Switch port monitoring is one of those roles that are easy to overlook but are an integral part of Network Monitoring. Identifying used and unused ports on your switch is not just important for Network Switch capacity planning but can also help prevent attacks on your Network. It’s a common thing for hackers to take advantage of unused ports to gain access to your system.
Right off the box, the switches come with LED lights that are supposed to give you insights about the status of the accompanying ports. Can you see the fault in this method? How many switches can you see while seated at your office desk? Probably none. Because they are usually in a remote area or enclosed in a wiring cabinet. Which then leaves you with one other method to track the activity on your switch ports. The use of a switch port monitoring software.
The good thing about a Switch Monitor is that it will more than show you if a port is up or down. It can also be used to show ports that are receiving the most throughput and bandwidth from your router or digging up historical data about a specific port utilization. A switch port monitor will also enable you to establish how much memory and CPU the ports are utilizing.
Follow along as I take you through my 5 best picks of the software to monitor your switch ports.
1. SolarWinds User Device Tracker
I like this tool because on top of monitoring your switch and ports it can also be used to track other network devices and users. You just have to specify the IP/MAC address, username or hostname of the device or user. Once done you can find any information about them such as switch name, port, port description, VLAN, VRF data, and vendor information. The tool is really easy to install and will automatically discover your Network switches.
In regards to port monitoring, the SolarWinds User Device Tracker is used to collect data on various attributes of the ports such as status, CPU load, and Memory used. It can be used to identify unused ports and will help reclaim them so that you can achieve full utilization of your ports. You might even end up saving money that was meant to purchase new switches. Talking of which, you can utilize the Device Tracker’s inbuilt reporting features to plan for switch expansion. It provides valuable information on the current port utilization metrics that will give you an idea of future needs.
Additionally, the SolarWinds User Device Tracker can be used to find rogue users and devices in your LAN and Wireless network. You will receive an alert any time suspicious devices access your Network. The tool even allows you to create a device watch list by specifying the Mac Address, IP Address and hostname of the devices.
Even better, it provides additional information about device or user such as connection and user logon history so that you know the time and date when your network was compromised. It will also tell you the specific port, SSD, or access point used to gain entry. And to top it off, it syncs with the Active Directory to produce the exact username and contact information. With this tool, you can easily switch a port on and off through a simple click of the mouse from the central interface.
Since the tool is based on the SolarWinds Orion platform you can integrate it with their other management software such as the Network Performance Monitor to achieve full IT infrastructure monitoring.
The SolarWinds User Device Tracker works in Windows environment and is compatible with almost all SNMP-managed switches and access points.
2. ManageEngine OpManager
ManageEngine OpManager is another great tool that will help you avoid unnecessary problems in your LAN network by monitoring your switch ports. Once it is launched this tool automatically discovers all the switches and ports in your network and then creates a map of your Network components originating from the switch ports. Which then makes it very easy to monitor the status and availability of the ports. Anytime there is no communication received from a network component then most probably the port it is connected to has gone offline and you will be notified immediately.
For best practice, this tool allows you to enable monitoring for only the crucial ports. This way you don’t get bombarded with lots of unnecessary alerts. Additionally, the ManageEngine OpManager offers you visibility into spanning tree Protocol (STP) status so that you know which ports are blocked and which are forwarding.
This status and activity on your ports can be displayed as a report which will be crucial in proving that you are abiding by the (Service Level agreements) SLAs.
Port traffic monitoring is yet another useful feature that will help you understand how bandwidth is being utilized, determine the top talkers on your LAN network and also detect and stop potential broadcast storms.
3. PRTG Switch Monitoring
PRTG is a comprehensive Network Monitoring Software that works on the principal of sensors. It comes with 3 important sensors that will be crucial for switch Network monitoring. The first is the SNMP sensor that facilitates communication between the software and the network devices. Then there is the packet Sniffer sensor that monitors traffic and can sort it based on the IP address, protocols and data types. Finally, the NetFlow sensor monitors traffic and bandwidth of switches from all the popular vendors.
Then it also has these sensors for monitoring the ports. The SNMP CPU Load Sensor determines the CPU utilization of the port while the SNMP memory sensor determines the memory usage. The third is the PING sensor which is used to establish whether a port is online or offline. The tool sends a ping to devices connected to a specific port and depending on whether the ping is answered or not then you can make your conclusion.
The PRTG Switch Monitor is compatible with all the SNMP-enabled devices from multiple vendors and comes with sensors for the popular names already configured. So you just set it up and it will begin polling data immediately.
As expected, anytime the tool detects a problem with a port then you are notified immediately. The alert system is customizable allowing you to configure your own trigger conditions. Similar to SolarWinds UDT, the PRTG Switch Monitor can also be used to identify open ports and close them directly from its UI. It will also help you plan for future expansion needs by analyzing port capacities to determine whether a port is overloaded.
The fact that this software is a full network performance monitor means you can use it to monitor other components of your network such as the server, router, and storage resources. It has a 30-day free trial where you get the full functionality after which it reverts to the free version that has only 100 sensors.
4. Site24x7 Switch Monitoring
Site24X7 is another great tool that has all the capabilities for Switch port monitoring. To begin with, this tool can automatically discover the switches in your network. It then begins monitoring the ports to provide you with accurate interface-level performance stats for comprehensive network monitoring. It also doubles as a network topology mapper.
Site24x7 Switch Monitor is compatible with devices from multiple vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel, and Cabletron and will provide you with actionable data about their key performance attributes. Just to name a few, it provides you with Active session count, Backplane utilization, Outstanding DNS Requests, and Interface Restart count.
In regards to port monitoring, Site24x7 monitors critical performance parameters like CPU utilization and the in and out traffic statistics for individual ports. The latter will help you better prioritize your bandwidth allocation. There is also an alternative monitoring method. It involves creating a custom device template complete with the performance metrics you will be monitoring for any specific device as long as it has SNMP support. This is more effective since you only collect the data that you need.
This tool has the most alert methods I have probably seen in any monitoring software. These include email notifications, SMS, voice, RSS feeds, and push notifications. In addition, it uses graphs and well-articulated logs to help you find the exact problem with your ports. All the data can be viewed from a single interface which makes monitoring easier. For those organizations with big expectations for growth then you will be pleased to hear that this Switch Port Monitor can be scaled to monitor thousands of network devices.
5. Spiceworks Switch Port Monitor
My last recommendation for Switch Port Monitoring is the Spiceworks Switch Port Monitor. A very basic tool but one with all the features to help you keep track of your switches. It monitors the ports in real time and will alert you if it identifies a port causing an issue to the network. By monitoring only specific ports, it becomes easier to narrow down I/O or network saturation problems and fix them before they become a problem to the user.
A good thing about this tool is that they already have preset threshold conditions for the various metrics such as offline ports, overloaded ports and high bandwidth consumption which saves you a lot of configuration work. The conditions have been derived from the millions of users using Spiceworks which makes them credible. But you will still be able to adjust the threshold for specific ports if the need arises. This way you don’t have to receive alerts for non-threatening problems.