It’s a fairly common scenario. An end user calls the help desk about a problem he’s experiencing. He might say, “I can’t access the inventory application.” The worker has no idea why he can’t get to the application today when it worked fine yesterday. The help desk consultant collects the relevant information for the ticket, which then gets escalated to the network operations center that is the control center for the enterprise.
The technician assigned to the ticket doesn’t know if this is a true network problem, an application problem, or even something that is specific to that user’s workstation or environment. Narrowing the possible causes of the problem will require some investigation using various toolsets. Traditional network monitoring tools can tell if there’s anything wrong with a server, router, or switch on that user’s network segment. If those major components are fine, the hunt for the root cause gets underway. This can be time consuming in the absence of user-specific metrics.
This is where NetBeez is helpful. NetBeez is a distributed network monitoring solution that observes the network from the end user perspective. Other monitoring tools typically stop short of understanding what an end user is seeing or experiencing, especially in remote or branch locations. NetBeez fills this gap with the ability to proactively monitor wired, wireless, and virtual networks.
How NetBeez monitors networks from the end user perspective
The NetBeez approach is to install an agent (called a “bee”) in each network location. The agent can be a compact appliance about the size of a man’s wallet or a piece of software. Customers usually install one of these sensors for each wired network location and one for each wireless network location. Some organizations might deploy more sensors based on coverage and their own monitoring needs.
The NetBeez agents report back to a central server that is delivered as a virtual appliance. The overall solution is built to scale to support hundreds of WAN locations in a cost-effective way and to be plug and play. A “bee” can simply be shipped to a remote location and plugged into the network. Alternatively, the agent can be installed as a virtual service on, for example, a Cisco router.
The agents simulate end user activity in a very simple way by continuously testing network services and reporting back to the central server. By doing so, they provide end-to-end verification of reachability and performance from the user’s perspective. They also check that the network as a system can successfully forward traffic, which in turn verifies the application delivery from the data center to the remote office location. The agent performs these tasks 24×7 to constantly test availability for the end users.
By polling information from the NetBeez agents, a network engineer can determine when there is an outage and whether it is an outage that is detected by one or multiple locations. The solution also can determine whether the problem is with the network or the application. Problems can be detected proactively — long before end users notice and report them.
Via a dashboard on the central server application, each bee can be customized in terms of what actions it performs, such as looking for latency, connectivity issues, connections going down, and so on. The agent is basically a Swiss Army knife that can be programmed to perform a variety of network and application monitoring tasks that the organization needs for a particular site.
Real-time and scheduled monitoring tests
The tests can be in real time or scheduled as needed. The real-time monitoring tests are run on a high frequency and include Ping, DNS, HTTP, and trace route. NetBeez verifies that the user has connectivity to the Internet, verifies latency and packet loss, verifies that DNS is working, and verifies HTTP availability to see if web apps are responding and how long it takes to download the HTML. The scheduled tests aren’t run as frequently and typically involve testing things such as speed, throughput, and performance and quality of voice over IP (VoIP).
If the tests indicate that all appears well with the network, the technician can look at other things that might be causing a user’s problem, such as the access point, the access switch, or the user’s device. For example, it’s possible that RF interference from, say, a Wi-Fi router or a microwave oven is causing that particular user to lose his wireless connection.
One popular use case for NetBeez is to understand if major configuration changes have any impact on remote locations. Many companies apply their network configuration changes in the middle of the night. Then they wait until workers arrive for the regular workday to discover any problems that might have occurred as a result of a change. With NetBeez, a local bee will simulate user behavior and alert on problems in the field long before end users first log in in the morning.
Enhanced Wi-Fi monitoring
The latest release of NetBeez enhanced the tool’s Wi-Fi monitoring capabilities by allowing engineers to collect precise and continuous information on Wi-Fi networks, from the user perspective. Data available includes signal strength, BSSID, link speed, and quality of any SSID. Many enterprises and local governments use this information to proactively detect and troubleshoot Wi-Fi connectivity and performance issues. NetBeez also can compare Wi-Fi performance with that of the wired network to determine if a performance issue is caused by the wired network or the Wi-Fi network.
Time to resolution of technical issues is a critical metric for many organizations. NetBeez provides metrics from a user perspective that can help shorten the time it takes to detect and resolve issues that are disruptive to the business.
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