Today's IT networks are highly complex pieces of infrastructure, consisting of many interconnecting and dependent parts. Therefore, it's vital to ensure these assets are performing as effectively as possible.
For instance, one of the biggest risks for any firm today is downtime. According to IDC, the average cost of infrastructure failure in Fortune 1000 companies stands at around $100,000 per hour, which means the total cost of unplanned application downtime per year for these firms is between $1.25 billion and $2.5 billion.
However, downtime isn’t the only issue. Even if networks are live, poor performance such as slow speeds or high latency can result in reduced productivity, unhappy employees and customers and lost revenue. Then there’s the issue of security; if hackers are able to gain access to a network unnoticed, they may be able to freely move around inside the business, plant malware or exfiltrate data, which can also lead to huge costs for firms.
To avoid issues such as these, it's vital you have a comprehensive network monitoring solution in place that can alert you to any performance issues or other unusual activity quickly. This allows you to take corrective action before any damage is done.
The benefits of effective network monitoring
Network monitoring systems use a combination of hardware and software tools to deliver real-time information on the performance of a network. These look at the key rules and directions - known as protocols - that govern the flow of information throughout your network and use their own protocols to identify and report on any issues.
There are a number of benefits firms can see as a result of doing this. Some of the most significant include:
- Full network visibility - This ensures you can see every piece of traffic in your network, determine how different devices are connected and compare performance metrics.
- Enhanced security - Monitoring can alert you to suspicious traffic patterns that could be a key indicator your network has been compromised, such as large amounts of data being transferred across unusual routes.
- Reduced downtime - Being able to predict and prevent downtime is a major feature of monitoring tools. But even if they’re unable to spot a problem until it's too late, these tools can still help minimize downtime by quickly pinpointing the problem, thereby reducing the amount of time needed for your team to investigate an issue.
- Understand future needs - Systems can provide information on how various parts of the network perform over time, allowing you to anticipate when you'll need to expand capacity to meet growing demand or replace aging components.
- Improve network changes - Monitoring solutions can be used to gauge the performance of updates or other changes to a network or device to ensure its functioning as expected and won't have any adverse effects on the rest of the system.
6 networking monitoring protocols you must be using
So how should you go about actually implementing network monitoring tools? There are a wide range of protocols you can take advantage of, each with their own specific focus. Understanding which ones are the most critical and how to use them effectively is therefore an essential first step in developing an effective system. Here are six your business can't afford to be without:
One of the most fundamental solutions, Simple Network Management Protocols (SNMP) work using a call-and-response system to query the status of a wide range of devices. Because of its simplicity, almost any device can be made SNMP compatible. Switches, WLAN controllers, servers, printers, routers and modems are just some of the hardware that can provide data on metrics such as CPU utilization, bandwidth utilization and network latency using SNMP.
Websites are among many business' most valuable digital resources, whether it's driving direct sales or providing critical information from potential customers. However, it's not just your own websites where reliable connectivity matters - employees also need to be able to connect to third-party services at all times. HTTP monitoring checks the availability of websites to alert you when mission-critical services are down. You can also monitor the delay between requesting access to a website and when the request is fulfilled to build up a full picture of your performance.
TCP and IP monitoring
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) work together to ensure devices are able to establish connections with each other in order to deliver data. As such, they're the backbone of any network. TCP monitoring allows companies to measure response time and availability, which illustrates how the network’s data transmission capabilities are working. IP monitoring, meanwhile, ensures that data is being routed correctly to arrive where it needs to go, as well as measuring key metrics like latency.
Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is used by network equipment such as servers and routers to generate error messages when they encounter issues like device failures. As such, being able to receive these messages quickly is vital to minimizing downtime. ICMP monitoring lets your team know about any problems as soon as they happen. A good network monitoring protocol solution may also be able to send ICMP ping requests to proactively check the operative status of devices on the network.
File transfer protocol (FTP) governs the connections between a device and a server for the movement of files, taking download requests from client-side networks and connecting them to the server. Monitoring this protocol ensures that you're able to upload and download files to and from your server. You can also observe file transfer speeds by monitoring FTP requests in real time, to quickly spot any dips in performance.
POP3, IMAP and SMTP monitoring
These tools focus on email delivery, which are of course vital to the smooth running of any business. Being able to keep a close eye on these standard email protocols ensures that businesses are always aware of any issue that might affect the status of email servers. It also guarantees outgoing messages are being delivered correctly and can even track email response times, so you know if critical emails are being dealt with quickly.
Many of these tools should be included in a good network protocol management solution. This can allow you to secure a complete overview of your network activity in one location, with services such as dashboards and reporting tools available to make it easy to home in on any issues.