Network Monitoring Techniques - Tips and Tricks

As networks continue to grow and become more complex, it becomes more important every day to have the right  network monitoring solution to keep your business up and running. Maintaining full network visibility, optimal performance, preventing network outages, and improve recovery times from failures are just a few of the benefits of network monitoring.

When configuring your network monitoring tools, setting them up properly can make a significant difference in how effective and efficient you will be. Here are some network monitoring techniques to keep in mind.

Topology Mapping

Create a map of your network topology including every connected device, control points, and inter-connections. As your network expands, it can be difficult to do this manually. The right network monitoring software can create this automatically and update as devices enter and leave the network. This information will be essential when problems occur.

Automated layer 2/3 discovery and mapping will help you to quickly identify the mission-critical devices and applications and be better able to find the root cause of network issues.

Failover Protection

Your network map will also help you diagnose points of failure so you can build in redundancy, fault tolerance, and failover protection to maintain high availability. Your topology should allow for multiple ways for devices to continue operations in case of a point of failure.

Baseline Measurement

How does your network perform when things are running smoothly?  It’s important to produce a baseline to measure future performance against. This can help you identify when a system is sluggish or suspicious activity is occurring.

Network Alerts

Baselines can also help you set up alerts when behavior out of the norm occurs. The best network monitoring software will flag you when potential problems arise and fix many issues automatically.

You’ll want to be careful about setting up your alerts. If you’re getting too many, it can quickly lead to alert fatigue and make it easy to miss the important ones. Consider disabling alerts that don’t matter or create thresholds that are high to need attention. For example, if your baseline for CPU usage is 50% on a server, you might not need to worry if utilization is at 60%. If it hits 90%, however, you need to take a look.

You’ll also want to account for expected spikes in activity. You don’t want to get an alert at 2 AM if that’s the normal time for backups to occur when you want high utilization for faster backups.

Policies and Procedures

Very few people like writing up policies and procedures but the scope of your network monitoring should be defined so the network can be configured properly and people know what to do when an issue arises. Policies should include:

  • Which devices and equipment will be monitored?
  • What information is being collected?
  • Who has access to the data (and how they can access it)?
  • What variable triggers alerts?
  • Who will receive alerts?
  • What action should occur when an alert is received?

Consolidate Your Network Monitoring

We find many organizations use different tools to monitor parts of their networks. If you’re using different tools to monitor devices, servers, VMs, and applications, it can complicate things when there’s a problem. One failure can cause an avalanche of alarm as different monitoring tools detect symptoms and make it difficult to isolate the root cause.

While you’ll know there’s an issue right away, you won’t be able to quickly detect dependencies which can lead you to lose time in the investigation process. Consolidating your network monitoring into one solution provides a  single version of the truth.

Some network monitoring solutions can handle multiple locations for distributed environments with predictive SNMP and WMI monitoring for alerting and notifications.

Proactive Network Monitoring

There are several key network components that you need to monitor regularly. Many IT teams prefer to keep a real-time dashboard open on a screen so they can see what’s happening at a glance. This allows them to visually confirm that everything’s operating properly.

While there are hundreds of things you can monitor, many of them can be handled by your network monitoring software and flag you when issues arise. Some aspects are mission-critical, however, and you’ll want to monitor them yourself. These might include:

  • Availability Monitoring Continuous monitoring of resources and services on the network provides assurance that nodes and services are available and have the bandwidth needed to meet performance requirements.
  • Interface Monitoring Interface monitoring for errors, packet loss, discards, or utilization limits will help identify potential network issues caused by poor application or service performance. It can give you a snapshot of traffic speed and bandwidth utilization to help isolate problems.
  • Disk Monitoring If there are problems with disks, your data is at risk. Managing the health of your storage arrays and available space is essential. You want to make sure you’ve got adequate capacity to handle future needs and your systems are running as expected.
  • Hardware Monitoring The hardware in your network is the backbone of your IT infrastructure. Hardware failures will impact performance. If it’s a critical piece of equipment, it can take down part or all of your network. You’ll want to watch CPU utilization, power supply states, temperature, and other potential failure points.

Customize Dashboards

The best networking monitoring solution will allow you to create custom dashboards for domains or users to provide the information you need to streamline administration or problem-solving. In large organizations that employ specialists, this makes it easier to monitor the things that they’re responsible for.

Dashboards can be customized with reports for servers, applications, virtual, wireless, cloud, and network traffic. Reports can be set up to provide overviews or drill down to anything on the network.

Remote Monitoring

There’s nothing worse than getting that phone when you’re asleep and having to get in the car and drive into the office to figure out what’s going on with your network. Remote monitoring and management lets you check on things from any connected device. This can help you diagnose – and solve – many problems without having to be in the physical location.

A Final Thought

Finally, one last thing:  automate everything you possibly can. Anything you have to do manually takes time away from other projects and forces you to remember to do it. Automation in networking monitoring will make your life easier.

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