In one sense, you already have an army of network monitors in your library. Every time something goes wrong, you probably get a few spontaneous alerts from patrons and colleagues. However, if you want preventive information and in-depth analysis of what’s happening on your network, you need network monitoring software.
Why Should You Monitor the Traffic on Your Network?
- You can get information about the health of your network. If a server stops responding, or your ILS crashes or a segment of your network goes offline, the network monitor will send you a message so you can respond right away. But these tools go beyond reactive alerts about things that are already broken. They can also provide warnings about network slowdowns, overloaded servers and other signs of trouble so you can address problems before they affect staff and patrons.
- Better understanding of long-term trends. Network monitoring tools also create graphs and reports about network performance over time. How fast is the demand for bandwidth growing in your library? If your library’s average daily Internet use has grown 1 Mbps (megabits per second) over the past six months, you can get a rough sense of how much you’ll need three years from now and budget accordingly. You can also plan better for the replacement of servers, switches and routers, because network monitors keep statistics related to performance of these devices.
- Improved ability to check on your ISP. Life would be much easier if we could just trust our ISPs. You’re paying for a 1.5 Mbps T-1 connection, and that’s what you’re getting, right? No need to worry about measurements and monitoring. Just let the ISP tell you whether they’re doing a good job and when it’s time to upgrade. If you’re a little less trusting, a network monitor can keep track of uptime and other metrics on your Internet connection, so you’ll know when your ISP is failing to maintain its promised level of service.
- Get permission. Be sure you contact your network administrator before you install any network monitoring software or equipment. If mis-configured, a monitoring tool could flood the network with unnecessary traffic.
- Ensure compatibility. Check to see that the network monitoring tool you’re interested in can communicate with your existing equipment. There are different network management protocols (e.g., Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP, and Cisco’s Netflow), and your routers, switches and servers might not recognize the protocol used by your monitoring tool.
- Create network diagrams. Most network monitoring software can automatically create a diagram of your local area network and/or your wide area network. Even if you decide not to use a monitoring tool, it’s a good idea to create a network diagram using software such as Microsoft Visio or Gliffy, or drawing it out by hand.
Network Performance Metrics
Bandwidth, throughput and speed are three terms that most people use interchangeably when discussing networks. However, speed isn’t really accurate in this context (though it is used all the time anyway), and there is a small distinction between bandwidth and throughput, as discussed in the following section. Latency and jitter are two connected concepts that increase in importance as more people conduct real-time voice and video interactions across the Internet. Uptime is another important metric that’s a little easier to understand.
Feel free to contact E-SPIN for Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics infrastructure and application security, infrastructure availability and performance monitoring solution.