Network monitoring in cybersecurity is the process of monitoring a computer network to make sure it’s functioning as it should be and identify and resolve issues as soon as possible. Network administrators analyze the information from network monitoring to determine if the network is performing at its best. Network monitoring is proactive to prevent downtime and failures, so your business will have more uptime and avoid costly issues.
5 Functions of Network Monitoring
The functions of network monitoring tools are:
1. Discover Connected Devices
You need to know all of the devices and connections on the network so they can be monitored. The network monitoring system scans the network to discover these devices and understand their role, including what it is connected to. Knowing the devices and their connections is important because an issue on one device can affect the performance of a device it’s connected to.
2. Create a Network Map
A network map is a visual diagnostic tool for network devices, their connections and statuses. The map helps network administrators visualize the network and saves time on troubleshooting. Network monitoring solutions generate network maps automatically. These maps include the devices on the network, how they’re connected and their real-time status information.
3. Scan the Network
Network monitoring tools monitor the network to make sure it is operating correctly. The system scans the devices and connections to check for statistics like ping availability and latency and interface, memory, disc and central processing unit (CPU) utilization.
The network monitoring program also monitors hardware components like fans, power supplies and wiring temperatures. It can also check network services like file transfer protocol (FTP), transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP) and hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).
4. Notify Network Administrators About Problems
If the network monitoring program detects a problem, it sends an email, text or log alert to the network administrators. A problem includes abnormal parameters that need investigation. The notifications allow you time to create and implement a solution before the problem causes widespread issues.
Most network monitoring solutions use threshold-based alerts, so the program sends a notification when the limit is exceeded. These alerts also have a time limit, so alerts are not sent when the problem exists for a few seconds or minutes. An example of a threshold-based, time-limited alert is sending a notification if CPU utilization is more than 80% for 10 minutes or longer. Putting these qualifiers in place lets you focus on the major issues and not waste time and resources on minor inconveniences.
5. Generate Reports
Companies are always looking to redesign and analyze their network to make it better than before. Reports with real-time historical monitoring data help support the life cycle networks go through. The reports help network administrators:
- See if the network design is achieving the desired results.
- Identify the trends impacting the performance of applications and the user and company experience.
- Isolate and fix performance problems.
- Provide proof for service level agreement (SLA) commitments if one is in place.
Many network monitoring programs display this information on a dashboard. You can review these dashboards to see the overview of the network’s current performance, then look further into specific devices to identify problems.
Devices Protected With Network Monitoring
Network monitoring for cybersecurity will protect all devices connected to the network. It will also inspect these devices to determine if they are the source of network problems. Some components a network monitoring solution should examine are:
- Servers: Servers are where applications and their information are stored, so it’s a running instance of the application. Users request information from the server, and the server “serves” what they’re looking for.
- Applications: Applications are software programs running on computers and have a specific “application” for users, such as email programs, web browsers and word processors.
- Firewalls: Firewalls protect networks by acting as a barrier between the private network and untrusted networks like the internet and controlling incoming and outgoing traffic.
- URLs: A uniform resource locator (URL) is an address of a resource on the web. Browsers use URLs to retrieve published resources that are online.
- Routers: Routers connect private networks to the internet and determine the best way for data to travel.
- Switches: Switches connect devices — like computers, servers and printers — to the private network and allow these devices to communicate with each other.
- Software services: Software services are programs that perform specific tasks.
What Information Does Network Monitoring Analyze?
Network monitoring systems have software and hardware tools to track the network and its operation. When the network monitoring solution monitors devices, it will analyze things like:
- Network uptime
- Host statistics
- Memory and disc utilization
- CPU usage
- Packets sent and dropped
- Bandwidth utilization
- Ping availability and latency
- Interface operation
- Bytes sent
- Conversations between different addresses
Features of Network Monitoring Solutions
Network monitoring solutions should provide some key features to be the most effective. Most have:
- A visual overview of the company’s complete network and IT infrastructure.
- A dashboard with visualization tools and reports.
- Tools to monitor, troubleshoot and remediate network performance issues.
- Tools to identify the cause of problems.
Some network monitoring tools have high availability components. If the hardware or software systems that run the network management program fails, it will automatically redirect to another network monitoring solution.
Why Is Network Monitoring Important?
Network administrators add new applications, technologies and users to the network every day, impacting the network’s ability to perform predictably. Networks are essential for IT infrastructure — when the network fails, information cannot flow between applications and devices, so business operations come to a halt. When these problems occur, network administrators are expected to find the cause and resolve it before it creates a widespread negative effect.
Network monitoring for cybersecurity aims to prevent outages and failures that limit availability and decrease IT performance. When an issue is detected, the network monitoring system can send a text or email to the network administrator along with a network analytics report. Network monitoring is important because it will:
- Help companies save money: Network monitoring identifies the cause of the problem and network components that are overused and underused. Resources can be used for critical tasks instead of locating problems. These improvements reduce downtime and quicken recovery, leading to cost savings.
- Discover problems early: Since network monitoring is proactive, it will catch performance problems before they can affect business operations and your customers’ experience.
- Enhance network security: Network monitoring will detect unknown devices and unexpected traffic on the network. Since these changes can indicate a cyber attack or ransomware attempt, you can improve your security to stay ahead of the problem.
