Best Monitoring Tool for Your Network May Not Be What You Think

By Art Reisman


A common assumption in the IT world is that the starting point for any network congestion solution begins with a monitoring tool.  “We must first figure out what specific type of traffic is dominating our network, and then we’ll decide on the solution”.  This is a reasonable and rational approach for a one time problem. However, the source of network congestion can change daily, and it can be a different type of traffic or different user dominating your bandwidth each day.

When you start to look at the labor and capital expense of  “monitor and react,” as your daily troubleshooting tool, the solution can become more expensive than your bandwidth contract with your provider.

The traditional way of looking at monitoring your Internet has two dimensions. First, the fixed cost of the monitoring tool used to identify traffic, and second, the labor associated with devising and implementing the remedy. In an ironic inverse correlation, we assert that your ROI will degrade with the complexity of the monitoring tool.

Obviously, the more detailed the reporting/shaping tool, the more expensive its initial price tag. Yet, the real kicker comes with part two. The more detailed data output generally leads to an increase in the time an administrator is likely to spend making adjustments and looking for optimal performance.

But, is it really fair to assume higher labor costs with more advanced monitoring and information?

Well, obviously it wouldn’t make sense to pay more for an advanced tool if there was no intention of doing anything with the detailed information it provides. But, typically, the more information an admin has about a network, the more inclined he or she might be to spend time making adjustments.

On a similar note, an oversight often made with labor costs is the belief that when the work needed to adjust the network comes to fruition, the associated adjustments can remain statically in place. In reality, network traffic changes constantly, and thus the tuning so meticulously performed on Monday may be obsolete by Friday.

Does this mean that the overall productivity of using a bandwidth monitoring tool is a loss? Not at all. Bandwidth monitoring and network adjusting can certainly result in a cost-effective solution. But, where is the tipping point? When does a monitoring solution create more costs than it saves?

The solution: Be proactive, use a tool that prevents congestion before it affects the quality of your network.

An effective compromise with many of our customers is that they are stepping down from expensive, complex reporting tools to a simpler approach. Instead of trying to determine every type of traffic on a network by type, time of day, etc., an admin can head off trouble with a basic bandwidth control solution in place (such as a NetEqualizer). With a smart, proactive congestion control device, the acute problems of a network locking up will stop.

Yes, there may be a need to look at your overall bandwidth usage trends over time, but you do not need an expensive detailed monitoring tool for that purpose.

Here are some other articles on bandwidth monitoring that we recommend.

List of monitoring tools compiled by Stanford.

ROI tool , determine how much a bandwidth control device can save.

Great article on choosing a bandwidth controller.

Linux Tips
How to set up a monitor for free

Good enough is better: a lesson from the Digital Camera Revolution

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