Networking 101 – The Importance of Network Baselining

One of the most common discussions among network administrators is about anticipating and preventing issues even before users notice them. This blog will help you understand the importance of baselining in network monitoring, and how beneficial it can be to get steady network performance.

What is Network Baselining?

Network Baselines are ideal performance metrics obtained by measuring your network for a particular time period. Baseline statistics provide a way to validate your current network status by determining recommended performance standards, hence, helping admins to find the “normal” operating level of network devices.

Why should you baseline your network?

Real-time analysis on different types of network properties such as device utilization, CPU/memory usage, connectivity, resource performance, etc. can formulate baselines which in turn help network managers to forecast needs and optimize network performance. By understanding what the normal performance characteristics of a device are, you can identify potential problems and understand vulnerabilities in your network when the device performance deviates.  For example, suppose the CPU utilization on a switch or router has a normal operating range of 20%.  If you suddenly see a spike to 80%, this could be sign that something in your network has changed and needs further investigation.

Network Baselines also act as a reference point while troubleshooting issues, and will help you understand network patterns and usage trends. Network Baselines provide valuable data to evaluate and support decision makers on existing policies, network compliance, and future network upgrades.

How are network baselines calculated?

In small environments, network admins manually calculate baselines by creating an inventory of devices to be monitored and define what data needs to polled. They create statistics based on polled information for establishing thresholds and use simple network monitoring tools to create alerts based on these baseline thresholds to consistently monitor the network for any imminent problems. Manual baselining processes, however, aren’t feasible for larger enterprise networks where hundreds of devices need to be monitored. This is where automated monitoring tools with built-in baselining become valuable.

How can Advanced Network Monitoring tools help?

Advanced network monitoring tools that include baselining can dynamically calculate network baselines from historic network performance data. Using baseline tests, admins can find standard threshold metrics from network devices. These metrics in monitoring tools will allow you to calculate warning and critical thresholds according to baselines which, in turn, can be used to set more accurate alert levels. This will help admins to quickly assess the difference between a device that is performing well and a device that is about to fail.

Network Baselines are also very useful in planning for hardware/service upgrades, creating network policies based on user requirements, and defining compliance standards.

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  • If you don't know what "normal" is how can you determine if there is an issue?  Thanks!

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