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How to Choose an SNMP Tool to Guarantee Network Uptime

By Morgana Siggins

May 22, 2020


SNMP, meaning Simple Network Management Protocol, is a communications protocol widely used in multiple different applications and usually is an essential part of remote monitoring strategies. Network administrators use SNMP monitoring to manage devices, gain better visibility over equipment performance, and ensure network uptime.

We are a trusted SNMP monitoring solutions provider, so we know that learning what to look for in an SNMP tool is important to make sure you are ultimately making an informed decision. That's why, in this article, we'll go through everything you need to know about SNMP monitoring and important features your SNMP tool should support to guarantee the efficiency of your network.

What is SNMP

SNMP is not a piece of equipment, it is an application-layer protocol that network devices utilize for the exchange of data. Since it's an open protocol, anyone can access its set of guidelines.

The SNMP protocol is defined by the Internet Architecture Board, being part of the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) suite. The SNMP definition is administrated and maintained by the IEFT (Internet Engineering Task Force) and can be downloaded from their website for free.

Nowadays, SNMP is one of the most used and common protocols for remote monitoring and control of network elements. Although somewhat complex, its capabilities are really useful - especially if you need different types of devices running on different software to be able to communicate with each other.

Without SNMP, many networks wouldn't be able to perform their jobs. And their network administrators wouldn't be able to keep an eye on performance, integrate different devices, maintain a log of network alarms, not even collect real-time information about equipment statuses.

SNMP is, in fact, supported by a huge number of equipment, which includes routers, switches, gateways and even scanners and printers.

Not only equipment monitoring is possible, you can also monitor services. SNMP agents can be embedded on the operating systems of devices to provide capabilities, such as SNMP switch monitoring.

The main characteristic of this protocol is that it allows for smooth integration between totally different hardware and software. It acts as a shared language, making it possible to have a single environment where multiple different types of equipment from many different vendors can communicate and transmit information between themselves. This ability is applicable to both LAN and WAN.

What is SNMP Used For

The SNMP protocol can be a good fit for any network, but it's best for larger sized ones where its benefits will make most sense.

Network techs responsible for large systems won't need to waste time nor resources traveling to remote sites in order to manually make changes to hundreds or even thousands of devices. Having an SNMP-based remote monitoring and control system will allow you and your techs to view, monitor and manage all your equipment using only one interface.

Main Components of SNMP Network Monitoring

The foundation of SNMP network monitoring relies on the main components that make up its architecture. They are:

Managed Devices

SNMP devices can be virtually anything that you wish to monitor, some examples are routers, servers and switches.

Managed Agents

Managed agents are deployed at your remote sites for the continuous monitoring of your managed devices. The agent will communicate any collected data to the SNMP manager in the network monitoring system.

The main role of agents is to maintain your manager devices' management information base and to make sure the SNMP manager will be able to access it when a request is received.

SNMP agents have many important capabilities. They include gathering management information about your remote site's environment, reporting an issue to you or to the manager, as well as acting as a translator in case you have devices that don't support SNMP.

Network Manager

If you have a small network with just a handful of remote sites, having only agents make sense. After all, you won't have many screens to manage. However, if the larger your network is, the more difficult it gets to handle all the different screens and all the alarming traffic.

And there's where a network manager comes in. With an SNMP manager, you'll be able to navigate and manage your monitoring system in one single screen.

The manager is responsible for establishing communications with the agents. This drastically reduces the need for your technicians to manually communicate with each individual agent - if you have hundreds or even thousands of devices, this will save you a lot of time.

The main functions of this management tool are to query agents, get replies from agents, configure variables in agents, and recognize asynchronous events.

You can have more than one manager at the same time, and this is actually a best practice as it offers redundancy in case something goes wrong with your system.

Key Features Your SNMP Tools Need to Support

As we've talked before, SNMP allows you to monitor your managed devices and enables the gathering, organization, and modification of data involving your network's performance. An efficient SNMP network should offer reliability and accuracy in showing you what really is going on at your remote sites, so you can use this information to leverage your monitoring system and get achieve a better equipment performance.

The following is a list of important features and capabilities your SNMP monitoring tools need to support in order to give you an efficient monitoring solution.

Multiprotocol Capability

Chances are you have many different types of equipment you need to monitor at your remote sites. If so, they most likely are not from the same manufacturer, don't support the same communication protocols, or some of them might also be legacy devices.

This can reduce your efficiency as these gear are not naturally able to communicate. With incompatible equipment, you'll have to work with many different screens, software, and protocols.

A multiprotocol SNMP tool is able to bring different equipment together under the same centralized platform, allowing you to monitor your equipment from only one screen. This will ensure better visibility and better network management.

Other than that, you can see other advantages of having a multiprotocol SNMP tool.

