Network Management is essential for any organization, and if you belong to the network management team of your organization, you would be well aware of this fact.
This century has seen an unprecedented rise in digitization and cloud technologies that have proved helpful in handling vast amounts of data for any organization.
Cloud infrastructure such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS) is being used aggressively by organizations as a part of digitizing their business environment.
Cloud services allow organizations to provide their services and products to their target end-users across the internet using social media platforms, mobile applications, and e-commerce.
What is Network Monitoring?
The network is the backbone for all organizations that are heavily dependent on the internet for their business.
The IT admins and their team are the ones responsible for maintaining the network. They use the network monitoring software to ensure that the organization’s network has no malicious threats, slow spots, server performance, and bottlenecks.
These network monitoring software use metrics such as server uptime and response time to help the IT admins identify networking issues before they reach the end-users and wreak havoc.
This software provides an overview of overall network and application performance. They are equipped with visualization tools, an intelligent alerting system, and dashboards that show summary and statistics such as memory consumption, bandwidth, and network traffic.
However, with traditional network performance monitoring software and approaches, the network admins face issues due to hybrid networking environments, including on-premises and cloud services. This has created a need for cloud network performance monitoring solutions.
What is Cloud Network Performance Monitoring?
The traditional network performance monitoring solution was based on assumptions such as centralized data centers, which the cloud has now replaced. They utilized an application deployment model.
However, in a cloud environment, the users are located across the internet. The enterprises use WAN, in which case the traditional network performance monitoring solutions using assumptions such as centralized data centers become unusable.
Cloud Network Performance Monitoring software split the monitoring function into analysis and storage functions.
In cloud monitoring, the monitoring is accomplished using lightweight monitoring software agents that export statistics to a SaaS repository to store the un-summarized data in Big data-based software.
The main types of cloud monitoring are:
1. Cloud Storage Monitoring
Often known as IaaS and SaaS solutions, this technique tracks multiple analytics and monitors storage resources and processes.
2. Database Monitoring
Since the cloud relies heavily on databases, this technique reviews the consumption, availability, processes, and queries of cloud databases.
3. Virtual Machine Monitoring:
Virtualization infrastructure and virtual machines are scaled out in IaaS as a virtual server that hosts many virtual desktops.
4. Virtual Network Monitoring
This technique creates software versions of firewalls, load balancers, and routers to give the users data about their operation.
5. Website Monitoring
This technique tracks network traffic, resource utilization, availability, and processes on cloud-hosted sites.
Pre-Cloud Network Performance Monitoring Approaches
Network Performance monitoring is a process to measure, diagnose, and optimize the quality of services experienced by the end-users.
There are many types of measurement and monitoring data that network admins use to diagnose and analyze the problems in the network, such as:
- Latency: Measure of the delay in the network from servers, applications, and clients, is called latency.
- Bandwidth: The raw versus the available maximum rate of data flow that can be transferred via the network path is called bandwidth.
- Errors: The raw number of errors and percentage of errors such as out-of-order packets, TCS retransmissions, and BIT errors are called errors.
- Throughput: The measure of the amount of data being transferred or has already been transferred is called throughput.
The traditional or pre-cloud network performance monitoring approaches refer to the process of measuring, optimizing, and diagnosing the network service quality that users experience.
Pre-cloud monitoring approaches were based on monolithic applications that used an application deployment model using a PCAP probe with one or more interfaces connected to an intervening packet broker device such as a switch or router.
All the packets that pass across the interface are recorded in memory or other long-term storage.
Organizations with virtualized data centers using virtual probes are still based on physical network links in one way or the other in pre-cloud network monitoring solutions.
Common Network Monitoring Software Features
Protocol support such as SNMP is vital to all networks, and the cloud network monitoring applications have their preferred methods to scan applications, appliances, servers, and computers.
Here are some critical network monitoring solution features:
Alerts: The monitoring software allows the network administrators to set up custom alerts sent via email, phone, or text. These alerts are based on some threshold defined for the network.
Customization in-process and other specific priorities
The requirements of every organization differ, and thus the monitoring solution that they use must also be customized to their particular needs. What needs to be monitored, how and when the alerts occur, personalized dashboards, etc., are some of the organizations’ customizations.
The network management operations are based on the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) standard that operates on the application layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Model.
Availability of internal IT staff
Your organization must have enough resources and IT team members to handle additional work generated by the networking solution. The team must be able to identify the order of incidents and interpret the reports accordingly. They must also be aware of the communications and specific roles required to handle the network issues.
After-hours support model
The network monitoring solution you choose must provide after-hours support to check the overall process and procedures for incidents beforehand. The support provided must satisfy all your requirements.
The network monitoring solutions collect historical data that helps them in predicting network issues in the future.
Organizations can shift the users’ load from an overwhelmed server’s resources to another server.
Scope of the system
The network performance monitoring tool should handle varied requirements in different processes such as virtual environments, many geographical locations, and process-specific network devices.
To check whether a computer or other network-connected devices are up and running or not, the monitoring solutions use the Ping method that uses Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo requests. The ping helps troubleshoot the network by sending a ping to the target destination and then awaiting the response. The response gives the state of the targeted device.
The software should be scalable and can support the growth of your business. Thus, the network monitoring system must be able to handle changes effectively and efficiently.
