Network Monitoring Software - Network Monitor Guide | SolarWinds (2023)

  • What is network monitoring software?

    Network Monitoring Software - Network Monitor Guide | SolarWinds (1)

    Network monitoring software consists of features and tools to detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance issues by scanning network devices for fault and availability.

    Network monitoring software integrates with your network components. Network monitoring software is built to integrate with various devices and services, including routers, servers, firewalls, switches, and virtual machines. This integration or data connection can occur through a number of protocols like packet sniffing, APIs, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). For instance, an SNMP agent is typically built into network elements, so admins can allow SNMP read-write access to control and reconfigure devices through the network monitoring system.

    Network monitoring solutions capture metrics at specific intervals. It’s important for a network monitor to offer admins insight into measurements indicative of the health and performance of network components. For instance, key metrics for measuring traffic include latency, packet errors, TCP retransmits, and packet metadata. Be sure to look for a network monitoring solution with easy access to real-time or near-real-time performance data, as well as a historical baselines to help put current network measurements in context.

    Network monitoring software supports proactive visibility and troubleshooting. Your network monitoring system should include a dashboard displaying metrics in an intuitive fashion by providing an at-a-glance view of your network status. Ideally, the dashboard will prioritize action items in need of your attention. Network monitors should also include custom alerting capabilities to enable you to set required thresholds for alerts. When alerts are sent in real time by email, SMS, or another platform, you’re better able resolve both minor issues like momentary bottlenecks and major issues like server crashes with limited service disruption.

    Ultimately, the point of these capabilities is to optimize networkperformance and maintain availability across your network while avoiding fault, downtime, or any connectivity issue that could impact your business.

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  • Why is network monitoring software important?

    Why is network monitoring software important?

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    Network monitoring software is critical for ensuring network performance and health, which in turn supports overall business functionality, productivity, and security. Network outages can cause severe losses for businesses, as it affects both day-to-day internal operations and external functions like websites and sales.

    The high cost of network failure—or even momentary downtime—means a proactive, comprehensive, and professional network monitoring solution can be well worth the investment. The right network monitoring software can make all the difference for your organization by allowing you to perform the following tasks, each of which is critical to ensuring overall business productivity.

    View key metrics. Look for user-friendly fault monitoring, performance analysis, availability monitoring, cross-stack network data correlation, and hop-by-hop network path analysis. Visibility into these metrics can improve both proactive and in-the-moment network performance troubleshooting.

    Manage a hybrid environment. View the performance, traffic, and configuration details of devices and applications whether they’re on-premises, in the cloud, or hybrid environments.

    See inside and outside your network. Use packet path information beyond what manual tools can provide. Prove your network’s mean-time-to-innocence (MTTI) quickly, so you can contact your ISP when needed. Faster analysis can also mean fewer performance issues affecting your end users.

    Discover root causes more quickly. Speed up the troubleshooting process by facilitating data correlation through a cross-stack approach. It’s useful to be able to drag and drop network insights onto a common timeline with other key system performance metrics for immediate visual correlation, which helps accelerate the identification of root causes and supports more pinpointed troubleshooting.

    Map the network. Automatically discover and map devices, performance metrics, link utilization, and wireless coverage, so you have a clear view of everything occurring on your network and can troubleshoot issues before they affect the network and business.

    Plan ahead. Network monitoring software can offer automated features for forecasting, alerting, and reporting, allowing you to automatically calculate exhaustion dates using thresholds based on peak and average usage. When you can configure network resources more efficiently, you can potentially avoid the cost of purchasing unnecessary or additional hardware.

  • Network monitoring software requirements

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    Network monitoring software is only effective if all the right capabilities are in place. When it comes to choosing a robust solution, look for the following features and capabilities.

    Sensor and protocol compatibility. Ensure your network monitor supports common ways of collecting data, including packet sniffing, APIs, SNMP, ICMP, and WMI.

    Multi-vendor compatibility. You need insight into devices from a variety of vendors. Using network monitoring software compatible with multiple device types and vendors means your business isn’t boxed into certain “supported” solutions. For instance, SolarWinds NPM supports vendors like Cisco Nexus, ASA, and ACI, as well as Huawei NetStream, F5 BIG-IP, and more.

    Advanced alerting. Choose a network monitor tool to help reduce the flood of unnecessary network alerts. Move beyond basic alerting by defining network performance alerts based on nested trigger conditions, parent/child dependencies, and network topologies. You should also be able to send network alerts through several channels, including SMS and email.

    Path visualization. It’s critical to have hop-by-hop analysis of cloud and on-prem applications and services, so you can see changes along a path, more easily identify service provider issues, and use historical views to identify potential performance issues in the path before a problem occurs.

    Performance analysis. When it comes to performance issues, streamlined analysis features can help accelerate the identification of root causes. Look for network monitoring software with a way to easily compare both real-time and historical metrics.

    Intelligent mapping. Don’t underestimate the power of an up-to-date network map. It can be easier to catch problems and understand issues with at-a-glance visualizations of the relationships between routers, switches, interfaces, and other elements.

    Wireless monitoring and management. Wireless networks are also important to end-user productivity. Your network monitoring tool should offer a way to view dead zones and availability, monitor access points, and create wireless heatmaps.

    Logging integrations. It’s useful when your network monitoring tool can leverage syslogs and SNMP trap data to provide you with additional insights into performance and availability.

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  • How network monitoring tools work

    How network monitoring tools work

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    While network monitoring toolsoften have many features, they rely on a number of core functions to get the job done. Network monitoring tools work by connecting to various network elements, analyzing packet traffic, capturing relevant device metrics, and presenting this information in a useful format.

