The network administrator is charged with monitoring the network for things like performance issues, traffic, faults and availability, and to address any problems that come up quickly and thoroughly. For this network analysis, there are monitoring tools to help the network administrator achieve and maintain end to end monitoring, data collection, etc. A few of the data points collected by a good network analysis and monitoring solution include things like bandwidth, latency, responsiveness, and CPU usage. These tools should also report on the behavior and any problems related to the network in the form of alerts when performance reaches a preset threshold. That might mean that performance dips below a level deemed acceptable, or that traffic peaks above a level deemed to be manageable by the network.

What Networks is the Monitoring Tool Used With?

Look for a tool that gives you the visibility you need into the applications and devices running on your network. Though the free products may be tempting, those just don't offer the kind of visibility and full set of features available with the paid products.

Most of these network analysis and monitoring tools can be used with both wired and wireless networks. In larger networks, such as those in the enterprise, it is also necessary to get tools that offer more, like visibility into the server infrastructure, WAN, software-defined networks, cloud services, and any mobile devices that utilize the network.

Look for a Tool That Helps You Be Proactive About Infrastructure Improvements

Network analysis and monitoring solutions can do even more than just track and report on the network's health. These tools can also help the network administrator to be proactive about issues like explaining and making a case for the cost of any hardware that is needed, upgrades to the network infrastructure to eliminate frequent bottlenecks, and other network capacity planning issues. This functionality helps the business plan more accurately and save money by eliminating many of the issues that require frequent troubleshooting and repairs.

Network Analysis and Monitoring Tools Can Help You Hold Service Providers to Their SLAs

A good network monitoring tool can be exactly what you need to determine if vendors are meeting the promises laid out in their SLAs, and to hold them to it if they are not.

In many cases, the network analysis and monitoring tools can be used to assess the level of service provided by a vendor under an SLA, or service-level agreement. If a business lacks such tools, it can be difficult or impossible to determine how well a particular vendor is performing and insist that they adhere to the SLA.

A Good Network Monitoring Tool Improves User Satisfaction

When the network is kept at a high level of performance through the use of a network analysis and monitoring solution, it improves user satisfaction levels, plus lowers the number of calls fielded by the help desk. Fewer calls to the help desk further reduce overall IT costs. There are some free network analysis and monitoring tools available, but none of these adequately meet the needs of businesses, particularly larger enterprises where a high level of performance is essential.

A good network monitoring tool ought to be capable of detecting, monitoring, and conducting analysis on a network and all of the devices connected to the network, and do so in real time so that network administrators can respond to any situations that arise promptly. The tool also should be relatively easy to implement and configure, and it needs to be capable of supporting numerous devices from various vendors.

Some Other Features That are Nice to Have

Happy users make fewer calls to the help desk. Now, wouldn't that be nice?

Auto discovery is another valuable feature for a network analysis and monitoring tool. Other great features to consider include inventorying of nodes and devices, alerts and warnings that are configurable and automatic, and a centralized interface for managing the product. Look for an easy, intuitive dashboard that is easy to train workers on, along with simple graphs and tables that offer different vantage points from which to view and assess the status of the network.

Since the transition to IPv6 is well on its way, a network analysis and monitoring tool should also be capable of detecting and analyzing IPv4 and IPv6 traffic and protocols. Also, look for a product with the capability of both agent-based and agentless monitoring. Agents demand some resources in order to run, which can deteriorate performance. Agentless monitoring has no noticeable impact on performance.

You should also consider a network monitoring solution that is application aware. This means that the tool is capable of detecting and monitoring all of the various applications and other services running on the network. Having this capability means that network administrators can determine whether a performance issue is due to the network or one of the applications running on the network. Application-aware network monitoring products allow network administrators to track the response time of a given application in great detail, including server processing, network request, and network response.

Another useful feature is the ability to use the network analysis and monitoring tool to detect trends, either historical trends or the prediction of expected future trends. Some products can predict what may happen in the future based on what has already happened in the past. Some network monitoring tools also have handy capacity planning features, alerting the network administrator when the available memory, bandwidth, or capacity is soon to be exceeded.

Find a Tool That Will Grow With Your Business

Don't forget scalability when you choose your network monitoring solution. What you need today will change over time, and you won't want to have to hunt down and invest in a new product as your business and network grow and expand.