The Case for an All-In-One Network Monitoring Platform

The Case for an All-In-One Network Monitoring PlatformThere are many famous debates in history: dogs vs cats, vanilla vs chocolate & Coke vs Pepsi just to name a few. In the IT world, one of the more common debates is “single platform vs point solution”. That is, when it comes to the best way to monitor and manage a network, is it better to have a single management platform that can do multiple things, or would it be better to have an array of tools that are each specialized for a job?

The choice can be thought of as being between Multitaskers & Unitaskers. Swiss Army knives, vs dedicated instruments. As for most things in life, the answer can be complex, and probably will never be agreed upon by everyone – but that doesn’t mean we can’t explore the subject and form some opinions of our own.

For this debate, we need to look the major considerations which go into this choice. That is, what key areas need to be addressed by any type of network monitoring and management solution and then how do our two options fair in those spaces? For this post, I will focus on 3 main areas to try to draw some conclusions:

  • Initial Cost
  • Operations
  • Maintenance

1) Initial Cost

This may be one of the more difficult areas to really get a handle on, as costs can vary wildly from one vender to another. Many of the “All-In-One” tools come with a steep entry price, but then do not grow significantly after that. Other AIO tools offer flexible licensing options which allow you to only purchase the particular modules or features that you need, and then easily add-on other features when you want them.

In contrast, the “Point-Solutions” may not come with a large price tag, but you need to purchase multiple tools in order to cover your needs. You can therefore take a piecemeal approach to purchasing which can certainly spread your costs out as long as you don’t leave critical gaps in your monitoring in the meantime. And, over time, the combined costs for many tools can become larger than a single system.

Newer options like pay-as-you-go SaaS models can greatly reduce or even eliminate the upfront costs for both AOI and Point Solutions. It is important to investigate if the vendors you are looking at offer that type of service.

Bottom Line:

Budgets always matter. If your organization is large enough to absorb the initial cost of a larger umbrella NMS, then this typically leads to a lower total cost in the long run, as long as you don’t also need to supplement the AIO solution with too many secondary solutions. SaaS models can be a great way to get going with either option as they reduce the initial Cap-Ex spend necessary.

2) Operations

In some ways, the real heart of the question AIO vs PS comes should come down to this – “which choice will help me solve issues more quickly”? Most monitoring solutions are used to respond when there is an issue with service delivery, and so the first goal of any NMS should be to help the IT team rapidly diagnose and repair problems.

When thought of in the context of the AIO vs PS debate, then you need to think about the workflow involved when an alarm or ticket is raised. With an AIO solution, an IT pro would immediately use that system to try both see the alarm and then to dive into the affected systems or devices to try and understand the root cause of the problem.

If the issue is systemic (meaning that multiple locations/users/services are affected) then an AIO solution has the clear advantage of being able to see a more holistic view of the network as a whole instead of just a small portion as would be the case for many Point Solutions. If the AIO application contains a root cause engine then this can be a huge time saver as it may be able to immediately point the staff in the right direction.

On the other hand, if that AIO solution cannot see deeply enough into the individual systems to pinpoint the issues, then a point solution has an advantage due to its (typically) deeper understanding of the systems it monitors. It may be that only a solution provided directly by the systems manufacturer would have insight into the cause of the problem.

Bottom line

All In One solutions typically work best when problems occur which affect more than one area of the network. Whereas Point Solutions may be required if there are proprietary components that don’t have good support for standards based monitoring like SNMP.

3) Maintenance

The last major consideration is one that I don’t think gets enough attention in this debate- the ongoing maintenance of the solutions themselves i.e. “managing the management solutions”. All solutions require “maintenance” to keep them working optimally. There are upgrades, patches, server moves etc. There are also the training requirements of any staff that need to use these systems. This can add up to significant time and energy “costs”.

This is where AIO solutions can really shine. Instead of having to maintain and upgrade many solutions, your staff can focus on maintaining a single system. The same thing goes for training – think about how hard it can be to really become an expert in anything, then multiply that by the training required to become proficient at X number of tools that your organization has purchased.

I have seen many places where the expertise in certain tools becomes specialized – and therefore becomes a single point of failure for the organization. If only “Bob” knows how to use that tool, then what happens when there is a problem and “Bob” in on vacation, or leaves the group?

Bottom Line:

Unless your organization can spend the time and money necessary to keep the entire staff fully trained on all of the critical network tools, then AIO solutions offer a real advantage over point solutions when it comes to maintainability of your IT management systems.

In the end, I suspect that this debate will never completely be decided. There are many valid reasons for organizations to choose one path over another when it comes how to organize their IT monitoring platforms.

