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Time to Spring Clean Your Network Monitoring Capabilities

Ah, spring is here. The birds are chirping, flowers are poking their heads out of the ground after long winter hibernation, and the traffic flowing over your network just increased—again. According to a report from Cisco, annual global IP traffic will pass the zettabyte threshold by the end of 2015, and will reach 1.4 zettabytes per year by 2017.

Some of that data will undoubtedly flow through your data center. If you’ve been putting off your network spring cleaning until your traffic starts to push the upper limits of your capacity, it’s time to take a serious look at where you stand now and what’s coming down the road. The best way to do this is to embrace a network monitoring strategy that helps you understand not only the volume of your traffic but also what and who is creating it, and when. Networking monitoring can help you discover:

  • What type of traffic is consuming network resources. Video and VoIP traffic can be especially troublesome, since it requires priority routing over other traffic, and all signs point to this traffic continuing to grow steadily.
  • Who is causing the traffic. Is marketing creating strategic videos for YouTube or is Jack in accounting streaming NCAA games live? Knowing who is using bandwidth across the network—and understanding what type of traffic that person or group is using—can provide valuable insight into whether you have a bandwidth or an HR issue.
  • When the peaks and valleys are. If your CEO calls a company-wide video conference every Wednesday at 10 a.m., you can be sure that your network administrators will assign priority to the video conference traffic, potentially slowing down other business activity. Being able to plan for peaks is a key benefit that network monitoring offers.
  • How current trends map to historical data. Networking monitoring can help administrators discover how their needs have grown over time and help them plan for potential future upgrades.

If you haven’t reviewed your networking monitoring goals lately, it’s time to brush away the cobwebs. Unlike many spring cleaning tasks, you’ll be glad you took time to clean house and understand if a different network monitoring solution can help make a big difference in your network.

How to prevent the next Heartbleed incident

What would you do if you found out your network had been compromised by a vulnerability that allowed a hacker to gain access to your users’ most sensitive information – passwords, stored files, bank details, even Social Security numbers – and worse yet, the security certificates you rely on to encrypt all of this data when it’s transmitted across the Internet? And what if these hackers were able to do so entirely unnoticed?

That is exactly the result of the Heartbleed bug – a security vulnerability in OpenSSL that gives hackers access to the memory on data servers – recently discovered by Finnish security researchers working for Codenomicon and security researchers at Google. Now websites and companies both large and small are working to update their software to patch the vulnerability, but its impact on the general public is still being assessed and the extent of the damage won’t be known for some time.

The chaos surrounding the vulnerability’s discovery continues to prove that despite the very best efforts of companies, computer networks will continue to be vulnerable to hackers because the potential financial gain for hackers is enormous. In addition, organizations are starting to recognize that security and privacy are no longer restricted to the IT department – they now affect everyone.

While the best technique to combat evolving security threats is vigilance, there are also tools available to help you gain additional visibility into your network. Network forensics works as a contingency plan in case a security breach does occur. It can help you clean up your network to make sure that there are no lingering infections or other suspicious traffic, and it can also help to determine where the hacker breached your network, allowing you to fix any security holes.

While most enterprises have solutions in place to store and subsequently mine log data over relatively long periods of time, it usually only provides reports of relatively high-level events and cannot tell you how something happened, only that it did. In the case of the Heartbleed bug, there may not even be any log information from security systems since the vulnerability can be exploited without triggering any alarms at all. However, a network forensics solution can provide a recording of many days or even weeks of network activity, making the task of determining the fingerprint of the attack, the depth of the penetration, and the data that was compromised much easier to assess.

Unfortunately, we now live in a world where events like the Heartbleed incident are becoming more and more common. As a result, we must be aware of the trends affecting the security industry (both big and small) and implement solutions such as network forensics to ensure security threats don’t compromise your users.

To read about more real-world examples of how network forensics can aid your organization in determining the effects of security threats, read our white paper, “Real-World Security Investigations with Network Forensics.”

The Key to Rapidly Troubleshooting Network Performance Issues

Today’s networks are becoming faster and faster to accommodate the increasing demands of service and application growth, making network and application performance monitoring and troubleshooting essential, yet very challenging. Not only are organizations struggling to keep pace, but they are finding that visibility into the traffic traversing the networks is steadily decreasing.

To address this lack of visibility, organizations must implement network monitoring and analysis solutions with detailed troubleshooting that are compatible with high-speed networks. Oftentimes, the statistical data used to compile monitoring dashboards and reports common in today’s flow-based monitoring solutions are insufficient for performing detailed root cause analysis, driving network engineers to use multiple products from multiple vendors to perform different levels of analysis. This significantly increases the cost for IT departments to do business, in a time when budgets are already razor thin.

However, organizations can meet this challenge by implementing tools that scale to 10G+ networks and are built with more powerful analytical platforms capable of handling the massive increases in transactions and data traversing the network.  In addition, these tools must be able to provide real-time feedback on overall network performance, so the data is always available for detailed, packet-based analysis.

WildPackets’ Omnipliance family of network analysis and recording devices includes each of these features, and can provide the necessary visibility on all network segments at 10G, 40G and even 100G. Join us on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 8:30am PT for a webinar that will discuss how to increase visibility into higher-speed networks. Register here.