Some network administrators do not take advantage of the benefits of network traffic analysis tools because they feel that their networks are already running smoothly. On the surface, this may be true, however in most cases, underlying performance issues may still be present and the network is unlikely to be performing optimally. Performing routine network traffic analysis can be valuable in a multitude of ways.
Having the ability to baseline the normal performance of the network is analogous to knowing the normal operating temperature of the human body, 98.6F – sustained temperatures above this norm can be sign of an illness. Diagnosing any issue is much easier and much more effective if you know what “normal” is. A base level is always useful to go by when isolating variables which may contribute to issues your network faces, and network traffic analysis tools can help you achieve this objective. These tools will allow you to keep track of the rate in which your network usage expands or contracts, when this is occurring and the types of traffic that are affecting the changes.
Think of your network as a living breathing organism – when you understand how your network operates and functions throughout the week, months, or even years, it will help you to detect abnormal patterns and issues as they arise. Moreover, this sort of knowledge is very useful when trying to plan the purchase of expensive equipment and/or upgrades that you may be required to account for traffic growth.
Network traffic analysis tools are readily available, can be affordable and fairly easy-to-use. Many solutions will evaluate network traffic for you in several nodes throughout the network and then generate a useful report highlighting various trends across the network for a given period of time. There is a multitude of programs available to provide statistics on basically anything that you need to track on your network, whether it be web usage, mobile device access and application-layer monitoring. Some vendor’s solutions can alert the network administrator when traffic patterns begin to cross predefined thresholds so that small issues can be addressed before they become bigger..
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