In our view, we see some real advantages to the All-In-One solution approach, as long as the platform of choice does not have too many gaps in it which then need to be filled with additional point solutions.

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

 

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External Availability Monitoring – Why it Matters

External Availability Monitoring - Why it MattersRemember the “good old days” when everyone that worked got in their car and drove to a big office building every day? And any application that a user needed was housed completely within the walls of the corporate datacenter? And partners / customers had to dial a phone to get a price or place an order? Well, if you are as old as I am, you may remember those days – but for the vast majority you reading this, you may think of what I just described as being about as common as a black and white TV.

The simple fact is that as the availability and ubiquity of the Internet has transformed the lives of people, it has equally (if not more dramatically) transformed IT departments.In some way this has been an incredible boon, for example, I can now download and install new software in a fraction of the time it used to take to purchase and receive that same software on CD’s (look it up kids).

Users can now login to almost any critical business application from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection. They can probably perform their job function to nearly 100% from their phone….in a Starbucks…. or on an airplane…..But of course, with all of the good, comes (some) of the bad – or at least difficult challenges for the IT staff whose job it is to keep all of those applications available to everyone , everywhere, all of the time. The (relatively) simple “rules” for IT monitoring need to be re-thought and extended for the modern work place. This is where External Availability Monitoring comes in.

We define External Availability Monitoring (EAM) as the process through which your critical network services and the applications that run over them are continuously tested from multiple test points which simulate real world geo-diversity and connectivity options. Simply put, you need to constantly monitor the availability and performance of any public facing services. This could be your corporate website, VPN termination servers, public cloud based applications and more.

This type of testing matters, because the most likely cause of service issues today is not call from Bob on the 3rd floor, but rather Jane who is currently in a hotel in South America and is having trouble downloading the latest presentation from the corporate intranet which she needs to deliver tomorrow morning.

Without a proactive approach to continuous service monitoring, you are flying blind as to issues that impact the global availability – and therefore operations- of your business.

So, how is this type of monitoring delivered? We think the best approach is to setup multiple types of tests such as:

  • ICMP Availability
  • TCP Connects
  • DNS Tests
  • URL Downloads
  • Multimedia (VoIP and Video) tests (from external agent to internal agent)
  • Customized application tests

These tests should be performed from multiple global locations (especially from anywhere your users commonly travel). This could even include work from home locations. At a base level, even a few test points can alert you quickly to availability issues.

More test points can increase the accuracy with which you can pinpoint some problems. It may be that the incident seems to be isolated to users in the Midwest or is only being seen on apps that reside on a particular cloud provider. The more diverse data you collect, the swifter and more intelligent your response can be.

Alerts should be enabled so that you can be notified immediately if there is an issue with application degradation, or “service down” situation. The last piece to the puzzle is to quickly be able to correlate these issues with underlying internal network or external service provider problems.

We see this trend of an “any application, anywhere, anytime” service model becoming the standard for IT departments large and small. With this shift comes an even greater need for continuous & proactive External Availability Monitoring.

External Availability Monitoring - Why it Matters

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

Why Companies are Making the Switch to Cloud Based Network Monitoring

Many Enterprises today are making the switch over to “The Cloud” for a variety of applications. The most popular cloud based (business) applications include CRM software, email, project management, development & backup. It’s predicted that by 2015, end-user spending on cloud services could be more than $180 billion.

Why Companies are Making the Switch to Cloud Based Network Monitoring

Some of you may be asking “Why the cloud?” or “is it really worth it?” The answer to these questions are both simple and compelling.

If an Enterprise decides to use a cloud based solution of any kind they’re going to see immediate benefits in 3 major areas:

  • Cost savings
  • Speed
  • Flexibility

Cost saving

In the network monitoring space, all of the “big guys” require a hefty upfront fee for their software, and then an equally, if not more expensive fee for professional services to actually make the system operate and integrate with other platforms.

On the contrary, most cloud based systems are sold as yearly (or less) SaaS models. The removal of a huge upfront investment usually makes the CFO happy. They’re also happy when they don’t need to pay for server hardware, storage and other costs (like electricity, and space) associated with running a solution in house.

Flexibility

“Use what you need, when you need it and then turn it off when you don’t” – that is one of the most common (and powerful) sales pitches in the cloud world. But, unlike the sales pitch from your local used car salesperson, this one is true! Cloud based system are generally much more flexible in terms of deployment, usage, terms, and even support compared to “legacy” software deployments.

