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How to Overcome Endpoint Visibility Challenges

Written by Jay Botelho, Director of Engineering at LiveAction

Endpoint visibility continues to be a significant challenge for today's Network Operations (NetOps) teams. In fact, a recent survey not only found that network teams have trouble solving issues across the entire network, but that endpoints at branch offices or remote employee locations in particular were ranked as some of the most troublesome locations for networking problems. And it's getting worse as companies of all sizes increasingly turn to edge computing, IoT and cloud-based services, where more and more data bypasses the data center. This lack of endpoint visibility can lead to major network performance issues, and a reduction in productivity and increased user frustrations - all of which can ultimately impact an organization's bottom line.

A Vicious Cycle

When faced with limited to no visibility into endpoints, NetOps teams have no idea when a potential issue might be affecting an endpoint or the broader network. This means they're forced to reactively manage the network after the damage has already been done. Not only is this time-consuming, but it can also be incredibly costly, resulting in network downtime and subsequent productivity issues. Additionally, when issues arise at endpoints there's often limited options for remote troubleshooting, which requires engineers and technicians to travel to remote locations to solve problems. This can rack up travel expenses and take time away from other key IT and/or corporate initiatives.

Unfortunately, gaining visibility into these endpoints is easier said than done. Monitoring can be extremely difficult to scale, especially for large enterprises that typically have an exorbitant number of endpoints. Even if you could monitor them all, it'd be highly expensive to put a solution in place for each endpoint, even if that solution was simply software. Furthermore, maintaining such a large-scale endpoint solution is time-consuming and requires extensive resources. You'd likely need a team of highly-skilled network professionals to do this, which isn't feasible for most businesses.

Problems are Opportunities

Luckily, there are networking technologies making strides to change this. Unified Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostic (NPMD) platforms help solve endpoint monitoring challenges by providing end-to-end network visibility. By offering a wide variety of networking data (netflow, IPFIX, SNMP, deep packet inspection, etc.), these platforms enable teams to monitor performance at a high-level, or drill down into specific packet data at remote locations for complex troubleshooting.  

What type of end-point problems can you troubleshoot with an NPMD solution? Here are four to consider:

1.      VoIP/ Teleconference Issues - As workers become more distributed, teleconferencing is becoming an essential method of communication. While these tools are great for team coordination, they're also prone to poor connections and other issues that affect the user experience. A unified NPMD solution allows IT staff and network engineers to proactively identify problems as they're happening by setting and monitoring alerts on key VoIP metrics like packet loss, jitter and latency. NetOps teams can also quickly respond to user complaints by using flow-based information to view general characteristics of the call, and then packet-level analysis when required for root cause analysis.

2.      Users Getting Phished - A prime example of a common security issue that most users face is phishing scams. When a user clicks on a phishing link, NetOps teams are essentially left in the dark. Without packet data from a unified NPMD solution, network operators cannot tell how the network was impacted by that phishing incident. IT is not likely to see this activity in a dashboard, but if a user admits they've accidentally been fooled by a phishing attack, the network engineer will have all the data needed to trace exactly what happened when the user clicked on the malicious link.

3.      Network Slow-downs Due to Microbursts - Network slow-downs occur when network utilization pushes up against an equipment or service level limit. Depending on the length of the burst, some network monitoring dashboards may record and alert on the utilization oversubscription. But it's difficult to identify the exact cause of the spike from a dashboard. A unified solution that also includes packet capture allows network engineers to drill into short-lived spikes, even those that last only milliseconds, to see all the activity over the short period of time. This enables NetOps to identify the root cause and resolve it quicker.

4.      Slow Reponses from Web Services - Endpoints, especially those in remote offices, make direct connections to web services and bypass the usual corporate network visibility solutions. This means that visibility is limited or non-existent for end users of cloud applications due to the fact that more applications like Salesforce are being accessed in the cloud, and more small, distributed offices are lacking real IT monitoring. But a unified NPMD solution, especially one with elements that are priced with small, remote offices in mind, can provide the visibility needed to appropriately monitor direct connections between end users and cloud applications, and perform root cause analysis on problems using packet-based analysis, when needed.

Overall, endpoints can be extremely tricky to monitor and put business and network performance in jeopardy. However, with the right tools endpoints can be properly managed and monitored. With end-to-end visibility from unified NPMD platforms, NetOps teams can rest easy knowing they can better prevent, identify, and solve issues like the ones mentioned above.


About the Author

Jay Botelho is the Director of Engineering at LiveAction.

Published Monday, June 10, 2019 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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