Top Four Network Monitoring Use Cases

In this article I want to highlight how important it is to define the top use cases of a network monitoring solution. A successful implementation of a network monitoring solution starts by defining the specific situations in which the solution will be used. This will help its users clearly define the required features that the solution should have. It will also help the network monitoring vendor and implementation team to understand what’s the desired outcome of its adoption.

Over the past six years, the NetBeez team has worked with many organizations, helping them to meet their network monitoring goals. Over time, we have been able to identify four primary use cases where NetBeez brings the most value to its users. The four use cases are:

  • Proactive detection
  • Network troubleshooting
  • Performance monitoring
  • End-user experience

It is worth mentioning that this list is not ordered by importance. Each company may only be interested in one or two specific use cases. Others, especially large companies, may care about all of them.

I have listed and revised the four primary use cases mentioned above and will explain how NetBeez addresses each of them.

Proactive Detection

The goal of the proactive detection use case is to find network problems before the users report them to the help desk. An effective monitoring solution for this use case enables companies to reduce Time To Detection (TTD) of network problems. Companies that need proactive detection struggle to find problems before users do.

NetBeez provides proactive detection by monitoring the network from the user perspective. This is done via dedicated sensors that are installed at remote offices, where users sit. The monitoring sensors run continuous tests every xx seconds to verify connectivity, test network performance, check that DNS is working, and verify web applications’ response time.

By doing so, NetBeez is able to detect network problems as soon as they occur. The network support team can enable notifications to be sent via email, syslog, or SNMP traps. NetBeez also supports third party integrations such as PagerDuty or Splunk.

Network Troubleshooting

Companies that prioritize this use case typically have a hard time nailing down network problems and reproducing them. When users complain that “the network is slow,” network engineers can feel like they are “chasing a ghost”.

Network troubleshooting is a very important use case for network monitoring. In this scenario, network engineers need to determine the root cause of a problem as soon as possible. The goal of this use case is to lower Time To Repair (TTR) of network outages.

One benefit of NetBeez is that it can reveal if users can’t access one application because of a network problem or because the application itself is down. This is determined by checking the number of network monitoring sensors that are reporting the application as unavailable. If only one or a subset of sensors do so, then it’s most probably a network related issue. On the other end, if all the sensors are reporting the application to be unavailable, then there’s a high probability that the actual application has problems.

Performance Monitoring

Performance monitoring enables network administrators to measure the performance metrics of a network and build a baseline. The baseline is determined by the  historical data. This information is very useful to identify underperforming areas of an enterprise network. Companies interested in this use case generally need to collect metrics such as latency, round-trip time, packet loss, jitter, and throughput.

There are many open source tools that capture these network metrics. Examples are ping for round-trip time and packet loss, iperf for throughput and jitter, and owamp (one-way delay ping) for latency. What these tools don’t provide is the ability to save and retrieve historical data when needed. NetBeez does this by collecting all test results on a central repository for plotting, alert analysis, and alerting.

Another limitation of open source tools, that run via command line interface (CLI), is scalability. When users have to deploy hundreds of network performance monitoring probes, they need a solution that is centrally managed. NetBeez provides an straightforward dashboard that is capable of pushing tests to hundreds of probes.

End-User Experience

This use case aims to capture the end-user experience and identify what factors affect it. Nowadays, the majority of end-users connect to a network via WiFi. Companies that aren’t monitoring the end-user experience generally spend a lot of time figuring out what’s causing the poor performance of their users’ connections. Is it the Internet connection, is it the WiFi network, or the application itself?

To successfully capture the end-user experience, a solution should monitor WiFi from the client’s perspective. NetBeez reports key WiFi metrics such as link quality and signal strength. Comparing these two values with wired network performance and application response time help to pinpoint the root cause of degraded end-user experience.

Conclusion

How you would prioritize these four use cases? Does one rank above another? I am also interested to know if I have missed other use cases that should be included in this list!