Most cloud based SaaS applications offer a free no-obligation evaluation period and can be upgraded, downgraded or cancelled with just a few clicks. This means that organizations are not completely “locked in” to any solution for many years that might not do the job they need. Try that with your behemoth on premise software!

Speed

In the IT world, speed comes in many forms. You might think of application performance or Internet download speeds, but in the cloud speed generally means how fast a new application or service can go from “I need it” to “I have it”.

One of the biggest advantages of cloud based systems is that they are already running. The front end, backend and associated applications are already installed. As a user all you have to do is raise your hand and say you want it and in most cases your service can be provisioned in a matter of hours (or less).

In the cloud world of SaaS this “lead time” has shrunk from weeks or months to hours or minutes. That means more productivity, less downtime and happier users.

In the end, all organizations are looking for ways to trim unnecessary costs and increase capabilities. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this today is to switch to a cloud based network monitoring application.

NMSaaS- Top 10 Reasons to Consider a SaaS Based Solution

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

The Importance of Using Network Discovery in your Business

Network discovery is not a single thing. In general terms it is the process of gathering information about the Network resources near you.

You may be asking why is this even important to me? The primary reasons why it is vital for your business to use network discovery is as follows:

  • If you don’t know what you have, you cannot hope to monitor and manage it.
  • You can’t track down interconnected problems.
  • You don’t know when something new comes on the network.
  • You don’t know when you need upgrades.
  • You may be paying too much for maintenance.

All of these key factors above are vital in maintaining the success of your company’s network resources.

The Importance of Using Network Discovery in your Business

One of the most important aspects which I’ve mentioned is not knowing what you have, this is a huge problem for many companies. If you don’t know what you have how can you manage or monitor it.

Most of the time in network management you’re trying to track down potential issues within your network and how you’re going to resolve these issues. This is a very hard task especially if you’re dealing with a large scale network. If one thing goes down within the network it starts a trickle effect and then more aspects of the network will in return start to go down.

All of these problems are easily fixed. NMSaaS has network discovery capabilities with powerful and flexible tools allowing you to determine what exactly is subject to monitoring.

These elements are automatically labeled and grouped. This makes automatic data collection possible, as well as threshold monitoring and reporting on already discovered elements.

As a result of this we can access critical details like IP address, MAC address, OS, firmware, Services, Memory, Serial Numbers, Interface Information, Routing Information, Neighbor data, these are all available at the click of a button or as a scheduled report.

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

Have You Considered Using a Network Discovery Software Solution

When you have a network discovery software solution it allows your computer to see another network computers and devices and allows people on other network computers to see your computer. This makes it easier to share files and printers etc, but that’s not all.

Have you Considered Using a Network Discovery Software Solution?You may be asking why is this even important to me? The primary reasons why it is vital for your business to use network discovery is as follows:

  • If you don’t know what you have, you cannot hope to monitor and manage it.
  • You can’t track down interconnected problems.
  • You don’t know when something new comes on the network.
  • You don’t know when you need upgrades.
  • You may be paying too much for maintenance.

Most of the time in network management you’re trying to track down potential issues within your network and how you’re going to resolve these issues. This is a very hard task especially if you’re dealing with a large scale network. If one thing goes down within the network it starts a trickle effect and then more aspects of the network will in return start to go down.

All of these problems are easily fixed. A lot of network discovery capabilities have powerful and flexible tools allowing you to determine what exactly is subject to monitoring.

These elements can be automatically labeled and grouped. This makes automatic data collection possible, as well as threshold monitoring and reporting on already discovered elements.

Another aspect of network discovery software is that it can perform a network topology discovery in the managed network. The discovery process probes each device to determine its configuration and relation to other managed elements.

This information can be then used to create instances as a dependency model. This simplifies event correlation, i.e. no rules programming and the subsystem guarantees identification of critical problems. The discovery detects network devices and topology automatically.

As a result of this we can access critical details like IP address, MAC address, OS, firmware, Services, Memory, Serial Numbers, Interface Information, Routing Information, Neighbor data, these are all available at the click of a button or as a scheduled report.

If you would like to find out more about how we can benefit your enterprise greatly then schedule a technical discussion with one of our experienced engineers.

Contact Us for Live Demo

 

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

SNMP Management is a Crucial Factor to Consider in Business Today

What is SNMP? Why should we use it? These are all common questions people ask when deciding if its the right feature for them, the answers to these questions are simple.SNMP Management

NMSaas Top 10 Reasons to Consider a SaaS Based SolutionSimple Network Management Protocol is an “internet-standard protocol for managing devices on IP netowrks”. Devices that typically support this solution include routers, switches, servers, workstations, printers, modem racks and more.