- Monitor network usage: Network monitoring solutions will detect increases in use, so network administrators can make necessary changes to ensure the flux doesn’t impact the user experience.
How Does Network Monitoring Work?
Network monitoring for cybersecurity focuses on internal network issues that could impact other devices, like server failures, overloaded routers and network connection issues. The most effective solutions can initiate the switchover to remove the problematic device from the network until the issue is solved.
The network monitoring process involves identifying devices and network connections and their performance metrics. Then, the company decides how frequently they want to monitor each function. Noncritical devices on the network like laptops and printers can have longer monitoring intervals, and servers, routers and switches should have more frequent monitoring.
Protocols for network monitoring are the rules and directions for devices on the network to communicate and transmit data with each other. The system uses these protocols to discover and report network performance problems. Network monitoring solutions manage and monitor network elements using one of these protocols:
- Simple network management protocol (SNMP): SNMP is the most common way network monitoring tools manage network elements. This application-layer protocol sends a signal to all devices, and if a device registers outside of a standard parameter, the network monitoring system sends an alert to the network administrator. These signals are sent out anywhere from once a minute to once an hour.
- Internet control message protocol (ICMP): For devices like servers, routers and switches, a network monitoring system may use ICMP to analyze information about internet protocol (IP) operations and generate device failure messages.
- Windows management instrumentation (WMI): WMI is a web-based enterprise management implementation by Microsoft. It creates an operating system interface to receive information from devices, processes that information and sends it to the network management software. It is generally used for Windows-based systems and applications but can be used with other protocols like SNMP.
Types of Network Monitoring
When implementing a network monitoring solution, your business should consider which management and monitoring strategy you’ll use. These strategies are common practices that help network administrators start effectively monitoring their network. There are a few types of network monitoring:
- Access management monitoring: Access management monitoring prevents intruders from accessing network resources. It can identify vulnerabilities in the network and potential intruders and address these problems before they cause harm.
- Network packet analyzers: This type of monitoring examines the data packets as they move through the network. The information in the packets can identify problems like incorrect routing, sensitive data leaving the network and employees visiting prohibited websites.
- Application and services monitoring: Application and services network monitoring monitors network-critical devices and systems to ensure their normal operation. It also checks the applications that are used company-wide.
- Availability monitoring: This type of monitoring monitors all the resources in the IT infrastructure to make sure they can meet your company’s demands. The network needs to be available at all times to keep your operations running smoothly.
- Interface monitoring: Interface monitoring tracks device interfaces for discards, packet loss, utilization limits and other errors. This information identifies network issues that could cause an application or service to perform poorly.
- Disc monitoring: Disc monitoring manages disc space and performance, so it’s used effectively. Data is stored on discs, so disc monitoring preserves this data for future use and helps network administrators plan system upgrades and identify storage-related problems.
Network Monitoring Advantages and Disadvantages
Monitoring your network for cybersecurity and efficient operation is advantageous for your company. The benefits of network monitoring include:
- Network visibility: Network monitoring solutions give administrators a look at the network’s connected devices, including how data moves between them. This visibility makes it easy to identify and resolve problems before they create performance issues or a network outage.
- Monitor issues: Companies and enterprises use applications that rely on a secure internet connection to function. This reliance on the internet means that the application’s performance will be affected if the internet has routing issues or an outage. Network monitoring allows you to monitor issues like this and identify how they will impact your employees and customers, even if you cannot resolve the issue.
- IT resource management: The hardware and software tools that monitor network systems reduce the manual work IT teams need to do, so the IT department has more time and resources to use for critical projects.
- Determine network needs: Network monitoring generates reports about component performance over some time. Network administrators can analyze these reports to determine when the company should implement new infrastructure or upgrade existing technology.
- Identify security threats: Network monitoring establishes normal performance levels, making unusual activity like increased traffic levels easier to identify. You can analyze these conditions and determine they’re a security threat.
Network monitoring has a few concerns that your business should consider, including:
- Cloud security: If your network monitoring solution is hosted in the cloud, your company must have a reliable cloud security solution.
- Connectivity: Cloud-based monitoring solutions may not have straightforward connectivity to the network, which can compromise monitoring. In-house monitoring solutions are centrally located on the network, so coverage is reliable.
- Performance: Cloud-managed and in-house network monitoring solutions can consume a lot of bandwidth to operate, so ensuring that your company has an adequate amount of bandwidth is crucial.
- Problem-solving: One function of network monitoring is to make alerts about problems for alert network administrators to solve. For some problems, the information relayed to you will not be enough to create a solution, so the problem will persist.
Contact Ascendant Technologies, Inc. for Network Monitoring Solutions Today
Network monitoring is important for companies that want to keep their networks protected from cybersecurity threats and running efficiently for daily tasks. When network administrators keep ahead of problems, the network is more reliable and creates a better experience for employees and customers.
Ascendant helps businesses improve their network monitoring capabilities, so your network system can help you achieve your business goals. Our network monitoring solutions include:
- Live monitoring systems to identify and mitigate security threats.
- Hardware monitoring to ensure its performance.
- Data monitoring to collect real-time statistics about the systems in your network.
- Reports for performance and service quality.
Ascendant has more than 25 years of experience with network monitoring and helps businesses save up to $85,000 annually on in-house consultant costs. We will create a personalized plan that matches your business goals. For more information about our network monitoring services, contact Ascendant online.