Global networks and network users are spreading farther and more densely across the globe, and the enterprise network monitoring market is working hard to catch up and protect these new networking scenarios.
Read on to learn about some of the top network monitoring trends and how they’re impacting network infrastructures, cybersecurity, and user experience (UX):
5 Top Network Monitoring Trends
- Device sprawl affects network monitoring posture
- Growth of open source network monitoring software
- Increased focus on user monitoring and user experience
- Consolidating network management in a single tool
- Heavier reliance on automation
More on network monitoring: Network Monitoring Market
The pandemic and increase in remote work have created more distributed enterprise networks, but they have also led many companies to invest in more tools to manage their distributed networking infrastructure.
These two factors combined have led to device sprawl across the board, making it more difficult for network administrators to recognize which devices are allowed on the network and whether or not they are following required protocols.
Shane Stevens, CTO of NinjaOne, a unified IT operations platform, explained that network monitoring solutions are crucial not only for monitoring traditional networking infrastructure, but also for tracking unexpected devices that attempt to make an entrance.
“At the start of the pandemic, IT had to quickly find ways to support a virtual workforce and went into overdrive purchasing new technology,” Stevens said. “The good news is that newly acquired technology and increasing IT budgets have contributed to meaningful business value. On the flip side, it’s added a new level of complexity for IT that’s made IT management more difficult.
“Now, on top of managing and maintaining aging and outdated IT hardware and defending against increasingly sophisticated threat actors, IT departments are relying on network monitoring technology to identify and manage the myriad of new devices employees are using for work, including those that are not on the LAN.
“The biggest concern with an increasing number of devices both on and off-network is that these devices could be collecting or transmitting data that needs to be monitored. Unfortunately, as another consequence of the pandemic and the shift to remote work, we’re seeing less corporate ownership of the network and devices as many organizations pursue a BYOD policy. Smartphones, for example, are booming in popularity and are increasingly used by employees for work, but when left unmanaged, these devices could be accessing valuable business data without the IT departments’ knowledge.
“In light of this, network management tools are becoming essential for identifying potential rogue devices that interact with a network.”
More on security trends: Key Cybersecurity Trends
Open source software has grown across the B2B tech sector, but especially in areas like networking where customizable code is necessary to properly manage hybrid infrastructure.
Bryan Fite, global account CISO at BT Global, a security, cloud, and networking services company, believes that open source network monitoring is most useful not only for its customizability but also for user experience optimization.
“Open source tools for network monitoring are gaining traction not only because the world is slowly transitioning to open source altogether, but because they are required in order to deliver the desired/optimum user experience outside of the enterprise,” Fite said. “Paired with other relevant telemetry, a real-time view of the network and its components can be achieved. This view can be used to avoid errors to changes to failures with enterprise-grade capabilities.
“And they’re customizable too — self-service portals give users access to a catalog of capabilities and functionality that are API accessible and ready to integrate into their own specific infrastructure. There are many choices with open source, licensing considerations, and sometimes steep learning curves, but rest assured, if you make the right decision, you would be rewarded with the visibility needed to support your mission.”
Selecting an open source network monitoring tool: Best Open Source Network Monitoring Tools
Traditional network monitoring has focused primarily on networking hardware, software, and other infrastructure components.
However, many enterprises are shifting their focus toward user monitoring, both to proactively catch unusual behavior and improve the overall user experience.
Shane Stevens at NinjaOne believes that user-level monitoring is a key advantage when it comes to uncovering more discreet security concerns on a network.
“Another trend that we’re seeing play out across network monitoring technologies is an increasing need for behavioral analytics surrounding network data,” Stevens said. “As IT shifts to focus more on the needs of individual users, IT departments can use network monitoring tools to develop a baseline understanding of how a user interacts with a network via their devices and then use machine learning to uncover trends or divergent behavior that can be used to further secure the network.
“Lastly, we have seen a recent theme in ransomware attacks where forensics show that bad actors will infiltrate a network and remain hidden while they steal, copy, or encrypt data in the days, weeks, or even months leading up to a ransomware event. In light of this, it is critical that network monitoring software can monitor what user accounts and machines are accessing what data at any given time as well as determine irregularities and patterns that may indicate a security breach.”
Mark Towler, senior product marketing manager at Progress Software, a business software company and parent brand for the WhatsUp Gold network monitoring solution, agreed that user-level monitoring is important for security and that it also ensures the network is accessible and performing well for its users.
“Not only are remote workers completely unable to work if they can’t access the network, but the necessity of reliable VPNs and firewalls has never been more obvious,” Towler said. “Couple that with the drastic increase in bandwidth required for now-omnipresent video conferencing, and you are seeing a much greater requirement for comprehensive network monitoring than ever before.
“Note also that these remote workers are blurring the line between work and home, both in terms of time spent online and devices used. While network monitoring solutions are not usually optimized for security, they can alert upon anomalous behavior that could indicate risks (malicious or unwitting) created by remote workers. Being able to track bandwidth usage as well as access to the dark web or other suspicious sites can help IT teams keep their networks secure.”
Because remote work and distributed networks have become the norm globally, many enterprises are requiring leadership across departments to understand and utilize user-level network monitoring.
Tim Diep, head of network operations software business at Broadcom, a semiconductor and infrastructure software company, explained that network monitoring knowledge is especially helpful for operations team leads, so they proactively recognize their teams’ and customers’ challenges.
“Operations teams are now being held accountable for the remote worker experience and the company’s digital business,” Diep said.
“Take an example of a life insurance company. Their call center staff are all remote now, but they still have to make sure that the customer experience is exceptional and that their calls between staff and customers are reliable. When a customer is in a life crisis and needs peace of mind to resolve their current challenges, this life insurance company cannot say, ‘I’m sorry, but I cannot retrieve that information for you because we seem to be having internet issues.’ Operations teams today are responsible for every part of the network that their customer experience traverses.”
Invest in digital experience monitoring solutions: Best Digital Experience Monitoring Tools
Tool sprawl is an issue in network monitoring: many enterprises have invested in dozens of network management tools and now have trouble locating issues when they arise as a result.
Alon Gvili, product management team lead at Perimeter 81, a cloud and network security company, explained that many networking companies are creating unified networking and cybersecurity platforms that lessen tool sprawl and simplify the dashboard view.
“In today’s environment, there’s an additional challenge facing IT professionals: companies are using so many cyber and networking tools — often 20 or more — that potential threats or attacks can get missed in the early stages because we’re simply overloaded with information,” Gvili said.
“There’s a need for fewer tools that are simpler yet more effective and allow us to filter out the noise and focus on what’s significant. We recently released a new monitoring dashboard with a holistic and dynamic view of network usage and policies. It provides a unified view that lets you optimize networking and security.”
Automation can increase the speed of delivery, decrease the potential for user error, and simplify the workloads of enterprise network staff. Automation has taken off in several areas of enterprise technology, including network monitoring.
Todd Rychecky, VP of sales at Opengear, a provider of secure network access and IT automation solutions, shared several of the advantages that automated network monitoring can provide a company.
“Organizations know that if the network is down, they no longer can transact with their customers,” Rychecky said. “Network downtime affects revenue, employee productivity, and reputation.
“Enterprise network teams are changing their approach to network monitoring by incorporating more automation into their deployments to reduce human errors, bring up new services, locate the root cause, and reduce security risks. This takes some burden off the network monitoring team because there are fewer configuration and security vulnerabilities.”
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