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How to Measure Network Performance
Network performance is explained by the overall quality of service provided by a network. It encompasses various parameters and metrics that must be analyzed collectively to assess a given network.
Since network performance measurement is explained as the overall set of processes and devices that can quantitatively and qualitatively assess network performance and provide actionable information to remediate network performance problems.
Why Measure Network Showing
The demands on networks are increasing day by day, and the need for proper network performance measurement is more critical than ever before. Effective network performance translates into improved consumer satisfaction, whether that be internal employee efficiencies, or customer-facing network components such as an e-commerce website, making the business rationale for performance testing and monitoring self-evident.
When delivering the services and applications to users, bandwidth issues, network downtime, and bottlenecks can quickly escalate into IT crisis mode. Proactive network performance management solutions that detect and diagnose performance issues are the best way to guarantee ongoing user satisfaction.
A network’s performance can never be fully modeled, so measuring network performance before, during, and after updates are made and monitoring performance on an ongoing basis is the only valid method to ensure network quality fully. While measuring and monitoring network performance parameters are essential, the interpretation and actions stemming from these metrics are equally important.
Network Performance Measurement Devices
Network performance measurement Devices can be broadly categorized into two forms — passive and active. Passive network measurement devices monitor (or measure) existing applications on the network to gather information on performance metrics. This category of device minimizes network disruption since the device itself introduces no additional traffic. Also, by measuring network performance using actual applications, a realistic assessment of the user experience may occur
The regular improvement of network performance monitoring devices has enabled IT professionals to stay one step ahead of the game. Advanced devices provide cutting edge data packet capture analytics, software solutions that integrate user experience data into useful root cause analysis and trending, and large-scale network performance measurement dashboards with remote diagnostic capabilities.
Network Performance Measurement Parameters
To ensure optimized network performance, the most important metrics should be selected for measurement. Many of the parameters included in a comprehensive network performance measurement solution focus on data speed and data quality. Both of these broad categories can significantly impact end-user experience and are influenced by several factors.
Regarding network performance measurement, latency is simply the amount of time it takes for data to travel from one defined location to another. This parameter is sometimes referred to as delay. Ideally, the latency of a network is as close to zero as possible. The absolute limit or governing factor for latency is the speed of light. Still, packet queuing in switched networks and the refractive index of fiber optic cabling are examples of variables that can increase latency.
Regarding network performance measurement, packet loss refers to the number of packets transmitted from one destination to another that fails to send. This metric can be quantified by capturing traffic data on both ends, then identifying missing packets and retransmission of packets. Packet loss can be caused by network congestion, router performance, and software issues, among other factors.
The end effects will be detected by users in voice and streaming interruptions or incomplete transmission of files. Since retransmission is a method utilized by network protocols to compensate for packet loss, the network congestion that initially led to the issue can sometimes be exacerbated by the increased volume caused by retransmission.
It is essential to develop and utilize tools and processes that quickly identify and alleviate the issues’ trustworthy source to low the impact of packet loss and other network performance problems. By analyzing response time to end-user requests, the system or component at the root of the problem can be identified. Data packet capture analytics tools can be used to review response time for TCP connections, pinpoint which applications contribute to the bottleneck.
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a standard for network conversation through which applications exchange data, which works in conjunction with the Internet Protocol (IP) to define how packets of data are sent from one computer to another. The successive steps in a TCP session correspond to time intervals that can be analyzed to detect excessive latency in connection or round trip times.
Throughput and Bandwidth
Throughput is a metric often associated with the manufacturing industry and is most commonly defined as the amount of material or items passing through a particular system or process. A common question in the manufacturing industry is how many product X were produced today and whether this number meets expectations. Throughput is defined for network performance measurement in terms of the amount of data or number of data packets delivered in a pre-defined time frame.
Bandwidth, usually measured in bits per second, characterizes the amount of data transferred over a given time. Bandwidth is, therefore, a measure of capacity rather than speed. For example, a bus may carry 100 passengers (bandwidth), but the bus may only transport 85 passengers (throughput).
