What is Network Performance Baselining?

Much like the balance sheet is a snapshot of an organization’s financials at a single point in time, a network performance baseline is a picture of a network infrastructure’s traffic during normal working conditions. As an industry best practice, network managers use baseline performance metrics to compare normal network traffic to abnormal conditions in order to anticipate network deterioration or failures or troubleshoot performance. Network performance baselines are also important for determining when future capacity upgrades are necessary, or for complying with the capacity requirements of service-level agreements (SLA).

Essential Baselining Model

A baseline is a snapshot, a collection of metrics about a network at a time of normal use. A network manager must determine what “normal use” looks like for their network, perhaps during normal working hours, and then create a baseline at that time.

Advanced enterprise network monitoring software provides many useful views of network traffic to create baseline models, but an essential network baseline will include the following elements:

  • Network Diagram — Detailed network map illustrating the layout of the network, including devices, IP/Mac addresses, and data flow directions. Network performance software easily maps these.
  • Network Management Policy — Network policies prioritize network uses by limiting or eliminating non-essential traffic, and flag other traffic as critical.
  • Baselining Scope — In small environments, network managers calculate baselines manually by inventorying every device and defining metrics to be pulled for monitoring. For larger networks, determining the baselining scope is more consequential. A baseline of everything is not feasible in these situations where tallying up routers, switches, servers, and hosts can number in the thousands of connections. Rather, by only including critical layers in the network, or baselining traffic from particular services like email or HTTP, or from certain device types, a baseline can be modeled.
  • Baseline Data — Finally, baseline data is collected for a duration of time to form the baseline determined by the network admin. Baseline data typically includes, connectivity, normal bandwidth usage, protocols, peak utilization, and average throughput.

Advanced Network Monitoring and Historical Data

Advanced enterprise network monitoring tools make essential baselining manageable for large networks. By monitoring and storing historical network performance data, advanced network monitoring software can dynamically create network baselines as well as standard threshold metrics across complex networks. From these baselines and threshold standards, more

accurate alert levels can be set so software can assess and quickly inform network managers about upcoming device failures or performance issues.

Related Terms

Network Performance Management

Network performance management is the practice of monitoring a network and mitigating performance issues in order to maintain a required network performance level. Network monitoring plays a pivotal role in network performance management. It helps to identify performance bottlenecks by routinely reporting on the performance and quality service level of network devices such as routers.