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What is Network Visibility and How to Guarantee 100% Data Capture

Posted by Chris Bihary | 3/26/20 8:00 AM

Network visibility has never been more important to the success of a business, regardless of industry. Addressing increasingly demanding business requirements has led to highly complex IT environments. And unfortunately, blind spots have become more common as a result.

Any blind spots in your network can lead to costly consequences from both performance monitoring and security perspectives. If a blind spot leads to system outages, you could be faced with, on average, $300,000 per hour of downtime. And if blind spots open the door for attackers to launch a data breach, the global average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million.

Eliminating these blind spots starts with maximizing network visibility. But what do we really mean by network visibility and how do you achieve it?

What Is Network Visibility? 

When you talk to people about network visibility, there’s a tendency to jump straight into the technical details. Too often, the conversation starts with the tools involved in network visibility. And while that’s certainly an important factor, the basic definition of network visibility is broader than that.

The term “network visibility” encompasses anything and everything involved in tracking 100% of the data packets that flow into and out of your network. It starts with data capture and carries through to packet aggregation, distribution, and delivery. 

It’s important to note that network visibility isn’t a passive function that drives value in and of itself. Rather, it’s a basic requirement that provides the information necessary to achieve multiple networking goals.

Key Benefits of Network Visibility

Network visibility is far from a new topic. It’s been top of mind since the earliest days of networking. However, the difference between tracking packets on a live wire with a single firewall and maintaining total visibility into massive volumes of data packets on today’s complex networks is significant. 

Now, it takes a much more conscious effort to maximize network visibility and some teams don’t see the value in investing resources beyond connecting security and monitoring tools to SPAN ports. 

While SPAN ports may have once been effective enough for network visibility, they’re no longer capable of keeping pace with network demands. When you go beyond SPAN ports to address network visibility, you unlock a number of benefits, including:

  • Improved Network Security: Advanced attackers thrive on network blind spots. They create threat vectors capable of slipping through your defenses by blending in with your normal traffic. When you can’t see every bit, byte, and packet, you risk missing malicious activity. Maximizing network visibility ensures your security tools see all the data necessary to alert you about potential threats.
  • More Efficient Performance Monitoring: Even minor delays in application performance can significantly impact employee productivity and your bottom line. Your ability to prevent these delays hinges on proactively addressing performance anomalies. Without proper network visibility, you may not see an issue until it’s already impacted the workforce. Proper network visibility increases the efficiency of your monitoring tools so you can be more proactive in network management.
  • Increase Tool Utilization: Network visibility includes your ability to load balance traffic effectively. This means making filtering traffic based on the data that security and monitoring tools truly need. When you have total visibility, you can ensure no bandwidth is wasted and that your security and monitoring tools are fully utilized. 
  • Minimize Mean Time to Resolution: Knowing there’s a network issue to troubleshoot is only half the battle. Minimizing the mean time to resolution is critical to business performance. When you have network visibility into 100% of data packets, you can take advantage of log data to quickly identify root causes of issues and troubleshoot efficiently.

>> Download Now: Network TAPs 101 [Free eBook]

 

Network visibility is a long-term investment because it delivers returns continuously as your business evolves. No matter what new systems or tools you put in place to support business needs, having the right network visibility foundation will make it easier to transition to new processes smoothly.

This all leaves us with one key question—how do you go about maximizing network visibility by guaranteeing 100% packet capture? It all starts with a network TAP.

Network Visibility: It All Starts with a TAP

Network TAPs (Test Access Points) are the fundamental building block of all network visibility initiatives. Simply put, a TAP is a hardware device that allows network traffic to flow from ports A to B, and B to A without interruption, and creates an exact copy of both sides of the traffic flow, continuously, 24/7, without compromising network integrity. The duplicate copy can be used for monitoring, security, or analysis.

If this sounds similar to what you can do with a SPAN port, it’s important to take a step back and recognize the key differences. According to Cisco, “The switch treats SPAN data with a lower priority than to-port data…the best strategy is to make decisions based on the traffic levels of the configuration and when in doubt to use the SPAN port only for relatively low throughput situations.” In other words, if you’re still using SPAN ports, you don’t have 100% network visibility. 

When you tap all critical links, you guarantee any-time access to those points in your network in the case of a security breach or when troubleshooting is needed. But not all TAPs are created equal.

If you want to maximize network visibility and guarantee 100% data capture within your unique network, your first step should be determining which TAPs are right for you. Download our free networking user guide, Network TAPs 101, to learn more about these hardware devices and how you can use them to build a foundation for total network visibility. 

Network TAPS 101 Basics for IT Security engineers

Topics: Network TAPs, Network Management, Network Infrastructure, TAPs vs SPAN, Network Visibility/Monitoring

Written by Chris Bihary

Chris Bihary has been in the network performance industry for over 20 years. Bihary has established collaborative partnerships with technology companies to complement product performance through the integration of network test access points. Previously, Bihary was Managing Partner at Network Critical.

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