Data Analysis in Real-Time Makes Network Excellence Possible – Despite COVID-19
By Rick Aguirre
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, even the best funded businesses face uncertain financial futures. Compounding the economic ambiguity is the wholesale scattering of office work to remote locations. This has only underscored the necessity of efficient, reliable and safe communications between customers, employees and locations. Today’s enterprises rely on a plethora of different network services to ensure communications, including wireless, wireline and cable networks, but ultimately the responsibility of the Quality of the Service (QoS) belongs to the enterprise. Each of these organizations needs a comprehensive Service Assurance, Network Monitoring platform to ensure productivity of employees and satisfaction of the experience for each of the customers.
Amid so much pandemic volatility, a glitchy, unreliable network could further hamper productivity among companies’ newly dispersed workforces. Or network issues might end up tarnishing a web seller’s reputation at the worst possible time, precisely when customers sheltering at home need the seller’s products.
So, what should businesses that operate a network do? How do they attain and maintain network excellence despite dispersed workforces or a sudden pandemic-driven surge in online browsing and buying activity?
Cirries strongly recommends data analysis in real time, or DART for short.
Cutting through the Noise
In network performance monitoring, not all data is created equal. Some types of data are a lot more helpful and pertinent than other kinds. These data types may consist of NetFlow data, packet data, device/machine data, application data, user behavior data, and more, but the relevance of different network data depends on what business KPIs an organization wants to track and measure and how network performance has bearing on these business outcomes.
As much as 80 percent of the data flowing across a network is simply network noise and can translate into a costly loss of efficiency when trying to isolate only the essential data for monitoring and analysis. According to the 2018 Kaggle ML and Data Science Survey, data analysts, data scientists, and data engineers spend an average of just 11.9 percent of their work time actually finding and communicating insights from data. Instead, they devote the overwhelming majority of their business hours wading through the data deluge to find, clean, and otherwise prepare data for analysis. In the specific case of network analysts, organizations simply are not getting full value for the average of $76,647 that they spend on annual salaries for this position.
But organizations that leverage DART by Cirries to discern data relevance free up hours of their analysts’ time, which they instead can dedicate to identifying actionable insights from the data that matters. Real-time data analysis is the foundation of top-notch network performance, in addition to the many other advantages that timely data analysis holds for enterprises and other network operators.
DART for pandemic network excellence
Today’s networks, however, continue to increase in complexity, obscuring the data that enterprises and other network operators need. Networks today blend existing and new hardware and software, as well as private and public clouds.
Most existing tools and metrics simply are not capable of providing complete visibility into network activities. Such tools are device or protocol focused, and thus do not provide a holistic overview into what’s happening across the entire network. Nor do they take into account all of the disparate devices attached to the network or the varying applications running on it.
Today’s networks require something more, and that something is DART. Cirries developed DART to provide robust, comprehensive network visibility that fills in the gaps left by other tools. Because it is software-based, DART is capable of monitoring software-defined infrastructures like the ones from cloud-based applications providers. Instead of being confined to the stack or siloed into one organizational department, DART is unified and data-driven. It represents a big paradigm shift in network performance monitoring that must transpire to keep up with the changes in networks.
As one example of this shift, pandemic-scattered workers may decide to use an unvetted app they found on the web to help get their jobs done in a new and hectic environment. If the organization’s network monitoring tool cannot take into account cloud-based software, the business is blind to any problems that app may inject into the network. That could lead to big problems.
Pull the plug on network problems
DART enables network managers to identify and resolve trouble almost as soon as it starts. DART tracks all network traffic and all application transactions as they occur (in real time). DART produces hundreds of detailed metrics on voice, video, and application performance. It detects network bottlenecks, application latency, and web application issues.
DART gathers these performance metrics from network packet sensors and metadata sensors, then processes and stores them in a centralized time-series database. This setup helps establish a baseline of overall network and application performance.
That baseline then enables network and IT professionals to know their networks. Moreover, they use DART to set up customized and changeable parameters that automatically trigger notifications of network and application/server trends and anomalies right as the events take place. Forget waiting days, weeks or even months for network performance reports. Outdated network performance reports are not only potentially misleading sources of data for network management decision-making, but they also leave organizations vulnerable to regulatory and legal issues.
Experts have warned that cyber attackers are ready to exploit the distraction of a pandemic to try to infiltrate a network to steal precious data. But if organizations have a network performance baseline with continuous real-time data monitoring, it automatically spots anomalies in network behavior right away that need further investigation. DART then sends alerts and even suggests possible problem resolutions, all based on benchmarks that are specific to each organization.
Keep employees busy and customers happy
The ability to leverage data-driven automations to maintain strong performance, safety, and security of networks and data is a key advantage of using DART. Shortfalls in network performance can have far-reaching consequences that impact both customers and employees.
Businesses’ reliance on networks for employee productivity is even more pronounced during this vastly expanded remote workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Network related disruptions can bring to a standstill the extra phone calls and video meetings that an entirely remote staff requires. Jittery VoIP calls with sound drops and delays and frequently freezing video conferences test the morale of team members. Even worse, when these meetings gone haywire involve customers, technical issues can potentially result in lost revenue opportunity.
Sometimes network snafus result from capacity; there simply is not the bandwidth to handle sudden unprecedented gigabyte-consuming network demands of increased video conferencing. But it also could be issues beyond bandwidth. Maybe there is an incompatibility between the video meeting app and the network firewall or other security measures. Perhaps it is a problem with a router. Whatever and wherever the network issues, organizations need to make video conferencing work right now when workers are remote due to the pandemic. They need DART to uncover the problem immediately so that network engineers can correct it.
On the customer front, online shoppers still expect a smooth experience browsing a website or quick transaction completion, despite the global health crisis. Given that many other businesses have been forced to rely exclusively on ecommerce to financially sustain themselves, retail customers are much more apt to defect to competitors’ online stores than to endure slow-loading or failed apps, or glitchy websites. DART enables online sellers to detect and fix retail website problems before they lose customers for good.
After the pandemic subsides, most employees will eventually go back to the office, and customers will gradually resume brick and mortar shopping. Even so, the need for DART is constant. To a far greater extent than before the crisis, businesses cannot afford negative financial or reputational consequences of poorly performing networks. DART will help organizations maintain their reputations and productivity through network excellence