What Is Network Monitoring?

Rows of office workers working on computers with data streaming
Getty Images/Guido Rosa

The terms network monitoring and network management are both often used in Information Technology (IT). What is network monitoring?

Network monitoring refers to the practice of overseeing the operation of a computer network using specialized management software tools. Network monitoring systems are used to ensure availability and overall performance of computers (hosts) and network services. These systems are typically employed on larger scale corporate and university IT networks.

Key Features in Network Monitoring

A network monitoring system is capable of detecting and reporting failures of devices or connections. It normally measures the processor (CPU) utilization of hosts, the network bandwidth utilization of links, and other aspects of operation. It will often send messages (sometimes called watchdog messages) over the network to each host to verify it is responsive to requests. When failures, unacceptably slow response, or other unexpected behavior is detected, these systems send additional messages called alerts to designated locations (such as a management server, an email address, or a phone number) to notify system administrators.

Network Monitoring Software Tools

The ping program is one example of a basic network monitoring program. Ping is a software tool available on most computers that sends Internet Protocol (IP) test messages between two hosts. Anyone on the network can run these basic ping tests to verify the connection between two computers is working and also measure the current connection performance.

While ping is useful in some situations, more sophisticated network monitoring systems exist. These software programs are designed for use by professional administrators of larger computer networks. Examples of these software packages are HP Openview and LANDesk.

One specific type of network monitoring system is designed to monitor the availability of Web servers.

For larger enterprises that use a pool of Web servers distributed worldwide, these systems help to quickly detect problems at any location. Website monitoring services available on the Internet include mon.itor.us.