For organisations that rely on their network to support their daily operations, how well the network operates can make or break their business. As a network admin, your core objective is to ensure that day-to-day business operations are carried out successfully. This involves optimizing the network for maximum performance and minimizing service disruptions.
Achieving these objectives boils down to a handful of factors: LAN and WAN performance, bandwidth availability and consumption, VPN availability and performance, application health, and service-level agreements.
To ensure these key factors are properly maintained, you need to:
- Maintain an inventory of network devices.
- Provision new hardware as needed.
- Monitor network devices and services in real time.
- Identify performance issues.
- Troubleshoot issues with minimal effort and time.
This can be accomplished only with the help of network monitoring tools. But with so many network monitoring tools in the market, how do you choose the one that provides the most value for your IT environment? Let’s discuss network monitoring tools, their basic requirements, some nice-to-have features, and exceptional functions that will help your IT team in the long run.
Network monitoring tools: The basics
|Network discovery||Automatic discovery of all network devices based on user-defined conditions reduces the workload and lets you focus on the more pressing tasks at hand.|
|Device inventory||Maintaining an inventory of all network devices, including details such as DNS names, IP addresses, and vendor details, helps you keep tabs on your network and prevent unauthorized access.|
|SNMP/WMI monitoring||As most networks consist of hardware that supports SNMP, this helps you monitor the availability and performance of a range of networking hardware.|
|Interface monitoring||Physical and virtual interfaces form the crux of any network, so it is essential to monitor Interface Traffic, Errors, Discards, Utilization, Packet Size, and more to identify network congestion before it impacts end users.|
|Network topology mapping||Visualization including network topology helps you understand the ins and outs of your network. Moreover, it helps you spot network issues easily and fast.|
|Custom monitoring||Every IT environment is unique and no network monitoring tool can provide everything that you need out of the box. IT teams build custom hardware for very specialized needs and this is where custom monitoring comes in handy.|
|Alerting||Real-time alerts of network faults help keep the mean time to repair to a minimum. Also, color coding with respect to the critical nature of the alert allows you to focus instantly on issues that are more significant to the business operations.|
|Troubleshooting tools||Finding the root cause of issues is a major part of an IT admin’s work. Troubleshooting tools like Ping, Traceroute, SNMP Ping, Remote Desktop, Trap Viewer, and more help you track, analyze, and troubleshoot network performance issues efficiently.|
|Reports||Reports on different segments of your network help you audit the network performance periodically and identify areas for improvement.|
|Failover or high availability||Real-time network monitoring tools are important for an IT admin. They provide visibility into the network 24/7. What happens when the network monitor tool fails? Everything becomes chaotic, so it is ideal to have a redundant mechanism in place. A failover system does exactly this and takes over the network monitoring activity when the primary system fails.|
|Technical support||No tool is ever perfect, and IT admins often run into technical issues with respect to network monitor tools. It could be a configuration issue or a specific feature not performing as expected. This can be overcome with the help of product experts and customer support technicians through chat, calls or remote sessions.|
|Documentation||Product documentation is something that is often overlooked. Most doubts about product functionality, its mechanism, and configurations can be easily eliminated through product help documentation from the vendor. This saves time and effort.|
These are the basic requirements featured in most network monitoring tools. These help IT admins like you just get through the day. If any of these features are not present in a network monitoring tool, it is not worth considering the tool for your IT environment.
