A network is, in most ways, a system. It’s a connection between various nodes and devices that act as conduits for interaction with the network as a whole — interconnected computers and virtual machines acting on each other or in tandem with each other within the guidelines and parameters set in place by the network’s administrators and owners. In most cases, a business owner or their trusted network manager would be the one to set up these parameters, and in most cases, they help define some of the things that are part of your network today: Whether these are security infrastructure tools, role-based access permissions, or even just the ability to share work content remotely from endpoint to endpoint, the purpose of a network is defined by these parameters.
In an increasingly advanced and holistic approach to network security, people want to be able to see what’s in place in their network. A network visibility map is an attractive solution for this reason, as it showcases the components in a network in a way that is mapped out, like the name suggests, rather than in lists and other hard-to-read management interfaces.
More than that, though, network visibility maps show a user things like traffic, network performance, and even analysis of big data that’s present within the network. The benefits to having this information at your fingertips has a lot to do with the idea of managing your network in an informed manner.
Much like the idea of threat visibility (which is when you’re aware of threats in your endpoint or network), network visibility is the awareness you have of what goes on in your network — and of which components it is comprised. From here, it’s easy to realize the goal of network visibility is straightforward — and so are the benefits.
The most obvious benefits to network visibility are those that have to do with the security of a network and all the computers connected therein. For any business using network visibility, they will notice:
- The availability of information on the network will make it clear what constitutes normal behavior, and what it looks like to see “abnormal” behavior.
- The increased understanding of abnormal behavior and the network as a whole allows users and admins alike to detect potential threats on the network.
- The inclusion of network visibility mapping makes it easy to visualize and plan the positioning of new security measures, be it an extra firewall or a new VM that needs encryption protocols.
With Network Visibility in place, you not only have the ability to protect your assets — you also have the ability to control them. This includes management of who uses your network and how:
- The ability to monitor your network means you can see usage behaviors clearly, and that you can also define how usage on the network changes, like limiting bandwidth hogging.
- Looking at the places where your network lags or under-performs can give you insight into how to solve those problems before they become a source of unwanted downtime.
- You can even use network visibility mapping to view and manage roles in real-time, making sure that users only have permissions and devices that are relevant to their job.
There’s more to your network than the components you have. Network visibility can also help you determine what your network still needs:
- You can troubleshoot and analyze with informed decisions that make it easier than ever to plan ahead for issues as well as for trends in the business’s network performance.
- The ability to map out your network means you can easily identify places where performance can be improved by adding components and other network adjustments.
Network visibility is an evolving aspect of networking, and with that evolution comes its own share of challenges. Traditional monitoring tools, for one thing, have become less and less useful in offering full network visibility, thanks to the way that networks allow access to various endpoints and users from differing devices and connections. The sensors, the links, the data that was used for network visibility and tracking in earlier years is no longer sufficient, in fact.
Network visibility also has its inefficiencies when performed by locally applied devices, such as secure web gateways or threat management applications that are used on premise. Not only do these inefficient methods of monitoring affect performance, but their current applications are so easily made useless by capacity restrictions that would prevent scaling without hardware upgrades. Because of these issues, it’s important that you utilize a network visibility map that is designed for scaling, and that has a centralized and updated understanding of the various new access points that are defined in and supported by today’s wide area networks and remote access landscape.
Because it’s not always possible to scale network visibility solutions, there has to be a consideration for what type of network usage you expect to have, and what capacity you expect your network to maintain over an extended period of time. Network visibility software can become inefficient if you outgrow your chosen solution, so in all cases, it’s best to find something that’s easily and continuously updated, and that is made with today’s various networks in mind.
Jason is the Marketing Manager at a local advertising company in Australia. He moved to Australia 10 years back for his passion for advertising. Jason recently joined BFA as a volunteer writer and contributes by sharing his valuable experience and knowledge.