Networks are based on communication, both in terms of what they do for businesses and how they work. A network allows enterprises to send data, information, and other communications to any user connected to the Internet. The business can communicate with clients externally as well as other areas of their internal business infrastructure. Networks use protocols in order to define a common set of rules for those communications. An enterprise can take advantage of those protocols when it comes to their network monitoring strategies.
Network monitoring helps enterprises understand how well their network is performing by looking for performance-related issues. A network performance monitoring (NPM) solution can take advantage of various network protocols to help find those performance problems. Most NPM tools are equipped to support multiple protocols, giving them the ability to monitor your network on a more comprehensive level. Even without NPM tools, however, you can utilize these protocols to get a basic understand of your network performance.
What kind of protocols can you examine to observe the performance of your network, and what can monitoring those protocols tell you? We’ve explained the basics of protocols and network monitoring as well as the benefits they bring for enterprises below!
What are network protocols?
First, let’s explore what exactly network protocols are. A network protocol is a set of directions and regulations that allow for the devices on a network to communicate with each other. The protocols include means for devices to identify themselves and to interpret the function and status of other devices on the network. They also typically include instructions or requirements for data transmissions, including supported data packet types. Without these protocols, your network hardware can’t properly handle data transmissions or communicate with each other.
What do network protocols have to do with performance monitoring, though? Well, many protocols are able to establish basic performance data for network devices. Checking this data can help network teams understand the current status of their network nodes. Monitoring these protocols on a regular basis ensures that you always have a simple understanding of whether or not your network is working.
Just about every device that can connect to a network features Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) compatibility. SNMP uses a call-and-response system to check various device status conditions. Each device has an agent installed on it, which gathers information on the device and compiles it together. An SNMP manager can request specific information that an agent gathers and analyze it. NPM tools can interpret the information that an SNMP manager collects or request specific data from agents. It can then examine that information to determine if a device is affected by performance issues.
TCP and IP monitoring
The Internet protocol suite, a combination of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), allow for network devices to establish connections to each other and deliver data along those connections. These two protocols form the backbone of network communications.
TCP is a system that helps network devices create and maintain connections between each other. It also contains information on how to break down data into packets that can be transmitted across the network. This is an essential protocol for networks to operate correctly, as it manages data transmissions. Monitoring TCP allows your enterprise to analyze TCP response time and availability, showing your network team how your network’s data transmission capabilities are working.
IP creates addresses for each device connected on a network and helps the network route data transmissions. Using IP addresses and routing protocols, a network can determine which path data packets need to take in order to reach their destination. You can monitor the IP protocol to ensure that data is arriving where it needs to go, as well as the latency between data being sent out and the IP system telling it where to go.
Accessing websites is one of the most common uses for a business network. As such, you want to make sure that your company can reach websites that are critical to your enterprise. This includes both your enterprise’s own websites as well as third-party websites that your employees need to access. HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) monitoring can check the availability of websites and inform you of when mission-critical services are down. You can also monitor the delay between requesting access to a website and when the request is fulfilled. NPMs that monitor HTTP will alert you when the network is taking too long to access a website.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) acts as the bridge between a computer and a server in regards to file transfers. FTP requests information from a server based on download requests delivered by the network. By monitoring your FTP system, your enterprise can verify that you are able to upload and download files to and from your server. You can also observe upload/download speed by monitoring FTP requests in real time.
Whenever a device in your network structure suffers an error, it may rely on the Internet Control Management Protocol (ICMP) to generate error messages. It then delivers this error message to devices that requested information from it, such as a website or file. In addition to verifying that the ICMP system is currently working, ICMP monitoring can also help your enterprise learn when errors on your network occur as they happen. An NPM solution may also be able to send ICMP ping requests to check the operative status of devices on the network.
POP3, IMAP, and SMTP monitoring
Employees and clients alike rely on a functioning network to send and receive company emails. There are a handful of network protocols to handle both incoming and outgoing emails that travel through your enterprise’s network. For incoming mail, Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) or Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) allow for native mail servers clients to receive and store emails. Monitoring these protocols not only ensures that you maintain constant access to the mail server, but can also track email response times so you know if critical emails are being addressed quickly. For outgoing messages, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) can be monitored to guarantee that emails are being delivered. It is typically used in conjunction with either POP3 or IMAP, meaning you can monitor both your incoming and outgoing mail at the same time.
Looking for a solution to help you improve your network performance? 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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