Network Monitoring – Options for Monitoring Network Performance and Activity

how to monitor network trafficThere are many options for methods to use for network monitoring. Network monitoring can involve the recording and surveillance of performance, activity, and security related events. Tools that assist with network monitoring may involve both hardware and software. Methods for network monitoring can encompass the following: the use of sensors for network devices, configurations, packet analysis, hardware with security based capabilities, etc. It is important to monitor network activity, because doing so can greatly increase the chances of avoiding data loss, maintaining network availability, detecting unauthorized activity, pinpointing hardware or connection issues, and optimizing performance. Network tools available can offer such benefits as the convenience of automated tasks along with the detailed information found in user interfaces and event logs.

Network-Based Intrusion Detection

Packets may be described as components containing data, which is converted to signals, in order to allow successful transmission of information via channels such as network cables. A Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS) can be implemented in order to provide real time analysis of packet traffic. Packet traffic analysis can be conducted at the server for the NIDS as well as at sensors. A NIDS works along with sensors that can be strategically placed at different points, such as between a firewall and router or between an external firewall and a WAN (Wide Area Network). As data packets can be transmitted using different protocols, there are often numerous types of protocols for which sensors have been set to monitor, such as those found on the following network layers: application, transport, and network.

The types of detection methods that may be employed with a NIDS include signature detection and anomaly detection. Signature detection involves analyzing traffic in order to determine if traffic becomes inconsistent with its corresponding signature. The signature of traffic is based on factors such as the protocol used for the traffic and the structure of the data; signatures can help with distinguishing traffic by having a way to classify different types of traffic based on knowledge of its expected behavior and characteristics. Signature detection analyzes traffic and send alerts, or completes other automated tasks, when it detects traffic that it identifies as not meeting the typical criteria of its signature. Some types of characteristics that can indicate noncompliance with signature rules may include the following: illegal header values, inconsistent file types or sizes, etc.

Anomaly detection involves analysis that is based on rules set that have been set, after patterns for malicious behavior have been identified, in order to use the rules for identifying behavior that matches the behaviors of malicious activity. A knowledgebase including behaviors recorded for malicious attacks can be used for setting the guidelines that anomaly detection tools use when comparing real time activity to known patterns found in suspicious activity. If activity being monitored begins to exhibit the same patterns that have been predefined as being suspicious in a detection tool, then the tool will take actions such as “flagging” and recording information for the activity in a log. Examples of behaviors that Anomaly detection tools may detect include the following: suspicious session recordings, excessive login attempts, drastic differences in data being sent and received, attempts to access blocked ports, etc. Although Anomaly and Signature detection tools are based on similar concepts, Signature detection focuses on characteristics of traffic components and Anomaly detection focuses on behavior of traffic that is considered to be out of the norm.

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Monitoring network performance often includes monitoring aspects such as the following: status of network devices, amount of packet loss, and amount of time that it takes to receive or send transmissions. Tools that monitor network performance can perform tasks such as creating alerts when a specific amount of packet loss is detected, run a constant ping on network devices, display charts and graphs that show a visual representation of activity, and create event logs. In addition to being able to use tools that run a ping on equipment, network devices can also be pinged from a command line by using steps such as the following: access a command line (by typing cmd in the search bar at the bottom of a start menu for many versions of Windows and then pressing enter or by opening a terminal session from the Accessories folder in Linux), type ping , and then press enter. If the ping returns data for the amount of packets sent and received as well as how long the transmissions had taken to complete, then the device is connected on the network. You can use the results from a ping to determine if there is packet loss and if there is an issue with the network that is causing relatively slow network communication. If there is 100% packet loss, then the device being pinged may not be connected on the network, a host could have lost communication, or a different network issue could have occurred. In addition to third party utilities, there are also utilities included with operating systems, such as Windows Task Manager and Microsoft Network Monitor, which can help with performance monitoring of a network. Network maintenance is an essential job of a Network Administrator; if you have thought about becoming a network administrator, you can prepare by completing a Udemy tutorial.


Configurations that help maintain a network can be set on network devices; such as switches, routers, and gateway devices. If the user interfaces of network devices are accessed; then there are often options that can be found, which can be used to provide information for activity on a network. In many cases, the user interface of a network device can be accessed by going to the IP address of the device via a web browser and then logging in with administrator credentials. The information that may be found, by using options within a user interface for a device, may include the following: How many users have accessed a network, the IP addresses of users and devices connected on a network, bandwidth limits and how much bandwidth each network user is utilizing, security settings, the addresses of and status of ports, firmware version, etc.

Cloud and Mobile Monitoring

There are also apps available that can help monitor wireless activity. There are some applications that can be installed on mobile devices that provide information for factors such as download and upload speeds. As with many types of applications, I suggest that you do some research before installing a network monitoring application on your mobile device. Some free apps will include advertisements or other additions that can actually use some of the resources of a mobile device, some applications can contain software “bugs”, and not all applications perform the tasks as described. Cloud monitoring services provide tools used for monitoring activity and associated devices for cloud infrastructures. A cloud infrastructure can often be more complex than traditional infrastructures; cloud monitoring services can help address the concerns that users often have, in regards to the reliability and security of cloud services. Embrace the world of cloud computing by taking a cloud computing tutorial on Udemy.


Network monitoring tools can provide approaches that assist with proactively maintaining network performance and security. Considerations that should be taken when monitoring network activity include the fact that some activity that may be detected as being possibly malicious may not always be due to malicious intentions; for instance, a user may be flagged for excessive login attempts but they may be a valid user that has forgotten their credentials. Along with the extensive amount of network monitoring tools that offer automated options, a network administrator or other authorized network user, should also be mindful of relatively manual monitoring options. Overall, there are more network monitoring tools available now than there had been several years ago and many companies often provide updates and more refined versions of their services as factors such as network uses and network threats also change. Monitoring services can make many security and performance tasks easier than they had been many years ago so that we can also focus on other tasks while we benefit from advances in networks.