AN INTRODUCTION TO NETWORK MONITORING.
Network monitoring is an essential requirement for businesses that heavily rely upon IT for day-to-day operations. Many businesses deploy network monitoring as a means of reducing network infrastructure problems, improving network performance and increasing employee productivity. When it comes to ongoing daily operations, network monitoring is a critical part of maintaining the overall health of your internal network.
In this article we will provide you with a general understanding of what network monitoring is, why it is used, how it works, and some of the tools that are used in the process.
WHAT IS NETWORK MONITORING?
Network monitoring is a system that monitors your internal IT infrastructure for potential problems. The system is capable of identifying a large number of specific issues that can effect the overall performance of your network infrastructure. When any issues are detected, a network monitoring system will alert your system administrator or IT services organisation, in addition to providing advanced tools for correcting issues before they become a major problem.
The network monitoring process uses a system that can include a variety of different configurations, including hardware or software solutions or a combination of both. Additionally, a network monitoring solution is capable of overseeing the functions of virtually any type of network including a Local Area Network, Wide Area Network, or Virtual Private Network.
WHAT CAN BE MONITORED?
Network monitoring processes are capable of monitoring systems with a variety of different functions and devices including servers, computers with different operating systems, mobile devices, network routers and switches, firewalls and other system components. The system assists network administrators with identifying network issues and measuring the performance and health status of a network.
This ensures you are protected against internal security threats and you are meeting specific compliance requirements for your industry. A network monitoring solution also helps to create more visibility with daily network operations as well.
It is also important to mention that a network monitoring solution is not the same as an intrusion detection system as the two processes are very different. Network monitoring helps you to keep track of network health status, software updates, bandwidth usage, broken or unreliable network connections, and other issues we mentioned earlier. An intrusion detection system is focused solely on security and specifically designed to identify a network breach by an unauthorised user and utilises a variety of methods to identify a hacking attempt.
ENHANCED NETWORK MANAGEMENT.
Network monitoring solutions are designed to make network management easier and, in most cases, the network can be monitored from one centralised location. This is a significant improvement over antiquated systems that were spread out over multiple areas which made monitoring a network a time consuming task.
In addition to some of the monitoring tasks we mentioned earlier, a network monitoring solution can also help you to plan for future expansion. As the network is monitored, a high end solution will be capable of generating reports and gathering critical data. This information is automatically entered into a database to improve future decision making.
To fully understand the value of network monitoring to network management, you can think of it as paying a visit to your doctor for an annual physical. The doctor is using his or her extensive experience to monitor the performance of various internal organs and parts of your body. During the exam, you are being monitored for any problems while specific data is being collected.
With network monitoring, the same type of activity is being tracked as data passes through network servers and other components. The system then generates the results of specific activities that have occurred during the monitoring process. Monitoring involves server performance, switch and router performance, bandwidth usage, and application performance.
Network monitoring is also used in network management to monitor all traffic that passes through your network. When this occurs, the monitoring process focuses on the resources your employees use the most and includes a variety of devices including smartphones, servers, routers, switches, and desktop devices.
Network monitoring solutions also help to streamline network management using automated tools that do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Automated tools such as those that keep track of devices as they are added to or removed from the network or have had changes in configuration performed somewhere along the way, save time and provide accurate results. The devices are measured according to type, service, IP address, and physical location and are identified through automatic discovery.
Segmentation and categorisation using automated tools can also help you to identify what hardware components, if any, are going unused or if any devices are not performing at their maximum. This will help you to identify potential resource management problems that need to be addressed.
GENERATING DETAILED NETWORK REPORTS.
A network monitoring solution will help you to understand any IT environment, regardless of whether it is simple or complex. Once you have selected what you want to have monitored, the system will help you to make sense of it by generating a detailed report.
The reports can be customised to display specific data you want to see and will help network administrators to solve problems such as dropped email or network connections that are reducing efficiency and identify overloaded devices before they cause your network to crash.
