December 12, 2000, 2:39 PM — The other day I drove by one of those speed measurement devices. As I passed it, it
gave me a digital readout of my speed (and a good dose of radiation). The intent was to
let me know how fast I was going. That way, the police hope, I'll think about my
If the road were a network, then the speed device would be equivalent to a network
management package. Like the speed measurement device, a good network management
package gives you the ability to watch packets speeding around your network.
Understanding traffic flows in enterprise networks requires advanced network
management tools such as Concord Communication's href="http://www.concord.com">Network Health or System Management Arts' href="http://www.smarts.com">InCharge. Those packages can tell you a great deal
about the internals of your enterprise network and help assure the enterprise's overall
Unfortunately, the packages are expensive. That makes them a tough sell, especially
when spending the same amount buys an additional router or switch. However, network
tools are often a better investment than new hardware because they provide an early
warning system about developing problems in the network.
If you can't afford such tools, you can go the poor-man's route and get network
statistics through RMON (Remote Monitoring), Telnet, or even Multi Router Traffic Grapher (MRTG)
, a tool that monitors traffic load on networks. They're not as elegant as Network
Health or InCharge, but through the use of scripts or basic SNMP reports you can obtain
much of the same information provided by the more sophisticated tools.
Either way, it is a good idea to keep an eye on traffic trends in your
network -- just as the police want us to monitor our speed.