Remote network monitoring is a technical specialty that was born almost at the same time as networks themselves. Since then, many strategies have emerged when it comes to monitoring network elements.

In this article we will talk about the current techniques based on SNMP polling and network statistic collection through Netflow, and we will also mention outdated systems such as RMON.

Most techniques are purpose-oriented, so they are especially useful. Some more modern ones use combined techniques to offer higher control and network knowledge.

What advantages does each one of them offer?

What is remote network monitoring?

Remote network monitoring consists of detecting and knowing the status of any device connected to the network.

It can be network-specific hardware (such as a router, server, printer) or a specialized device (such as a probe or IoT element).

Simple, right?

Then let’s talk about the different techniques you have to monitor a network remotely.

Basic Remote Network Monitoring Techniques

Often this monitoring takes place through basic techniques.

With basic techniques we mean something as well known as pinging and checking whether the computer responds to the network.

What is pinging? It is a communication mechanism that allows you to find out whether a computer is connected and responds when you “knock” on its door.

To use it you just have to know its IP address.

Other basic techniques include measuring latency times (network lagging) or packet loss (network packet loss).

Advanced Remote Network Monitoring Tool – Netflow

The most common and already much more network specific techniques include the use of the SNMP protocol (Simple Network Monitoring Protocol) that helps to obtain specific information from devices connected to the network: number of connections, incoming traffic through its network interface, firmware version, CPU temperature, etc.

Something that, if we use technical terms, is known as SNMP polling.

Other tools use protocols from the Netflow family (JFlow, SFlow, Netflow) to obtain statistical information about network usage.

This statistical information is incredibly useful to be able to analyze the use of the network, detect bottlenecks and, above all, to have a clear vision of what the communication flows between the different elements of a network are.

Advanced Network Remote Monitoring Techniques – RMON

There is an almost obsolete protocol called RMON. However, it is worth mentioning, because we can still find it in some installations.

This protocol used a technology network monitoring technology that listened to the wire to obtain statistical information using a specific SNMP agent. Something like what Netflow does.

Advanced Remote Network Monitoring Tools – SNMP Traps

On the other hand, most devices still use SNMP TRAPS to report incidents in asynchronous mode.

Although it is a very old method, it is still used today as a monitoring method on almost all network devices.

Not to be mistaken with the SNMP Polling that we discussed at the beginning!

Benefits of Network Monitoring

The most important and simple benefit is to find out the status of the network:

  • Whether it is active
  • Whether it is overloaded
  • Which devices have the most traffic
  • What kind of traffic is circulating over the network
  • Bottlenecks
  • Jams

An example of a traffic flow diagram captured with Pandora FMS could be the following:

Remote network monitoring tools
Remote network monitoring tools

Most network management and monitoring systems automatically detect connected systems and draw a network map representing the network.

The most advanced tools allow you to update that map in real time and see even the physical connections between interfaces (known as a link-level topology or Layer 2).

For example, like this automatic network map generated with Pandora FMS:

Remote monitoring in network management
Remote monitoring in network management

Some systems incorporate what is known as IPAM (IP Address Management) and, at the same time, monitor the network status, allowing IP addressing to be mapped and controlled so that you know which networks are free and how they are used.

How does a remote network monitoring service work?

Generally, a tool like this one has a central server that allows you to detect systems and launch network tests (ping, icmp, snmp) to find out the status of each device. 

To know the network in detail through its network flows in real time, you will need to configure the network routers and switches with the Netflow protocol and send that information to a Netflow collector. Although only professional medium/top-range network equipment supports the use of Netflow.

If you use an advanced monitoring tool, it will have its own Netflow collector.

Sometimes it is necessary to monitor devices that are in inaccessible networks, so intermediate polling servers, called proxies or satellites, are used.

These secondary servers perform network scans and monitoring on the devices nearby, and then send the collected data to a central system.

But what do we do with all this numerical data?

It is essential that the monitoring tool you use has graphs, reports and visual screens to display that data.

If we’re already talking about the top-of-the-range tools, those visual network maps will allow you to manually correct and add the details you need to manage those networks.

What are the best remote network monitoring software?

The professional tools that cover SNMP, Netflow, network maps and IPAM that work best today are:

  • SolarWinds
  • Whatsup Gold
  • Pandora FMS

Although they differ from each other in several respects, you may cover all your monitoring needs with any of them.

Would you like to know more about remote network monitoring tools? Then this will no doubt interest you:

Best network monitoring systems

Not all market tools cover these areas.

Some only support basic SNMP, but do not support Netflow. Others do not have good discovery or map editing capabilities and most of them do not have IPAM features. 

The basic thing a good network monitoring tool should have is:

  • SNMP v1, v2 and v3 capabilities
  • To be able to use proxy servers
  • SNMP Trap Collection
  • Device Discovery
  • Map drawing
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