These two approaches in network analysis are often mentioned synonymously, but one is more thorough than the other. Do you know which one? If yes, then no enjoy this refresher blog post. If no, then let us explain.
Protocol analysis is a subset of packet analysis. Protocol analyzers interrogate packet headers to determine if the protocol is being used for communication, and what type, like HTTP. This form of analysis is strictly for the communication layer and is best served if you are trying to solve basic connectivity or configuration issues or simple timing issues.
On the other hand, packet analysis dives deeper into the packet for analysis. Packet analyzers address both the packet header as well as the payload, which contains critical information about applications and their operation on your network. Packet analyzers can answer the deeper, and often-asked question, “is it the network or the application?” The evidence is clear when you dive into a network flow for a user with a problem and see in the decode “Process ID 169 was deadlocked with another process and has been chosen as the deadlock victim. Re-run your command.”
Need a deeper explanation of troubleshooting end user experience with packet payloads? Check out this post on LoveMyTool.