Back to Basics: How Well Do You Know Your Network?
by Joe Michalowski on

How many businesses can say their employees never think twice about technology in the workplace?

It’s a question we looked at late last year as end-user experiences become increasingly important for workplace productivity. But unfortunately, business applications of all kinds experience performance hits on a daily basis.

As a result, we’ve seen the market for end-user experience monitoring grow significantly in recent years. End-user experience monitoring can help you be more proactive in the face of network issues. However, there’s one thing that always needs to be done first, and that’s making sure the network is up to the task of serving your users.

As networking evolves, we can’t lose sight of the basics. Start with a baseline of network behavior to maximize the ROI of monitoring solutions.

Why Baselining Is Critical for End-User Experience Monitoring

Monitoring the end-user experience is all about putting network performance in the context of your employees. Because the network plays such a major role in your digital success, employees won’t reap the full benefits of VoIP/video and cloud-based applications if network performance suffers.

That’s why we’ve seen so much momentum behind technologies like SD-WAN and general WiFi improvements. And yet, these technologies won’t boost end-user experience without some help.

Baselining is critical for end-user experience monitoring because it sets the tone for your IT efforts. When your engineers know how the network is expected to behave during normal and peak operations, they can quickly identify anomalies that may impact end-user experience.

This is particularly important during changes in network design or when new applications are deployed across your organization. Your IT team wants to measure the impact of operational changes, but their efforts are mostly guesswork without a baseline to work with.

Most monitoring tools will provide insights into device utilization, CPU usage, connectivity, resource performance and other important metrics. You’ll get the most out of these insights when they’re paired with detailed baseline data.

3 Important Roles of Baseline Data

Compared to complicated network hardware upgrades, baselining behavior can seem like a small task. However, it makes all the difference in end-user experience monitoring.

The role of baseline network data breaks down into three distinct categories:

  • Proactive Troubleshooting: MOS scores provide important insights into VoIP/video performance across your network. Many teams stop short at identifying a threshold for performance alerts. But there needs to be more context for alerting. If your threshold is 4 and baseline performance is 4.6, you can proactively address degradation before it impacts end-user experience. You’ll see the drop to 4.4 and to 4.2 before employees ever notice.
  • Security: Denial of service attacks will always derail employee productivity. But not all DoS attacks are created equal. Without a baseline, you might miss smaller spikes in traffic that still impact app experiences.
  • Network Architecture: What happens when you decide to add an SD-WAN to your MPLS setup? The business case may be to reduce costs or increase agility. However, baselining gives you the data necessary to pinpoint the ROI of your investments.

For most IT teams, discussing baseline data may feel like a step backwards. This idea is certainly nothing new—it’s been a recommended practice for years.

At a time of such rapid network change, it’s important to keep the basics in mind. If you want to take a fresh look at your network baseline, check out our guide to key metrics you should measure.

Filed Under: Networking Technology, Performance Monitoring

Tags: end user experience , network monitoring , network technology