What Is Network Monitoring?

In today’s digitally dependent world where almost every transaction can be done online, Companies must avoid or, at the very least, provide immediate action to computer crashes. Even just a few seconds of downtime can mean losses of thousands of dollars for businesses. 

Network monitoring is a facet of network management that involves the supervision of a computer network through specific software tools. This process ensures that you can stay ahead of outages and fix issues faster. It also helps you improve your defenses as your company grows over time. 

Network Monitoring and the OSI Model 

As a business owner, you may be tempted to leave all the tech stuff to the specialists and experts. However, it’s beneficial for you to understand basic networking and how to monitor network performance. It all starts with the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model since it standardizes the key features and functions of a network through a set of protocols. With this, devices from different suppliers can communicate seamlessly with each other within your network.

These are the seven layers of the OSI model: 

  • Physical

    This layer allows devices to transmit data over hardware like coax or fiber cable. 

  • Data Link

    The data link connection makes the connection between two nodes reliable by spotting errors at the first layer.  

  • Network

    Data packets are sent to and from two nodes on a network through the same IP address. 

  • Transport

    With this layer, data transfer is guaranteed from the source to a destination host using one or more networks. 

  • Session

    The session layer has full control of the connections between computers. This includes the establishment, management, and termination of networks. 

  • Presentation

    This layer converts data from one format to another through processes such as data encryption and compression. 

  • Application 

    The application layer interacts with software applications that are used for communication. 

For monitoring, the standard layers used are data link, network, and application. These aspects are useful in discovering devices within the system and figuring out how they are connected. They also serve to generate network topology maps. 

Main Functions of Network Monitoring Systems 

Network Monitoring Systems (NMSs) offer five key functions:

1. Discover

The network monitoring process starts with identifying the devices that are connected to your network. This first step is a critical foundation for the other functions because knowing what’s on your network and determining how they’re all connected is crucial for managing the system. 

NMSs have monitoring templates used to assign appropriate roles for each device. It’s not enough to discover what’s on the network, though. You need a system that also pinpoints how they’re all connected. 

A system with layer 2 or 3 discovery capabilities can provide you with a list of port-to-port connectivity between devices within your network. However, this information may not be sufficient if you’re troubleshooting a performance problem involving a switch, for instance, which affects how other devices communicate with each other. 

Here are the devices that are commonly used for networking: 

  • Routers 

    The network (layer 3) gadgets are valuable for allowing your private network to connect to the Internet. Think of it as a dispatcher that selects which path is the best way for data to travel. 

  • Switches

    If routers allow your local network to tap to the Internet, switches connect computers, servers, printers, and other gadgets to the private network. The data link (layer 2) tool acts like a controller that provides a way for devices to communicate with each other. 

  • Firewalls 

    This one is your network’s line of defense against external threats. It manages traffic that goes in and out by acting as a barrier between your private network and the Internet.

  • Servers 

    The data that you send and receive in your networks are stored in servers. It’s crucial in the transmission and retrieval of information as requested by users. Different types of servers are used for emails and databases.

2. Map

Wires and cables are inevitable in the IT department, even with wireless technology rapidly gaining traction for consumer electronics. This is because physical connections through these tools lessen the risk of data losses compared to sending information packets through Wi-Fi or WLAN. 

Messy wiring closets may impede the efficiency of your network administrator in resolving and troubleshooting connection issues. Fortunately, NMSs allow you to produce network maps of your system for a visual representation of your wiring cabinet. Find an NMS that automates the process for you, as well as displays devices and status in real-time, so you don’t have to worry about growing your business.

3. Monitor

Network monitoring tools offer users with monitoring templates that identify what processes to supervise. Admins can tweak the presets or build new ones from scratch according to your company’s needs and preferences. 

Typically, one of the starting points of monitoring a device in your network is ping availability and latency. You’ll also want to check the gadget’s CPU, disk space, memory, and interface utilization. Hardware such as fans and power supplies can also be monitored through an NMS, as well as the temperature of your wiring closet.

4. Alert

A critical benefit of NMS is its alert function, which notifies you when there’s a problem in the system. You can choose to receive warnings through text, email, and logging. This allows you to respond to the issues as soon as possible to avoid affecting users or your customers. 

You can configure the system to send a warning for a router’s CPU utilization that surpasses 80 percent. Once the usage exceeds that threshold, you’ll be alerted and you can investigate the issue to reduce the risk of having the device fail completely.

4. Report

Reporting always plays a significant role in any business or industry. Continuous improvement relies on this function for correcting and enhancing the different aspects of your company. 

Networks are no different. You need to keep on developing your system’s design and analyzing how you can improve on it. NMSs store historical data on the different areas of your network, which you can review and compare with real-time information. The numbers can serve as evidence of how the system continues to support your company’s goals. 

Conclusion 

Network monitoring is similar with CCTV monitoring but it focuses on the network of any industry. In today’s digital world, where everything seems to be done online, even a few seconds of downtime can significantly harm your business. Find an NMS that allows you to discover devices, map out your network, monitor, and send alerts for problems, as well as produce detailed reports on your system.