Security, Maintenance Top IT Pros Networking Concerns

In a 24-by-7 world, the window for fixing problems--or applying patches to prevent problems--is getting increasingly smaller

Several members of eWeeks Corporate Partner Advisory Board recently met with eWeek Technology Editor Peter Coffee for a Roundtable discussion about the corporate network. Security and reliability topped both priority and challenge lists, especially as the window for maintenance gets increasingly smaller or even nonexistent.

eWeek: Whats the biggest issue relating to your corporate network that you are expecting to have to deal with during the next six to 18 months?

Nowicke: Theres something thats kind of outside of my control. I work for the U.S. [District] Court, and our organization has launched a project whereby all of the filings done in the court will be done electronically. As a result of that, were inheriting a product that we had no involvement in designing, and we will be dealing with a lot of electronic images and also electronic transmissions. We dont really know how that is going to impact us.

Weve got some concerns about the fact that, right now, were operating in an 8-by-5 [eight hours, five days a week] world, and well be expected to operate in a 24-by-7 world. From the network side of things, that means we are continuously up and available, and our WAN links are up and available, and we also have a lot of new requirements regarding storage. Not all of the solutions are being presented to us.

eWeek: What do you mean by that?

Nowicke: As far as storage, as far as growth, as far as redundancy. Well be inheriting a new responsibility, but we arent also inheriting all the answers on how to support that responsibility.

eWeek: For example, your current backup procedures wont migrate smoothly to a 24-by-7 environment?

Nowicke: Correct. The types of servers that were going to be getting are very different from the servers that we have right now in the fact that we are expected to be up 24-by-7. We now have maintenance windows during which, after-hours or on the weekends, we can safely take the whole system down and no one is impacted. [Moving forward,] taking the system down at any point in time will impact attorneys who are filing documents electronically. Also, people in our remote sites who have to get to our central server at headquarters will be impacted if any WAN links are down or if we need to do maintenance.

eWeek: Do you think that this kind of network operation may lead you to start looking into outside services for some of your uptime assurance and other quality assurance requirements?

Nowicke: I think it might. One thing thats on the radar right now is having an outside force come in and assess our network and the performance of the network and whether or not well be able to meet the demands that are required for performance and response times.