Device Discovery – The most basic aspect of any network monitoring tool is that it can discover all of those dark corners of your network with the click of a button. Particularly in larger networks, understanding what you have and which IP addresses are in use, can be a difficult task. Taking it one step further, regular or even scheduled discoveries will alert you as to when rogue or unauthorised devices are being added to the network.
Network Maps – Post discovery, network monitoring solutions will be able to map out your network according to their physical and cabled links; or associations in the case of WiFi access points or virtualisation. No more following cables in server racks or wondering which virtual machine is on which hypervisor host.
Understand Device Health Status – Based on a single or multiple monitor types, network monitoring solutions can determine whether or not a device is offline or down. This could be based on a number of tests, such as ping or port tests. This is usually reflected in the network map as a warning or can be used to send alerting information to IT support teams for further investigation.
Long-Term Hardware Trends – With statistical information about hardware such as port bandwidth statistics, CPU utlisation, memory usage and hard-disk capacity being collected from each device. Historical reports can be built to view both retrospectively and as a tool to determine a short-term future. For example, if a report reveals that a server is consuming 5% of its hard-disk capacity each day, we can determine a trend-line to avoid a future problem.
Network Traffic Analysis – Using either NetFlow or sFlow, switches and routers can send packet data to a network monitoring solution for analysis. Network traffic analysis features will reveal more than just the utlisation of switch ports, for example they can show the top communicators and protocols over a given time. This can be used to determine not just that a network device is over-burdened but by what.
Alerting and Incident Response – Knowing that a device is offline or down is great but what comes next? Any network monitoring solution worth using will have alerting and integration capabilities to help with incident response. For example, alerts which can be sent via email, SMS, Slack messages; or integrations such as running scripts, posting to support ticket systems such as ServiceNow; or interacting with virtualisation software such as VMware.
Manage Network Devices – Personally one of my favourite features available in network monitoring software. When given access to the configuration files of a network device, network monitoring solutions can be used to centrally back up, monitor for change, restore configuration files and even issue commands to network devices. For example, the creation of a VLAN or the disablement of a port. Network management has become truly centralised!
Cloud Integration – Keeping up with the times, network monitoring solutions have capabilities which allow them to utilise APIs for Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS. This extends monitoring into the cloud & can even track usage which can in turn be correlated against cost. Enterprises can see what caused this months AWS bill to be higher than the last.
Analyse Wireless Connectivity – With wireless networks becoming the norm, being able to monitor the signal strength as well as other metrics is paramount. Where particular areas of coverage are patchy or transmission speeds are slow, network monitoring solutions can show you statistics and measurements which could reveal the route cause. Better yet, get alerted to a growing problem before your users report it.
Monitor Application Health – Network monitoring solutions often cover both network , bandwidth aspects and can monitor applications for failures.