How is your network really doing? A network security tool will let you know. After all, network security tools, which use advanced analytics to optimize and automate network management, are becoming an essential component in every network team’s toolkit.
Network security was once seen as a routine IT responsibility. “This attitude essentially reduced the guarantee to a checkbox,” says SQL Server consultant Mark Varnas. As companies have become increasingly data-driven, this superficial approach has stopped working. IT leaders needed better control of their network to enhance their data capabilities.
And these tools are more than a simple investment in technology. “They are a strategic decision that supports business growth and customer satisfaction,” says Matt Aird, CTO at Custom Neon, which manufactures and sells LED neon signs and lights. “Regular monitoring, clear insights, and preventative measures are vital in competitive markets.”
Vladislav Bilay, cloud solutions architect at Aquiva Labs, a data analytics and software development services company, adds that the ability to proactively manage network performance, security, and reliability is invaluable. “Organizations looking to maintain a competitive advantage, minimize operational disruptions, and protect their digital assets find these tools indispensable.”
Network security is trending
Interest in network security tools is being driven by several factors, including increasing network complexity, a growing demand for consistent user experiences, and a growing threat landscape.
Bilay says: “As networks evolve to accommodate IoT, cloud services, and remote working, the need for reliable and secure connectivity becomes paramount.” Network security tools bridge the gap between network visibility and operational excellence. “These tools encapsulate a set of technologies and methodologies designed to ensure the reliability, performance and security of complex network infrastructures.”
Without a network security tool at their disposal, many companies would be forced to limit the reach and capacity of their network. “They would be unable to take advantage of the latest technological advances and innovations because they would not have the manpower or tools to manage them,” says Christian Gilby, senior director of products, AI-driven enterprise, Juniper Networks. “At the same time, companies would be left behind by their competitors because they would still use manual trial-and-error procedures to discover and repair service problems.”
The popularity of network security technology is also being driven by growing business demand for network teams to do more with less. “Efficiency is required to manage the ever-expanding network landscape,” adds Gilby.
New devices and equipment are constantly being brought online and added to networks. However, companies don’t have unlimited IT budgets, which means staffing levels often remain the same even as workloads increase. “By improving visibility and providing the ability to measure network performance and, most importantly, discover and repair any issues, network security tools enable businesses to grow without sacrificing the end user experience,” according to Gilby.”
Key Network Security Features
Network security tools provide these key features:
Network security tools are like inspectors, examining every aspect of the network and tuning the infrastructure so everything works optimally, Varnas says. “This includes preventative maintenance such as server health checks that help prevent bottlenecks and system overflows.”
User experience: A network security tool must monitor the user experience on the network while providing network teams with real-time visibility and insights into the user experience across the entire network stack, including wireless , wired and WAN, says Gilby.
“Network security tools simplify network operations, providing visibility into end-user experiences and rapid discovery of anomalies, reducing mean time to repair,” explains Bilay. “The goal is to make the entire network operations process – from configuration to maintenance – deliver the best possible end-user experience in the most efficient and effective way for network operations teams.”
Network security tools are always vigilant, continually monitoring network traffic, protocols, and components in real time. “They employ advanced analytics, machine learning, and AI-based algorithms to detect anomalies, identify potential bottlenecks, and predict impending problems,” Bilay “This proactive approach allows network administrators to preemptively resolve emerging issues before they can turn into outages service or security violations.”
Network security tools are crucial for providing operations teams with a complete view of the network, especially with the growing adoption of cloud-based applications, says Roopa Honnachari, director at global technology research and consultancy firm ISG.
How do network security tools work?
Network security tools monitor key user experience metrics such as connection time, throughput, and application latency, as well as detect emerging network anomalies. “IT teams use these tools to gain immediate insights into how these metrics impact end-user experiences,” says Gilby. “The information they provide helps teams proactively identify the root causes of service degradation.”
Just like a car engine, a network can flash a warning light at the operator, signaling a major problem. Network security tools are constantly on the lookout for anomalous problems, Varnas says. Notifications appear automatically and practically instantly, significantly reducing service delay times.
Network security products continually study and analyze network paths, application connections, and device rules to ensure optimal performance. “The tools proactively monitor the network, and the data collected in real time helps network administrators compare actual performance against the policies that have been defined for network and security services,” says Honnachari.
By serving as a complement to network discovery tools, network security deployments continuously monitor the network configuration to identify each device, software tool, and connection. “From there, network security knows exactly where to look for the improvements it wants to make,” says Varnas.
The information provided by network security tools covers a range of insights, ranging from granular details about network traffic patterns to broader performance metrics. “This includes data on bandwidth consumption, latency, packet loss, device health and user experience,” says Bilay. By distilling complex network data into actionable insights, network security tools empower administrators to make informed decisions that optimize performance and maintain network integrity.
Network security tools often work best when they are closely tied to measuring end-user experience. “The goal is to improve visibility into the user experience while reducing operational work for the network team,” says Gilby.
