Effective Path Management

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There are many factors to take into consideration when designing systems and networks for effective path management. The process begins with making sure you’re looking at it from the proper perspective.



“You have to start by taking a look at the big picture and figuring out what your goals are as far, as what the project is going to complete, and then you have to look at your parties that are involved,” said Brian Epstein, Institute for Advanced Study network and security officer. “Once you have that information, you can take a look at your individual logical areas that you’re moving the information from and start looking at the actual protocols involved.”



Epstein holds several certifications, including (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional and Sun Solaris Certified Systems Administrator, and was he a U.S. recipient of the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) of the Year Award in 2006. He’s served also in systems, network and database administration in a range of programming formats and capacities.



A crucial step in establishing path management protocols is proper documentation, Epstein said.



“You can have something very technically elegant, but for every communication path, you have somebody who’s transmitting and somebody who’s receiving, and if you don’t document how you’re transmitting, the receiver’s not going to know what to do with the data,” Epstein said. “So, documentation is key if you want it to be an effective process.”



Determining an acceptable failure rate depends on the industry being served and the pathway being managed.



“If I’m in a medical community, and I’m transferring medical data that could have the potential of affecting somebody’s life, I need a transfer rate with extremely low to no errors,” Epstein said. “Whereas in, for example, VoIP (voice-over Internet protocol), if I lose 25 percent of my packets, and I can still make out the other person’s voice and have a conversation, then it’s not as critical. You need make sure that the availability, integrity and confidentiality are there, and it makes sense with your business plan.”



In terms of managing scalability within system and network pathways, time is an important consideration.



“One of the things you need to define is the scope of the project, and you want to take a look at where that project is going to be in five years,” Epstein said. “So, scalability should be involved in any project plan as far as, ‘Will this communication be able to support when we have twice as many customers next year, or at that time, can we just keep adding more of what we’ve already developed, or do we have to develop something totally different?’”



Establishing system and network needs with respect to scalability, then, involves effective communication within an organization about the expectations of these pathways. Epstein said such personal communication should be the first step to effective path management.



“You’ve got to hash out the human element before you can hash out the technical element,” he said. “For example, you’re setting up a project that gets data A from point B to point C. You need effective communication with all the parties involved in order to make that an effective pathway for your information to go down. There needs to be good communication about the technical methods being used.”



This will help a technical group quickly resolve issues such as proper formatting of data packets. In this sense, the challenge of establishing effective path management exists within the technical and the human realm. Resolution occurs in each concurrently.



“Effective path management, when specifically talking in the realm of networking, is making sure that the network is set up correctly, so all your network traffic goes down the correct path,” Epstein said. “But it expands to more than just your network — to communication paths within your company.”

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