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What 5 items should be on your network monitoring checklist?

Device monitoring, visual performance tools and a deep understanding of network data are just a few of the items that should be on your network monitoring checklist.

Your typical network monitoring checklist includes device monitoring, performance analysis, troubleshooting and security. But one network monitoring tool cannot meet all your needs. In that case, make sure your set of tools meets key capabilities as they relate to your network environment and network engineers' skills.

The following items, among others, should appear on your network monitoring checklist.

  1. Device compatibility. If the IT environment includes network devices from multiple vendors, then you must monitor all of them to avoid blind spots. Tools are available from equipment vendors, but they tend to focus on their own devices. It's a tradeoff of the depth of vendor tools versus the breadth of multivendor device coverage.
  2. Graphical visualization. If you are visually oriented, then a graphical tool is easier to use than text-only tools. Visual tools enable quick identification of performance and topology. While simple charts and graphs are common, look for something better.
  3. Understanding the data. Many tools can extract raw network data and present it to the network administrator, but it's another matter to glean deeper meaning. It is critical to move beyond the view of packets into the realm of how network behavior affects applications. Conversely, moving from application-level information toward an understanding of low-level issues, such as network congestion or device failures, can help with troubleshooting. Depending on the experience and scope of the network engineer's job, understanding both low- and high-level network behavior can be a big timesaver.
  4. Integration with other tools. No tool should be in its own silo. The ability to integrate with alerting tools or export data to analysis tools is important to create a complete set of network monitoring services.
  5. Zooming in, zooming out. Troubleshooting a network is like detective work and requires network administrators to distinguish the forest from the trees. It's important to swoop down to the trees -- and leaves -- when necessary, but also elevate upward to understand the entire network in context. A good tool should easily switch between the levels.

While this network monitoring checklist is not exactly comprehensive, make sure your collection of network monitoring tools meets most of these criteria to make your job easier.

This was last published in March 2019

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