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What is Network Visibility: Complete Guide for Starters

At a time when network security and monitoring are of utmost significance due to rising data volumes and rising cybersecurity concerns, most enterprises want complete network visibility. Despite this increased need, many businesses fail to meet their network visibility objectives. For instance, network blind spots have become a significant issue for businesses. Approximately 67%, of businesses, see network blind spots as one of the greatest obstacles they encounter when attempting to secure data.

Half of all companies lack the knowledge necessary to detect possible cyber threats. Almost 40 percent of businesses lack a fully implemented, comprehensive method or procedure to detect, notify, and react to a security breach.

To develop strong network security and allow network security solutions to function as intended, organizations must install robust visibility solutions that give real-time access to all network traffic and the appropriate data. A robust visibility architecture built for continuous, real-time network monitoring is required to provide this data to security tools safely and efficiently.

The gathering, consolidation, dissemination, and analysis of data traffic flows inside and across a network is known as network visibility.

Network visibility enables big enterprises to more effectively resolve technical difficulties. With network visibility, IT teams may exert a high level of control over network traffic, applications, network performance, data analytics, and network resources. Thus, they may make educated judgments about data security and traffic.

About seventy-five percent of firms agree that they need to increase their network visibility to better enable network security, and knowing what it is and how it might assist is the first step.

In this article, we'll cover what network visibility is, why it is important, how you can achieve complete network visibility, best practices and challenges of network visibility, evaluation of network visibility technologies, and how network visibility differs from network monitoring and network observability. Also, you will find the top network visibility solutions available on the market and the best open-source network monitoring tools.

What Does Network Visibility Mean?

Network visibility is the knowledge of the data and components inside a corporate computer network. Often, the phrase refers to the numerous methods used by businesses to boost their knowledge of their data and other network content by being aware of everything inside and traversing the corporate network. Consequently, it necessitates efficient and scalable data gathering, aggregation, distribution, and delivery.

Taking a proactive approach to network visibility enables businesses to more effectively monitor network traffic and performance. In addition, it serves as the basis for a robust network security architecture. Network visibility enables businesses to have more control over their networks and make more informed choices about data security and flow. The more comprehensive, proactive, and widespread your network visibility is, the more control you have over your network data and the better choices you can make about the flow and security of that data.

Network visibility enables users to:

  • Identify network vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
  • Determine where network traffic originates and where it goes.
  • Know where the company's data resides and how it is used.
  • Determine the software in use on the network.
  • Determine what typical and aberrant user behaviors are.

Why is Network Visibility Important?

All networks are inherently susceptible to security risks and attacks that are becoming more complex and sophisticated. The objective is to immediately recognize the dangers and hazards and to take appropriate action.

Network visibility enables enterprises to have a greater understanding of the behavior of traffic on their networks, hence enhancing the networks' efficacy, performance, and security. The rising quantity and diversity of data carried by conventional corporate networks make network visibility an increasingly vital concern.

There are several reasons why organizations should seek an end-to-end picture of the health and operating state of their networks:

  • Network Performance Troubleshooting: In many instances, application performance is correlated with network performance. When applications operate slowly or cease to function, you need real-time network diagnostics to identify the underlying problem. Visibility may improve your capacity to resolve issues as they happen. A suitable visibility solution enables you to rapidly isolate the problematic user, application, geolocation, and device, allowing you to quickly identify and rectify the issue.
  • Network Protection and Security: The greatest benefit of enhancing network visibility is the security boost it delivers. Better network visibility permits closer monitoring of network traffic for malicious activity and possible network security threats. For instance, it is easier to identify when an illegal user obtains access to the network, enabling security mechanisms to react promptly. The same holds for identifying malware concealed inside encrypted network traffic, which is essentially a must nowadays as more and more businesses use SSL/TLS to secure their communications. When it comes to network security, being reactive rather than proactive is one of the main errors network administrators make when attempting to get comprehensive visibility. This may be particularly difficult when monitoring endpoints for protection and detection in both on-premises and cloud settings. Instead, network administrators should make use of an effective network visibility architecture by proactively scanning for possible threats or suspicious activities on a network to identify concerns before they become a bigger problem. To stay relevant, protection needs continual upgrades and adjustments. If you're not proactively and continuously monitoring network traffic with total visibility, you're leaving your organization vulnerable to cyber threats. However, no security system is flawless, and security breaches may still occur. In the case of a breach, enhanced network visibility may reduce the effort, time, and expense associated with mitigating the incident by accelerating the time to detect and contain the threat.

