Why is Out of Band Management Such an Important Element of Modern Network Administration?

These days, one of the defining forces of the network industry is the need to accomplish as much as possible with the smallest possible number of employees. Throughout the world, most large corporations are doing their best to automate processes that used to require more human attention in order to cut costs, save money and improve overall network service. This means that network administrators are looking for ways to perform routine maintenance and troubleshooting tasks without relying on onsite employees. As a result, the concept of out of band management has become a key concern in minimizing the need for human presence at remote network equipment sites.

Generally speaking, out of band management can be defined as a system that allows access to remote network elements when direct communication via the main network is not available. Out of band management essentially provides an alternative avenue for communication with critical network elements when your main network is down.

There are many different configurations for an out of band management solution. In some cases, the out of band management unit is installed on a secondary maintenance network that is only accessible by tech support personnel and is typically used for firmware upgrades and routine maintenance. In most applications however, when communication via the main network is not available, network administrators can contact the out of band management unit via dial-up modem. Once the administrator has established contact with the out of band management unit, the administrator can then connect to various serial ports on the out of band management unit which are cable-connected to console ports on various network elements at the remote equipment installation site. This provides a secure, effective means to invoke console port command functions on remote devices when the main network is out, without the expense and delay of traveling to the remote network equipment rack in person or shelling out the money for a service call to the remote equipment site when communication via the main network is out of the question.

In addition to providing an alternative means for communication with remote network elements, some out of band management products also include features that can be used to monitor conditions and events at remote network equipment racks. Features such as temperature alarms, ping response monitors, invalid access alarms, power supply stability alarms and lost communication alarms enable network administrators to use the out of band management as a kind of remote pair of eyes and ears, in order to keep better track of environmental status, potential security threats and equipment operating conditions at the remote site without even leaving their office. When alarm functions are employed, some out of band management products include the ability to notify support personnel via email, text message, SNMP Trap or SYSLOG message when potentially harmful conditions are detected at the remote site.

A full-featured out of band management unit, intelligently deployed at a remote equipment rack enables network administrators to cut maintenance and support expenses for remote network equipment sites, while simultaneously providing a much clearer picture of exactly what is going on at the remote site, without the need to station personnel at the site to keep an eye on things. To put this in simple terms, an out of band management unit provides network professionals with two very powerful tools; a means to communicate with remote devices when the main network is not available, and a means to monitor conditions and events at remote equipment racks without permanently stationing support personnel at the remote site.

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