Most UK network outages are caused by not by equipment failure but by human error, according to qualitative research by network services provider Intelliden and, according to Infonetics Research, this can cost £60,000 per hour.

Intelliden found that companies often believed that they had an automated, error-proof approach through the use of templates or scripts. However, as these models are manually inputted, errors are automatically replicated throughout the system, so these companies are equally at risk of experiencing network outages. Intelliden's research also found that the problem of maintaining uptime is exacerbated by the growing complexity of networks.

Enterprise and service provider networks are managed by multiple individuals administering multiple devices -- such as routers, switches, firewalls and optics -- from multiple vendors. With so many silos of different applications performing different functions, organisations have neither visibility nor control over their networks, Intelliden believes, with the problem further compounded as demand for new services continues to grow.

Gartner agrees that the problem of downtime only looks set to increase over the next two years and that, in the US, enterprises engaged in e-business will have lost more than $1 billion in potential revenue as a result of network failures.

"The universal practice of manual configuration renders the network a liability and not an asset," said European VP Ravi Pather,. "For example, our research found that one in every three network changes generates an error. It seems remarkable, but while process and automation are inherent in many IT organisations, when it comes to the network, it’s all manual – with configuration changes made one line at a time, on spreadsheets and 'sticky notes'. This approach is inefficient, cost intensive, and too often results in unnecessary outages.

"The real answer to network downtime doesn’t lie in fault management systems, but in fault prevention: the longer an error is present in the networks the more problems it creates and the more expensive it is to fix," added Pather. As you might expect, Intelliden believes it has a solution. Its Intelliden R-Series software suite links network and IT resources with business priorities, according to the company. It is said to provide identification, analysis and resolution of systems and networking issues that can threaten the availability, security, provisioning and compliancy of business-critical network devices and so offers business continuity via granular control of IP network devices.

More specifically, it notifies users, groups and other applications about device and network changes, while also identifying who did what to the network – where, when and why. Intelliden reckons it can also prevent manual errors and intelligently roll back to an earlier configuration with a few keystrokes. The system gathers information about every device and its configuration, along with the unique features of every level of every operating system on the network and, according to Intelliden, it uses XML Schema Definitions to validate all commands before administrators enter them into the network. Furthermore, the CLI for all devices is presented as a common GUI interface, with the same look and feel for every device, ensuring conformance across the network.

Pather added, "Intelliden created a solution that eliminates network errors at source by importing the information from every single network device – in the case of some IP networks this can run into the thousands – and creating a knowledge database that gives an holistic view of the entire network. Not only are errors eradicated but network managers can enjoy total visibility and control over a zero touch network."