Most network professionals don’t have time to thoroughly evaluate their software options. Best intentions to dig in to potential solutions before buying never happen, so software is chosen quickly based on a superficial evaluation of features and benefits. Unfortunately, all too often time reveals that the software wasn’t the right choice—and now IT has to start over, or deal with the headaches.
Network monitoring is more crucial than ever for today’s businesses. If you can find the right tool and start using it right away, you can reap immediate benefits: less manual work, smoother network performance, and happier users.
To help you make the right network monitoring software decision, Kevin Jackson, technical solutions consultant, and Kate Bolseth, General Manager of Cross-Platform, from HelpSystems recently hosted a webinar outlining seven steps to follow. We’ve summarized some of their best takeaways below.
How To Find The Right Network Monitoring Software In 7 Steps
1. Know why you’re buying
Business connectivity has never been more important. From sending and receiving emails to losing access to critical business systems, service interruptions can have a dramatic impact on day-to-day operations. Depending on your business, these interruptions can “substantially disrupt business as usual, and more than likely impact your revenue,” says Bolseth. Having a system that can proactively monitor your network ultimately impacts the bottom line.
“If you look at this on the business side,” says Bolseth, “it’s been important, and it’s becoming more and more important as we become more reliant on technology solutions for our business.”
Another compelling case for network monitoring: IT can’t afford to waste time on manual activities. Jackson knows the pain of manual monitoring. In one IT role, as one of three people responsible for managing a global network without any monitoring software, his team had to rely on users to let them know when network failures occurred. “Someone had to come in the next morning early, check event logs, and do performance checks on our infrastructure. This was a manual task and it wasn’t effective. We often missed things," he says.
One of the best arguments for purchasing network monitoring software is that it offloads manual effort from IT’s plate, provides crucial network visibility, and frees them up to make better use of their time.
2. Understand industry trends
Knowing which cutting-edge features you need, and which you can skip, is a must as you evaluate software options. For instance, says Jackson, does the software offer network automation? Can it monitor a virtual environment? What about “cloud,” that buzzword that just keeps growing—what is your company’s action plan for the cloud, and will you need to monitor cloud applications now or in the future?
Understanding how software fits with industry trends and any future you needs you’ll have as a result of those trends is key.
3. Evaluate your options
If you had a bottomless budget, buying software would be easy. Unfortunately, most network professionals have tight budgets, meaning you have to make some decisions about which features and capabilities are most important. It’s easier to make these decisions on the front end because you can rule out solutions that don’t fit your buying criteria, says Jackson.
Are you looking for network monitoring software that is:
- Focused on management or monitoring? Management solutions offer more functionality and come with a higher cost, while traditional monitoring solutions focus on capturing network performance information.
- On-premise or cloud-based? 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; however, data security concerns are the standard drawback.
- Open-source or commercial? Free solutions can require more manpower to set up and usually don’t come with support, but the price tag is appealing. If technical support and maintenance is what you’re looking for, a commercial solution may be the better option.
- Agent-based or agentless? It’s an age-old question. Both are typically efficient on bandwidth and capture helpful information, but an agentless solution will require less management over time.
- Licensed a certain way? There are many licensing models, from per-device to per-application, and figuring out which one will be most functional for your infrastructure is key.
4. Create your requirements list
What features do you need? What features can you live without? Make sure you’re considering everything from key features to technical requirements to your budget limits.
Then Jackson advises comparing your list of top requirements with the cost of the solution. “Does it make sense? What’s the most important factor to you?" he asks. "You have to answer these questions and scale down to get that top 3-5 and dig in a little deeper."
5. Prove ROI
As demand on networks increases, the necessity for network monitoring software rises, but budgets remain tight for most IT departments. The ability to demonstrate that network monitoring will result in ROI makes it much easier to get budget approval at time of purchase (and win against other projects that your team is proposing). Bolseth says it’s definitely feasible to show ROI.
“When we have service interruptions, it will absolutely impact our revenue. Not being able to conduct business as usual has the ability to impact your topline as well as your bottom line,” she says.
Along with revenue implications, it’s also possible to see ROI from:
- Reducing IT staff’s manual activities
- Reducing incoming support calls from users
- Reducing time to troubleshoot issues from hours to minutes
- Meeting internal or external SLAs
6. Determine your budget
To estimate a realistic number, we have to determine what we can live with and what we can live without, including:
“When you’re considering a budget, it’s not just the actual software itself. You also have to think about other aspects that lead into software support,” says Jackson.
7. Try before you buy
One of the best ways to avoid buyer’s remorse is to take advantage of free network monitoring trials. From attending webinars to experimenting with features, getting familiar with the product before buying is essential to making a smart decision.
“The majority of software out there has a trial period,” says Jackson. “I also understand we don’t have a lot of time to mess around with software. We have a quick turnaround process; sometimes we see a product we like and we get it right away. But you want to try to the product.”