Network monitoring refers to monitoring a computer network that uses specialized management software tools. Network monitoring systems ensure the overall availability and performance of computers and network services. Network administrators, among other network data, control access, routers, slow or damaged components, firewalls, kernel switches, client systems and server performance. Network monitoring systems are commonly used in large corporate and university IT networks.

Key functionality in network monitoring

The network monitoring system detects and reports device or connection errors. It measures host CPU usage, channel bandwidth usage and other aspects of the operation. It often sends messages, sometimes called surveillance messages, over the network to each host to check if it is responding.

When errors, an unacceptably slow response, or other unexpected behaviour is detected, these systems send additional messages, called alerts, to locations designated to alert system administrators. The location can be a management server, an email address or a phone number.

Network monitoring software tools

The ping program is an example of a basic network monitoring program. Ping is a software tool available on most computers that sends Internet Protocol test messages between two hosts. Any user on the network can perform basic ping tests to test the connection between the two computers and to measure the performance of the current connection.

Although ping is useful in some situations, some networks require more sophisticated monitoring systems. These systems can be programs designed for professional administrators of large computer networks.

One type of network monitoring system is for checking the availability of web servers. For large companies that use a group of web servers distributed worldwide, these systems detect problems everywhere.

A simple network management protocol

Simple Network Management Protocol is a popular management protocol that includes network monitoring software. SNMP is the most used network management and monitoring protocol. Includes:

  • Devices monitored on the network.
  • Software acting on controlled devices.
  • Network management system, which is a set of tools on the server that monitors each device on the network and transfers information about those devices to the IT administrator.

Administrators use SNMP to monitor and manage aspects of their networks through:

  • Gathering information about what bandwidth is used on the network.
  • Active surveys of network devices to request status at regular intervals.
  • Notify the administrator via a text message of a device failure.
  • Collect reports of errors that can be used for troubleshooting.
  • Sends an email alert when the server reaches the specified insufficient disk space.