Published on January 21st, 2013 | by John I.0
Understanding Real-time Bandwidth Monitoring & Its Benefits
Most of us know network bandwidth monitoring as a method of analyzing the data flowing across a network, but many organizations fail to understand the need. Before getting to the benefits, let’s first understand what is driving this need for network bandwidth monitoring..
The fact is global IP traffic is skyrocketing each year and 2013 is no different. You can convincingly expect:
- More internet traffic and bandwidth consumption in all organizations – small, medium and large
- More video streaming and over-the-top content being streamed online by employees from work places
- The BYOD trend has only contributed to the proliferation of employees using personal hand-held devices on the enterprise network for accessing internet
Why is this a threat?
Because you pay for bandwidth, and it costs $$$. Bandwidth is a resource that has to be judicially used in adherence to organizational internet usage policy. The more the bandwidth gets consumed for non-work activities such as streaming YouTube videos, online TV and games, the lesser the speed of internet access for business processes. The solution is not as simple as just paying for more bandwidth. Unplanned bandwidth expense is never a tactical or strategic solution to any organization.
Neither is the draconian “no internet” policy a recommended option. This will not work in the long run as unrestricted internet access is becoming a necessity for the business services and transactions.
All these, besides impacting employee working hours, will cause bandwidth spikes, network issues, and troubleshooting overhead for the network administration teams.
The Solution – Monitor, Analyze & Optimize
So, you have some bandwidth, and you have employees using the internet. Now is the time to start monitoring bandwidth consumption in real time. Once you start monitoring, you’ll know how much bandwidth is being used for business and non-business purposes so you can start optimizing its utilization without having to purchase more.
Where should you start?
- Monitor network bandwidth & traffic patterns down to the interface level
- Identify your bandwidth hogs – which users, applications, and protocols are consuming the most bandwidth
- Analyze and understand what protocols and IP addresses are consuming bandwidth
All this is not a manual process, and it’s also not possible to interpret so much data by individually looking at end-user systems and internet consumption. You have to look at a smarter and more effective way to understand network traffic flow.
There are various network flow technologies such as Cisco® NetFlow, Juniper® J-Flow, IPFIX, sFlow®, and Huawei NetStream™ that allow you to get traffic data from network devices. For example, NetFlow can tell you many things about who, what, when, where, and how network traffic is flowing. When network traffic behavior is understood, you can now take optimization efforts to ensure bandwidth consumption is not impacted by unproductive Internet usage.
Step 1: Enable the flow technology available within network devices. If you are having a Cisco device, you’ll have to enable NetFlow.
Step 2: Use a NetFlow analyzer tool to analyze your network traffic in terms of applications, protocols, sources, and destinations
Step 3: Get statistics and reports on many key metrics for monitoring bandwidth utilization in terms of
- Top traffic destinations
- Top sources
- Top receivers
- Top transmitters
- Top endpoints
- Top protocols
- Top applications
- Top conversations, etc.
More than anything, the biggest advantage to a network administrator is the simplicity of the monitoring activity, time and effort saved in probing into issues, and more importantly meaningful data output that can be used for diagnosing and troubleshooting bandwidth bottlenecks.
Towards the IT spend, the better the optimization, the lesser the bandwidth expense. Better ROI and improved quality of service.
It’s not a luxury anymore to choose to have a real-time bandwidth monitor software or not, it’s a necessity, and your unmonitored bandwidth usage calls for it.
About the Author
Vinod Mohan is a Senior Product Marketing Specialist at SolarWinds who specializes in researching and writing on trends and happenings in IT management market space. His product marketing experience spans across the network management and systems management domains.