How to Perform a Network Audit: A Step-By-Step Guide

As businesses grow, they usually need to scale up their IT networks to accommodate new requirements and deliver a more extensive range of capabilities. Unfortunately, many businesses overlook appropriate management activities, performance optimization needs, and security measures.

As a managed services provider (MSP), it’s part of your job to ensure these things don’t fall through the cracks. This guide will help you explain the importance of network audits to your customers, in addition to providing step-by-step instructions on how to perform them successfully.

What Is network auditing?

Network auditing refers to the process of gathering, analyzing, and studying network data, with the purpose of assessing the network’s health. Network auditing gives businesses insight into how successful their network control and management operations are, particularly regarding both internal and external compliance regulations.

Network auditing typically involves analyzing the following network components:

  • Control implementation
  • Availability
  • Security
  • Management
  • Performance

Why Is network auditing important?

A network audit helps you gain visibility into any potential network issues, allowing them to be rectified before causing downtime or impacting business performance. Network audits and assessments also allow you to achieve the following:

  • Minimize unknown variables within a client network
  • Uncover new revenue opportunities by identifying new potential for selling managed IT services
  • Help compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards
  • Produce concrete and informed plans so you can take action

Undertaking other types of complex audits can help MSPs be more proactive in their efforts to maintain business continuity for their customers. These audits also open the opportunity for MSP companies to propose changes for customers that are likely to improve performance—which can provide added value and increase customer satisfaction.

How to perform a network audit

A network audit entails collecting data, identifying threats and areas of weakness, and compiling a formal audit report. This report is then sent on to network administrators and other relevant parties. A network audit is usually performed by a network analyst, information system auditor, or another individual with a professional background in IT security and network management.

The following steps are typical of a comprehensive network audit:

  1. Record the details of the audit
  2. Document all procedures and processes associated with the audit
  3. Review the procedure management system
  4. Assess the training logs and operations
  5. Confirm the security patches for network software are up-to-date
  6. Confirm the penetration testing policy and process is sufficient
  7. Test the software’s components as comprehensively as possible
  8. Identify any firewall holes
  9. Ensure all sensitive or confidential data is stored separately and securely
  10. Encrypt the hard disks on any company laptops
  11. Check the security of your wireless networks
  12. Scan for and identify any unauthorized access points
  13. Review the event log monitoring process
  14. Compile a comprehensive report
  15. Send the final report to appropriate stakeholders and other key parties

Keep in mind that while a network audit focuses on network security and management, it also reviews the measures and operations that impact network quality of service, network availability, and network performance.

Important network audit parameters

Conducting a network audit is a crucial part of helping ensure the functionality and reliability of the enterprise network. If the network isn’t treated as a priority, it is likely to underperform—which will almost certainly result in unsatisfied customers. The following list guides you through the most important parameters of a network audit. When creating your network audit template, it is key that you include the following processes.

REVIEW YOUR BRING-YOUR-OWN-DEVICE (BYOD) POLICY

In a modern business environment, your employees will almost certainly bring their personal devices into work with them and connect to the network. This can lead to slower speeds, increased demand on bandwidth, and increased vulnerability to potential security threats. As such, managing this practice carefully is essential. That begins with creating clear and informed policies.

Key challenges associated with creating a robust BYOD policy include exposure to unsecured networks, the presence of unknown hardware, and the use of unauthorized third-party programs. By reviewing your BYOD policy, you’ll gain crucial insight into which devices are connecting to your network, the weaknesses associated with each of them, and who’s responsible for each device. This awareness will help you control and reduce network exposure as much as you can.

REVIEW NETWORK CYBERSECURITY VULNERABILITIES

Cybersecurity gaps are vulnerabilities that are prone to exploitation by cybercriminals trying to access your network. These gaps can exist in several places, including your physical surroundings, software, and hardware. Some vulnerabilities can be rectified with minimal effort and time, but detecting and solving most weaknesses will require a professional network audit. Common vulnerabilities include poor password management, personal devices unknowingly connecting to your business network, and outdated patches.

REVIEW BANDWIDTH DEMANDS

Bandwidth is limited, so the way it’s shared among your users should always be carefully considered. Bandwidth usage and distribution monitoring can help you determine whether you need to expand your network. It can also help you determine whether any individual applications or devices are experiencing bandwidth problems that need to be addressed.

When you have a clear understanding of bandwidth usage, you’ll have insight into which applications should and should not be prioritized, as well as where congestion is occurring. Managing your network traffic flow effectively can even help you boost the performance of your network.

To correctly assess bandwidth demand, compare wired and wireless connections, as this will help you spot any bottlenecks. Network security scanning software or network monitoring software can help you gain a full understanding of which network elements you should prioritize.

Getting started with network monitoring software

If your customers are experiencing regular network failure, or you believe the network isn’t performing as it should be, then there’s no better time to undertake a network audit. N-able® RMM is an all-in-one solution that offers network monitoring software to help you efficiently secure, maintain, and improve your customers’ IT systems. The centralized dashboard gives you access to out-of-the-box monitoring templates, patch management, managed antivirus, web protection, data-breach intelligence, and backup and recovery capabilities.

The network security scanning software included in SolarWinds RMM supports and augments network audits by giving your MSP access to the tools necessary to monitor and report on the state of your enterprise network. A 30-day free trial is available here for MSPs interested in learning more.