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With high-profile network outages hitting the news more regularly, IT pros are paying close attention to advancements in network monitoring technologies.

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By  Tom Paye Published  March 18, 2014

With high-profile network outages hitting the news more regularly, IT pros are paying close attention to advancements in network monitoring technologies. But will the latest crop of solutions really guarantee protection from downtime, and do businesses need to invest in the added functionalities that they offer?

In June 2012, the RBS/Natwest banking group in the UK was hit by an enormous technical outage, affecting millions of customers, who could not receive or make payments for almost a week. The outage was estimated to have cost the firm more than US$205 million — a hefty amount for an organisation that, the very same quarter, posted overall losses of $2.46 billion.

Examples of how network outages affect businesses — in very real financial terms — are littered across the pages of technological history. In February 2013, it was reported that a 49-minute outage at cost the company more than $4 million in lost sales. And in 2009, PayPal lost an estimated $28 million in commerce due to a four-hour outage.

These days, downtime really matters. As Samer Ismair, MEMA network consultant at Brocade, so eloquently puts it, “Clearly, network downtime impacts profitability.”

While these are some of the most extreme examples of what a network outage can result in, businesses find themselves battling against the threat of downtime regularly. Indeed, as businesses become increasingly dependent on their networks, the pressure is on network managers and CIOs to ensure that unplanned downtime is kept as close as possible to — in an ideal world — absolute zero.

“Unplanned downtime, if you look at the latest reports, is something that is costing organisations more and more, as infrastructure is becoming more and more complex,” explains Taj El-Khayat, general manager at Riverbed MENA.

As an answer to this problem, organisations have turned to increasingly advanced network performance monitoring solutions. The idea is to gain a holistic view of the IT infrastructure, ensuring that any errors can be accounted for and remedied before they begin to cause larger problems. And over the past few years, businesses in the Middle East have begun to pay close attention to developments in network monitoring technologies.

What should a network monitoring solution do?
Unfortunately, even the basics are lost on some businesses, as evidenced by the high-profile outages mentioned earlier on. According to Dev Anand, ManageEngine’s director of product management, there are a number of key capabilities that a network monitoring solution should provide.

“Network monitoring empowers network admins to proactively monitor the network and receive notifications before the fault turns critical and impacts the business. It provides in-depth visibility and control over the network, and helps admins to take informed decisions without any ambiguity. It eliminates the guess work by allowing them to drill down to the exact root cause of the issue and troubleshoot it quickly,” he explains.

“With a comprehensive network monitoring solution, admins can find whether the reason behind the bandwidth spike is due to a wrong configuration change or the live streaming of a football match, and troubleshoot it accordingly. Network monitoring also helps the admins to know how much load their network can handle and optimise it.”

There are myriad network monitoring tools available these days, and most comply with this check-list of capabilities. However, vendors are at pains to explain that their latest solutions, with broader capabilities, are becoming essential for modern networks — particularly if a business is especially dependent on its network.

For example, Aruba Networks, which specialises in wireless networking, believes that businesses simply cannot ignore the need to monitor their wireless networks. According to Ammar Enaya, regional director at Aruba Networks Middle East and Turkey, this is because wireless networks, which are increasingly becoming as important as wired networks, can be downed by so many different factors.

“Unlike in the wired network, the factors affecting the performance and security of a wireless network are far more difficult to track. For example, we have to provide visibility into parameters such as radio frequency, interference, noise and the number of users connected per channel, per access point. Unless this information is available, the administrator would be unable to efficiently manage the wireless network,” he says.

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