More often than not, enterprises have more than one type of network built in their infrastructure. Usually, the company needs multiple networks operating at once to cover all necessary areas of their business. They need to satisfy the demands of their employees, as well as any other group of people that connect to their network (visitors, for example). To analyze the behavior of all these networks, enterprises use network performance monitoring (NPM) tools. NPMs observe and test network performance and alert users to any abnormal behaviors.
Most NPMs can monitor multiple networks at once, allowing enterprises to keep every part of their network architecture in check. Because business use a variety of networks, NPMs must be able to detect and observe common network types – LAN, wireless, WAN, etc. By integrating an NPM solution, you can cover any type of network your business is operating so you can maintain full performance visibility.
Below, we talk about 5 common varieties of enterprise networks and how an NPM solution can help you monitor them. This includes features that apply to a specific network type and any specific network problems an NPM can address.
Wireless networks are convenient for users because, true to their name, you don’t need to make a physical connection to gain access to the network. That opens up a wider area for device to connect to, which allows enterprises to use mobile devices in their infrastructure. Most devices nowadays can connect to wireless networks, so companies have the ability to extend their operations beyond wired access points. It’s fairly common for an enterprise to use a wireless network (typically a wireless LAN, or Wi-Fi network) for guests or mobile BYOD equipment.
Many NPMs implement network maps, or visualizations of your network and every node and device currently connected to it. For wireless networks, this extends to the area of coverage your access points provide. You can see areas where the wireless connection is weak or if any access point is overloaded with connection requests. NPMs can track any device on a network and check for the strength of the wireless connection, which can help you plan out access point reconfigurations.
Business LANs provide a localized, closed-off network for enterprises. They’re typically used by enterprises that want a fast wired connection for their employees that is strictly used for business networking. Because they are restricted to work-related devices, NPM users always know when a workstation is operational on the network. There’s no unpredictability in terms of your LAN’s topology, which makes it easier for you to track network performance.
In general, LANs perform better than other networks because they are restricted to specific devices and locations. That means that outside influences are less likely to interfere with a LAN’s performance. Still, LAN performance is usually a business’s top priority when it comes to network behavior. NPMs can continuously monitor LAN traffic by setting up routine monitoring checks. NPMs can transmit test data across a LAN to check network behavior across every link, even if it isn’t currently being used.
In contrast to LANs, WANs cover a larger geographic area and aren’t restricted to one location. They extend an enterprise’s network beyond their office location, allowing them to communicate and share data within a larger zone. A WAN could be global in scale or only extend two a few different regions, but even if your NPM is centralized in one location, it can reach anywhere on the WAN. They can also be used to connect different LANs together, so businesses that have locations around the globe can connect with each other easily.
WANs typically feature worse performance than LANs because they extend network service over a wider distance. Latency and jitter problems get worse when data needs to travel over a longer distance and isn’t confined to a local area. Thankfully, your NPM solution will inform you of latency and jitter problems as they occur. They can also establish performance baselines so it knows exactly when the network is performing poorly and when it isn’t.
In many cases, companies outsource WAN capabilities to other businesses. Those businesses maintain the WAN so you can keep focus on your local networks. In that scenario, the WAN provider’s service-level agreement (SLA) will provide guarantees of network uptime and downtime.
SD-WANs (or software-defined WANs) provide a new deployment and delivery method for WANs meant to simplify WAN management. They provide multiple WAN paths for data to take and virtualizes the WAN using software abstractions. Because an SD-WAN is more complex with multiple simultaneous paths and dynamic network routing, it often requires more out of an NPM tool to monitor it. Some NPMs have dynamic route analysis capabilities that allow them to predict the performance behavior of any SD-WAN route. That allows the NPM to know how each SD-WAN pathway should perform and weigh that against its actual performance.
In order to stay connected with each other, enterprise employees sometimes use a voice over IP (VoIP) to make business calls. A VoIP transmits call data (both audio and video) over the Internet, and that data travels across a network to make it from the caller to the recipient. If a business uses a WAN, they might also use VoIP calls to communicate with customers and clients. Some businesses use VoIP capabilities more than others, but for businesses that use it frequently, they want to maintain the quality of VoIP calls.
Many NPMs can manage the quality of VoIP calls in addition to network traffic. They use quality-of-service (QoS) monitoring to determine when a VoIP transmission is performing below standard quality. Just as with other networks, the NPM will monitor the quality of your network’s VoIP even when you aren’t currently making any calls. They will deliver VoIP packets to test a network’s QoS, often discovering call quality problems before a user has the chance to discover them. NPMs will continuously look for packet loss and latency during VoIP calls to alert the network team of any quality problems that can be fixed.
Our Network Monitoring Buyer’s Guide contains profiles on the top network performance monitor vendors, as well as questions you should ask providers and yourself before buying.
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