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This content is part of the Essential Guide: How to improve network visibility and regain control
Definition

network monitoring

Contributor(s): Alexander Gillis

Network monitoring is the practice of consistently overseeing a computer network for any failures or deficiencies to ensure continued network performance. For example, network monitoring will monitor the conditions of network components such as routers, servers and firewalls. If a slowing or failing component is detected, the network monitoring software in use will notify network administrators of the issue; avoiding a network outage. Likewise, if a performance bottleneck is detected, the network monitoring software will notify administrators.

Key network monitoring features and aspects include the selecting of a network monitoring tool, protocol and thresholds (to identify bottlenecks) as well as choosing what portions of the network should be monitored, then monitoring them consistently to optimize performance.

Benefits

Advantages of network monitoring include:

  • The ability to tell if a network component, such a server, fails as soon as it happens through notifications.
  • Network administrators can more quickly address network issues.
  • Makes identifying security threats easier.
  • Easy to tell when a network component needs replacing or tuning.
  • Automatic configuration of network devices.
  • Allows users to visualize the performance of their IT infrastructure.

Protocols

Network management protocols are used to minimize any impact the network monitoring software has on its surrounding network and network devices. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and command line interface (CLI) protocols are commonly used for Linux based servers and Windows Management Instrumentation Remote Protocol (WMI) is commonly used for Windows-based devices.

While CLIs provide a text-based interface for device control, the most commonly used Linux protocol, SNMP, supports  read and write access which enables control over a device. This control access allows for a network administrator to restrict access to control for additional users. SNMP will also include a software agent on each monitored device.

WMI is a client/server framework which allows for system management through using the Common Information Model (CIM). CIM is a model which represents the components of the operating system (OS).

Network Monitoring Software

Network monitoring software includes many options, including two popular tools, Nagios and Zabbix.  Nagios is an open source monitoring system that is designed to run on the Linux operating system and can monitor devices running Linux, Windows and Unix OSs. Nagios exists in multiple versions such as the open source version Nagios Core, the extended enterprise version Nagios XI and Nagios Network Analyzer. Nagios Network Analyzer can track network traffic and bandwidth utilization as well as resolve network outages, abnormalities in functioning and security threats. Some features include agentless monitoring, integration with Nagios IX and a bandwidth utilization calculator.

Zabbix is another open source monitoring software tool. Zabbix can perform real-time monitoring of network, server, virtual machine (VM) and cloud services. Statistics Zabbix can monitor include network utilization, CPU loads and disk space. Zabbix uses both agent and agentless software for monitoring network devices. Zabbix also features templates, which are custom built add-ons that extend monitoring functionality.

This was last updated in February 2019

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