5 Tips for Choosing the Right Network Monitoring Software in 2018

In 2018 business is fast-paced, technology is complex, and it’s more important than ever that you have a high-performing network to support it all.

In order to spot and fix potential network issues quickly, you need 24/7 network monitoring for all of your routers and switches, virtual servers, wireless devices, and applications. But the options can be overwhelming—Wikipedia lists over 60 network monitoring solutions.

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To help you choose the right network monitoring software in 2018, here are our top 5 tips:

1. Understand the IT landscape

In 2018, networks and IT environments in businesses of all sizes are more complicated than ever. Choosing the right software solution for your changing network is essential.

For example, even if you don’t have virtual servers or cloud-based resources today, the chances are that you will in the future. Your network monitoring solution should have the ability to keep tabs on both physical and virtual servers as well as cloud technologies.

The number of devices connected to the typical business network is constantly growing. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments and remote working help employees stay connected and productive wherever they are—as long as you can ensure smooth performance for their devices. Network monitoring systems should allow you to monitor connected mobile devices and plan for future bandwidth needs. The shift towards Internet of Things technology might also increase the number of devices on your network in the near future.

Finally, automation has become key to the success of any business, aiding business users and allowing IT to spend more time on strategic projects. Choose a network monitoring solution with automated mapping, monitoring, and alerting—or fall behind.

2. Identify Your Requirements

Make sure you get the most out of any product demo or trial by making a clear list of your requirements before you dive in. All that matters is how well the solution works for you, so you should be comparing each product to this list rather than just comparing products to each other.

  • You know your network requirements better than anyone, but here are a few things to consider:
  • How many servers, routers, workstations, and applications do you have to monitor?
  • What operating systems does your software have to run on?
  • What kind of network growth do you expect in the next few years?
  • What kind of reports and dashboards do you need?
  • What troubleshooting features would you like to have?
  • Do you need updates in real-time?

Write down the answers to these questions and anything else important to your business. It’s useful to group things into need-to-haves and nice-to-haves.

3. Do Your Research

You know the requirements of your network. The next step is to familiarize yourself with the solutions on the marketplace.

There’s some terminology you’ll want to know. Do you want a solution focused on network monitoring or network management? Management solutions offer more functionality and come with a higher cost, while traditional monitoring solutions focus on capturing network performance information.

Think about whether you need on premise or cloud-based network monitoring software.  On premise solutions give you more control and visibility as an operator, which may also increase overhead slightly. Cloud-based solutions may be quicker and less expensive to deploy, but also come with increased data security concerns.

There’s also the decision between agent-based and agentless solutions. Agent-based tools require an agent to be installed on every item you want to monitor, while tools use various protocols, such as SNMP, WMI, NetFlow, sFlow, etc. to gather traffic data. Both are typically efficient on bandwidth and capture helpful information, but an agentless solution will require less management over time.

Research the way each solution is licensed. There are many licensing models, from per-device to per-application.

Don’t ignore ease-of-use factors. You don’t want software that’s difficult to deploy, and having a user-friendly interface is huge for time-strapped IT teams.

Once you know what you need and you know what’s out there, start trying the products for yourself. Many network monitoring solutions will have a free trial available. You can also attend webinar demonstrations and talk to the vendors about your questions. Do this with your requirements checklist in hand.

4. Convince the Boss

Depending on your situation, you may have to prove your case before purchasing network monitoring software. The decision-makers will be concerned with one thing: the bottom line. This could lead to implementing free or cheap software that doesn’t meet your needs. Fortunately, a right-sized network monitoring software is great for saving—and even generating—money.

Here are a few things to point out:

  • Network monitoring prevents downtime, which is extremely costly
  • A smoothly running network is critical to revenue-generating activities
  • Your network is growing—the right software accommodates future as well as current needs

5. Consider Budget and ROI from All Angles

You probably already have an idea of what you would be willing to spend on the right network monitoring solution. Make sure you take into consideration both the cost of the product (including things like annual maintenance, time spent on setup, and training) and the potential savings. That includes the costs saved by avoiding downtime and errors as well as time saved not needing to check on the network manually.  

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