Detailed reports can also help to identify unnecessary and redundant resources which can result in cost savings, measure delays in data transfer, confirm specific compliance standards are being met, and locate any internal traffic that may represent a security threat, identify traffic bottlenecks, and determine if employees are able to be as productive as possible, to name a few specifics.
GAIN A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR IT INFRASTRUCTURE.
Although a network monitoring solution will help to map the topology of your network, once the monitoring process is complete, the network manager must decide what issues should be addressed. When the reports are generated, it can help to answer a lot of questions such as:
- Which applications and operating systems and apps are located on what server? Which ones are necessary and which ones are not?
- Are the servers at maximum capacity or are there wasted resources?
- What resources are being used to manage the system?
- What remote or mobile devices are being used and what is their purpose?
- Where are the remote and mobile devices connecting to the system?
- What new devices are connecting to the system?
These are only a few questions that can be answered by using a network monitoring solution. Depending upon the solution you choose, there are many more questions that can be answered using the intuitive reporting system and database of recorded activities as well.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF NETWORK MONITORING SOLUTIONS.
Network monitoring systems can be deployed as firmware or software. They can also be implemented on the premises or managed externally by a hosted service provider such as ourselves. Additionally, network monitoring systems can be set up as a simple or complex monitoring solution and can be customised according to specific business requirements.
Although there are simple network monitoring tools, the tools that are the most useful are included in the network monitoring solutions that provide comprehensive services. This includes tools that perform both common and complex testing, reports that detail specific problems, and graphing systems that provide a visual summary of network health, as well as specific data related to each device and network wide information on different issues and components.
Many organisations outsource their Network monitoring requirements to a third party vendor like Our IT Department that offers external 24/7 network monitoring services, closely monitoring the key elements of your network infrastructure from a customised dashboard across the internet.
WHY WOULD A BUSINESS INVEST IN NETWORK MONITORING?
In addition to the key points we have discussed in this article, network monitoring provides you with critical information you need to perform future upgrades, reduce costs, maximise operability, make the best use of your resources and ensure applications are highly available for your employees. Additionally, network monitoring will keep you informed if a specific service, device, or application is meeting the performance levels as stated in the contract.
If the network has become complex, real-time monitoring of components, services, applications, and devices becomes a necessity. Otherwise, the costs associated with failing to monitor a network for issues could be much higher than if you simply invested in network monitoring in the first place.
Using the old methods of network monitoring where a device may be monitored every few seconds no longer will suffice. Plus, it does not make sense to do it this way when you have inexpensive solutions that can handle more demanding tasks, suggest troubleshooting steps, and offer many automated tools to ensure nothing is omitted in the monitoring process.
If your organisation has a limited IT budget, you can also choose to outsource network monitoring to a professional service provider. Outsourced service providers employ a full staff of professionals with expertise in a variety of different skills. They also take responsibility for managing and maintaining the system for a low monthly subscription rate. There is also a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which defines the level of service you receive and guarantees you will receive high quality services as well. Visit our e-pulse page to find out more information about our very own external network monitoring solution.
With network monitoring solutions, you can choose from a plethora of different monitoring services. In many cases, it results in reduced costs when compared to purchasing monitoring devices to deploy on the premises. Plus, it provides you with the opportunity to leverage the latest technologies at an affordable cost.
Overall, there is one thing that is certain when it comes to considering network monitoring for your organisation. The cost of failing to use network monitoring solutions can be detrimental if your network health is not monitored correctly. Plus, you could be losing money along the way in terms of daily maximised productivity as well.
ABOUT OUR IT DEPARTMENT.
Our IT Department is a London-based IT services organisation. We provide day-to-day support, ongoing consultancy and complex project assistance to a diverse range of organisations across London and the Home Counties. E-pulse a real-time network monitoring solution from Our IT Department that allows us to monitor the most important elements of your computer network.E-pulse gives us the power to fix problems on your network before you know they exist. More importantly, E-Pulse alerts us to problems that have the potential to cause business critical network disruption throughout your entire organisation. Visit the e-pulse page to find out more.