Written by: Kevin Gardner
If you want to ensure everything on your network is secure and that it runs efficiently, monitoring traffic is a must. The information acquired by various network traffic monitoring tools can be used in an array of IT and security operational use cases to find security vulnerabilities, troubleshoot the network issues, and analyze the impact that a new application will have on the network. Some tips that will help you get the most of your network traffic monitoring tool can be found here.
Select the Right Data Source
It doesn’t matter what motive you have to monitor network traffic; you will have two sources to choose from:
- Packet data that is sourced from a network TAP, mirror port, or SPAN.
- Flow data is acquired from layer three devices, such as routers.
Flow data is a smart option if you want to find traffic volumes and map the journey of the network packet from the origin to the final destination. This information can help you find any unauthorized WAN traffic and will use network performance and resources. While this is true, a flow-based tool for monitoring your network traffic doesn’t have the detailed data needed to detect the various network security issues or to perform the true root cause analysis.
The packet data that is extracted from a network packet can help the network manager better understand how users are operating and implementing applications, track the usage on WAN links, and monitor for any suspicious malware or other security risks. A deep packet inspection tool offers 100% visibility over your network by transforming the provided, raw metadata into a more readable format while enabling network managers to find even the smallest details.
Select the Proper Points on the Network for Monitoring
With any agent-based software, you must install software on every device you are interested in monitoring. Not only is this an expensive way to monitor network traffic but it will also create quite a bit of implementation and maintenance overhead for your IT team. Also, if your main objective is to continue monitoring activity for your publicly accessible or BYOD network, the agent-based software won’t provide you with a full picture of user activity since this is impractical and in some states, it is illegal to monitor the activity on another person’s personal devices.
Even with agent-free software, a mistake that many people make when using tools for monitoring network traffic is that they begin to include too many data sources from the beginning. You don’t have to monitor all the network points. Instead, you should select the points where data converge. Some examples of this include things like internet gateways, VLANs related to critical servers, or ethernet ports found on WAN servers.
If you are still new to putting tools in place for monitoring network traffic, it is a good idea to start by just monitoring the internet gateways. This is a great source of operational data and improved security.
Real-Time Data Isn’t Always Enough
Having the ability to monitor network traffic in real-time is fine for achieving some objectives of network traffic monitoring. However, in some situations, real-time data isn’t enough. Historical traffic metadata is great for network forensics purposes and is just as important if you want the ability to analyze past events, compare existing network activity with the prior week, or identify trends. With these objectives, it is a good idea to use tools for monitoring your network traffic using deep packet inspection.
Monitoring Your Network Traffic
If you are unsure if you can handle the monitoring of your network traffic alone, it may be wise to hire a professional service provider for help. They can review your business, the safeguards you have in place, and determine what additional steps that you could put in place to provide additional security. Being informed and knowing what to do is the best way to ensure you are fully protected.