  • Substantial savings related to operational and maintenance expenses.
  • Your initial investment in legacy devices will be saved.
  • It gives you a way to smoothly transition to newer technology.
  • And allows you to spread legacy equipment replacement over the course of multiple budget cycles, as old and new gear are supported by the multiprotocol monitoring tool.

Ease of Use

It's no fun to have to fight your SNMP tool software. And it's not enough to have all kinds of fancy features if you can't get your tool to do things the way you want.

For this reason, it's important that your tool has an intuitive interface design. An intuitive interface simply means that you can easily understand and use it immediately. In other words, your tool should be simple enough that when new employees see it, they know what to do.

The best practice here is an intuitive graphical user interface. The best SNMP tools will use maps to represent your remote sites, allowing to drill down all the way until your equipment racks.

Fast and Meaningful Notifications

Alerts are the primary vehicle in how potential issues are notified to you.

In order to deliver a successful notification strategy, your SNMP tool needs to be able to provide you with the right message at the right time. Timing is crucial when your network is at risk of potential downtime, so you need to receive information at the precise moment and with enough detail to allow you to take action.

You should also be able to configure how you would like to receive your alerts: by email, text message, or even phone calls. Whatever fits you the best, your SNMP tool should be able to support.

Expansion Capability

Capacity is usually a concern when it comes to remote monitoring devices.

Site expansions sometimes happen without early notice, so if you select an SNMP tool that has the exact amount of inputs and outputs that you currently need, you might end up short on capacity. On the other hand, buying monitoring tools that have way more capacity than what you need not only takes a toll on your budget but also might be useless as there's no guarantee that you will ever use all those alarm points.

As a long-term investment, your SNMP tool obviously needs to support your current needs, but also allow room for reasonable growth.

Imagine that you need to monitor 4 contact closures, there's really no need to buy a device with capacity for hundreds. To not overkill, simply double up your count - and get a tool that with capacity for 8 contact closures.

Expansion devices can also be a nice middle ground. They allow you to increase your monitoring tool's capacity without having to add another device or substituting the device you currently have.

Industrial-Grade Hardware

Running your SNMP software in the same computer that you use to access the internet daily represents a security threat.

Can you trust your network uptime and the operation of your mission-critical equipment to software that's running on an operating system that's not stable and that is vulnerable to unauthorized access, hacker attacks, viruses, and spyware?

So, it's important to make sure your SNMP tools have dedicated industrial-grade hardware.

The T/Mon SNMP Monitoring Tool

With an intuitive, user-friendly dashboard the T/Mon master station allows you to read your network monitoring data much easier.

Another strength of T/Mon is its root cause analysis capabilities. It will store all your important alarming data for comparative and big-picture analysis, giving you a more in-depth and comprehensive view of critical pain points within your network.

Most monitoring SNMP tools on the market feature an alert system of some kind, however few of them (if any) offer the same degree of functionality as the T/Mon.

Most other tools' notification systems will bombard you with unnecessary alerts. These nuisance notifications will only defeat the point of an alert. They seem meaningless, so eventually you could start ignoring them because they're often irrelevant. This will for sure make your network vulnerable.

For this reason, it's vital for you to have robust and reliable alerting features. T/Mon lets you set up and customize notifications according to your own particular trigger conditions. The goal here is to attend your network's requirements thoroughly. This means that the chance of receiving irrelevant or uninformative alerts is significantly reduced.

As I mentioned earlier, the intuitive representation of data in T/Mon is a remarkable advantage of this tool. The way information is visualized can possibly alter is meaning: if the tool's interface is too complex and difficult to understand, recognizing issues can be a lengthy - or even impossible - process.

With the T/Mon's interface, you can visualize your network through maps, which organize data in a meaningful, intuitive way. This makes it easier to read and interpret data, saving you time by speeding up your troubleshooting process.

Also, you can color-code your maps, making the visualization of information very simple. The master station can also show a close-up of your devices all the way to the equipment rack, offering an in-depth report. T/Mon's comprehensible display will keep recognizing an issue from feeling like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Finally, most networks feature SNMP-enabled devices, but they usually come from many different manufacturers. T/Mon is a multiprotocol master station, which means it can support several protocols sourced from a range of manufacturers.

What To Do Next

Efficient SNMP tools are critical to maintaining your network uptime even when issues occur. However, not every tool is the same, and it might get confusing and difficult to choose the best one for your company - especially if you are getting started.

For this reason, we make sure to always give our clients a perfect-fit solution. We don't push you to buy more than you ever need just to make a sale, but we also make sure you don't get less than what your network requires. As a vertically integrated manufacturer, we build to your specs. We ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck with a customized system.

If you would like to know more about how you can ensure your network efficiency and uptime, contact us. Our team of experts will give you an honest opinion.

Morgana Siggins

Morgana Siggins

Morgana Siggins is a marketing writer, content creator, and documentation specialist at DPS Telecom. She has created over 200 blog articles and videos sharing her years of experience in the remote monitoring industry.