    Network monitoring tools connect to various network components. Network monitoring tools can connect to the devices you’d like to manage as nodes within the program in a number of ways. One common way is through the SNMP protocol, a standard for collecting data on IP networks typically supported on modems, routers, servers, printers, workstations, switches, and more. It uses the management information base (MIB) to query variables and change them if needed.

    Another option is ICMP, an error-reporting protocol that generates error messages regarding packet delivery—useful information when troubleshooting latency issues and more.

    Additionally, monitoring tools may use WMI, a Microsoft-specific method of providing users with information about local or remote computer system status. WMI can allow monitoring tools to implement system setting changes.

    Network monitoring tools track traffic. Understanding network traffic often comes down to monitoring packet activity. Investigating network traffic anomalies at this level is a standard way to get to the root cause of performance issues.

    By packet tracking, or packet sniffing, you can analyze packet activity using a SPAN/mirror port along with a dedicated software sensor on the server. By analyzing the header and payload, the monitor can identify and classify traffic as well as offer you the insights you need to effectively troubleshoot.

    Packet information can also enable you to understand how much data is currently crossing your network, especially when compared to historical baselines. Abnormal usage can mean a security threat. You can also track traffic for applications being used on your network to understand what applications may be causing slowdowns, or whether employees are using too many traffic-heavy apps. It’s also possible to see whether the packet source and destination are causing traffic issues.

    Network monitoring tools display information using visual maps. While network monitor dashboards should provide data in different ways—including charts, graphs, alerts, and reports—visual network maps are especially useful when monitoring network performance, as they’re built to provide useful, at-a-glance overviews of the relationships and current statuses of network components.

    You can create a map of managed nodes by manually placing the nodes onto the background image of your choice. This background image could be anything from a regional map to an office floorplan. You can also define the relationships and connections between these nodes. Once activated, the map should automatically update to display the current status of these elements, enabling you to quickly see where a problem may be occurring.

    It’s also possible to create wireless heatmaps to see where blockages or missing equipment is creating a dead zone. Creating wireless heatmaps involve polling wireless access points and wireless-connected devices to create a highly accurate sense of how signal strength is distributed in an indoor or outdoor space. When employees come to you complaining about the Wi-Fi, simply pull up the color-coded map for more insight into the situation.

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  • How to choose a network monitoring software

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    There are different types of solutions to consider when choosing a network monitoring software, which primarily differ in cost, functionality, and scalability. The most common types include:

    Open-source software. At first glance, open-source network monitoring software seems like the obvious choice, as it’s customizable and cost-free. However, these tools may offer limited functionality, require continuous IT management and configuration, and often don’t come with vendor support.

    Specialized tools. These network monitors focus on providing only specific types of data for environments. While a specialized network monitoring solution may provide insights in a particular area, you may not benefit from seeing what these insights mean within a fuller picture of your network health. Specialized tools can be useful in conjunction with more generalized solutions to create comprehensive network monitoring views.

    Basic monitoring solutions. Some smaller companies may consider using basic or limited paid network monitoring solutions. If you’re only monitoring a small network and have limited resources, these tools can offer you a centralized overview and a few simple features.

    Multi-featured network monitoring software. This type of network monitoring system is designed to be compatible with various vendors and protocols (SQL, SNMP, FTP, and more) and includes a range of user-friendly functions to help simplify and improve the overall network monitoring process. This type of network monitoring software is also built to make it easier to ensure secure, reliable networks. While the price point of these tools tends to be higher than other options, a professional network monitoring software is typically worth the cost for most organizations.

    To help ensure you’ve chosen the right type of network monitoring solution for your organization, run through the following checklist of essential network monitoring software requirements:

    • Are the tool’s protocols, sensors, and technologies appropriate for and compatible with your company’s existing IT infrastructure?

    •Will the tool integrate with non-local network components, as well as virtual and cloud environments?

    •Is the tool scalable enough to accommodate the projected size of your network over the next five years?

    •Is the tool’s dashboard robust and customizable? Does it include graphs, charts, and reports? Does it support a historical baseline? Is it user-friendly and intuitive?

    • Does the tool offer custom alerts?

    • Is the manufacturer a trusted solutions provider? Do they offer in-depth resources and support, including a forum and manuals?

    • Does the company offer a free trial before you purchase the complete version?

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  • What is SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)?

    What is SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)?

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    When device health fails or bandwidth usage peaks, will you be able to respond in a timely fashion? Without real-time insights into network components like servers and routers, it can be difficult to both address current network issues and plan to ensure resources are used efficiently.

    SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor enables you to gather multi-vendor metrics across even the largest networks—including wireless devices. NPM is designed to be an all-in-one software for network monitoring built for environments of all sizes.

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  • What makes NPM network monitoring software different

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    Gain a comprehensive overview of your network. NPM offers complex device monitoring with Network Insight™and SDN monitoring with Cisco ACI support.

    Analyze and troubleshoot more effectively. Leverage advanced alerting based on network performance baselines and easily compare metrics on the PerfStack™ performance analysis dashboard.

    Visualize the problem. Use NetPath critical packet path visualization and create intelligent, automatically-updated maps with Orion® Map tools.

    Flexible capabilities. You can also integrate logging with syslog and trap collecting and alerting.

    Every organization needs proactive network monitoring, but not every monitoring software delivers the features you need to identify, diagnose, and resolve issues before they hurt your business. If you’re looking for a network monitoring solution that meets these requirements, download a fully functional, 30-day trial today to see if SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is the best network monitoring software to meet your monitoring needs.

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