Network monitoring tools: Nice-to-have features
|Network traffic management||Bandwidth bottlenecks curb employee productivity and cause service disruptions. By monitoring and managing the users and the applications that take up more bandwidth, IT admins can provide top-notch user experiences.|
|Application performance monitoring||End-user experience can be improved only when you gain visibility into the health and performance of your business-critical applications. The visibility you attain should provide insights from the real-time monitoring of web applications, databases, containers, the user experience, and more.|
|Network automation||Automating mundane work of IT admins, such as daily maintenance tasks and L1 troubleshooting tasks to enable them to focus more on critical issues and deliver better experiences for the users.|
|VoIP monitoring||Using metrics such as Packet Loss, Jitter, MOS, and RTT to monitor VoIP call quality across your LAN and WAN infrastructure helps you identify poor VoIP performance and determine if new VoIP lines need to be added to the network.|
|VPN monitoring||With new work-from-home policies, ensuring your employee VPN connections are robust is now a significant part of daily operations. Monitoring active VPN hosts, VPN tunnels, and VPNtraffic is crucial for robust VPN connections.|
|Virtual environment and HCI monitoring||Almost every IT team employs virtual and hyperconverged infrastructures (HCIs) to efficiently use their resources. To ensure optimal performance, you need to monitor hosts, virtual machine health, identify Zombie VMs, and prevent VM sprawl.|
|WLC monitoring||Networks today are supporting an increasing number of mobile devices. To enhance the reach of your organisation’s network, you need to add and monitor more access points (APs). Managing WLCs and monitoring rogue SSIDs and APs is also essential for controlling your organisations wireless networks.|
The features discussed above give deeper visibility into your network and its performance. This helps you understand what impacts your business services the most and how, so you can learn what to optimize and where to provision additional hardware.
Network monitor tools: Exceptional functions
|Network configuration management||A major threat to network stability is a lack of details about configurations that ensure network devices function properly. You need to track who made what configuration changes and when. It is equally important to back up, schedule, and revert configuration changes.|
|Firewall log management||A firewall is your first line of defence against external threats. It blocks trojans, spyware, and other malicious programs. Monitor firewall rules, manage firewall policies, and track firewall logs in real time to identify potential threats and ensure network security.|
|IP address management||IP conflicts and running out of available IP addresses can happen if you don’t track and manage your IP address space effectively. This can also severely impact business operations and employee productivity. Tracking IP addresses in real time and identifying IP conflicts helps minimize service disruptions.|
|Multi-site monitoring||As organisations expand, they often set up multiple remote offices. A central admin team might manage all IT operations, but using multiple network monitoring tools is not feasible. An ideal solution should monitor multiple remote locations from a centralized console.|
These functions help prevent threats to your network and disruptions to the service delivery while improving your network’s resilience. They make your network agile and make it easy to recover faster in case of a network disaster.
The bad part is most network monitoring tools are point tools. For monitoring all the parameters discussed above, you will need a network device monitoring tool, a server and application monitoring tool, a network traffic monitoring tool, a configuration and change management tool, a firewall security solution, an IP address management solution, and a VoIP monitoring solution.
The ugly part is, when you use different point tools for monitoring multiple aspects, it becomes challenging to:
- Configure multiple tools to suit your IT environment.
- Switch between multiple tools for monitoring.
- Operate in a sea of alerts raised by different point tools.
- Correlate alerts and identify the root cause from a labyrinth of notifications.
But the good part is, ManageEngine OpManager can come to your rescue.
OpManager: A superior network monitoring tool for all your ITOM needs
- Network devices using SNMP, WMI, CLI, and ICMP.
- Network traffic using NetFlow, J-Flow, sFlow, IPFIX, Cisco NBAR, and NetStream.
- Servers and applications.
- Virtual infrastructures and HCIs.
- Network configurations.
- Firewall devices and logs.
- IP addresses and switch ports.
- VoIP call quality.
- VPN connections.
You can monitor and manage all these aspects from a unified console using OpManager.
On top of that, OpManager makes your work easy by providing support for multiple vendor devices including Cisco, Juniper, Aruba, Huawei, 3Com, and many more, out-of-the-box. Using the Discovery Rule Engine and more than 10,000 prebuilt Device Templates, OpManager automates the network discovery process and saves time.
OpManager is the only network monitoring tool your IT team will ever need. Request a free demo to understand its superior network monitoring capabilities.