  • Application Performance Monitoring and Reliability: You need applications to perform not only today but also in the future. Network-centric applications must be continually and accurately evaluated for performance and reliability. Multiple data centers, data encryption, advanced security and analytic tools, and international mobile users seeking fast access to apps and data have increased the complexity of modern networks. Visibility may assist network administrators to comprehend how network problems impact data per application. A manager may utilize configuration approaches, including quality of service(QoS) and traffic policing and shaping, to optimize these vital data flows for mission-critical applications. Visibility may then confirm that the performance tweaks are effective or determine when more configuration adjustments are required.

  • Proactive Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) Monitoring: There are a rising number of sites and platforms to monitor, each with its SLA, due to the increasing usage of cloud environments for many of today's mission-critical corporate applications. If you proactively monitor these sites, you can guarantee that operations are functioning smoothly and complying with SLA standards.

  • Business Growth: In reality, network visibility may contribute to your company's growth in both the present and future. With complete network visibility, you can quickly discover patterns and determine where and how your network data is expanding. This enables you to prepare for future development and avoid a time of playing catch-up, which may be detrimental to business transformation initiatives like data and big data analytics, cloud adoption, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Effective network visibility enables the expansion of your network and company.

  • Bandwidth Management: It gives you the ability to monitor and manage people, devices, and apps. If you have a larger number of workers or apps on your network, network visibility will allow you to monitor their access and alter it properly. With a deeper understanding of bandwidth use, you may formulate a more effective quality of service strategy.

  • Minimized Downtime: A comprehensive picture of your network enables you to pinpoint the origin of any issue, hence minimizing network downtime. Visibility allows you to investigate issues before they impact the network.

  • Enhanced Network Efficiency: Recent rapid growth in remote work has contributed to the expansion and complexity of networks, which may result in setup challenges and network performance concerns. Visibility simplifies the identification of traffic bottlenecks, bandwidth issues, and unresponsive hosts, as well as the minimization of delay and network optimization.

How to Achieve Complete Visibility of Your Network?

Here are the principles you can follow to achieve complete network visibility in your IT infrastructure:

  • Reliable and Efficient Data Collection: Using automated technologies to collect and analyze essential data is a simple and cost-effective method for gaining visibility, regardless of the size of your organization. Networks generate a great deal of data, and it is wasteful to filter through it all manually. Networks generate a large amount of data, which is inefficient to sort manually. Using a tool eliminates monotony. On the market, there are several threat monitoring systems, each with unique features and capabilities. Numerous cyber security systems depend on text-based logs for information and analysis; nevertheless, this methodology has drawbacks. They do not give you the depth of information required to comprehend or evaluate everything occurring on your network. In addition, threat actors might alter logs before their generation or remove them after an attack to conceal harmful activities from the target network. To improve network visibility, seek a cyber security technology that goes beyond logging to provide a deeper insight into network activity. However, network visibility involves more than just gathering and storing massive amounts of data in a single area. Enhanced visibility also relies on the identification and analysis of threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Risk Assessment: Analysis is the second stage in attaining network visibility. The objective is to identify significant patterns, distinguish the extraordinary from the ordinary, and obtain the data in an easily consumable manner. However, many threat monitoring and detection solutions have difficulty with this. They fail to remove false positives, which are warnings that mistakenly imply the presence of a vulnerability or malicious behavior, or label harmless activity as suspicious. False positives reduce or obscure network visibility, divert attention away from critical regions, and may lead to alert fatigue.
  • Contextual and Simple-to-Understand Notifications: Network visibility requires an accurate understanding of what is wrong - vulnerabilities, cyber attacks, and other problems- and how to fix them. It is crucial how conclusions and data are delivered to you. After receiving an alert, it is essential to know the following actions via the use of clear, simple language. Since not every company has access to a fully staffed team of knowledgeable cyber security experts. Tools that send warnings without providing context for what is occurring and why are impractical. It is not always apparent what action to take when an alert states, for example:

