Staying on the cutting edge of business tech requires constant upgrades and integrations, training your staff to use the best possible tools for your industry. We are always looking for the next best management interface or one-solution tool that solves dozens of technical problems in one well-programmed fell swoop. But sometimes, the tool we need has been under our noses the whole time. In this case, what we mean is a network monitoring service.
Most business owners don’t actually know what network monitoring is. Network monitoring is one of the most important and undervalued tools in the entire IT service industry. Only experienced technicians and admins know just how useful it is, but every modern business can gain a surprising amount from even a small amount of managed network monitoring.
What, Exactly, is “Network Monitoring”?
To grasp the uses of network monitoring, first you should understand what it can do.
Network monitoring is a simple phrase that packs a lot of punch. There are actually several types of network monitoring that all fall under the same service. Network monitoring involves tracking every technical aspect of every machine in your business network. From the temperature of the motherboards to the data packets flowing through your routers.
At the lowest level, network monitoring tracks how your computers are doing physically. It can keep track of how hot your servers are, how fast the disks are spinning, and whether any of your integral fans have cut out. These statistics alone can be incredibly useful for detailed troubleshooting and, rarely, to catch hackers trying to gain physical access.
The next level is much more useful: How resources are used in your computers and devices. What this means is that network monitoring can tell you how much RAM and CPU is being used by each program on each computer. Sort of like what you see when you open your Task Manager with Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Only because network monitoring hooks in so deeply, it can also see resource use that doesn’t show up on the Task Manager, like hidden programs and background functions.
The one feature you could probably predict is that network monitoring also keeps track of every packet of data that flows into or out of your system. That’s between internal computers and any external access to the world wide web. In most cases, this doesn’t go so deep as to read the packets, but it can track where data is flowing to and from. And this is incredibly useful for network security purposes, as well as internal efficiency.
Finally, network monitoring can also pick up a great deal of detailed information about the previous three layers. It might be able to tell you what programs were opened, how much RAM and CPU they used, and how long they ran before closing. Or the exact time an email was sent, or even where online traffic is coming from.
What Network Monitoring Can Do for You
With those capabilities in mind, it becomes much easier to see just what network monitoring can do for your business. Put to the right use, there are more than a dozen different ways you can improve your efficiency and solve technical problems with the help of ongoing and managed network monitoring. Let’s take a quick look at the top ways that businesses make great use of network monitoring tools.
Web Traffic Tracking
Web traffic has become one of the most important aspects of modern marketing and success metrics. Tracking web traffic can have a huge impact on your future success. And not just for the ad revenue.
Network monitoring can provide an even more detailed insight into your web traffic than online dashboard services because it has 100% access to activity on your end of the connection. Your network monitoring may be able to tell you who is visiting, for how long, what they look at, what files they access, and how much their visit taxed your servers. It can also monitor traffic en masse, offering detailed analysis insights on traffic patterns over time and what you can do to improve your stats.
Website Load Balancing and Uptime Warnings
Website uptime is also a vital part of any business with an online presence. If your web server gets overloaded with traffic or data handling, there’s a terrible possibility that the site will fall or show a fatal error to visiting customers. While there are uptime monitoring services that are very simple, network monitoring offers a much more complete tool to assure constant uptime.
Network monitoring watches your web server(s) from the back end and will give you alerts any time they even approach the possibility of overload. It can also help you to balance load between multiple web servers to handle high traffic periods or to stay online during high-impact updates.
Because network monitoring can track so many details about your computers and network, you can also gather information for some very productive optimization. Pattern analysis is a specialty of network monitoring because you can look at exactly what your computers were experiencing when issues occurred.
Let’s say your system occasionally experiences a minor database corruption. With network monitoring you can look at where the problem happens and identify exactly what went wrong. Perhaps the process needed too much RAM and failed. Or another program opened and interrupted a key process. You can hunt down elusive bugs and solve recurring problems through analysis.
You can also identify any technical bottlenecks and streamline data processes, measuring your success by watching the network monitoring results before and after a fix.
Identifying Hidden Malware
Not all malware is flashy adware or dramatic ransomware. Sometimes, it will download itself and then find a way to hide in the host computer. From this point, stealth malware hides its processes from the Task Manager (or names itself something incomprehensible) and goes about stealing or destroying data as it was programmed to do.
Network monitoring can actually catch these viruses where few other defense measures can. It does this by identifying resources being used (CPU and RAM) that are not allocated to any approved programs or known processes. When an infected computer’s resource use varies from the baseline, the bug can be hunted down.
‘Security Camera’ Record Keeping
Interestingly, network monitoring can also protect you from internal dangers like employees misusing their authorizations to steal or alter documents. Or hackers with stolen employee logins accessing the network in ways that an employee never would.
Network monitoring, if the data is collected, can actually act as a type of ‘security camera’ for your entire business network because it records activity. With network monitoring, you can track when and even where an employee’s login accessed files, and what files they accessed. You can track if something was downloaded or uploaded, and often which outside IP address interacted with your network.
Identifying and Solving Problems Before They Happen
The pattern analysis aspect of network monitoring can also help you track down future technical problems before they become critical. If a server’s file storage was going to fill up and cause problems, network monitoring can flag you when it reaches 80% of capacity. If there is a typical data slowdown or your website nears resource overload at the same time every week, network monitoring can reveal this brewing trouble and help you track down the correct solution before a single customer sees an error.
Never Missing Technical Oversights
Finally, network monitoring can even tell you when a regularly scheduled technical process has failed. Many companies are painfully familiar with the fact that sometimes, backups don’t take right. The process is interrupted or the file corrupts and your disaster recovery is at risk until the next successful backup is taken. Or perhaps you automatically send billing emails out once a week, but sometimes a few get lost in transit which is not good for business.
Network monitoring can alert you if these processes do not complete exactly according to plan. If there is a blip, if they stop early, or if there is a surge of resource failure, network monitoring will tell your technicians to manually run the process before any risky oversights occur.
Network monitoring is an incredibly useful tool offered as a managed service by only the best IT teams. While using it correctly requires expertise, it can also transform your solution options for everything from web traffic to cybersecurity. For more industry insights into Nashville IT services and data security, contact us today!
Brian Gray, MCP, is the President at Kraft Technology Group, LLC (KTG), an affiliate of KraftCPAs PLLC. Within his role, Brian is responsible for all aspects of service delivery to our clients. Brian has a decade of experience working for managed service providers. He has worked with clients in a variety of industries, including financial services, accounting, legal, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail.