If It's Broken, Fix It: The Power of Real-Time Network Monitoring

Nobody likes to wait.

Whether it’s in line at the grocery store, with a number at the DMV or in front of the TV while Netflix is buffering, waiting is never a good thing. And that, in short, is why real-time network monitoring is so powerful. If you have a 24/7 stream of real-time data on your network performance, you’re never left waiting, and neither are your users. No one is left waiting. Everyone is happier.

That’s not the only benefit that comes from monitoring your network in real-time. There are a number of upsides to real-time monitoring, both for users and for administrators. Here’s everything you need to know about real-time network monitoring, and why you should consider keeping such a close watch over your networks.

What is real-time network monitoring?

What is real-time network monitoring?

Network monitoring works like this: Snapshots of your network performance are taken at intervals and compiled, which allows you to see trends happening over time. For example, you can see how a switch is performing now compared to yesterday, or even a few hours or minutes ago. Real-time network monitoring pretty much does what the name implies: It allows network administrators to see what’s happening with the network this minute, not 10 minutes ago or 30 minutes ago or an hour ago. It’s frequently updated, up-to-the-minute data about network performance.

Most real-time network monitoring tools don’t actually provide information in real-time, though. “Real-time” is a bit of a misnomer because snapshots are still being provided at intervals, meaning something like “near real-time” or “short interval based” monitoring. The goal is to make the intervals as frequent as possible, so monitoring gets close enough to “real-time” for the difference to be negligible. For the vast majority of networks, the closest to “real-time” you can get is polling every 30-60 seconds. Network monitoring software that polls at intervals up to every few minutes is considered perfectly acceptable by industry standards and is close enough to “real-time” to deliver similar results as if you were able to monitor the network in actual real-time.

Giving your network that much time and attention is a commitment, for sure, but there are plenty of benefits (for both the users and the administrators) that make it a worthwhile investment.

How does real-time network monitoring benefit users?

How does real-time network monitoring benefit users?

The first benefit to real-time network monitoring may seem like an obvious one: It means there’s support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Remember how no one likes waiting? That is especially true for your users, which is why they’re likely to really appreciate having support available all the time. Even in the middle of the night, a user can expect expert support, and that’s really appealing in our instant-gratification-loving digital age.

Having support available around the clock leads to another benefit for users: faster troubleshooting. Real-time monitoring means finding out almost immediately if there are any outages or other problems, which allows you to get right to work addressing them. When a problem has been identified, it’s much easier to address it quickly and thoroughly when you know the data you’re seeing related to the problem is current, not from yesterday or hours ago or even a few minutes prior. You’re seeing data and metrics that relate to the problem as it exists in real-time, which makes it much easier to solve.

Having real-time network monitoring capabilities allows you to offer your users extra protection, as well. It better protects you and your data from security breaches, because you can see and stop threats before hackers are able to steal your data, block your access to your site or cause other disasters. This means extra peace of mind for your users, with the added benefit that it’s far less costly to be proactive in this case, since recovering data after a security breach is rarely cheap.

Finally, users will benefit from real-time network monitoring because it maximizes uptime. Such constant monitoring is like routine maintenance on a car — it keeps the network healthy and operating at peak performance so you can quickly address minor problems, and completely avoid larger problems that would result in downtime. This also means network consultants and managed service providers can better meet their service level agreements by delivering on required uptime and availability levels.

How does real-time network monitoring benefit administrators?

How does real-time network monitoring benefit administrators?

Users aren’t the only ones to benefit from real-time monitoring. There are also plenty of reasons administrators should prefer to have constant eyes on their networks.

Real-time network monitoring builds a database of historical data about your network that can be extremely valuable. Examining that past data can help you identify patterns and investigate recurring problems with the network. It can also help you see past and present capacity to determine when hardware and software upgrades need to be recommended. All that data collected in real-time can be a goldmine for network administrators who know how to use it.

With that historical data, administrators and network engineers can stop taking a reactive approach to performance and security issues, and instead be proactive. Looking back allows you to better predict your future needs, so you can adjust network components and start optimizing ahead of time. This ensures your network will continue at peak performance consistently, and it can help avoid many problems before they even happen.

Finally, real-time monitoring can help save you money. Network downtime can have very real financial consequences for businesses; it’s estimated Amazon lost more than $66,000 per minute when its site was down in 2013. Not every network is likely to lose that much if it goes dark, but it’s obviously preferable to stay up and running as much as possible. By ensuring the network is in good health at all times, you can avoid any costly downtime. Plus, there’s a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) when you monitor your network continuously; since you’re keeping it in good health at all times, you’ll spend less on replacing software and equipment.

Cost savings, better security, less waiting. If you’re not already monitoring your networks in real-time, what are you waiting for?

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