You have decided that you want to install network monitoring software at your small to medium-sized business (SMB). A little preparation before the installation and configuration will save a lot of time. If you have some basic information at your fingertips on how you will be using your new network monitoring solution, the deployment process will not be sidetracked as you try to find information or make decisions that could have been made in advance. These best practices will insure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
How to Streamline Your Network Monitoring Deployment
How can you streamline your network monitoring deployment?
- Review your goals for deploying a network monitoring solution
- Select the machines that will run the network monitoring software
- Create a list of the IP addresses for devices that you want to monitor
- Decide how you are going to structure your network maps
- Configure firewalls for access
- Determine the SNMP community strings you’ll need
- Know what information you require from each device
- Identify who will receive alerts
- If you are monitoring NetFlow information, identify the routers and switches that should be exporting data
- Specify what data is going to be charted and what reports you need
You can streamline the initial deployment of network monitoring software by spending time to gather information, and make decisions that will be necessary during the installation and configuration process before you commence. It can be quite frustrating if you have to interrupt the install to decide between different preference options or to collect the necessary data to complete the configuration. By following the recommendations below, your implementation will be more efficient.
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1. Review Goals
During the early stages of defining the need and determining which features are required, you most likely documented the goals for deploying a network monitoring solution. Now is a good time to review those goals so that when you “go live” you have set up the software and administrative processes to achieve these goals.
2. Select Machine for Install
A small- to medium-sized network usually only needs a single network monitoring system in a central location. However, it may make sense to install your network monitoring solution on more than one server, especially if you have a network distributed across multiple sites. For remote access to the monitoring software, there is generally a web or client-based access tool. Decide who has access to each part of the network and determine their appropriate access permissions.
4. Determine Map Structure
Many network monitoring systems offer tools for displaying the network topology by geography, hierarchy, physical connections, or function. Depending on how you divide responsibility for monitoring, one of these may be more appropriate. For instance, if you need to monitor a remote site you might want to put all devices at each location together. Alternatively, if one technician is responsible for servers and another for routers, grouping similar devices together in a map may be more useful.
5. Configure Firewalls
You’ll want to configure any firewalls to allow remote access to the monitoring server, and to allow the central monitoring server to reach certain devices.
6. Collect Security Codes
You’ve set-up security to protect the important parts of your network. Make sure to have all the necessary security codes available. The simple network management protocol (SNMP) community strings are like passwords to enable monitoring of all parts of your network. In addition, on some devices you will need to add the monitoring station to a list of allowed SNMP managers (access control list).
7. Gather Device Information
Pings can return basic information, such as availability or packet loss for any device. SNMP can provide much more information such as traffic, packet errors, and discards, as well as a wealth of operational data. Collecting more customized information may require special probes, plug-ins, or queries—which are designed to collect unique pieces of data from specific devices.
8. Identify Alert Recipients
Once you begin gathering statistics from your equipment, a thoughtful procedure for sending and responding to alerts becomes a critical part of the success of your monitoring program. You’ll want to set-up the threshold, schedule, and mechanisms for alerting within the network monitoring software, and train personnel on how to respond.
9. Identify Flow Exporters
NetFlow exporters are like traffic counters on a highway. They report on the traffic flowing through them. Consequently, you should configure your routers and switches to export flow records at the major points in your network; your external network connection, backbone switch, etc.
10. Enable Data Analysis
Be sure to activate charts or create reports for data on which you want to analyze historical trends, or real time network activity. Keep in mind, some monitoring solutions require the administrator to separately install or turn on a database to capture this information.
Having the right information at your fingertips will streamline the deployment process of your network monitoring software. Don’t worry if every piece of information is not available for the initial software set-up. Do what you can to get network monitoring, mapping and alerting up and running. A good network & bandwidth performance monitoring software system will allow you to refine your decisions later, as you learn more about your network and how it is best monitored.