Why is Out of Band Management So Important to IT Personnel?

These days, whenever the subject of remote network administration comes up, you’ll often hear the phrase “out of band” used. Most people have a vague idea that “out of band” refers to an alternative means to establish a remote connection with a piece of network equipment, outside of normal network communication. But just what exactly does the term “out of band” mean?

The term “out of band” can actually mean a number of different things, but generally, “out of band” refers to a connection that is established from outside of the normal network. Note however, that there are a couple of different possibilities as to how this connection is established; in most cases, out of band connections are either established via secondary, back-up network or via a dial-up connection.

Most large corporate networks include a main network that is employed by general users, and a secondary, “maintenance” network that the IT department uses to provide access to network devices when the main network has failed or is unavailable. In addition to allowing communication during network downtime, this maintenance network also allows IT personnel to upgrade and access network devices while not taking up bandwidth resources that the main network needs for day-to-day operation.

A dial-up connection can also provide an alternative means for contacting network devices. Dial-up out of band communication is most often used in remote site applications, where it is impossible or impractical to run a network line to a far-off location. Note however, that since standard network authentication and security functions are not available via dial-up, it is vital that dial-up out of band communication includes some consideration to ensure that access to network devices remains secure.

For example, a dial-up out of band connection might rely on a feature such as “dial back security” to protect access. When dial back security is in place, and a user dial in to a device, the device first prompts the user for a password. If a valid password is entered, the device then hangs up, and re-dials the user at phone number that is defined for the user account, and then allows the use to establish a connection.

Once an out of band connection is established, either via maintenance network or dial-up connection, IT personnel can then access troublesome network devices in order to troubleshoot network problems, invoke reboot commands, or issue other commands to correct equipment malfunctions. This eliminates the need for your IT team to make expensive, time consuming trips to remote installation sites, just to correct a problem that could be easily remedied with a flip of a power switch or a two-line command.

It’s easy to see how out of band communication is such an important part of modern network management. The presence of an out of band solution in your network allows you to quickly correct problems with your main network, without the need to actually leave the office in order to do so. An out of band solution ensures that no matter what is going on with your network, you will always have an alternate means to access critical devices in order to correct problems and perform maintenance tasks.

Western Telematic, Inc. (WTI) designs and manufactures remote device management products for IT applications. WTI’s Serial Console Server products, Remote Reboot products, Switched PDU products and A/B Fallback products are engineered to allow you to securely manage and troubleshoot rack equipment in remote locations.

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