Successfully monitoring your network performance isn’t just a matter of finding the right tools. There are plenty of network performance monitoring (NPM) solutions on the market, and they’re getting more advanced every day. As enterprise networks become more complex, the need for effective and comprehensive monitoring tools becomes greater. However, while integrating the right monitoring solution is essential for maintaining successful network operation, it isn’t the only thing you’ll need. You also need a smart network monitoring strategy that addresses your enterprise’s evolving business needs and solves key performance issues.
A network monitoring strategy encompasses the tools and techniques your IT department uses to analyze and measure network performance. This strategy examines how your enterprise monitors and interprets the performance of a network. Typically, this includes what performance metrics you look at and the actions your network team takes to establish performance-related fixes. Every company’s strategy will be different, since a strong network monitoring strategy will be tailored specifically to your enterprise’s network.
What does your company need to design and enact a network monitoring strategy? How do you create a strategy that works for your enterprise network and addresses problems that your network team faces regularly? Finally, how can you tell when your network monitoring strategy is working? We answer these questions and more below as we explore how to design and implement a successful network monitoring strategy.
What performance metrics should you analyze?
Network performance can be broken down into several different metrics that evaluate specific performance measurements. Each individual metric will tell your enterprise something unique about your network performance. However, not every performance metric will be helpful for your network team to analyze. When creating a network monitoring strategy, you need to know which performance metrics are the most helpful for determining your network’s performance levels.
Network monitoring tools will examine your network performance on a number of different levels. It can look for and analyze several different performance metrics, then display this information visually via the monitoring dashboard. The tool will also alert you when a performance metric is reaching critical or unsustainable levels. If you notice that a particular metric is constantly dropping below expected levels, your network team can apply solutions that address these issues.
For your monitoring strategy, you’ll want to measure your network performance based on the metrics that most affect your network operations. You might need your network to perform as quickly as possible while reducing packet loss and latency. You might also need to support a heavy amount of data traffic on a network at one time while not going over your maximum bandwidth. Whatever the case, there will be a set of metrics that your monitoring strategy should analyze.
Establishing a network performance baseline
Once you’ve figured out the metrics that your network team will analyze, you need to establish a network performance baseline for each one. This baseline outlines the normal performance of your network on a regular day without any boosts or corrections applied. A baseline is important for your network monitoring strategy because it gives your IT team an idea of where they can improve performance and where the network is doing okay.
Collecting and monitoring network performance data
There are many ways to collect and monitoring performance data, and your monitoring strategy should incorporate the methods your enterprise uses. You might monitor any number of protocols, including SNMP, TCP/IP, and ICMP, to examine the performance of the basic functions of your network. Network hardware also generates performance data through syslogs that your monitoring solution can gather; by requesting access to these logs, a monitoring tool can determine the performance of a device. This can range from basic metrics like availability and device failure to uptime and health monitoring.
Your strategy should outline the methods your enterprise will use to collect and monitor network performance data. This includes metrics that your network monitoring solution will automatically search for as well as performance checks that your network team performs manually. Once your strategy is in place, you must ensure that every collection method is being used. From there, you can ascertain whether or not a collection and monitoring method is providing valuable performance insights for your enterprise.
Reporting and analyzing network performance data
When you have a substantial amount of network performance data, the next step is generating data reports and analyzing them. Reports consolidate all the performance data you’ve collected into a collective summary, allowing your team to see the basics of your network performance all in one place. Some network monitoring tools will automatically generate reports for you on a set schedule that your enterprise can adjust. These reports can either be viewed inside the tool itself or be exported to a number of common file formats, such as PDFs, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets.
From there, your team can analyze the performance data and see how your network has been performing over time. Reports should be able to break down performance on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. This helps your network team discover trends in network performance metrics over time or identify performance highs and lows caused by major events (blackouts, malware attacks, etc.).
This data should not be confined to your network and IT teams, however. Upper management, such as CTOs and CEOs, will want to know how their network is performing as well. They don’t necessarily need the entire set of performance metrics, but they should know how their company’s network is performing on the surface level.
Don’t lock yourself into a monitoring strategy
Even if you spend as much care and attention as possible into designing a network monitoring strategy, it isn’t guaranteed to work right out of the gate. Your network team might think a metric is more valuable than it really is when you draft your first strategy. Also, you’ll need to adjust your strategy as emerging technologies create more advanced and complicated networks and connected devices. The worst thing your business can do is create a network monitoring strategy and never go back to change it.
At some point, you’ll want to evaluate your monitoring strategy to see if it’s giving you the best understanding of your network. Are you looking at the right metrics? Is there an area of network performance that you’ve been struggling to improve? Does your strategy have effective regulations for new technologies that you’ve attached to your network? These are the types of questions you should be asking when examining your monitoring strategy.
Accommodating for emerging technologies
Companies are constantly integrating new technologies into their infrastructure. Technologies such as cloud computing, enterprise mobility, and the Internet of Things have changed the way companies think about network connectivity. As more and more devices rely on a network to perform, network monitoring tools and strategies must be able to account for them. IoT devices, for example, often have distinct configurations that differ from common network devices. If you connect one to your network, you need to adjust your monitoring strategy to accommodate for this device.
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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