What’s the difference between APM / RMM / NPM tools and do they help fix “slow" networks?
As more network activity moves to the WAN and Internet, visibility and control of network traffic is becoming more critical. You’ve no doubt had the call from your end user saying the network is slow, their desktop is taking ages to load, apps are buffering, etc. You’re under the pump, the poor network performance impacts business productivity and costs time and money for everyone, whilst trying to identify the issue and fix it is causing network managers a lot of stress.
Trying to find a solution is difficult. You’re trying to solve a complex problem, and there are seemingly so many products that claim they will make your life easier.
So what’s causing networks to feel "slow”? In short, the explosion of cloud-based applications is adding more and more utilisation to data links. There are also many more recreational apps being used on business networks than there were in the past. Apparently millennials don’t work for companies that don’t allow recreational app use! Hence more data is causing congestion, and this congestion results in performance issues which causes apps, and the network, to feel slow.
This is where network traffic visibility and control is crucial and the array of “tools” such as APM, RMM, and NPM fit in.
RMM / NPM
Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) or and Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) tools typically provide visibility of endpoints and network infrastructure, and as well as some visibility of network traffic. Managing and monitoring IT assets such as servers, workstations, network devices, network subnets, installed apps and so forth is essential, however whilst they will keep the infrastructure layer functioning, they will not explain why the network feels slow. The truth is that these products were developed for the LAN, however they are now being retrofitted and used to try and solve WAN and internet problems. These products include Labtech, Kaseya, PRTG, Solarwinds, Auvik, Riverbed Cascade and many others. Some of these products provide limited visibility of WAN traffic but rely on NetFlow to do this. There are 10 significant limitations to be aware of when using NetFlow which add yet another layer of complexity to be aware of (see link).
Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tools try and identify why particular apps are not performing, but they don’t solve the entire network issue. Some limitations include;
- They are application-centric - they may tell you an application is underperforming, but won't tell you why (e.g. they will tell you Citrix delay is high but not because Joe from accounts is using Netflix and is consuming the link)
- They provide no insight into how users are using the network (i.e. they have a narrow focus on applications, real people use the network)
- There are no holistic application usage trends, therefore they can't help with capacity planning/baselining etc.
- They understand and report on a limited set of apps, so do not provide a holistic WAN-wide view at Layer 7 through to user and device level detail
- They can't take corrective action, for example, blocking unwanted applications, shaping low-priority applications or prioritising business-critical applications
- They can't provide application-neutral end-to-end network quality scoring (i.e. latency, delay, jitter, packet loss)
- They can't assist with understanding the impact of all applications on the WAN or how an app performs on the LAN in order to assist with cloud migration strategies
- They can't provide realtime second-by-second visibility into application usage on the network
They are often very expensive and complex to use
So what’s the solution?
MSPs absolutely need to hang on to their RMM tools, and in certain instances APM tools, however they have to compliment this with WAN and internet visibility and control. Once they’re able to identify and control network traffic, will be able to control congestion, thereby ensuring performance of key business apps. The service tickets will disappear, enabling your sales team to get back on the front foot and talk to your customers about other products and services.
Sinefa provides real-time Layer 7 WAN and internet visibility and control via a monthly subscription model. Free fully-featured trial accounts can be established in a matter of minutes, and there are no contractual obligations on partners. Simply use Sinefa as you need us.