"Incomplete login session on 11.22.33.44 at 5:24 am"

Businesses want additional information and insights into what is occurring on their network and the necessary countermeasures. Something like that would be much more useful and give better clarity:

"Thousands of remote IP addresses have launched a persistent brute-force attack against the Remote Desktop Service on DESKTOP-PC20 (10.10.20.20)". It is recommended to isolate this system from the Internet and adopt a VPN-based remote access solution. Continue reading for additional instructions or contact our specialists for more help. " Tools that reduce noise during analysis and provide meaning for alarms may help you save time, prevent fatigue, and comprehend your network.

What are the Top Network Visibility Tools?

You can monitor network performance, traffic, big data analytics, and controlled resources using network visibility solutions. There are three deployment methods for network visibility tools:

  • Network Packet Brokers (NPB): An NPB is a network monitoring tool that collects data from many sources and sends it to network operations, application operations, and security managers through the network. They lessen the burden of network security technologies such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), which may be overwhelmed by voluminous amounts of data. Using context-aware data processing, they organize and transmit data to security and monitoring systems. They optimize the input received by other security technologies so that they may make more informed judgments. A quality NPB is high-performing and scalable for expanding corporate networks.
  • TAPs: These are hardware devices put into the network at precise places to enable testing and troubleshooting access to network traffic. It creates a copy of network traffic and delivers that duplicate to another network instrument without affecting network traffic flow. They have physical restrictions, such as a restricted number of ports, since they are hardware appliances. Occasionally referred to as bypass switches.
  • SD-WAN: SD-WANs replace the previous, appliance-centric approach to visibility with a software-defined one. Instead of an on-premises device, network traffic is routed via a managed cloud service, which enhances performance and security by decreasing network complexity and bypassing the inherent limits of physical equipment such as conventional firewalls. It maintains visibility while providing a secure connection to cloud apps.

In only a few short years, the business network performance monitoring industry has witnessed significant transformations.

With the aid of new data sources, methodologies, and AI, the network monitoring tools of the past are only able to deliver a fraction of what the technologies of today can. The developments are so compelling that many companies are replacing network performance monitoring(NPM) with new marketing terms such as network analytics and artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps).

While some vendors continue to target smaller organizations with their conventional NPM tools, the vast majority are adapting to solve the performance issues that bigger enterprises confront as a result of the rising need for dependable network services. The growth of NPM is also bringing fresh performance monitoring and analytics competition to a market that includes both established providers and startups with specialized skills on bespoke platforms.

Commonly, vendors provide managed services as "visibility solutions" that integrate a number of the aforementioned and other capabilities. The following are examples of network visibility suppliers and their respective tools:

Top network visibility solutions are as follows:

  1. Niagara Networks: provides TAPs, packet brokers, and its Open Visibility Platform for hosting virtualized security and network applications.
  2. Gigamon: provides both physical and virtual TAPs and aggregation nodes.
  3. Keysight: provides network packet brokers and network TAPs for visibility into physical and software-defined networks.
  4. Forescout
  5. Cisco
  6. Appdynamics
  7. AWS
  8. Cubro

What are the Best Open Source Network Monitoring Tools ?

When searching for monitoring solutions, there are several free and open-source network monitoring programs available. The best open-source network monitoring software is listed below:

  1. Zabbix
  2. Prometheus
  3. Graphite
  4. Monitorix
  5. LibreNMS
  6. Nagios Core
  7. Icinga
  8. Cacti
  9. Zeek

What are the Best Practices for Network Visibility?

A suitable architecture for network visibility should be sustainable, scalable, and flexible.

