Article

SNMP Basics: What it is and How it Works

Posted:
August 19, 2016
The Basics of SNMP for IT Professionals


If you’re a new network professional in the IT world, the term SNMP has likely come up a time or two. SNMP stands for "Simple Network Management Protocol." It is an application layer protocol included in the Internet protocol suite, a set of the most commonly used communications protocols online.

SNMP originated in the 1980s at the time when organizational networks were growing in both size and complexity. Today, it is one of the most widely accepted protocols for network monitoring. Here’s a quick summary of what SNMP does, how it works, and why it matters to network professionals.

What does SNMP do?

All day, traffic is ebbing and flowing across your network as users conduct transfers, browse, perform downloads, and more. SNMP talks to your network to find out information related to this network device activity: for example, bytes, packets, and errors transmitted and received on a router, connection speed between devices, or the number of hits a web server receives.

SNMP works by sending messages, called protocol data units (PDUs), to devices within your network that “speak” SNMP. These messages are called SNMP Get-Requests. Using these requests, network administrators can track virtually any data values they specify. All of the information SNMP tracks can be provided to a product that asks for it. That product can either display or store the data, depending on an administrator’s preferences.

Related Content: How one company used SNMP probes to monitor their network

The Architecture of SNMP

In order to effectively monitor network activity, SNMP relies on an architecture consisting of the following:

  • Managed devices: From printers and workstations to resources like routers and switches, there are many devices within an organization’s network that have to be managed and monitored. Managed devices can be configured with SNMP nodes that allow them to interface with other network components. 
  • Agent: Overall SNMP management relies on a system of local device information being collected and transmitted. This happens via agents, programs that are tied to local devices with the purpose of collecting, storing, and signaling the presence of data from these environments.
  • Network management station: This is the base that is shared between agents and SNMP managers, and it provides the memory and processing functionality to fuel network management.

Together, these components gather information to bring back to the network requester.

The Power of SNMP

Collecting this data can help IT professionals keep their finger on the pulse of all their managed devices and applications. Every device within the network can be queried in real time with SNMP, TCP, and other types of probes for their performance metrics. When thresholds for certain values are exceeded, software can alert system administrators of the issue, allowing them to drill in to the data and troubleshoot a solution.

For organizations' IT departments looking to harness the power of SNMP, it's imperative to have network monitoring software that is up for the task. Intermapper uses SNMP probes to query network devices for their management information base (MIB) variables. As a leading network monitoring software choice, Intermapper has 100s of built-in network probes to give you a wide variety of data about your network performance. Users also have the ability to create their own custom probes. The ability to create custom probes enables SNMP-speaking devices to deliver device status updates in a way that enhances the overall quality of network monitoring and management.

Which network monitoring tool is right for me?

Use this interactive checklist to compare features that network monitoring tools offer, from SNMP monitoring to real-time alerts—and decide what's most important to you.