Network Node: Analysis, Management & Monitoring Tools

Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

A network can be very complex when you consider the variety of nodes. The ability to monitor and analyze network traffic is crucial for many reasons. In this lesson, we'll examine methods of monitoring, analyzing, and managing networks.

Breaking Down the Traffic

If you've ever shipped or received a package, you've noticed the barcode label. The package is scanned when you drop it off, when it goes on the truck, when it goes on the plane, etc. It's scanned every step of the way from point A to point B.

Now think about sending data across a network. Without a way to track the signal as it makes its way through the network, how could you troubleshoot if something happens? That's where tools for network analysis, management and monitoring come in; they help ensure optimum performance and aid in troubleshooting.

Networking Basics

A network node is an addressable device on a network that can receive, process, store, and send information. In order for information to be sent across the network, it has be put in a virtual container, just like you would put a letter in an envelope for it to go through the postal system. For network data to move smoothly and efficiently, the containers all have to be the same size, and the address labels need to have a consistent format.

The most widely used networking standard for home and office networking is Ethernet, and on an Ethernet network, the virtual containers are called frames. If you're going to send your virtual container across a wider network like the Internet, you need to take your frame and put it inside another virtual container called an Internet Protocol (IP) packet.

Why is this pertinent? Because tools that monitor, analyze, and manage networks look at frames and packets. They track their speed, point of origin, whether or not they take damage as they traverse the network, etc. They can do this because frames and packets adhere to standards, and if they deviate from the standards, the system tools know there's a problem.

Network Management & Monitoring

Software and hardware tools for managing and monitoring a network typically watch devices and report on their functionality. Network management and monitoring can be deployed on a network by the network owner, otherwise an outside vendor with particular expertise can be utilized. This is made possible in part by a protocol called Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Think of this as a common language network devices speak; if someone asks them how they're doing, they all can format their answer the same way.

These tools perform these types of functions:

  • Device discovery - listening for new devices added to a network and adding them to a database for tracking purposes.
  • Device monitoring - listening to make sure devices are up on the network and are reporting back normal functionality.
  • Device management - interacting with network devices to change settings or reboot based upon observed conditions.
  • Notifications and alerts - setting up thresholds for device status notifications and alerts concerning performance issues.

Network Traffic Analysis

Network analysis tools go beyond watching; they let you troubleshoot. Let's say network performance is dropping and users are complaining about slow response times. Network analysis tools look at traffic flow, bandwidth utilization, and even allow you to drill down and look within packets in real time for performance issues or other problems. You might discover through a tool that a virus has been planted on your server and it's been turned into a video server for a gambling site; that's where your Internet bandwidth is going!

Network analysis tools can also help:

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