Over the years, networks have become complex and larger. They’re no longer confined to a room or a building but are spread across continents. So, how do companies manage such vast networks? Establishing a network with standard configurations for routers, switches, wireless devices, and applications as per different business policies, service levels, and compliance requirements is a challenge. However, the bigger challenge is to identify which element in their network or application stack is responsible for downtime. Teams need to identify and fix issues before they get worse.
To expedite response in such scenarios, IT teams require granular visibility into their network with actionable intelligence to help them fix issues in a prioritized manner. Visualization of a network or network mapping is one way to simplify the monitoring of complex networks. That’s why all major network providers, ISPs, and enterprises implement network mapping tools. These tools allow IT teams to break down a complex network into smaller portions, which helps in careful analysis of network issues. The tools used for network mapping can automatically create a visualization showing how different servers, endpoints, and networking equipment connect and function.
Network maps also serve as an excellent security tool. With the use of Network maps, admins can easily understand the relationships between devices and detect suspicious connections existing in the network. However, network mapping is not a one-time task, due to the dynamic nature of networks. Any change in the system or software should get reflected in the network in real-time.
Many network performance monitors (NPMs) have the capability of automatically generating or displaying network maps. These maps are created using easy-to-use graphics tools like ManageEngine OpManager, Spiceworks Network Monitor, etc. However, some programs allow you to create and customize your topology map using a specific graphics package. Unfortunately, these customized maps have their own disadvantages as they need to be updated manually.
What Is a Network Topology Map?
A network topology map shows the arrangement of various elements of a computer network and the connections between them. The map represents data transmission from one node to another and allows admins to see the physical layout of connected devices and identify flaws. While every organization has a different type of network topology model, some of the common topology models include bus topology, ring topology, star topology, mesh topology, and hybrid topology.
Having an accurate topology of your network is a vital prerequisite to be able to handle system management, growth, and troubleshooting successfully. With the advent of the latest network mapping tools and network mapping software, this process has become pivotal and more simplified. Moreover, network maps also make it easier for IT teams to communicate effectively with business users or other non-technical staff in the organization.
Getting Started With Network Mapping
Various network mapping software are available, from simple mapping and flow chart programs to comprehensive network performance tools. Based on the use-case scenarios and your business setup, you should implement a robust network mapping software for managing your network infrastructure efficiently. Enterprise-grade paid network mapping tools and performance monitoring tools are much more efficient, reliable, and comprehensive when it comes to mapping your network end-to-end.
We’ve listed a couple of solutions based on our research for best network mapping and network performance monitoring software.
1. SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (NTM)
SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (NTM) is a dedicated enterprise network mapping tool facilitating on-demand device discovery using SNMP or ICMP and automatically chalks out your network’s topology with easy-to-view network diagrams.
The tool makes it easier to export maps into presentation formats for distribution. The maps can also be exported to various formats like Visio, PDF, and PNG for further work.
The tool comes with an icon library with a diverse set of device representations to distinguish between different types of network equipment on the map. The network mapping software builds many useful network maps without having to rescan repeatedly.
The tool allows admins to perform multi-level network discovery, including detailed information of all devices in a well-integrated network map. Moreover, any alteration in topology is tracked in real-time with the auto-update feature.
2. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is a highly scalable tool supporting monitoring across multi-vendor hybrid cloud environments. It’s designed to show packet-level network topology, where connections between all devices, applications, networks, and vendors are visually shown. NPM also offers advanced features for Wi-Fi monitoring and alerting.
The NetPath™ function helps you understand network and data pathways. It’s easy to view hop-by-hop packet paths and promptly spot the areas where flaws exist. Using the PerfStack™ dashboard, network admins can compare the performance of different metrics simultaneously.
Network maps interpret the data gathered by network performance monitors and change their visualizations to reflect device and network statuses. Depending on the tool, network maps alert you to tackle problems like excess traffic and other network issues. By checking your map, you can spot the devices having problems and quickly figure out where the issue is coming from. Knowing the latency between the clients and server, throughput, bandwidth, and other failures or errors are some of the metrics gauged during network performance monitoring.
Most mapping software allows you to inspect each device on the map. The details of any device in the network can be viewed by clicking on the map. Thus, it’s easy to keep a close watch on any device you want to monitor. You can also view the IP address and the serial number of devices to keep track of the bandwidth usage. This, in turn, allows you to optimize the performance of the network.
Network maps are one of the most important components for network admins. They help them visually analyze every aspect of the network and optimize the layout to make the most of it. End-to-end mapping enables you to identify the devices causing problems on your network in real-time and eliminate those bottlenecks to ensure smooth functioning. Choosing the best tool or software for mapping your network depends on whether you’re creating a new network or restructuring an existing one.