A distributed network management system for managing redundant global network control points. The network management system allows candidate control points to determine which is primary and which are alternates, initializes the primary and alternate control points, synchronizes global data, and manages client interaction with the control points. The control points negotiate primary status by establishing a named resource in each processor and by testing for the lowest network address in each active processor. In addition, each client workstation determines which of the candidate control points is primary by interrogation. Client processes detect primary control point failures and switch the alternate control point to primary status.