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Network Change Management: Best Practices for 2024


What is network change management?

Network Change Management (NCM) is the process of planning, testing, and approving changes to a network infrastructure.  The goal is to minimize network disruptions by following standardized procedures for controlled network changes.


NCM, or network configuration and change management (NCCM), is all about staying connected and keeping things in check. When done the right way, it lets IT teams seamlessly roll out and track change requests, and boost the network’s overall performance and safety.


There are 2 main approaches to implementing NCM: manual and automated. 

Manual NCM is a popular choice that’s usually complex and time-consuming. A poor implementation may yield faulty or insecure configurations causing disruptions or potential noncompliance. These setbacks can cause application outages and ultimately need extra work to resolve. 


Fortunately, specialized solutions like the AlgoSec platform and its FireFlow solution exist to address these concerns. With inbuilt intelligent automation, these solutions make NCM easier as they cut out errors and rework usually tied to manual NCM.

The network change management process

The network change management process is a structured approach that organizations use to manage and implement changes to their network infrastructure. When networks are complex with many interdependent systems and components, change needs to be managed carefully to avoid unintended impacts. 


A systematic NCM process is essential to make the required changes promptly, minimize risks associated with network modifications, ensure compliance, and maintain network stability. 


The most effective NCM process leverages an automated NCM solution like the intelligent automation provided by the AlgoSec platform to streamline effort, reduce the risks of redundant changes, and curtail network outages and downtime. The key steps involved in the network change management process are:

Step 1: Security policy development and documentation

  • Creating a comprehensive set of security policies involves identifying the organization’s specific security requirements, relevant regulations, and industry best practices. 
  • These policies and procedures help establish baseline configurations for network devices. They govern how network changes should be performed – from authorization to execution and management.
  • They also document who is responsible for what, how critical systems and information are protected, and how backups are planned. 
  • In this way, they address various aspects of network security and integrity, such as access control, encryption, incident response, and vulnerability management.

Step 2: Change the request

  • A formal change request process streamlines how network changes are requested and approved. Every proposed change is clearly documented, preventing the implementation of ad-hoc or unauthorized changes. 
  • Using an automated tool ensures that every change complies with the regulatory standards relevant to the organization, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, NIST FISMA, etc. 
  • This tool should be able to send automated notifications to relevant stakeholders, such as the Change Advisory Board (CAB), who are required to validate and approve normal and emergency changes (see below).

Step 3: Change Implementation

  • Standard changes – those implemented using a predetermined process, need no validation or testing as they’re already deemed low- or no-risk. Examples include installing a printer or replacing a user’s laptop. These changes can be easily managed, ensuring a smooth transition with minimal disruption to daily operations.
  • On the other hand, normal and emergency changes require testing and validation, as they pose a more significant risk if not implemented correctly. Normal changes, such as adding a new server or migrating from on-premises to the cloud, entail careful planning and execution. 
  • Emergency changes address urgent issues that could introduce risks if not resolved promptly, like failing to install security patches or software upgrades, which may leave networks vulnerable to zero-day exploits and cyberattacks. 
  • Testing uncovers these potential risks, such as network downtime or new vulnerabilities that increase the likelihood of a malware attack.
  • Automated network change management (NCM) solutions streamline simple changes, saving time and effort. For instance, AlgoSec’s firewall policy cleanup solution optimizes changes related to firewall policies, enhancing efficiency.
  • Documenting all implemented changes is vital, as it maintains accountability and service level agreements (SLAs) while providing an audit trail for optimization purposes. The documentation should outline the implementation process, identified risks, and recommended mitigation steps. 
  • Network teams must establish monitoring systems to continuously review performance and flag potential issues during change implementation. They must also set up automated configuration backups for devices like routers and firewalls ensuring that organizations can recover from change errors and avoid expensive downtime. 

Step 4: Troubleshooting and rollbacks

  • Rollback procedures are important because they provide a way to restore the network to its original state (or the last known “good” configuration) if the proposed change could introduce additional risk into the network or deteriorate network performance. 
  • Some automated tools include ready-to-use templates to simplify configuration changes and rollbacks. The best platforms use a tested change approval process that enables organizations to avoid bad, invalid, or risky configuration changes before they can be deployed.
  • Troubleshooting is also part of the NCM process. Teams must be trained in identifying and resolving network issues as they emerge, and in managing any incidents that may result from an implemented change. They must also know how to roll back changes using both automated and manual methods.

