Network-monitoringAs the demands of customers increase in our ever-expanding digital world, the need for reliable, efficient and responsive networks is more urgent than ever. Accordingly, network monitoring is taking centre stage as one of the most important components of managing an environment of any size or complexity. But, with the amount of hardware and software options available, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. The many different network monitoring tools available today offer virtually any combination of technologies and features, however, there’s one major distinction that can be made when it comes to network monitoring: active versus passive monitoring.

Active monitoring measures the flow of data on your network by ‘injecting’ test traffic into the environment. This means that active monitoring adds overhead to your networking hardware, and could result in poor performance if used in excess. In fact, it’s surprisingly common for network managers to manage their networks to death by being too heavy-handed with active monitoring. However, active monitoring isn’t without its benefits, such as the ability to measure traffic both inside and outside the network systems environment, and to get real-time data on your network’s performance. Active monitoring also collects more specific data than passive monitoring, but at the expense of scope: while passive monitoring generates broad, general data, active monitoring generates detailed data that is specific to a particular application.

Passive monitoring techniques constantly collect data from the network environment over a period of time, and base their results on historic data. Because it doesn’t pull real-time information from your network hardware, passive monitoring is typically far less resource-intensive than active monitoring. However, passive monitoring doesn’t allow for measurements outside your network environment, and doesn’t generate specific data. Passive monitoring is better suited to general measurements over time, and as such is an invaluable tool for baselining your environment. This makes passive monitoring perfect for analysing large volumes of data. However, passive monitoring techniques typically require specialised devices in order to measure traffic, so the financial commitment could be higher than that of active monitoring.

The wise network manager knows that proper network monitoring depends on the combination of active and passive monitoring techniques. While they have their own strengths and weaknesses, in combination, they can provide a wealth of information and keep networking staff ahead of the curve when it comes to the performance of their technological assets. Download our free infographic to learn more about the differences between active and passive network monitoring or keep it as a handy reference. You can also download our Network Manager’s Guide to a Stable and Highly Available Relationship for free below.

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