Once your network is designed, installed and your users are happy, you next need to setup tools to keep an eye on things. There are many Network management tools available to provide us with the means to analyze what’s happening on the network. There are also a whole lot of things that need analyzing on the network.
Believe it or not one of the bigger issues that network engineers often fail to make sure is getting done correctly are backups. As fundamental as it may seem, the first thing that every engineer needs to make sure of, either when you first get to a new job or immediately after getting a new network active, is backups. Are backups of all your configurations being done every night? Are you able to be alerted to changes in the configuration files of your devices and when they have occurred?
Current Sarbanes Oxley legislation (or SOX) now requires that many I.T. shops keep track of changes to critical network devices and be able to show when and why these changes happened. The good news is that there are some really great tools available to get this job done right and better yet, many are free or aren’t too expensive.
A lot of engineers haven’t heard of RANCID (Really Awesome Network Config Differ). This free linux command line tool is awesome for managing your backups. It is a linux based tool, so some of you windows folks may not be comfortable working with it.
Rancid’s main purpose is to monitor network device configuration, software, and hardware and keep a log of changes. It will email you a report daily (or on any schedule for that matter) of changes that have occurred. In its reports it does a great job of making sure any passwords are removed, it included the line previous to the change, the changed line, and the line after the change. One of the handy things with Rancid and the fact that it runs on linux is that you can easily grep for anything in any config across all of your files.
Something that I didnt know that was included with RANCID is a built in looking glass for troubleshooting bgp issues. This looking glass is that same application used by nitrous.digex.net (for any of you old guys that remember that). RANCID comes with support for any command line driven network device as well as:
- Cisco (IOS and Catalyst)
- HP Procurv
One final thing about RANCID if you don’t have a linux server to run it. RANCID runs great on Windows if you have CYGWIN to emulate a unix environment on Windows.
For those who don’t like to mess with command, dont have access to a linux server or just plain like to do things right out of Windows – Kiwi Cattools is a great tools for doing network backups. Kiwi Cattools enables you to:
- Manage configurations from your desktop for network devices, including routers, switches and firewalls
- Schedule backups and changes
- Create reports based on port, MAC, IP and version details.
- Send email alerts and reports of configuration changes.
- Compare historical configuration files against the current config.
- Compare startup and running configs of a device.
I’ve used Kiwi Cattools most of my network career and really love how simple and easy it is to get it installed and my configs backed up. It’s the fastest way I know to get all my network devices on a regular schedule of backups while providing a great email report of what was backed up, what failed, and what changed.