  • Sustainability: The technologies employed in a visibility architecture must be readily upgradable to meet increased network speeds and newer network components.
  • Scalability: Network visibility solutions should be able to manage increased network connection speeds and the resulting rise in packet volume, as well as the overall scale of the network, including the addition of new infrastructure and geographic locations.
  • Flexibility: Technologies should be adaptable and able to automatically adjust to network changes. Therefore, maintenance and update cycles occur less often.

The following are examples of best practices for developing and sustaining network visibility architectures:

  • Packet Access Method Selection: In addition to selecting the source of packets for analysis and monitoring, administrators must determine which packets are monitored and how. Test access points (TAPs) for passive monitoring and SPAN ports on network switches for port mirroring are common alternatives. TAPs often impose little stress on the infrastructure, but they do introduce a minor but important security flaw into the network. SPANs are seen as more adaptable than TAPs, however, they have performance and bandwidth constraints.
  • Virtual Infrastructure Accommodation: To accommodate cloud and mobile in a network, specific technologies may be needed, which pose additional visibility difficulties that typical visibility techniques fail to detect.
  • Packet Source Determination: Instead of connecting to and monitoring every packet source, network managers should concentrate on gathering data from certain network nodes that provide the greatest insight into other nodes. This reduces the amount of unnecessary data, allowing other network technologies to operate effectively.
  • Passive vs. Active Deployment Technologies: Administrators may choose between a passive strategy that delivers basic performance insights and an active one that enables administrators to rearrange traffic flow utilizing visibility technologies.

What are the Network Visibility Challenges for Organizations?

Trends in technology are creating new chances for firms to compete in the current global economy. In addition, these patterns make it difficult to detect and comprehend the enterprise's incoming and outgoing traffic. Network visibility is becoming a major issue for businesses because of cloud and mobile blindspots. Seeing all the traffic on an MPLS network gives a company a false feeling of security. Problems arise due to the current combination of MPLS, Internet VPNs, mobile users, and cloud services in company WANs. These conditions make it impossible to monitor the whole WAN using typical monitoring tools. Listed below are some typical and particular obstacles businesses encounter while preserving network visibility:

