Companies have been monitoring their own LANs since they started installing networks. It’s logical to extend that philosophy to include any telecom links between facilities. That includes point to point networks and both public and VPN connections to the Internet. There are good reasons to rethink this approach now. Let’s have a look at how the networking monitoring processing can be improved.
One area of weakness is networks used by smaller businesses. A lot of factories, offices and retail outlets aren’t open or staffed around the clock. What’s going on in the wee hours? Who knows? A construction crew could be working late and cut through the cable that is your last mile connection. The alarm lights on the terminal equipment illuminate, but there is no one around to take action. You come in to open up in the morning and find that you have no network connection. You report it, of course, and the carrier will start the investigation process. You may or may not be back in business by noon. That’s only if you have a good SLA (Service Level Agreement) or a very proactive service provider.
There are measures you can take. You can set up a process to monitor the alarms and ping remote servers periodically to make sure the link is still up. If something goes wrong, you can have it send you or someone on-call in your IT department a text message. Somebody sill has to be awake enough to get the alert and then start working the problem. That involves figuring out if the outage in on the telecom link or in your equipment and contacting the right party to get some corrective action.
Large companies with 24/7 coverage of their data centers and other IT assets may consider this part of their charter. Small and medium companies, especially those with branch offices and critical e-commerce infrastructure, may have the need for faster response but not the budget to provide “just in case” staffing. These are the companies that hosted network monitoring services work wonders for. With hosted monitoring, the responsibility of what’s happening beyond your network’s edge belongs to the service provider. They do have the automated equipment and round-the-clock staffing to keep an eye on every network link to make sure that it is working properly.
In most situations, the network edge is a managed router installed by the service provider. This equipment terminates the line with the proper interface, be it T1, DS3, EoC, EoF or SONET. The other side of the router is where you connect, generally with an Ethernet interface. The router itself is considered “in the loop” as far as network monitoring and testing is concerned. If anything goes wrong, the provider has the ability to test functionality through all their equipment and lines, right on up to your Ethernet connection.
In some cases, you even have the option of letting the service provider include your internal local network within their networking monitoring service. You decide whether to let them have access to the entire network or just a portion. This is the ultimate level of support for smaller companies that have little or no on-site IT staffing.
A particularly robust network security solution is provided by MegaPath, a major facilities-based carrier. MegaPath goes far beyond just monitoring to ensure the network is “up.” They include comprehensive Unified Threat Management (UTM) to implement network security. This involves an advanced firewall, intrusion prevention, anti-virus and anti-spam filtering, web application control and data loss prevention. Network management involves deep packet inspection and uptime monitoring that monitors for latency, jitter, delays and packet loss. It is sometimes difficult for even larger companies to provide this depth of networking monitoring and security.
Are you interested in better management of your network connections at a reasonable cost? You should look into hosted network monitoring and security services suitable for the size of your business and criticality of your network.