In the last issue of the Network Optimization newsletter, I highlighted a few survey results from IDC and Ipanema Technologies' poll of more than 100 multi-national network managers. The gist of the results was that the WAN is critical to delivering applications for most global businesses.This time I am going to focus less on the survey results and more on what IDC says network managers can do to take control of their network with application traffic management tools, designed to speed WAN performance. The white paper, written and prepared by IDC vice president Pim Bilderbeek in January, details the business challenges, global strategies and operational network challenges that companies with offices in more than one country face.For one, costs drive the need for companies to distribute the operations, manufacturing and other parts of the business around the globe, in turn creating the need for optimal WAN networks. And with such a distributed business model, the network becomes a critical part of supporting the business."The network should be designed to make data, voice and converged communications instantaneous and easy," Bilderbeek states in the report. "The network assures critical business application availability for branch offices, remote offices, mobile employees and teleworkers."Some of the challenges network managers face enabling a distributed operation can be addressed by a few key initiatives, according to this report. To start, organizations should work to provide proactive help desk support. The report says IT professionals need to have tools to detect issues and drill down to determine the cause before users are impacted.Also, network managers need to know what applications traverse the network. Because in a distributed organization it can be difficult to know about all applications firsthand, "administrators should have visibility of application flows over the networks, including service-level tracking and reporting," the report states. Network administrators must also have the capabilities to link network device performance and application flows directly to business process objectives. Bilderbeek also suggests that network managers and application owners create a common language to help them reduce finger pointing regarding performance issues and help get the application performing up to business expectations.Lastly the white paper suggests that the WAN be managed centrally. "Network and application transparency will help network managers to set and manage application performance objectives," the paper states.