10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Network Performance Management Solutions - Part 1
August 09, 2022

Jay Botelho

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Network performance is one of the most critical aspects of successful business operations. Effective network performance enables internal and external communication between various company locations, as well as clients and partners — imperative in today's dispersed workforce. When networks do not perform well and experience malfunctions and failures, companies face disruptions and loss of business continuity. Understanding how efficiently and effectively a network performs helps mitigate these issues, leading to increased productivity and profitability.

Successful insight into the performance of a company's networks starts with effective network performance management (NPM) tools. However, with the plethora of options it can be overwhelming for IT teams to choose the right one. Here are 10 essential questions to ask before selecting an NPM tool.

Question #1: Does the solution provide comprehensive End-to-end visibility?

With today's digital landscape, network management solutions must support a high-performance digital experience and deliver comprehensive, application-focused analysis, processing data from many locations, including routers, firewalls, and more. It also must be able to alert on network and application-performance issues anywhere in the network path, displaying these alerts as part of the end-to-end flow map which helps find the root cause of issues more quickly.

A modern NPM solution must provide correlated information from the entire network, including complex, hybrid environments.

Question #2: Does your solution provide visibility into SD-WAN?

As organizations become increasingly distributed, many look to SD-WAN for better communications and lower costs. This makes SD-WAN a critical element in your network infrastructure, and one which must be factored into your end-to-end network visibility.

SD-WAN has a direct impact on network routing, and therefore on network latencies, so it's essential to ensure that SD-WAN is delivering the expected benefits from a network, security, and cost perspective. The dynamic nature of SD-WAN puts additional pressure on network performance monitoring, so be sure the NPM solution can easily track and visualize any WAN routing changes.

Question #3: Is cloud monitoring supported?

"Cloud" can mean different things to different organizations, but whether it's corporate applications in a hosted private cloud, full-on public cloud, or SaaS applications, the NPM solution must be able to monitor and visualize it, end-to-end. This may require the use of additional modules, and sometimes even proprietary features of the cloud provider, so it's important to determine up front both if, and how, the NPM solution will provide the end-to-end visibility you need to eliminate the blind spots that are common once applications are moved to the Cloud.

Question #4: Does the solution provide comprehensive application monitoring and optimization?

Optimized application performance is critical to business efficiency, yet optimization is becoming more complex as core business functions are moved out of the data center and distributed across multiple service and application providers. Legacy NPM solutions often lack the visibility needed to even monitor, much less optimize, these highly distributed applications.

To address this complexity, a network performance monitoring solution should tackle these three essential functions: application visibility, network optimization, and application performance assessment. It must address application performance within the context of network infrastructure metrics, since the applications do nothing useful without the network. Application performance can only be optimized when built on a solid network foundation, and an effective NPM solution must provide visibility into both.

Question #5: Does the solution provide insights into voice and video applications?

Gone are the days when voice and video ran on their own, expensive networks. Voice and video are now just other applications running on the network, and given their real-time nature, they are some of the most demanding applications. Both voice and video are extremely sensitive to network latency and packet loss. Voice and video traffic is useless if it's delayed more than a few hundred milliseconds, so voice and video traffic must be tagged and given priority on the network for these applications to work effectively.

If voice or video traffic is degraded, the source of that degradation is often network latency, so it's imperative that the NPM solution be able to visualize the traffic end-to-end, and quickly identify specific network hops that are introducing latency. The solution must also be able to analyze and report on the priority tagging of voice and video packets, called QoS (Quality of Service), and identify areas where QoS is not properly configured. And as a bonus, the solution should be able to correct QoS configuration issues to quickly restore the quality of voice and video communications.

Go to: 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Network Performance Management Solutions - Part 2

Jay Botelho is Senior Director of Product Management at LiveAction
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