You can’t fix what you can’t see: A new way of looking at network performance

Network performance, or the service quality of a business’ network, is critical to running a successful enterprise. Imagine the cost to an organization when the corporate network or the e-commerce site is down or experiencing unacceptable latency.

Customers get frustrated, prospects immediately turn away from purchases, and internally, IT and network admins are in a panic to get systems up and running again, fueled by C-suite pressure.

Defining today’s network performance

To optimize network performance, IT and network admins spend a large part of their day analyzing network statistics to identify areas of improvement and eliminate potential problems — before they happen. But improving network performance isn’t just maximizing speeds and feeds. It’s also about ensuring associated network and security tools are doing their jobs (for example, protecting the network) efficiently and not impacting service quality.

Now, as networks become more complex, the challenges and dangers also increase. As a result, network performance metrics traditionally used in the past — such as latency, bandwidth and responsiveness — are now insufficient to benchmark today’s high-speed, complex networks, which can cause a business to falter.

The biggest challenges to optimal network performance

Most networks are a Pandora’s box of different tools and resources, all operating in tandem. Tweaking or playing around with any single part of a network can have a negative effect on the whole system at large.

The most common challenges faced when striving for optimal network performance are primarily, hardware and equipment updates which can be costly and time-consuming. The network isn’t a single-system device that can be replaced when the next version gets released. When one attempts to upgrade a network, there is a clear and present risk of breaking end-to-end services. To offset this risk, businesses invest in costly and time-consuming IT resources.

Another common hindrance is that today’s new equipment may not function properly with existing infrastructure. Organizations as a whole want faster, more efficient options, and vendors are more than happy to provide them. However, the newest and the best isn’t always backwards compatible. And when they’re not, the ecosystem of tools that are running on the infrastructure can easily fall apart.

Lastly, another issue that can lead to suboptimal network performance and tool sprawl is traffic being sent to the network when security tools don’t need to see it. Expensive processing resources can be wasted analyzing irrelevant traffic.

On one hand, businesses need to continually keep up with the latest standards to improve network performance. But alternatively, if done incorrectly, updating or upgrading a network can have dire and costly results. Overall, the end goal for IT and network admin teams is to upgrade the network in a way that doesn’t bring the entire system crashing down.

A complete view of the network

The biggest lesson in network performance is that you can’t fix what you can’t see. Before IT and network admin tune network performance, they need to get a holistic view of what’s going on in the organization’s network. Unfortunately, standard network performance metric tools often aren’t able to receive a complete picture of the overall network performance, because of blind spots — streams of network traffic that are inaccessible because they are in remote locations, are encrypted or in on cloud platforms.

Improved network visibility is essential to monitoring and optimizing network performance. Organizations’ IT and network admins need the power to track all relevant network performance metrics, and in a manner that is relatively easily. They need to get a complete picture of how the entire network — physical, virtual and cloud — is functioning and where it could be improved, in order for a business to truly achieve optimal network performance.