Whether your network has legacy systems and policies or is an expanding network with the latest and greatest technology, the task of the IT professional responsible for monitoring it remains the same: to keep it up and running without causing business-critical interruptions. There are multiple solutions in the marketplace that can help keep your network healthy, whether they are enterprise-level, third-party, freeware, or open source solutions that provide insight into the behavior of your systems.
But with any solution, simply installing it doesn’t always guarantee that you’re using the tool in the best way possible. Fortunately, there are many ways to maximize the efficiency of your network monitoring product and streamline its implementation to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Let’s take a quick look at five things you can do to ensure you’ve successfully and correctly implemented your network monitoring solution. These tips work whether you are about to implement a new solution or want to ensure your existing solution is performing as optimally as it should be.
1. Determine Network Performance Levels
In order to understand how you want your network to operate, you first have to determine existing network performance levels. It’s imperative to take the time necessary to define the metrics you deem “normal” for your network. Ideally, you should decide what the acceptable working conditions of your infrastructure are before implementing a network monitoring software. After all, before you can set the right thresholds, you need to know what your unacceptable levels actually are. This helps you set the correct thresholds for your particular network, and ensures that when those thresholds are signaled as “breached” they truly are indicative of poor performance, and not a false alarm.
You can perform network tests on just about anything; switches, routers, and firewalls, for example. Run a network traffic test on those devices to measure some of the following levels:
- Traffic on WAN links
- Traffic on switching Core
- Wireless traffic
Knowing this data ahead of time helps you understand what a healthy network looks like for you. When there is a problem in your network, your network monitoring software can then alert you to thresholds that are about to be exceeded.
2. Perform Network Device Discovery
In order to effectively monitor your network, you have to know what it contains. It’s important to understand what devices are in your network, and exactly where those devices are located. Intermapper is network monitoring software with auto-discovery that maps your entire network in mere minutes, creating a real-time map of your entire network. Intermapper’s mapping features and auto-discovery function allow you to get a holistic picture of all devices—and their interconnections—within your network. Mapping your network allows you to arrange your devices and make connections that are meaningful to the data your organization is trying to collect.
In general, network mapping is critical to understanding the health of your network; it gives you a visual inventory of all the devices that are within your infrastructure and how they are performing. Intermapper’s maps also come with color-coded icons that allow you to identify the status of devices at a glance. A network monitoring solution with auto-discovery and mapping capbilities will help you perform network device discovery in a matter of minutes.
3. Determine What Information to Monitor
Most network monitoring software relies on SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) to capture important information about a device. Vendors provide a SNMP Management Information Base (MIB) that allows you to poll very specific performance statistics for their respective devices. Network monitoring software like Intermapper provides the ability to create custom probes or SNMP MIB viewers that allow you to increase your monitoring capabilities by capturing non-standard information (i.e. device alarm, UPS battery usage, website traffic, etc.)
Intermapper also offers an interactive probe builder, which allows you to create an SNMP probe interactively. All you have to do is enter the MIB variable names or OIDS. The SNMP Probe File automatically updates to create a valid Intermapper SNMP probe that retrieves those values.
4. Enable SNMP and Flow Capture on Network Devices
SNMP has been advertised as one of the more effective ways of capturing performance statistics from your network devices. It is very important that you configure your core infrastructure—including switches, routers, and firewalls—to support SNMP. This will allow you to effectively monitor your network and capture a great deal more than simply up/down status.
Before configuring SNMP, check to see if your network monitoring solution supports the various versions of the protocol. It’s recommended that you consider using SNMPv3 to make sure your network is secured. If you’re looking to analyze flows data or bandwidth utilization, you also must enable one of the Flows protocols on your capable switches or routers. This will allow you to analyze NetFlow traffic and capture information such as the top talkers and top listeners on your network.
5. Identify Who Will Receive Alerts
Once you’ve completed steps one through four, it’s time to set up your alerts and decide who will receive the notifications if issues arise. Determine your internal alerting policies by identifying who will receive the alerts. Will it be your IT admin? NOC? Is it your Network Engineer? Then, decide how that alert should be disseminated from the system. This will help to identify the next steps in potential troubleshooting or escalation procedures based on severity levels or service level agreements if applicable.
Intermapper comes with flexible alerts that notify you when thresholds are about to be exceeded, allowing you to take action before major problems or outages occur. You can also acknowledge a condition, which lets your team know a device is being worked on; this eliminates hours lost to duplicate work and ensures everyone is up-to-date on the status of the network.
Overall, when streamlining your network monitoring process, consider the abovementioned items to make sure you’re getting the most out of your software. A solid network monitoring solution can keep your network secure, efficient, and healthy.