Key functions

  • Collects data about its local environment.
  • Stores and retrieves administration information as defined in the MIB.
  • Signals an event to the manager.
  • Acts as a proxy for some non–SNMP manageable network device.

It typicaly uses, one or more administrative computers, called managers, which have the task of monitoring or managing a group of hosts/devices on a computer network.

Each tool provides valuable insight to any network administrator who requires complete visibility into the network, and it acts as a primary component of a complete management solution information via SNMP to the manager.

The specific agents uncover data on the managed systems as variables. The protocol also permits active management tasks, such as modifying and applying a new configuration through remote modification of these variables.

Companies such as Paessler & Manage Engine have been providing customers with reliable SNMP for years, and its obvious why.

Why use it?

It delivers information in a common, non-proprietary manner, making it easy for an administrator to manage devices from different vendors using the same tools and interface.

Its power is in the fact that it is a standard: one SNMP-compliant management station can communicate with agents from multiple vendors, and do so simultaneously.

Another advantage of the application is in the type of data that can be acquired. For example, when using a protocol analyzer to monitor network traffic from a switch’s SPAN or mirror port, physical layer errors are invisible. This is because switches do not forward error packets to either the original destination port or to the analysis port.

However, the switch maintains a count of the discarded error frames and this counter can be retrieved via a simple network management protocol query.

Conclusion

When selecting a solution like this, choose a solution that delivers full network coverage for multi-vendor hardware networks including a console for the devices anywhere on your LAN or WAN.

If you want additional information download our free whitepaper below.

NMSaas Top 10 Reasons to Consider a SaaS Based Solution

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

 

The 5 Main Questions You Have to Ask in Network Management

Although many people may perceive Network Management as an extremely complicated and diverse area of specialty, there really are only 5 questions that every Network Manager needs to think about. The main components behind every problem in Network Management, are as follows:

What do I have?

If you don’t know what you have how can you manage or monitor it. Most of the time in Network Management you’re trying to track down potential issues and how you’re going to resolve these issues. This is a very hard task especially if you’re dealing with a large scale network. If one thing goes down within the network it starts a trickle effect and then more aspects of the network will in return start to go down.

If you don’t know what you have how are you meant to know if you need an upgrade. Numerous enterprises are paying for upgrades that aren’t needed and getting charged for unnecessary maintenance. A simple tool like automated discovery management can help resolve this. It identifies what you have, displays topology maps and automatically compiles reports.

Is anything broken?

At times, technology seems like it is advancing faster than we can keep up with it. As the industry evolves, your business must adapt to take these changes, especially if you want to stay as efficient as possible. Finding out if there are any issues with your infrastructure sooner rather than later is an obvious factor, but some people find this harder than others with the size of their IT infrastructure.

Having the right Network Management solution enables you to find the flaws early on so they don’t snow ball into a catastrophe. Continuous monitoring of all systems ( devices, services, UPS’s) are all key components to eliminate these issues, an application such as Root Cause Analysis or Weathermapping can help you manage these complications.

Why is it slow?

The number one complaint is why is it slow? Everyone always presumes that it’s the networks fault that the application is slow, in reality there is a number of issues. These concerns include over capacity of links, poorly written applications, firewall problems or even QoS issues. Sometimes it’s tricky to find the actual cause of the application being slow as most of the time there is no evident issue to be found.

What can be done? TEST, TEST, TEST, and then correlate these to come up with a realistic resolution. You can use NetFlow to get a real deep dive into what’s going on.

Cloud Computing

Is it secure?

Is my network secure is a hot topic these times with breaches occurring in some of the top firm’s applications. Company’s such as JP Morgan, EBay and Snapchat have all had security threats in 2014 with a lot of their customer’s information being jeopardized. Many wonder if these networks are safe and the answer is that that they are.

There is always going to be vulnerabilities no matter what, in the first of half 2014 there were over 400 security breaches within companies withholding personal information. As long as you have a trusted network manager you should be ok, a lot of these hacks are just wake up calls for companies to improve their security network.

Our approach to security is to create, push and perform security policies. Every network application should have a good protection policy configuration. Here at NMSaaS we can create those policy checking systems which have the possibilities to take down any possible vulnerabilities and eliminate them.

Can I recover if something fails?

In reality nothing lasts forever, the average life span for a hardware device is 4 years. The main concern is are you able to recover your data if a problem arises, and the answer is yes.

What to do

  • Back up all of you device configuration files (off site)
  • Maintain a consistent schedule of backups.
  • Have a quick and simple restoration process if something does fail.
  • There are always going to be problems no matter what, but what you have to remember is that there is always a solution to every problem!