Selecting the right network monitoring software for real-time traffic, like voice and video, depends on how exactly you want to use the network management tools. You can actually harm the network and slow it down by looking at it too closely.
First, your network monitoring software should be highly customizable regarding the duration of monitoring and what is being monitored. Monitoring and tapping all traffic is very different than just looking to make sure circuits and IP addresses are up and running.
When you start looking into network monitoring software, you'll notice a large variance in pricing and functionality. At a minimum, you'll want to see statistics for packets passed, what port is using the most bandwidth, the devices up and down, and retransmissions, which alone can indicate an issue.
Sometimes you may be fine with the tools that come with your manageable routers and switches. Purchasing network monitoring software alone will not make your devices manageable. Devices that can be managed are generally more expensive than their "dumb" counterparts, as there are more components that record and react in the smarter devices.
To find suitable network monitoring software, you should:
- Define what you want to monitor. A simple up/down time service is far different than snooping packets.
- Make sure your hardware can support monitoring and management.
- Ensure your security policies can also support and allow management and monitoring.
Keep in mind that real-time traffic like a voice over IP (VoIP) packet is still a data packet. The things you may want to monitor include sessions and quality of service. But standard network monitoring software will still let you know connection speed, packets passed and when connections go down.
Most VoIP systems come with their own, perhaps rudimentary, monitoring packages. You might want to see if that package meets your needs first. If you need more sophistication, your best bet is to issue a request for information and have companies tell you about their system capabilities. You may find some hidden gems out there. And, of course, don't forget about the great open source tools that are available.
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