Seven Tips for Optimizing Network Performance - Part 1
August 10, 2021

Jay Botelho

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The network has grown increasingly complex within an incredibly short amount of time — and it's only getting more complicated with each passing day. In fact, according to Enterprise Strategy Group, 66% of organizations view their IT environments as more or significantly more complex than they were two years ago. This has put increasing pressure on networking teams to have increased visibility across new network landscapes and to solve problems quickly. But sorting through the mountain of alerts, trouble tickets and traffic to isolate whether a problem is the network or an application can be a daunting task.

Despite careful planning and monitoring, users still experience stuttering video calls, slow downloads, and dropped calls — all symptoms of common network problems. That's why proactive monitoring and optimization of the network is critical to keeping business operations running optimally. To help, let's look at some network performance management tips that can keep your team ahead of the curve.

1. Continuously Monitor Network Performance

With infrastructure now pushing into the cloud, new technologies like SD-WAN and SASE being a reality, having real-time insight into how traffic is moving across the extended network (including with remote workers) is basic table stakes. This rapid rise of new technologies has left some network performance monitoring solutions in the dust, and as discussed above, there's no management without monitoring. These legacy solutions have a clear focus (and strength) in data center monitoring, but fall short in areas like SD-WAN and oftentimes have nothing significant to offer regarding cloud monitoring.

Plan for upgrading these monitoring systems, including vendor migration if necessary, as part of your infrastructure upgrade, and find a single solution that can monitor your entire infrastructure. Too often the monitoring system update is trumped by the infrastructure upgrade, resulting in blind spots and reducing the effectiveness of determining the success of the infrastructure upgrade, not to mention the ability to troubleshoot issues with the new infrastructure.

2. Compare Network Performance

How can you tell if your infrastructure updates have improved your network performance if you don't have good data on the performance of your current infrastructure? The ability to compare baseline performance before and after a network change is the way network engineers measure success. The data that drives these baseline comparisons comes from network monitoring solutions.

Having a monitoring solution that best meets your needs in place before making network changes, especially major infrastructure changes, will set you up for success.

3. Determine When the Network is at Fault

When problems do occur, quick remediation is expected. There are often debates over whether it's the network or the application team's responsibility. Flow-based network monitoring data can provide some insight into the network vs. application question, but supplementing that with network packet data, and having it all available in a single solution, is the best way to isolate the problem.

Once you've isolated a network flow in question, packet data almost always provides clear evidence of whether the network or the application is at fault. Packet data provide a packet-by-packet view of the conversation — you can see every request, response, acknowledgement, etc. By reviewing the packets in the conversation, you can easily see what the network response times are, and the application response times.

If you see quick network acknowledgements, and then see long delays in getting any packets with data, it's a clear indication of an application problem and not a network problem. And packets provide the bonus of having detailed information in the payloads. Assuming the traffic is unencrypted, or can be unencrypted, packet payloads provide clues as to what is happening in the application, usually in the form of error messages embedded in the packet payloads.

Go to Seven Tips for Optimizing Network Performance - Part 2, with more tips for optimizing network performance

Jay Botelho is Director of Engineering at LiveAction
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