Benefits of Network Security Tools
Network security tools support proactive troubleshooting, minimizing downtime, improving user experience, and strengthening your network security posture. “By addressing potential issues before they can impact operations, organizations can save resources and maintain a resilient and responsive network infrastructure,” says Bilay.
Network security tools complement discovery tools by adding the context needed to take the next step after discovering a problem: repairing the problem. “In many cases, network security tools can proactively locate flaws or problems before end users even realize there is a problem,” says Gilby. “Advice can be provided and AI-guided tools can even make repairs directly and instantly.”
As networks become more complex, troubleshooting becomes much more challenging. For example, discovering that subpar roaming performance is the reason a user is complaining about “bad Wi-Fi” could take days without a network security tool, and just seconds with one. “Accurate, real-time, actionable data allows IT teams to spend less time troubleshooting network issues and more time on digital transformation initiatives,” says Gilby.
Without a network security tool, teams are often forced to manually deal with complicated issues, wasting time on other tasks they need to resolve. In essence, network security technology allows IT staff to do more in less time.
What are the challenges posed by network security tools?
Despite the many benefits of network security technology, new adopters can expect to face some challenges. “Implementing and configuring these tools can be complex due to the diversity of network environments,” notes Bilay. “Overreliance on automated decision-making can also lead to false positives or missed anomalies, requiring human intervention to accurately interpret results.”
If you have an out-of-the-box networking solution, finding problems and fixing them will be relatively easy, says Varnas. “The more you build custom infrastructure and add features, the less you can rely on simple solutions,” he adds.
A major issue affecting many network security tools is the lack of advanced AIOps – artificial intelligence for IT and network operations. Providing accurate, real-time information that can identify the root cause of an issue as well as the affected users requires a powerful AI engine, says Gilby. “The best network security tools are built on long-established AI engines that have had time to learn network patterns and anomalies.”
Who is providing network security?
Participants in the network security market are numerous and diverse, from established network giants to emerging startups. Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Keysight Technologies, Netscout, Riverbed Technology, and SolarWinds are among the vendors offering some type of network security technology, each with its own unique approach and capabilities.
The decision on which product will be most suitable depends mainly on the buyer’s specific requirements and existing infrastructure. “In our case, customization and scalability were the main factors to consider,” says Aird.
Network security and IT monitoring
The reality is that today there are too many network assets to monitor, whether trying to figure out whether an asset is up and running or verifying that its configuration is correct and in line with compliance standards. The point here is to strengthen network automation and ensure there is only one source of truth for network asset inventory – so teams are working with reliable information. Network security and reliability are at stake.
If you come from the monitoring side of the enterprise, you may be less familiar with network security and vice versa, so let’s pause for a brief explanation.
How does network security compare to network monitoring?
Let’s start by positioning network monitoring versus network assurance. The reality is that they are complementary. They perform distinct functions in the broad domain of network management, but they share a common goal: ensuring connectivity, that is, allowing users to access their data.
Why are IT infrastructure monitoring and network security complementary?
Infrastructure or network monitoring and network assurance are two complementary ways of taking care of network performance. You need comprehensive monitoring of your complex network and a real-time view of network issues and activities.
The complexity of software-defined networks
SDN (software-defined networking) can create complexity for device-based monitoring systems. You may need to increase your discovery capabilities to ensure you can monitor everything on your network. This is where Network Assurance comes to the rescue, with augmented automated discovery, documentation and modeling of your network that provides contextualized insights into the state of your network and measures it against your intent.
How can IT infrastructure monitoring and network security work together?
The answer lies in integration and therefore IP Fabric automatic network assurance platform seamlessly integrates with Centreon IT monitoring solution to make your network stronger.
5 things to look for in a network security tool
Ensuring the service levels required for complex networks means having the right analytical capabilities at your disposal. Here are five things to look for when considering a network security and analytics product as part of a broader wired and wireless networking offering:
Unified and complete product
Many vendors ask you to purchase multiple products to get the network intelligence you need. A complete analytics product is ideal because it provides comprehensive, unified network intelligence.
Classification of incidents by severity
All network service problems are not created equal. Look for network analysis tools that classify service incidents by severity, including which service issues are of highest priority. This way you can tackle what’s most important first.
Summary views are great, but detailed customer troubleshooting requires maximum granularity so you can pinpoint the problem. Look for technologies that provide a detailed view of the connectivity experience from the perspective of individual customers.
Flexible access to your network data warehouse
Some analytics products don’t allow you to drill down into your network data. Rigidity is not your ally. Make sure you choose a product that delivers drag-and-drop simplicity with flexible options for visualizing your data.
The antidote to network complexity is not more complexity. Look for a product that doesn’t sacrifice simplicity for power – that’s a false trade-off. Look for cloud services that don’t require a separate on-premises data collector or device. The right tool can dramatically improve your efficiency in ensuring the required network service levels.
Advanced network analytics frees up resources so your team can focus on higher value-added activities. You accelerate problem resolution to reduce mean time to resolution, and users get the service levels they expect.
Another way to ensure the best network security tailored to your business is to hire a specialized IT company.