Today's IT is challenged on many fronts. First, there's the technical side: BYOD, mobile, and cloud dominate the discussions, and there are still almost as many questions as there are answers to those issues. The budget is also a challenge: most enterprise IT departments report being understaffed as a chronic condition. There are also issues to confront involving network monitoring -- assuring that there are no bottlenecks, that user experience is high-quality, and that any trouble is identified and thwarted immediately. Downtime is the enemy, killing productivity and not doing the IT manager's career a lot of good, either.

In this environment, network support is essential. Good support can provide the network monitoring necessary to be proactive about identifying potential problems and optimizing network resources to assure that user experience is top notch across the board.

Choosing the Right Infrastructure

The nature of the IT infrastructure is changing. No longer are IT departments held hostage to lots of expensive equipment to maintain. Now the cloud offers low-cost options. However, the network has to be improved so that these cloud services can be accessed reliably and quickly by the users.

Most enterprises are still feeling their way when it comes to determining the ideal mix of cloud-based and on-premises IT infrastructure. The cloud offers immense scalability and low-cost storage and applications, while on-premises solutions allow enterprises to retain data ownership and control over the environment, which is a huge benefit for most companies. When something goes wrong and when it's time to discuss the problem, most executives want the person responsible to be under their roof and in their employ.

In the end, businesses are largely opting for a hybrid solution of cloud-based and on-premises storage and applications. That means that the network has to be up to the job of keeping large numbers of users connected to cloud service providers in order to access the applications and databases they need to do their jobs. Network support is essential to assure that business can continue even during peak operational periods and when services are stressed by other factors.

Partnering With the Right Vendors

What vendors will you partner with for things like software applications, hardware systems, and cloud services? Will the vendors' products be compatible with one another? Most importantly, how will these products affect network performance, and how will you monitor that performance to assure that user experience remains high?

Enterprises are also looking for the right vendors to partner with to address the growing needs of IT and new technologies like big data and analytics, BYOD, social networking, mobile access, and more. Open source is becoming quite popular within the enterprise environment, especially when it comes to products like virtualization (where VMware rules) and big data (where Hadoop currently leads). But choosing open source does not always free the business from partnering with vendors.

Consultants and developers that offer add-on products are often necessary for the enterprise to take full advantage of the software. Network support is important for assuring that the hardware, software, monitoring systems, and security systems are working as they should and that they are friendly to and compatible with whatever other products and services the enterprise opts to use.

Improving the End-User Experience

Good network performance is the key to providing a consistently high-quality end-user experience. However, it's not always possible (or even practical) to just slap on more bandwidth to improve performance when the network gets slow or demand becomes greater. That means that network administrators need to be savvier than ever when it comes to optimizing their network performance. Network support helps the network administrator manage the end-user experience so that productivity and performance can be maintained at a high level, even when the infrastructure is under stress.

Virtualization is Scary

Network equipment will be the last to give way to virtualization, but it will happen. Meanwhile, network administrators have to keep up with the connectivity that is required by a growing number of virtualized machines and virtualized databases.

Network support has traditionally included the monitoring and management of physical hardware and systems. Even in enterprises that do not use the cloud or public cloud, virtualization is changing the way that data is stored, the way users access their machines, and the way the entire infrastructure is handled. It's natural for the network administrator to balk when they don't have systems to work with that they can touch and see.

Networks are among the final frontiers when it comes to virtualization. For now, most enterprises are still working with a mixture of the physical networking hardware and banks of virtualized machines dependant on the network. Network support helps network administrators assure that virtualized machines and databases are able to communicate with each other to maintain a high level of productivity.

Wireless Rules

More wireless users means that companies have to find solutions that work for both wired and wireless users. Expect the number of wireless devices to grow, while the numbers of wired devices accessing your network continues to shrink.

Whether the enterprise embraces BYOD or opts for all company-owned mobile devices, the number of actual wired devices used to connect to today's networks is down to about 33 percent. That means that enterprises are ever more dependent on Wi-Fi and wireless networking, and that solutions have to include consideration for both types of connectivity. Faster wireless connectivity speeds are essential, meaning it's time to upgrade to 802.11ac, whether the enterprise is ready to do it or not. The new 802.11ac standard is three times as fast, but the upgrade means that enterprises have to come up with a way to plan, analyze, and troubleshoot the entire mixed network of wired and wireless devices, instead of trying to piece together network support solutions.