  • Complex systems: Modern networks include an array of network monitoring and analysis technologies, including firewalls, data loss prevention (DLP), intrusion prevention and detection systems(IPS/IDS), and antimalware software. As networks get more sophisticated and more network segments must be accounted for, it becomes increasingly challenging to link these pieces effectively while preserving performance and making all data available.
  • Blind Areas for Visibility: While the cloud and mobile provide significant performance benefits, they also create blind spots in a network's visibility architecture. The effect of virtualization on the company is an increase in "east-west" traffic, which consists of data traveling between virtual resources on the same physical host or between blades on the same server. Traditional techniques of viewing traffic as it travels down a network cable between two physical sites are insufficient for monitoring virtual traffic. You implement a software-based virtual tap to monitor inter-VM traffic and transmit it to your monitoring tools to remedy this issue. The cloud computing movement, encompassing private, public, and hybrid clouds, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service(PaaS), has also been enabled by virtualization. Scalability and resource allocation control are important benefits shared by virtualization and the cloud. Nonetheless, when enterprises transfer workloads from data centers to public clouds, it becomes more difficult to detect and monitor data flows, resulting in the emergence of new blind spots. In addition, organizations use many cloud environments and cloud applications. According to Verizon's 2016 State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud 2016 research, more than forty percent of firms are currently using five or more cloud providers, while Okta's 2016 [email protected] study indicated that the typical business employs between ten and sixteen public cloud applications. Although the cloud provides unparalleled flexibility, it also compels businesses to expand their conventional network perimeter, often into areas where they have neither sight nor control. These blind spots may quickly become havens for security dangers hiding in the shadows.
  • Remote Workforces: Customers and workers are no longer chained to workplaces, and they demand access to apps and data from any location, on any device, at any time. Virtual private networks (VPNs) allow workers to safely operate from a distant location, but at the expense of the visibility offered by on-premises employee technology. Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) provides a remedy for this issue. Many businesses let mobile users connect directly to the cloud, which reduces visibility. The network perimeter, long firmly delineated by a firewall between the workplace network and the Internet, is eroding as users grow more mobile and the company conducts more business in the cloud. Without a defined boundary, it is more difficult to detect all enterprise-impacting network flows. Many standard network monitoring technologies and security controls, such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), are less effective in the cloud (SNMP). This is because they may have been set for on-premises networks before the advent of cloud computing and cannot now be adapted to the new network type.
  • Visibility Tool Restrictions: Typically, visibility is maintained and managed by a collection of network visibility technologies, each of which has its own distinct functions and constraints. Modern network switches, for instance, provide just a few switched port analyzer (SPAN) ports. They are also tethered to physical or virtual site-specific devices such as Next-generation Firewalls (NGFWs), Secure Web Gateways (SWGs), and Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliances. Appliances must be procured, supplied, and maintained for each site in the WAN. The alternative is to backhaul all traffic to a central point on the WAN for inspection, which introduces delay and negatively affects performance. To put it another way, the appliance-based approach to network monitoring and security doesn't function well on a large network. The more devices a company has, the more difficult it is to maintain a network. A hardware update is required to examine and analyze more traffic than is currently possible with an appliance's built-in capabilities. Aside from being supplied and put into use, appliances must be maintained, patched, and finally replaced. A patchwork of apps, firmware upgrades, and rules might develop as the organization expands. A lack of network visibility and possible security risks as a result of oversight or policy variances across locations are the consequences. Existing tools may become less effective as a result of an upgrade to the physical network architecture since they may lack the processing power for increased network bandwidth and throughput. Also, network performance monitoring systems might get overwhelmed when given incomprehensible or excessive amounts of data.
  • Encrypted Data: A significant proportion of current network traffic is encrypted, which makes visibility more challenging. Google announced that approximately 80% of its global traffic was encrypted during the first quarter of 2016. Sadly, attackers also use SSL encryption to conceal threats and attack activity. Thus, businesses may no longer indiscriminately pass SSL-encrypted communication without scrutiny on their internal networks. Incoming and outgoing SSL traffic before it reaches its ultimate destination to detect risks and hazards, such as regulatory compliance violations, data leaks, malware, intrusion attempts, and attack communications.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): Lastly, the IoT trend has created a new market for billions of "smart, connected" devices and products, including security cameras, smart thermometers, appliances, and automobiles, that are connected to the Internet and collect, store, transmit, and share massive amounts of data. Many of these IoT devices will use novel computing models, such as mobile edge computing (MEC) and "fog" computing, to further expand the network's perimeter. Sadly, in the competition to be the first to market, security in a number of these gadgets and goods is often neglected or, at best, an afterthought. IoT will be a major data generator. By 2020, according to Gartner, there were 26 billion deployed IoT devices, and IoT product and service vendors earned additional revenue surpassing $300 billion, mostly from services. Users must adopt open standards that provide data access, security monitoring, and performance analytics for IoT to flourish.

How Does Network Visibility Affect Your Network Security?

A business network is enticing to threat actors, and as a result, the possibility of large-scale, destructive breaches increases every day. As a result of the unprecedented degrees of digitization being applied by organizations throughout the globe and the growing complexity of cybercrime, cyberattacks may take many different forms. Without detection, threat actors may simply exploit blind spots to move laterally across the network or misuse access privileges.

According to McKinsey's research, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital adoption by the equivalent of five years in only eight weeks. As the threat environment evolves and expands, new technologies have heightened the difficulty of network security for businesses across all industries.

Implementing a strong network security foundation that can support an organization's future success is essential if it is to be able to focus on smooth, continuous commercial development.

Comprehensive network visibility is essential for a successful cybersecurity strategy and a single pane of glass perspective is the only way to identify and react to sophisticated persistent threats quickly (APTs). Without this, malware may swiftly propagate and avoid detection by conventional security technologies, inflicting significant and possibly irreversible harm.

When it comes to identifying and reacting to malicious network activity, time is of the essence. Cyber attacks and risks, both internal and external, must be discovered as soon as possible to reduce or prevent harm and guarantee that firms can capture additional value from recent digitization initiatives.

