SNMP - the Simple Network Management Protocol - is a pretty cool protocol to get to know and no matter how well you know - it there's always a bit more to learn. As a network engineer or system administrator your first exposure to SNMP was probably through using a Network Management System (NMS) like Orion NPM or HPOV or an Element Management System (EMS) like CiscoWorks or IronView.  These applications use SNMP to monitor and or configure devices on the network.

What you may not know is that SNMP is a great tool for troubleshooting. Back in the old days, network engineers like me would do a lot of our troubleshooting from Unix hosts and we'd use Perl to create little scripts and tools to help us troubleshoot network issues and performance. For instance, if you saw a device that was going up and down you might write a script to continually ping the device and record response times and then place that script on unix hosts at a few different locations on your network. A more advanced use would be to write a script to use SNMP to pull stats from a device in real-time and then store those results for analysis. Because SNMP is so widely deployed and the MIBs are standardized across devices a simple tool can have broad applicability.

Nowadays there are packages tools that make network troubleshooting and real-time monitoring a lot easier. The Engineer's Toolset that we offer here at SolarWinds is a great example of that. We started writing these tools several years ago when we were doing a lot of network consulting and needed tools to help us quickly discover and document the customers' networks and to isolate network issues and provide real-time monitoring while we were optimizing configurations. It's hard for me to imagine being able to do some of the projects that I've done without having the Engineer's Toolset handy.

As you go about trying to learn about SNMP, grab the Engineer's Toolset. Even if you don't buy it, the evaluation version will fall back to a free version that includes about 15 tools that are tremendously useful. Strive to understand the protocol, the underlying MIB and OID structures, and the different authentication methods (SNMPv2C vs. SNMPv3). Trust me, it'll come in handy...

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