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What Is Network Monitoring?

Network monitoring is a critical pillar in network management. It gives IT teams insight into network health and performance so they can take corrective steps to improve the functionality of their network.

Network monitoring solutions track KPIs like mean time to repair/restore (MTTR), network congestion, and link utilization as well as device performance for routers, switches, servers and ports.

Network Monitoring and the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Model

The OSI model divides the network into 7-layers. Understanding which layer data is communicating in helps IT teams figure out what layers to focus on and when.

Layer Protocol Data Unit Function
Physical Layer Bit, Symbol Receives and transmits raw bit stream over a physical medium
Data link Layer Frame Transmission of data frames between two nodes
Network Layer Packet Addressing routing and traffic control
Transport Layer Segment, Datagram Segmentation and multiplexing
Session Layer Data Communication sessions
Presentation Layer Data Data compression, encryption, and decryption
Application Layer Data APIs, remote file sharing

The OSI model supports network monitoring by creating a visualization of the data flow from the sender to the receiver. This makes it easy to see where the different layers are connected or dependent and creates an easy visual reference for troubleshooting network issues.

Why is Network Monitoring Important?

Your network infrastructure is made up of thousands, if not millions of components. Ensuring that each component is functioning properly is necessary to maintain network availability. As your network infrastructure becomes more complex, it becomes more difficult to stay on top of your network health.

Visibility into your network allows you to identify and correct issues before they impact your team members and customers. Your team can find security vulnerabilities and other issues before they compromise your network’s performance. Continuous network monitoring ensures that your network stays up and running. Employees will have access to applications when they need them and the right people will have the right information to make the right decisions around your network.

Key Benefits of Network Monitoring

Organizations benefit immensely from implementing network monitoring solutions. Some of these benefits include:

Lower Bandwidth Costs

Bandwidth usage is one of the most pertinent key performance indicators to monitor. Network monitoring allows your organization to optimize its bandwidth usage. Your team will not waste costly cloud costs on unutilized bandwidth.

Less Downtime

Companies can avoid extended periods of downtime with network monitoring. Your team will be able to identify potential infrastructure problems and mediate them. Instead of waiting around for issues to pop up, your team can take action to prevent network issues.

Identify Potential Security Threats

Cyberattacks are on the rise in nearly every industry. Network monitoring ensures that your applications have the latest security patches. Additionally, organizations can detect network traffic that deviates from usual patterns. Detecting cyber threats helps your organization prevent hackers from compromising your network and stealing valuable data.

Network Monitoring Use Cases

If you can imagine it, you can monitor it. There are network monitoring tools that can monitor everything from device health to memory utilization, bandwidth usage by application to SLA (service-level agreement) by the vendor. Let’s consider some of the most common examples an organization would have for using network monitoring.

  • Network Optimization – network monitoring gives users visibility into the effectiveness of their policies. QoS (Quality of Service) and CoS (Class of Service) determine what types of traffic are given priority. Seeing how these policies actually perform across a network gives IT teams the opportunity to make tweaks that can maximize network availability. Network monitoring can also reveal trends that indicate when certain applications are being bandwidth hogs or when network devices need replacement or repair. This information allows you to proactively make adjustments before end users are impacted.
  • Security – network monitoring is the foundation of network security. It’s a key underpinning in all network security tools to detect vulnerable points of entry, traffic surges connected to DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks, data staging, exfiltration, and any number of malicious activities connected to threat actor presence.
  • Troubleshooting – adequate network monitoring is critical in responding to network outages. Network monitoring lets you quickly identify if the outage is server-specific, provider-caused, or connected to maintenance needs, like upgraded resources.

How Network Monitoring Works

Depending on the technique used, network monitoring can work in various different ways. If the data being collected is SNMP (simple network management protocol), then the network is monitored through a periodic ping. If the technique is flow analysis, the data is Netflow and the network is monitored through IPs. If the network monitoring technique uses packet capture, the network monitoring happens at a granular packet level. Regardless of the technique used, all network monitoring follows the general steps of collecting data, analyzing data, and acting on the findings to improve and investigate performance and unusual results.

Types of Network Monitoring Protocols

The types of network monitoring protocols serve different functions, primarily network management, network communication, and network security. Here are the protocols associated with each:

  • Network management
    • SNMP
    • ICMP
  • Network communication
    • TCP
    • IP
    • HTTP
    • FTP
    • UDP
  • Network security
    • HTTPS
    • SFTP
    • SSL

Learn more about types of network monitoring protocols.

What Is Network Monitoring Software?

Network monitoring software seeks to help network administrators maintain awareness of traffic performance, device health, and overall network behavior over time and gives them the data needed to improve performance and investigate issues.

Network Monitoring Functions

Network monitoring functions to help NetOps teams keep track of traditional KPIs for network performance like MTTR (mean time to resolution), CPU and memory utilization of devices, latency, jitter, and traffic volume.

These metrics come together to create a picture of network health and of the utilization and application performance of various types of network traffic.

Network monitoring with limited visibility doesn’t tell the whole story. The more data types your network monitoring tool can ingest into its reporting, the greater the accuracy and scope of the results. LiveAction’s network performance monitoring tool offers the broadest telemetry available by correlating diverse data types from SNMP, NetFlow, and deep packet inspection techniques.