What is network monitoring?

Network Monitoring services are a key component to maintaining a healthy, functional business data center. These services detect, monitor, and analyze your network, examining applications and devices in real time, which can help you respond quickly to alerts. For this reason, it is imperative that IT organizations properly manage these services. Years ago, unreliable networks caused delays in email or something else that made it easier to find an alternative solution. However, nowadays, an unreliable data network can literally stop a business. For example, if systems connected to the network cannot obtain an IP address using the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), they will not be able to communicate with any other system. Similarly, if the domain name system (DNS) does not work properly, your systems will not be able to search for the address of any system on the Internet. The way you manage bandwidth and network usage will directly affect the productivity of all users connected to your corporate network. To help you out, we’ve tested and compared 10 of the best network tracking software solutions available today. Most are cloud-based and can all help you keep users connected and network pipes secure.

Some of these services fall into the infrastructure category due to the criticality of the service. Surveillance services such as DNS therefore become more of an infrastructure management problem than a network consideration. DHCP probably matches the same description, although managing a DHCP service is something a network administrator would normally be responsible for.

The Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) was first introduced in 1998 in Request For Comments (RFC) 1065, 1066 and 1067. SNMPv2 and SNMPv3 have largely replaced the initial version and have seen widespread adoption in several platforms. Although SNMP is most often associated with the network, it is also possible to configure operating systems (OS), including Microsoft Windows, to respond to SNMP commands. A key consideration for network management tools should be the way they use SNMP to perform their tasks.

If you really want to know what's going on in your network, you need to learn something about network streams. NetFlow was originally introduced for Cisco routers, offering the ability to analyze IP network traffic entering or leaving a specific interface. Flow data is sent to a collection point (usually a system running a database) to facilitate query-based analysis. Other switch manufacturers have followed suit, along with other similar sampling tools such as sFlow. A large number of network hardware vendors, including Arista Networks, Brocade Communications Systems, Hewlett-Packard and others provide native sFlow support. A full description of sFlow is available in RFC 3176.


Important features

Numerous key features stand out as specific needs to adequately fulfill the role of network management. On the one hand, from an administrator’s point of view, it’s good to have visual graphics that allow you to give a quick overview of the current state of the system. It is an added advantage to have the ability to change the layout of charts on a dashboard. You need to provide a mechanism to alert someone of a problem across the board.


IP address management (IPAM) has become a vital capability for many large organizations. Statically assigned address control, along with a large number of DHCP pools, cannot be properly managed with a manual system. Integrating IPAM with a network management tool makes sense because the same person manages both functions quite frequently.

Automation is the key to managing a large number of devices. The more you can automate small administrative tasks, the more efficient the process will be. Automated alerts and repairs fall into this category and represent a key differentiator between products. Add to that the ability to remotely connect to your tracking system and you’ll have the fabric of a solid product.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is a hot topic and not without a significant level of confusion, unless you are a salesperson or technologist with an acquired interest. At a very high level, the term SDN is used to describe the functional separation between the network control plan and the forwarding plan.

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