The functions of a network monitor have changed over time. At one point, a network monitor was limited to watching a company's communication interfaces and receiving notification if they were down. Today, a network monitor can be much broader in scope and involve the proactive performance measurement of computer hardware and communication pipelines to ensure they operate within a specified range.

Basic Network Monitor

In its most basic form a network monitor sends a notification that something is no longer working or is not available. This would include ping, port, URL and most web site monitoring. The notification is reactive in nature and allows you to know that something needs to be fixed. The use of this network monitor should be limited to companies that can afford to have their computer system down while repairs are made.

Advanced Network Monitor

For companies that want to avoid system or network outages, the network monitor needs to be much more proactive. A proactive network monitor would involve taking performance measurements of such things as CPU usage, server load, disk utilization, and memory usage. It might include the SNMP polling of every piece of equipment on the company's LAN or WAN. A network monitor could even measure the response time of transactions and applications that are critical to the company or its bandwidth utilization. If any of these measurements were outside of preset boundaries the network monitor would send an alert so corrective action could be taken before the situation became critical. All the performance measurements taken by this network monitor also are stored in a database for trend analysis and capacity planning.

The best network monitor also includes a trouble ticket system that automatically generates a trouble ticket when an alert is sent. This creates an audit trail, ensures that alerts are not ignored, and provides administrative control of the process. A network monitor is well worth the investment and is something you should ask your hosting company to provide.