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Wireless Network Monitoring vs. Intrusion Detection Solutions

Learn the differences between these network tools and how each is important to performance

As technology expands and enterprise performance grows along with it, more is expected of a wireless network than ever before. Downtime and security threats are detrimental to businesses in a world where almost all operations rely on a functioning, safe network.

CIOs, system administrators, and IT teams are feeling the pressure as their responsibilities become more complex. And two major aspects of their workload are network monitoring and security. These are often confused with each other, as many individuals think that network monitoring always includes security (and vice versa).

While these tasks do have similarities, they perform distinct functions regarding the different types of traffic that flow over a network. Understanding the differences between network monitoring tools and intrusion or detection software is critical for performance. Both are important to long-term functionality—and knowing how they can work in tandem will enhance their impact.

What is network monitoring?

Wireless network monitoring is a software platform or set of tools that continuously monitors all aspects of a network to identify issues proactively. This includes end-user devices accessing the system, access points, routers, servers, and more. Network monitoring alerts administrators to malfunctioning devices, interference, poor placement of equipment, and overloaded hardware.

Monitoring is necessary to give administrators a tangible connection to devices and hardware. These tools provide them with a bird’s eye view of what’s happening on their network—and the chance to address issues before they become more widespread and affect end-users.

This monitoring includes evaluating connection rates, connection quality, client throughput and data rates, packet latency, voice quality (MOS), utilization, signal strength, and RF interference. The monitoring equipment then sends data to network managers to take further action.

The scale of monitoring that’s needed depends on the organization's network infrastructure. Small businesses with few internal users, minimal end-users, and many cloud-based components don't need as many insights. Large enterprises with thousands of users and a combination of cloud-based and local elements will need a much more robust and capable monitoring platform.

Network monitoring is necessary for a few obvious reasons. First, maintaining network uptime is critical to a business’s bottom line. Monitoring allows network managers to manage all types of devices, giving personnel the ability to make quick, evidence-based decisions about how to address a problem.

The workload for administrators is drastically reduced and made more efficient with a cloud-based monitoring tool as well. Tasks like software upgrades and backup processes are implemented automatically without disrupting the network’s performance. Managers also have total visibility into their organization’s Wi-Fi performance from anywhere, making them more flexible and ready to react when needed.

What are intrusion detection solutions?

Intrusion detection solutions (IDS) are also a vital component of network operations. These solutions monitor network traffic for suspicious activity and threats, alerting managers when one is identified.

There are several types of intrusion detection solutions. Host-based and network-based are just two examples. They perform the same function, but the difference lies in where the sensors are placed to detect security issues.

These security solutions monitor various factors, including traffic patterns, network payload, and server communications to alert administrators of potentially malicious activity. However, most IDS do not take action and stop malware from infiltrating the network. These programs simply throw up a red flag.

This is important. IDS is an essential component of network security, but it is not sufficient on its own. Many organizations are now using IDS as part of a larger overall security platform that has actionable capabilities to deal with malicious activity once it’s identified.

This is especially necessary for businesses without an internal IT team or someone else who is readily available to deal with threats. If an organization can identify a security issue but not able to respond, there isn't much point to investing in IDS.

Nevertheless, IDS is not to be overlooked. It only takes a few minutes for critical data to be compromised. Having a pulse on network activity as well as an inventory of devices accessing the network allows administrators to identify unauthorized activity and take action as quickly as possible.

How network monitoring and IDS can optimize network performance

Network monitoring and intrusion detection solutions both have an important place in maintaining a wireless network, and they can work together to do so. Monitoring tools identify irregularities in bandwidth usage, traffic flow, and device status by setting baseline metrics to compare against.

Monitoring tools and IDS can be used to protect against malicious attacks by continuously checking hardware performance, detecting suspicious activity, and testing packet throughput. The more information administrators have, the more proactive they can be in protecting and optimizing the network.

7SIGNAL is a cloud-based wireless network monitoring platform that is made for organizations that depend on Wi-Fi for mission-critical activities. Rather than just tracking network infrastructure, 7Signal monitors performance from the client's point of view, optimizing the user experience.

Contact us today to learn how our enhanced monitoring capabilities can increase your network uptime, enhance device connectivity, and improve network ROI.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.