This lack of visibility allows attacks to begin inside the security perimeter of an organization and gain wide network access. For instance, a malicious privileged user might misuse their access, or an attacker with genuine access credentials could move laterally across the network undetected. The issue, however, extends beyond the network's perimeter. With limited insight into network security risks that need monitoring outside the perimeter, such as in the cloud, organizations face difficulties.

No longer is the capacity to detect adequate on its own. Organizations must avoid, identify, react to, and manage risks to secure their company's important data, maintain corporate expansion, and defend their brand.

Network data is often the early sign of a security breach, but without visibility into the necessary data, enterprises are unable to identify the issue and take corrective action. Advances in centralized, machine-based analytics make it feasible to identify network-borne threats more quickly and effectively, enabling businesses to detect the existence of hostile threat actors inside a network more precisely.

SIEM operates by examining logs from all network components. Any log from a network-accessible service or application may include crucial information about current risks. SIEM can view all relevant logs and combine their information into security analytics when the network is completely visible.

Poorly maintained portable devices, such as cellphones, pose a security concern. Their owners may have been negligent and let malware and spyware infect their gadgets. Network visibility enables managers to assess whether a user's behavior conforms with regulations and indicates harmful behavior.

Hybrid machine learning (ML) and rules-based detection analytics may provide a comprehensive perspective and dependable network detection and response (NDR) solution. An NDR solution is a specialized network security system that identifies sophisticated network-borne threats in real-time and includes security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) capabilities.

An NDR solution offers a complete collection of modules, dashboards, and processes that allow enterprises to avoid, detect, react to, and contain APTs with fewer resources.

  • Prevent: An NDR solution enables security teams to implement and maintain a security operations maturity model across the internal and external systems of their company. They get the tools necessary to become more attentive against attacks in remote and hybrid work settings, with security compliance at all susceptible touchpoints.
  • Detect: An NDR solution swiftly removes blind spots by enhancing threat detection with sophisticated models and machine learning, hence reducing false positives. Organizations may see abnormalities throughout their entire data footprint, providing them with real-time threat awareness.
  • Respond: An NDR system enables companies to get more relevant warnings with context, enabling investigators to make quicker, more effective conclusions. With the touch of a button, security teams may quarantine endpoints, disable network access, suspend users, and terminate processes.

With an NDR solution, security teams may reduce potential damage and disruption by receiving the intelligence and assistance necessary to determine the kind of attack to take prompt action. This enables teams to assess rapidly which essential business systems have been infiltrated, what data has been damaged, and whether any unauthorized access points remain.

With the proper security operations platform in place, companies may obtain a better awareness of their weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and consequent exposure to network-borne threats to improve their overall security posture and threat resistance.

Once an organization is equipped with the proper data to identify a network danger and the appropriate solution to eliminate it, network protection becomes feasible. NDR enables real-time detection of lateral movement, exfiltration, virus compromise, ransomware, and other threats.

How Zenarmor Can Help You with Network Visibility?

Zenarmor is a next-generation firewall that can in deployed on your premise or any cloud. It may be implemented on bare metal running a FreeBSD-based system, such as OPNsense or pfSense, or a Linux-based system, such as RHEL server or Ubuntu, or on a cloud platform, such as AWS or Google Cloud Platform, and administered using Zenconsole.

In addition to providing a bird's-eye view of network activity, Zenarmor's robust reporting functionality enables you to simply produce reports for analysis and compliance. The reports combine and facilitate the visualization of all network security telemetry. Beginning with a presentation of the enterprise-level overview, users may dig down to get information on each relationship.

Due to the vast amount of data, analyzing the information provided by multiple firewalls, even on a firewall-by-firewall basis, may be arduous and challenging. Due to this, there is a high probability that critical alerts may be missed or disregarded. Similar to how Central Policy Management enables you to feed all of your reports to a single instance devoted to a project, the Zenarmor Cloud Central Management feature enables you to do the same for reports. This enables you to do your analysis starting with a high-level, comprehensive perspective and then diving as deeply as feasible for particular firewalls and even network connections.

