What is a protocol analyzer?
A protocol analyzer (also protocol analysis tool, network analyzer, or network analysis tool) is software that you can use to record and analyze data traffic in a network. In concrete terms, this means that the network traffic is broken down according to various parameters. The data flows are then displayed in diagrams and tables for analysis.
PRTG includes protocol analysis functionalities to track and analyze different flow protocols. Network traffic is categorized by connection, IP address, and by protocol. PRTG supports all major flow protocols such as NetFlow, sFlow, jFlow, and IPFIX.
How network traffic is recorded with flow monitoring
In the context of flow monitoring, the term flow refers to the flow of data packets between two endpoints, such as devices or applications.
Recording the data flow is mostly done by exporting the flow data of a device (e.g. a router, firewall, or switch). In addition, a data collector is required. Its task is to log the data so that it can be analyzed later. PRTG offers several preconfigured sensors for collecting, analyzing, and monitoring flow data.
What steps are necessary to export flow data?
How PRTG defines sensors
In PRTG, “sensors” are the basic monitoring elements. One sensor usually monitors one measured value in your network, e.g. the traffic of a switch port, the CPU load of a server, the free space of a disk drive. On average you need about 5-10 sensors per device or one sensor per switch port.
To analyze the flow data later, it must be exported. The export has three steps: installing PRTG, configuring the flow unit, and adding a flow sensor. Therefore, proceed as follows:
Installation of PRTG
The first step is to install the network protocol analyzer PRTG on a server.
Configuration of the flow unit
Then you configure a flow unit, which is a device like a router or switch. The flow unit exports the flow data and sends it to the system that runs PRTG:
- It is best practice to use the default port for the respective protocol.
- Also enter the IP address of the PRTG server into the flow unit.
- Some units, such as firewalls, may need to be configured to allow data packets to pass through (and not block them based on security settings).
Adding a flow sensor
Now you can add a flow sensor in PRTG. This must match the respective flow unit protocol used. It must also be configured to point to the device sending the flow packets. PRTG offers the following sensors for flow monitoring:
- IPFIX (Custom)
- jFlow v5
- jFlow v5 (Custom)
- NetFlow v5
- NetFlow v5 (Custom)
- NetFlow v9
- NetFlow v9 (Custom)
- sFlow (Custom)
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Categorization of flow data in toplists
PRTG processes the collected data for analysis. The data is displayed in so-called toplists and corresponding interactive graphs:
- The toplist “Top Communicators” includes bandwidth usage data by IP address.
- The toplist “Top Connections” shows bandwidth usage by connection.
- The toplist “Top Protocols” contains the bandwidth usage data by protocol.
This categorization in toplists simplifies the analysis of network traffic, as the traffic is broken down into more detailed information. Among other things, administrators can more quickly identify which applications are bandwidth hogs or which servers are overloaded.
“We start managing the existing infrastructure to determine bottlenecks. Sometimes it is CPU, I/O or code-based problems. By using PRTG, we can save clients from making bad decisions, saving headaches, time and money.” Jon Berry, President and Owner, Green Olive Tree
“We start managing the existing infrastructure to determine bottlenecks. Sometimes it is CPU, I/O or code-based problems. By using PRTG, we can save clients from making bad decisions, saving headaches, time and money.”
Jon Berry, President and Owner, Green Olive Tree
What are the benefits of a protocol analysis tool like PRTG?
Detect peak loads and increase network stability
Flow monitoring makes it possible to analyze the bandwidth usage of applications. Changes or irregularities in network performance can be detected directly. With PRTG as a protocol analysis tool, load peaks are quickly and efficiently identified and fluctuations in accessing applications or websites are revealed. Thanks to the recorded flow data, administrators can scale capacities much better and thus achieve greater network stability. When bandwidth usage is optimized, the productivity of business processes and applications also increases.
View detailed reports, statistics, and toplists
The recorded flow data is not only visually displayed, but also categorized in toplists according to IP address, connection, or protocol. You can also create customized toplists. Moreover, it is possible to create custom reports that you can export through various channels. This also allows other people such as the management level to be conveniently informed about the status of the network.
Identify bottlenecks in the network
Specific applications that use far too much bandwidth can cause bottlenecks. Overloaded Wi-Fi networks, routers, and switches also put a strain on networks. Large online backups can slow down the network, too. Flow monitoring with PRTG helps system administrators to detect bottlenecks in a targeted manner and therefore solve such issues more quickly.
Keeping the network up to date in a cost-efficient and targeted way
Comprehensive protocol monitoring with PRTG ensures that administrators have a 360-degree view of their network traffic. This means that they know the bandwidth capacity and network speed in detail. Monitoring thus provides valuable long-term information about the state of the network. This is the prerequisite for keeping the network and the entire IT infrastructure up to date in a more cost-efficient and systematic way.
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