What Is Network Provisioning?

Network provisioning is the process of setting up a network so that authorized users, devices, and servers can access it. In practice, network provisioning primarily concerns connectivity and security, which means a heavy focus on device and identity management.

What does provisioning mean?

In IT, when something is provisioned, it is ready for use. For example, when a user is successfully connected to Wi-Fi, that user is said to be provisioned with Wi-Fi.

How does network provisioning benefit a business?

When done right, network provisioning can bring enterprises greater efficiency and more secure operations. Network management staff can spend less time on setup and configurations, and business operations become more secure and streamlined.

What are the challenges of network provisioning?

Without automation, the key challenges are related to the growth in the number and variety of devices, the expansion of remote work settings, and the high activity present in today's business networks.

For organizations with many users connected to WANs, many temporary users, or a need to scale up or down rapidly, network provisioning can be very time-consuming.

How does automation improve network provisioning?

With automated provisioning, network management staff spend less time creating and deploying policies, assigning IP addresses, and configuring IP-based devices. Automation can also reduce errors that slow down network performance.

In many cases, the automated provisioning process can be performed by one person instead of a team. Automation tools also help monitor and enhance network optimization as the network grows and changes. The tools provide a record of actions that can later be used to perform system audits.

Types of network provisioning

Server provisioning

To function on a network, a server--cloud-based or on-premises--must first be provisioned with the right data, software, and configuration.

The steps in this process typically include:

  • Installing an operating system, device drivers, and partitioning and setup tools
  • Installing enterprise software and applications
  • Setting parameters such as IP addresses
  • Performing partitioning or installation of virtualization software
  • Connecting to Ethernet and Wi-Fi, if applicable
  • Performing an audit of the system to help ensure no fixes are needed

If the server is cloud-based, these provisioning steps will be done with a web-based interface. ISPs and cloud providers often supply tools to make server provisioning easier, and many vendors offer solutions for automating the server provisioning process.

Device provisioning

Before hardware can be deployed, it must be customized, configured, secured, and verified. While many devices are assigned to specific employees, in enterprise networks, device identity and user identity are always separated. This allows greater flexibility in deploying devices, more detailed device management, and better management of shared devices.

Internet-access provisioning

This process begins by contracting with an ISP to connect and activate an Internet gateway.

Other steps include installing and configuring wireless access points; setting up and securing a cabled or wireless LAN; configuring hardware for firewall software; editing software to accurately include the new LAN; adding the new LAN to network monitoring tools; and testing the systems.

User provisioning

User provisioning involves an organization's IT and human resources departments. When employees are onboarded, promoted, or transferred, they must be provisioned with enterprise identities along with the hardware, software, database access, and other resources relating to their roles.

Just as important is the removal of these items when employees leave the organization.

Note that "users" can refer not just to employees, but also to contractors, partners, vendors, or customers. In other words, "user" refers to anyone who needs dedicated hardware or access to data or applications.