In 2016, it’s hard to imagine a world without computer networks. (Go ahead and try it.)
People under 20 have no memory of life without the Internet, smartphones, and interconnected everything. Even some 30-somethings may be hard pressed to remember what the world was like before being online was as natural a state as breathing.
Entire industries would cease to exist without the Internet. Every business disruption of the last 20 years—from Uber and Airbnb to Facebook and Amazon—wouldn’t have occurred without computer networks.
Even smaller businesses rely on networks day in and day out to sell goods, book appointments, answer customer requests, advertise their services, and collaborate with teammates.
Network value is exploding
Clearly, networks have become an indispensable part of life on planet Earth in the 21st century. But just how much is a network worth?
Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users or endpoints. As more nodes are added to the network, the value of that network rises.
Consider then the Internet of Things and the massive number of objects that are being connected. By Gartner’s estimates, 5.5 million new objects are added to global networks every day. In a just a few years, nearly 21 billion devices will come online.
Under Metcalfe’s Law, the expansion of the IoT means the value of networks is growing exponentially.
Network downtime is increasingly expensive
Another way to look at the value of a network is to consider the cost when the network goes down. We don’t have to look far for recent examples.
In July 2016, a malfunctioning router took down systems for Southwest Airlines, cancelling 2,300 flights. The company is estimated to have lost tens of millions of dollars in the days it took the network to come back up. That’s not including the cost to the brand from thousands of angry customers, the hit to Southwest’s stock price, and the calls for the CEO’s resignation.
True, we’re not all Google and Southwest Airlines. But when you rely on a network to get things done, downtime hurts no matter how big or small the business. The average is $5,600 lost per minute of network downtime.
The network is a change catalyst
Beyond keeping the lights on (sometimes literally), the network is also the key to business success. Any industry breakthroughs we’ll see in the coming years will have digitization at their core.
“The most successful companies … establish a high level of digitization. The more digital an organization is, the more likely it is to pull away from its peers and be a leader in its industry,” says a 2016 report from ZK Research.
Yet here’s where we start to see problems. “In 2015, businesses spent $12 billion on technology to increase the level of IT agility and evolve into a digital organization. However the network has yet to evolve,” the report says.
“Virtualization, the cloud, mobility and IoT enable … agility—but in most organizations, the network remains as inflexible and static as ever.”
The complexity of modern networks makes them difficult to manage effectively. According to ZK Research, it takes businesses an average of four months to implement network changes. That’s “far too slow for the digital era.” Operational expenses have also grown, increasing 300 percent over the past decade.
Network managers are network champions
As keepers of the network, network admins have a huge role to play in enabling business transformation. Don’t underestimate the importance of the work you do in helping to keep networks running smoothly, and evolving those networks for maximum business agility.
Think of it this way: If our planet relies on networks and you manage those networks, you are literally affecting the world. You are champions, doing your part to secure, maintain, and advance the engines that keep everything running.
The network is valuable—and that makes you indispensable.