that a particular update has undocumented side effects that render a system unusable.
  • Monitor vendor security bulletins for information about issues that might influence the computers on your LAN.
  • Balance the need to update regularly with the impact on users of constantly updating computers with new fixes.
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Windows Update Services

Microsoft’s freely available Windows Update Services allow a single server on the LAN to distribute patches to all computers on the network. This reduces network traffic as a patch needs to be downloaded from the Internet only once, rather than to each specific computer.

patch deployed many times across LAN

patch downloaded once

From Internet

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Create Images
  • Disk imaging software allows you to create an exact copy of an operating system and all of its installed applications.
  • Rather than attempting to troubleshoot a computer that has a mysterious fault, you can simply re-image it back to default configuration.
  • When using imaged computers, ensure that users store all their data on file servers.
  • If using Windows operating systems, remember that you will need to alter the unique SID using a utility like newsid before you can join the computer to the domain.
  • Windows XP introduces restore points, which allows you to roll back an operating system to a previous point in time.
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SNMP
  • Simple Network Management Protocol can be used to monitor and manage network components, from routers to servers.
  • An SNMP agent resides on a host and gathers information.
  • An SNMP management application polls SNMP agents and collates the information for analysis and alerts.
  • SNMP management applications can be configured to send an e-mail alert or even to SMS a mobile phone in the event of a network failure.
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Summary
  • You should keep up-to-date documentation of your organization’s network map, baseline performance, and hardware configuration.
  • A baseline should include both server and network performance.
  • You should keep up to date on hotfixes and patches. Test them on a small group of computers before deploying them to all hosts on the LAN.
  • Centralized patch management allows you to deploy patches centrally, rather than manually installing them on each computer.
  • Disk images allow you to quickly restore a corrupted operating system.
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Discussion Questions
  • What statistics should you monitor when generating a baseline?
  • What advantages are there to using centralized patch management such as Windows Update Services?
  • What advantages are there to using disk imaging?
  • What is the difference between an SNMP agent and an SNMP management application?
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