The network performance by network monitoring solutions is guaranteed by Internet Protocol Service Level Agreements (IP SLA) that define the specific metrics for server performance. The network administrators then test these key performance indicators. SLA defines the escalation process and time for each option, and if the SLA offered does not match your requirements, you should ask for a different SLA from the vendor to satisfy your specific needs.
Automated discovery of components
Automatic discovery of network components is essential to an extensive network spread across multiple locations. It isn’t possible to send teams to the physical sites to check the elements. Thus it helps in automatic mapping and inventory of components.
Driven by industry, Microsoft has implemented its web-based enterprise management using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). This is a common standard that allows control and access to computers and servers in the enterprise environment.
The physical hardware devices and software used in the network are part of the inventory tracking of the network monitoring software.
Location of support contacts
The location of the support contacts and the types of network that they monitor should be known to you. The knowledge of their area, region, or country will assist you in getting better service.
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Network monitoring is an integral part of any company. The accurate monitoring and management system can ensure that the organizations can be proactive in dealing with networking problems such as network outages.
The solutions generate real-time alerts that allow the admins to quickly solve the problems as they know which device is responsible for the problem. This reduces the time to identify and address the issue.
Based on the size of your business, the type of cloud network performance monitoring application might differ. The features and scales required by a small business and a large enterprise will vary.
- Small business: If you are someone with a small business having only one server location and moderate amounts of incoming and outgoing traffic, you probably do not need a full-featured cloud-based network monitoring software. An infrastructure monitoring tool that can ensure that your network is adequately maintained and assess the potential issues, and generate alerts is enough to satisfy your needs.
- Large enterprises: Multinational conglomerates, MNCs, or big enterprises spread across the globe have many servers in multiple locations. Thus they need advanced features in their network monitoring solution. The network administrators in these enterprises need advanced software to handle the tremendous amount of traffic, bandwidth, memory, CPU, servers, devices, and other network-connected equipment and applications.
The size of your business is a critical factor based on which the budget might differ between different companies.
Small businesses might go for open source and free platforms with limited features or the one offered at a lower price.
While large businesses prefer the paid network monitoring solutions with advanced features, they might also pay extra for customer care and other premium features.
How Cloud Computing Is Changing Network Monitoring
As more and more businesses are leaning towards cloud-based network monitoring solutions, the IT infrastructure of the companies requires a change in services.
This has led to complexity in network monitoring because the network administrators have to monitor system latency, performance, and other critical factors before moving the applications from traditional to cloud environments. But this change has also led to a lot of good in monitoring the network.
First, let us understand some fundamental differences between traditional and cloud network monitoring.
1. Cloud computing has removed the need for maintaining a fixed number of assets 100% of the time, all of which must be performing to the best of their abilities. The Cloud monitor tool allows the computer resources to be available as and when needed based on the capacity, traffic, and demand.
2. The traditional monitoring solutions focused mainly on the network’s availability and performance in web and application monitoring processes. These tools monitored the network devices and gathered performance statistics using Network Management Systems (NMS) and protocols such as WMI, SNMP, and ICMP.
3. On the other hand, a cloud network monitor adds significant extensions for the performance of your cloud services provider along with their ISP and performance of your ISP (WAN performance).
4. Advanced traditional network monitoring features include network device discovery and mapping, application monitoring, real-time intelligent alerting, device performance monitoring, and others that assist the IT experts in managing and monitoring the network’s performance.
5. Monitoring WAN performance in the cloud is not easy. IT requires the IT admins to have significant knowledge and understanding of the network traffic. Knowing who is using the network traffic, what they are using it for, and how much they are using helps them monitor the performance of business-critical apps and services.
6. Compared to the traditional monitoring solution, cloud-based solutions focus more on managing server availability and performance than infrastructure.
Cloud computing in enterprise network monitoring supports the outsourcing and scalability of the network and its manageability.
Thus, even though complex at first, cloud computing is much more beneficial than traditional network monitoring solutions.
Any effective cloud network performance monitor must provide their users with a synthetic outlook that involves all the variables that affect the quality of services and other requirements.
Why Are Network Monitoring Tools Important?
As discussed above, the reliability of businesses on networks, whether on-premises or remote, is too huge to be ignored and left to chance.
- The network monitor supports our IT admins in accomplishing the monitoring tasks efficiently and effectively.
- The network monitor ensures continuous uptime and overall good health of the network to ensure uninterrupted business operations.
- These tools analyze the network device performance and the interface levels using performance metrics and thresholds defined by the admins.
- They generate real-time intelligent alerts for issues, thereby averting unnecessary downtime.
- Most Network Monitoring tools are proactive and use historical data to identify future threats, thus equipping the admins with the knowledge to tackle those threats beforehand.
- These tools provide an in-depth insight into the performance of every network-connected device and interface and their hierarchy.
- The tools provide scalability, vendor support, and high availability mechanisms to help you monitor your network without unnecessary interruptions.
These tools help the network admins in tracking key performance metrics such as:
- Disk Utilization
- Memory and CPU usage
- Jabber packets
- Interface collisions
- Backplane utilization
- VPN latency
- Oversize packets
- Buffer failures
- Undersize packets
- Output packet drops
- Interface in giants
- Input packet drops
- Drop event statistics
- Active session count