Most of us are aware that IP addresses exist, though we may not have a full understanding of why they’re important or how they can change. If you want your organization’s network to perform optimally and securely, it’s important to understand the basics of IP address management (IPAM).
So what exactly is IPAM and how does it work?
What Is IP Addressing?
An IP address is a unique “address” that serves to identify an individual device on the internet and/or on a local network. This is a totally numerical label, such as 192.0.2.1. You can think of it as functioning much like a house address; it’s a unique identifier that distinguishes a property, allowing it to be individually identified while also allowing information (such as mail) to be sent to and from this location.
In the context of a network, a device’s IP address identifies the host in a way that enables it to be quickly routed.
IP addressing is a straightforward system that logically assigns addresses to devices on your IP network. You might think this is a simple matter, but it can become complicated quickly. Over time, you’ll need to change and update addresses, delete addresses for devices that leave the network, and troubleshoot potential conflicts and issues. You’ll also need to set up subnets, designate addresses for specific types of applications, and revise your standards as necessary. And all the complexities of these responsibilities are magnified when you’re running a network with tens of thousands of individual devices.
That’s just one reason why IPAM is so important.
The Elements of IPAM
IPAM involves several aspects of IP address management:
- Assigning. IPAM should involve instructions for how IP addresses are created and assigned. There should be a clear, logical set of rules in place to assign sensible IP addresses to every new node on the network.
- Tracking. There also needs to be a system in place for tracking IP addresses. It’s not enough to uniquely identify every device on the network; you also need some transparency so you can track down and remedy specific issues that arise.
- Managing. As the name suggests, IP address management also requires you to actively manage these addresses. Preventing and resolving conflicts, troubleshooting issues, and dealing with new complexities as your organization scales are all important.
Ultimately, these management practices should:
- Reduce errors and conflicts. Ideally, a streamlined approach to IP address assignment and management should reduce errors and conflicts. You won’t have to worry about duplicate IP addresses, and you should run into fewer headaches overall.
- Save time. Better IP address management should allow you to save time, since it prevents many issues and facilitates quicker troubleshooting. With automation, you can save even more time.
- Save money. Saving time automatically means saving money. But you also need to think about the additional money you’ll save by forgoing the need for certain tools and technology upgrades.
- Encourage streamlined productivity. Better IP address management typically leads to a more efficient, more streamlined network. That means greater productivity.
Creating an IPAM Strategy
You’ll need a proactive IPAM strategy in place to practice effective IP address management. These are some tips that can help you do it effectively:
- Choose the right tools. It’s hard to practice IP address management without intuitive, scalable tools in place. Choose the right management tools and the job is instantly going to be easier.
- Choose the right partners. You also need the right people using these tools and leveraging them to implement your IPAM strategy.
- Create a scalable system. Scalability is the name of the game. Don’t come up with a management strategy that only works for an organization of your size; create one that can easily grow with your organization.
- Centralize your information. Your information needs to be centralized and treated as a single source of truth. This way, there’s no ambiguity and no room for conflicts to emerge.
- Integrate with DNS and DHCP. You should integrate your IPAM solution with DNS (Domain Name System) and DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) servers. This way, your DNS records will automatically update whenever your IP addresses change.
- Automate everything you can. Automation saves you time, saves you money, and reduces the possibility of human error. Accordingly, your IP address management strategy should be as automated as possible.
- Conduct regular audits. Conduct regular audits to review your IPAM strategies (and make adjustments if and when necessary).
- Create backups and a disaster recovery plan. Always create backups of your IP information – and have a disaster recovery plan in place so you can restore those backups quickly.
With better IP address management, your network can perform better and you’ll see far fewer issues. This is a proactive investment that’s worth making for almost any organization, but it’s absolutely indispensable for large organizations that are interested in future growth.