6 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Network Performance Monitoring Tool

With the growing convergence and connectedness of business applications, data and telecommunications, the need to ensure optimal network performance is greater than it’s ever been. This is compounded by the hundreds, thousands or millions of nodes on the average enterprise’s network. Save for micro and small businesses, keeping tabs on network performance via manual methods is near impossible in this complex environment. 

Yet network performance monitoring isn’t negotiable. Network downtime and degradation has a direct adverse impact on an enterprise’s bottom line. Automated monitoring through network performance and vulnerability scanning tools is therefore fundamental. But while there are numerous tools available in the market, they aren’t created equal. When choosing a performance monitoring tool, there are a number of key factors you should pay attention to.

  • Scalability

The size of a company’s network is rarely static. For many organizations, the nodes, applications, users and traffic grows each year. Network performance solutions must have the ability to scale their data collection and reporting capacity in tandem with the increasing size of the target network. 

The most common scalability bottleneck is the central reporting server. The ability to generate reports may not completely fail but would rather progressively become slower. Choose a solution that can scale to accommodate your forecasted medium to long-term growth.

  • Ease of Deployment

Irrespective of how effective and sophisticated a performance monitoring solution might be, it won’t serve the desired purpose if it’s difficult to deploy. As you weigh the pros and cons of different tools, examine the deployment work network administrators will be required to do including provisioning servers and storage, building databases, deploying agents and continuously managing the different components of the entire setup. 

Deployment is one area where appliance-based solutions have a distinct advantage. They have a simpler deployment mechanism since all components are pre-built into the solution. This ensures network administrators can hit the ground running much quicker.

  • Ease of Use

Ease of deployment is important but the ease of use is arguably a much bigger factor in determining the suitability of a network monitoring tool. Network administrators will get more value from a solution that’s easy to operate and that produces actionable reports

The very purpose of a monitoring tool is to allow network administrators to concentrate on more strategic activities by reducing the time it takes to detect, troubleshoot, isolate and resolve a network problem. 

  • Real-Time Visibility

When a network performance problem occurs, every additional minute that the problem persists means declining sales and deterioration of operational efficiency. Real-time visibility is, therefore, a key feature of a network monitoring tool. 

This implies the ability to see on the dashboard immediately there’s an issue with a particular node, subnet, application or user. It should also provide reliable pointers on what the problem could be.

  • Dynamic Baselines

Many network-impairing events are characterized by memory leaks, changes in resource utilization and other unusual system occurrences that deviate from the norm. The best monitoring solutions are those that not only track performance against a static standard but that can alter the definition of baseline behavior based on what is normal for a particular time of day, week or month. That way, alerts would be generated based on their deviation from the expected normal for that moment of time. 

Traditionally, performance monitoring tools would define baselines by the hour but today’s solutions are real-time oriented and can set baselines in minute-long intervals. The shorter the baseline intervals, the lower the likelihood of false positives.

  • Versatile

Given the diversity of hardware and software that characterizes the modern organization’s network, a good network monitoring tool should have the capacity to collect and report on a wide range of devices, applications, protocols and network topologies. This ensures a truly end-to-end view of the network and enables integrated analysis and troubleshooting.

Consider these factors when choosing a network monitoring solution to ensure you get the decision right from the start.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.