Step 5: Network automation and integration

Automated network change management (NCM) solutions streamline and automate key aspects of the change process, such as risk analysis, implementation, validation, and auditing. 


These automated solutions prevent redundant or unauthorized changes, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations before deployment.


Multi-vendor configuration management tools eliminate the guesswork in network configuration and change management. 


They empower IT or network change management teams to:


  • Set real-time alerts to track and monitor every change
  • Detect and prevent unauthorized, rogue, and potentially dangerous changes
  • Document all changes, aiding in SLA tracking and maintaining accountability
  • Provide a comprehensive audit trail for auditors
  • Execute automatic backups after every configuration change
  • Communicate changes to all relevant stakeholders in a common “language”
  • Roll back undesirable changes as needed

AlgoSec’s NCM platform can also be integrated with IT service management (ITSM) and ticketing systems to improve communication and collaboration between various teams such as IT operations and admins.


Infrastructure as code (IaC) offers another way to automate network change management. IaC enables organizations to “codify” their configuration specifications in config files. These configuration templates make it easy to provision, distribute, and manage the network infrastructure while preventing ad-hoc, undocumented, or risky changes.

Risks associated with network change management

Network change management is a necessary aspect of network configuration management. However, it also introduces several risks that organizations should be aware of. 

Network downtime

The primary goal of any change to the network should be to avoid unnecessary downtime. Whenever these network changes fail or throw errors, there’s a high chance of network downtime or general performance. Depending on how long the outage lasts, it usually results in users losing productive time and loss of significant revenue and reputation for the organization. IT service providers may also have to monitor and address potential issues, such as IP address conflicts, firmware upgrades, and device lifecycle management.

Human errors

Manual configuration changes introduce human errors that can result in improper or insecure device configurations. These errors are particularly prevalent in complex or large-scale changes and can increase the risk of unauthorized or rogue changes.

Security issues

Manual network change processes may lead to outdated policies and rulesets, heightening the likelihood of security concerns. These issues expose organizations to significant threats and can cause inconsistent network changes and integration problems that introduce additional security risks. A lack of systematic NCM processes can further increase the risk of security breaches due to weak change control and insufficient oversight of configuration files, potentially allowing rogue changes and exposing organizations to various cyberattacks.

Compliance issues

Poor NCM processes and controls increase the risk of non-compliance with regulatory requirements. This can potentially result in hefty financial penalties and legal liabilities that may affect the organization’s bottom line, reputation, and customer relationships.

Rollback failures and backup issues

Manual rollbacks can be time-consuming and cumbersome, preventing network teams from focusing on higher-value tasks. Additionally, a failure to execute rollbacks properly can lead to prolonged network downtime. It can also lead to unforeseen issues like security flaws and exploits. For network change management to be effective, it’s vital to set up automated backups of network configurations to prevent data loss, prolonged downtime, and slow recovery from outages.

Troubleshooting issues

Inconsistent or incorrect configuration baselines can complicate troubleshooting efforts. These wrong baselines increase the chances of human error, which leads to incorrect configurations and introduces security vulnerabilities into the network.

Simplified network change management with AlgoSec

AlgoSec’s configuration management solution automates and streamlines network management for organizations of all types. It provides visibility into the configuration of every network device and automates many aspects of the NCM process, including change requests, approval workflows, and configuration backups. This enables teams to safely and collaboratively manage changes and efficiently roll back whenever issues or outages arise.


The AlgoSec platform monitors configuration changes in real-time. It also provides compliance assessments and reports for many security standards, thus helping organizations to strengthen and maintain their compliance posture. Additionally, its lifecycle management capabilities simplify the handling of network devices from deployment to retirement.


Vulnerability detection and risk analysis features are also included in AlgoSec’s solution. The platform leverages these features to analyze the potential impact of network changes and highlight possible risks and vulnerabilities. This information enables network teams to control changes and ensure that there are no security gaps in the network.


Click here to request a free demo of AlgoSec’s feature-rich platform and its configuration management tools.


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