Jitter is defined as the variation in time delay for the data packets sent over a network. This variable represents an identified disruption in the routine sequencing of data packets. Jitter is related to latency since the jitter manifests itself in increased or uneven latency between data packets, disrupting network performance and leading to packet loss and network congestion. Although some jitter level is expected and can usually be tolerated, quantifying network jitter is an essential aspect of comprehensive network performance measurement.
Latency vs. Throughput
While throughput and bandwidth concepts are sometimes misunderstood, the same confusion is shared between latency and throughput. Although these parameters are closely related, it is essential to understand the difference between the two.
Throughput is a measurement of actual system performance, quantified in data transfer over a given time with network performance measurement.
Factors Affecting Network Performance
Network performance management includes monitoring and optimization practices for crucial network performance metrics such as application downtime and packet loss. Increased network availability and minimized response time when problems occur are two of the logical outputs for a successful network management program. A holistic approach to network performance management must consider all of the essential categories through which problems may be manifested.
The overall network infrastructure includes network hardware, such as routers, switches, cables, networking software, security and operating systems, and network services such as IP addressing and wireless protocols. From the infrastructure perspective, it is crucial to characterize the network’s overall traffic and bandwidth patterns. This network performance measurement will provide insight into which flows are most congested over time and could become potential problem areas.
Identifying the over-capacity elements of the infrastructure can lead to proactive corrections or upgrades that can minimize future downtime rather than merely responding to any performance crisis that may arise.
Performance limitations inherent to the network itself are often a source of significant emphasis. Multiple facets of the network can contribute to performance, and deficiencies in any area can lead to systemic problems. Since hardware requirements are essential to capacity planning, these elements should be designed to meet all anticipated system demands. For example, an inadequate bus size on the network backplane or insufficient available memory might, in turn, lead to an increase in packet loss or otherwise decreased network performance. Network congestion, on either the active devices or physical links (cabling) of the network, can reduce speeds if packets are queued or packet loss if no queuing system is in place.
While network hardware and infrastructure issues can directly impact the user experience for a given application, it is crucial to consider the impact of the applications themselves as essential cogs in the overall network architecture. Low performing applications can over-consume bandwidth and diminish user experience. As applications become more complex over time, diagnosing and monitoring application performance gains importance. Window sizes are examples of application characteristics that impact network performance and capacity.
Network security is intended to protect privacy, intellectual property, and data integrity. Thus, the need for robust cybersecurity is never in question. Managing and mitigating network security issues requires device scanning, data encryption, virus protection, authentication, and intrusion detection, all of which consume valuable network bandwidth and impact performance.
Security breaches and downtime due to viruses are among the most costly performance problems encountered, so any degradation induced by security products should be carefully weighed against the potential rest or data integrity disasters they prevent. With these constraints in mind, network security forensics’ strategic use is an invaluable element of network performance monitoring concerning security. By recording, capturing, and analyzing network data, the source of intrusions and abnormal traffic such as malware may be identified. Captured network traffic can be utilized retrospectively for investigative purposes by reassembling transferred files.
Full Packet Capture (FPC) is one such technique used for after-the-fact security investigations. Rather than monitoring incoming traffic for known malicious signatures, FPC provides persistent storage of real network traffic and the ability to replay previous traffic through new detection signatures. Given the high volume of data packet transfer inherent to a modern network, the storage requirements associated with FPC can be formidable. By defining the meantime to detect (MTTD) based on previous incident metrics, a logical minimum time for packet data storage can be established.
Network Performance Measurement Challenges
The potential culprits leading to diminished network performance become actionable with a noticeable drop off in speed or quality. Network performance measurement solutions should be designed with the user in mind — slight degradation in latency.
With the performance demands constantly increasing, novel solutions to everyday performance issues have emerged. Packet shaping is a method used to prioritize package delivery for different applications. This allows adequate bandwidth to be consistently allocated to the most important categories. File compression is another innovation that decreases the bandwidth and memory consumed.
Perhaps the essential component in maintaining network performance is implementing useful network performance measurement and oversight practices. If there is an issue with servers, routing, delivery, or bandwidth can be detected in real-time; practical solutions and preventative strategies are the logical byproducts.