Preventing network crashes is one of the top responsibilities of any network engineer or administrator. In order to avoid outages, you need to rigorously monitor bandwidth utilization, traffic, latency, and more on an ongoing basis. Without regular monitoring, users will call complaining of network issues before you’re even aware of the problem—which isn’t a good situation for anyone because users are already frustrated, the business is losing productivity and profit, and you’re behind.
Proactively identifying, fixing, and preventing outages remains a top challenge for many IT professionals. If you do this, you’ll be your users’ hero. How? Use network monitoring tools to stay informed of network performance 24/7 so you’re the first to know about sluggish performance or failing devices.
I shared all my best strategies and advice to use network monitoring software to be the hero in your organization in a recent webinar. We recorded it so you can easily watch it when you have time, but what follows are the high points.
What causes network outages?
Generally network outages stem from these four causes:
- Human error. Mistakes in network management are one of the most common issues that can affect network performance. Even the best network professionals sometimes need a little protection from ourselves because we don’t always get it right.
- Configuration issues. Network outages can occur when devices are not properly configured. For instance, maybe you recently updated a router or switch, but you failed to test to confirm it was performing up to par, and it led to greater issues.
- Failing to monitor environmental factors. People often overlook the importance of monitoring environmental equipment. Not keeping an eye on how your HVAC or environmental sensors are performing, and not having a backup plan, can quickly lead to outages.
- Lack of network visibility. Getting network visibility is one of the most crucial ways to avoid outages. When IT can’t see where bottlenecks are forming with enough advance notice, over time, outages are bound to occur and can even be catastrophic. A survey by Forrester showed that about 25% of critical IT issues take longer than 44 hours to resolve because of lack of network visibility… and 44 hours is more than most businesses can afford.
When big brands fail
We’ve all witnessed big brands being publically shamed for their network failures. Take Bank of America, for example, whose customers experienced trouble accessing their online accounts during a six-day outage. At the time, the bank served over 29 million customers online. The cause? An upgrade of their online platform, combined with higher-than-anticipated traffic.
Another sob story: a 24-hour service outage affected millions of BlackBerry customers worldwide when the company failed to test their transition to a back-up switch.
It’s easy for a business to celebrate their commitment to customers, but delivering really great service requires having the right processes and tools on the backend. Taken as a warning, these examples remind us that network monitoring is serious stuff. Without monitoring, you risk taking a major hit to your brand recognition, customer confidence, and revenue.
Check out this infographic to see the top challenges network professionals face when monitoring their networks.
What does network monitoring involve?
Getting the most out of your network monitoring requires that you do the following:
- Start with a full inventory of all the devices on your network
- Identify which devices are most important to monitor
- Figure out what data vendors will allow you to monitor for particular devices
- Choose which metrics give you the information you need
- Tailor monitoring around your business-critical metrics
- Establish optimal performance levels for your devices—then configuring devices to perform at those optimal levels
Five key steps of network monitoring
If you’re looking for a checklist of items telling you how to do ongoing network monitoring, here are five steps to follow:
- Perform network discovery and identify what devices are running on your network.
- Find out how your core infrastructure is performing and what the ideal performance levels are for those devices.
- Determine what information is most critical for you to monitor (e.g. traffic, physical device attributes, response time, latency, availability)
- Capture performance data through SMNP and Flows technology to provide deeper insights you need, such as CPU utilization or disk storage metrics.
- Set up exception-based alerting to notify you of issues immediately after they occur.
What features should the best network monitoring software provide?
Choosing the best network monitoring software for your company requires identifying what you’re able to do today and what you need to do. Here’s a list of the core functions network monitoring software should provide:
- Real-time monitoring
- Live visual network mapping
- Autodiscovery of all your network devices
- Layer 2 mapping
- Device and interface monitoring
- Flow-based technology
- Exception-based alerting
- Reporting tools
Be a hero with Intermapper
The bottom line is that by using network monitoring software, you can stay ahead of user complaints and be the hero they need by providing fast troubleshooting and preventing network outages.
Intermapper is a great solution for businesses of all sizes, in any industry. The software automatically maps all your IP-enabled devices and polls them to deliver real time status updates of your entire IT infrastructure. User-friendly and intuitive, you’ll be a pro in days, unlike many solutions that take weeks or months to learn.
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