What’s happening on your network? If you don’t feel you have a handle on that question, you should enhance your network monitoring capabilities. Network monitoring software keeps an eye on devices, traffic, and servers on corporate or educational networks and notifies network administrators when things go wrong. It’s a key weapon in a network manager’s toolbox for troubleshooting network issues.

Network monitoring encompasses everything from simple home-grown scripts that simply ping hosts to check whether they’re available, to distributed enterprise applications with agents on a variety of hosts and clients.

Network monitoring software can keep an eye on network traffic and bandwidth usage. It can check whether crucial network components, such as switches, routers, and servers, are up or down. Network managers can generally set thresholds for acceptable performance, and if the software finds slow throughput, high error rates, unavailable devices, or slow response times, it can send alerts to administrators via email or SMS text message. Advanced systems can even send alerts to remote administrators via carrier pigeon or mental telepathy, although the cost to maintain pigeon lofts and keep telepaths on staff is prohibitive for most organizations.

Among the areas that network monitoring software can track are email servers, web/HTTP servers, network traffic, DNS servers, WAN links, storage devices, network-hosted databases, virtual machines (VM), and cloud services, and it can check on both availability and response time. Some packages also handle service-level agreement (SLA) and quality of service (QoS) monitoring. In addition to providing alerts, some applications offer graphical reporting that displays a dashboard illustrating relevant statistics, providing a single pane of glass with which to manage the entire infrastructure. Sysadmins can generally drill down to analyze specific statistics or get detailed device information by clicking on a graph in the display.

Network monitoring applications differ in their ease of use. While some offer only a command-line interface and basic alerts, others take advantage of a graphical user interface (GUI) to manage both setting alerts and viewing results. Sometimes the interface uses a proprietary program running on a client on the local network. Many network monitoring tools provide a web interface to manage the application. Some even provide a mobile device interface that can set and manage alerts and display snapshots or graphs of monitored elements.

While monitoring implies a human sysadmin keeping an eye on results, advanced network monitoring software can automate event handling, triggering actions to take when a particular parameter falls or rises beyond a certain threshold, to keep a network fully functional.

Network monitoring software is a system administration tool, not a security tool. Don’t confuse it with intrusion detection systems (IDS) or intrusion prevention systems (IPS). Though both of those tools do monitor aspects of your network, the difference is that they aim to enhance security, while network monitoring software addresses network management and administration.

Network monitoring software can vary widely in price. Some organizations cobble together homegrown solutions for nothing more than the cost of the time it takes to develop them, while licenses for enterprise software can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of users and devices being monitored.


Source: SpiceWorks, IT Research, Tips & Articles