Network traffic monitoring vital for network health
Network traffic monitoring is an important tool to find out issues that may be slowing down the network or causing various other problems. Some of the use cases can be to identify security vulnerabilities, troubleshoot network issues and analyze the impact new applications will have on the network.
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All of these impact the network stability and can cause stress on it. Continuous network traffic monitoring using a sophisticated tool can be the easiest way to solve this issue and tackle the network issues that may arise. Network traffic monitoring is a simple task if its planned well. The steps would involve choosing the right data source, picking the correct points on the network to monitor and check for suspicious activity and follow that up to find the causes behind the same.
The monitoring of network traffic flow is useful in multiple scenarios and the most common purpose of it can be to make sure that everything is working as intended. If there is any network slowdowns or issues in the network the network traffic flow will have the the signs of it and can help in decoding the correct reason. Similarly, any breach of security or any instance of unauthorised access will be easily established via network traffic monitor.
The network efficiency will improve the overall efficiency of an organisation as IT infrastructure is the backbone of any modern day industry. A lot of daily work is done with the help of computers and other devices interconnected with each other on a network. Businesses come to a halt in case of network outages and there are financial and other implications which need to be addressed later on. These ramifications can be avoided with a simple tool like network traffic monitor. Tools like TCPCUMP which is a command-line packet analyzer capable of displaying and storing the traffic sent or received on a network interface in full detail and Wireshark can help do that effortlessly.
TCPDUMP is a brilliant tool, but it may be a bit complex and difficult to understand for those not completely aware of what information they are looking for, while Wireshark often provides a more workable tool-set for looking at larger volumes of traffic and has better GUI. Wireshark also provides filter building tools that can be an invaluable time saver by preventing the need to manually mine through man pages.
While these both tools help for diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes, there are statistical or analytical uses of network traffic monitoring. These are generally to find out the real culprits of network slowdown. These can be when the existing apps take a lot of processing power (CPU, RAm or more) or some additional app installs take a toll on the network resources.
For pattern analysis, trends and data flows, an option is to look at a sample of traffic or just the headers; this is where Netflow or sFlow/jFlow come handy. Most managed switches have the ability to export flows without needing a direct connection, allowing to deploy a single collector to capture the flows. The great benefit of this is that it provides a clear view into every ‘flow’ on your network and allows to see the Who, How, Where and When of a transaction in your network, but not the actual payload data (so less actual resources are consumed when looking at the traffic). This type of data is handled and processed by tools such as the command line tool NFDUMP, which will provide information from the flows:
To conclude, there are many ways to monitor traffic on your network once you are aware what you are looking to achieve, whether it’s looking for a specific issue or just trying to have a better understanding of WAN bandwidth utilization. There are many options that will give an organisation much more visibility than what they would expect and with the right tools and the extra insights, achieving network efficiency would always be easier with network traffic monitoring.
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Amit Shingala is CEO and Co-founder of Motadata – IT monitoring software. Motadata offers network monitoring, server performance monitoring, application performance monitoring, network flow monitoring & analysis and log management & analysis from a single console.
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