Network monitoring tools excel at gathering performance data from across your network and every device and service attached to it. But the old approach of just analyzing that data and offering recommendations isn’t enough. A next-generation solution proactively runs with those recommendations, remediates issues in real-time, and liberates IT for more productive tasks.
Estimated read time: 7 minutes
Even though Peter Drucker never said it, the oft-cited platitude that “What gets measured gets managed” remains true as ever. Network monitoring tools measure a broad array of network characteristics, such as traffic patterns, uptime rates, and bandwidth utilization. With this information, system and network administrators can decide how to react to changing conditions and protect their business’s networks. Good network monitoring tools can detect and correct performance issues before network users notice any performance impairment. Monitoring tools can also help admins prioritize remediation efforts—the better the monitoring platform, the better the impact on IT and user experiences. The trick, of course, is making sure that your monitoring tools are providing everything your organization truly needs.
You could think of network monitoring as akin to automobile monitoring. Details will vary according to the age and technology of the vehicle, but cars tend to have a common set of fundamental metrics, tell-tale symptoms, measurement approaches, and methods for optimizing performance. No doubt, you’ve noticed how some dash indicators (especially the infamously vague “check engine” light) warn of trouble long before it’s perceptible to drivers. For deeper, more specific information, users may need to turn to the service code data obtainable by a second-generation onboard diagnostic (OBD2) scanner. Beyond that, there are old-school diagnostics with trained observation and measured feedback.
We won’t belabor the car metaphor, but suffice it to say that network monitoring tools offer similar opportunities for troubleshooting, tune-ups, efficiency tracking, and upgrading. Networking monitoring is also a critical way of spotting issues before they lead to impairment or, far worse, engine failure for business operations. Tools can also help with forensics, so issues can be traced back to their source(s) and identified to help prevent similar problems in the future.
In short, network monitoring tools excel at three things:
- Problem detection
- Identifying optimization opportunities
- Addressing the needs of IT teams and resources
These benefits are accomplished by deploying monitoring agents across the network and managing them centrally. A period of data gathering helps to create a performance baseline and establish satisfactory performance ranges. If ongoing metrics fall outside those ranges, alerts can go out to admins for analysis and remediation. Since network conditions are constantly in flux, this keeps IT busy. Often too busy.
Use Case Examples
The ways in which network monitoring can be applied are as varied and broad as networks themselves. Consider a company with several teams, each of which has its own developers and possesses governance over its own development and operations. Under a single roof, network monitoring for these groups might be fairly straightforward, but the complexity multiplies when modern hybrid cloud strategies come into play.
As applications and workloads migrate off-site and back (or straddle both environments), performance characteristics change and become very difficult to correlate. A proper monitoring solution for this type of organization must span the entire infrastructure because making changes to one group’s resources will often impact others, even if some of those others are in wholly separate locations. The monitoring solution must accommodate bare-metal systems, virtual machines, and containers, at scales from client nodes to entire data centers, across today’s leading platforms. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult and frustrating to trace issues back to their roots and find true remedies.
Alternatively, consider the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and how an increasing number of companies are staking some or even all of their services on data derived from legions of disparate devices. Imagine a camera-based IoT system built for, say, managing traffic lights across a busy downtown district. If one or more of those cameras fails, the efficiency of the entire system could quickly spiral into gridlock. Monitoring across hundreds or thousands of dispersed devices, their controllers, and the network joining them becomes vital, especially if the timing of those devices is somehow synchronized.
Real-time network performance is essential in those cases. Without that, IT can’t monitor live situations. Even then, monitoring staff must make snap remediation judgments, as every second can make the difference in outcomes. This points out one of the key shortcomings of most monitoring packages: They excel at analyzing historical data, but most can’t solve network problems in real-time.
Or consider the role of network monitoring in security applications. From event ticketing and voucher disbursement to high-speed auctions and commodities trading, network-based security is critical for preventing fraud and attacks from threats like spoofing accounts/addresses and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Without proper network monitoring and automation, IT is left to manually enforce rule-based blocking, with inevitable mistakes potentially causing significant losses. Strong network monitoring will include its own security mechanisms while also seamlessly dovetailing with third-party tools for broader, more targeted security needs. Powerful security monitoring can also help organizations move beyond legacy VPNs and into next-generation software-defined perimeter (SDP) frameworks.
The network type and dominant business application will differ across the spectrum of organizations, but across use cases, one fact persists: The more critical real-time performance is to the application, the more network monitoring must be able to meet those needs, even if that means finding ways to trim or eliminate human involvement in the issue remediation process.
From Network Information to Clarity
Network monitors provide a host of valuable information to inform optimization and repair decisions. Throughput, packet error rates, bandwidth usage, I/O request response times, and many more metrics are gathered from every entity on the network, including printers, servers, WAN links, virtual machines, switches, and cloud services. Visibility into these metrics allows problem identification and creates optimization opportunities.
A discussion about protocols, monitoring intervals, threshold parameters, and so on is more than we can cover here. More important for our purposes is conveying that all that monitoring data should be used proactively. Ideally, a network monitor will allow you to anticipate outages and take remedial action before it’s too late.
Unfortunately, most monitors only inform you about what work likely needs to be done. This helps improve the quality of IT’s decision-making, especially in terms of resource allocation and priority management, but it doesn’t do much to reduce IT’s manual workload. The more a network monitoring solution can take proactive steps to avoid outages, thereby removing the burdens of analysis and implementation from IT, the more likely it is that the solution will produce cost savings.
Most importantly, the automation of network issue remediation can improve quality of service and experience indicators. Similarly, these improvements can help to keep service providers within their promised SLA boundaries, which also assists the bottom line. Additionally, by removing a swath of technical issues, admins may have greater clarity on isolating remaining issues and be able to address them more effectively.
Do Your Network a Favor
As mentioned, network monitoring tools gather data from potentially every entity on the network for analysis, but analysis alone isn’t enough. Even making prioritized recommendations to admins doesn’t give sufficient ROI. A monitoring platform doesn’t reach full effectiveness until it can optimize traffic across all meaningful links.
High-value monitoring solutions let admins spend more time on forward-looking creativity than imminent crises. While IT is freed to work on building, network monitoring software should be busy handling triggered events and using its analyses to execute the highest-probability remediations. Every admin dreams of an end to network issues and outages. This is the era of real-time data and machine learning. There’s no reason why that dream can’t become a reality.
We started off talking about car troubleshooting and repair, but that ignores the most desirable course of events: no problems at all. Of course, this is why we take vehicles in for oil changes and scheduled maintenance. Rather than conducting incident management, we strive for incident removal through prevention.
There is one more step in reaching for the most optimized network monitoring possible. The only thing better than having a fully proactive monitoring application installed on your network is having the network itself designed with built-in proactive monitoring. Imagine if your car could detect its service issues before they became noticeable and then fix them itself without any servicing.
When applications and remote-work systems run on Subspace’s network, the need for added proactive network performance plummets. With Subspace’s GlobalTURN and RTPspeed, you don’t even have to worry about deployment. Subspace automatically optimizes and corrects routing, ensuring that your business never needs to suffer from adverse network conditions.
Realistically, there will always be a need for network monitoring tools, if only to keep an eye on services and show management how well the IT engine is running. But Subspace will resolve all those perpetual latency, jitter, packet order, and data transmission issues along with their ongoing streams of alerts. Subspace’s global IP-level proxy continuously measures and optimizes network pathfinding on a global scale.
The net result, if you will, is that instead of being alerted to problems, you simply won’t have them.
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