The Zenarmor features that provide you complete network visibility are summarized below:

  • Rich Reporting: Zenarmor provides network security professionals with six preconfigured report kinds and over sixty of the most demanding, instructive, and useful charts. You may also create new customized reports for additional periods and metrics, such as session, packet, and volume, according to your needs. At various points in time, it is possible to get a summary of network traffic data and threat activity sessions. With Zenarmor's reporting capabilities, you can uncover network security flaws throughout your whole network in minutes. Additionally, you may go deeper into the website's data by clicking on any of the presented charts and then filtering the data. It will be applied immediately to all charts. When searching for risks, drill-down filtering is quite beneficial.
  • Optional Database Types: The following reporting database types are supported:
    • Elasticsearch: Elasticsearch is favored by large enterprises that can be implemented locally and remotely.
    • MongoDB: MongoDB is suitable for SMBs with average system resources.
    • SQLite: SQLite provides enterprise-level network security for smaller contexts. By enabling SQLite (the most popular database engine in the world) on a firewall node, it is possible to eliminate the need for expensive network security gear. SQLite is a lightweight database that delivers all of the comprehensive analytics and reporting tools required in a home or small office setting, as well as all of the benefits of being a lightweight database in comparison to the alternative MongoDB backend.
  • DNS Enrichment: Zenarmor supports several DNS enrichment options for report generation. By setting a DNS server for reverse IP lookups, hostnames for reports may be resolved. Enabling real-time DNS reverse queries will enable you to determine the hostname of each IP address on your local network.
  • Live Sessions: Zenarmor offers the Live Sessions functionality. On the Live Session page, extensive connection logs are shown in a sortable format. This view is useful for gaining an insight into the activities presently occurring on your network.
  • Time-based Reports: At different time intervals, you may review a summary of your network's traffic data and threat activity sessions. Using the reporting tools of Zenarmor, you can readily identify network security vulnerabilities across your network.
  • Application Awareness: Zenarmor NGFW provides network traffic awareness at the application level without the need to install multiple appliances. It offers organizations infinite scalability and comprehensive traffic inspection.
  • Identity Awareness: Zenarmor's identity-aware engine allows for business-centric network visibility. To optimize network planning, the IT team can see activity and network flows at the group, host, and user levels.
  • Threat Detection and Response Management: Zero-footprint network visibility may be achieved using Zenarmor, which gathers information for all LAN and Internet traffic without the need for network probes to be deployed.

Is Network Visibility Different from Network Monitoring and Observability?

There is considerable overlap between network observability and the more common words "network monitoring" and/or "network visibility," but network observability has a separate meaning and application. Let's examine this in-depth for the benefit of any network administrator who may be puzzled.

What is the Difference Between Network Visibility and Network Monitoring?

To track network device health, network monitoring entails collecting certain metrics such as NetFlow, SNMP, or packet data. It responds to precise queries on the performance of certain devices, such as "is this node overloaded?". Monitoring is reactive because the IT team must choose what and where to monitor during setup. They must choose where to install probes on the network or which devices to gather metrics from. Monitoring all these separate portions becomes more challenging as the network becomes more complicated, particularly with the rising usage of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and public and private clouds.

Monitoring is likewise restricted since it only monitors the items it is designed to monitor and does not provide a comprehensive picture of the network. IT will have a blind spot if a problem emerges in a section where monitoring has not been set up. More blind areas indicate a less comprehensive view. Furthermore, correlating and making sense of the acquired data from numerous network parts is a formidable problem. This results in a problem known as "watermelon dashboards", in which the monitoring tool's reports are all green yet consumers continue to report bad service experiences (green on the outside, red on the inside).

Monitoring tools (such as packet brokers and network TAPs) play a crucial role in network visibility and observability solutions as the "plumbing" that collects and feeds the data upon which these more complicated solutions depend.

Network visibility is the outcome of effective monitoring; network monitoring provides the IT team with visibility. It entails having a deeper grasp of everything that is occurring on the network. There can be no blind areas where problems might go undiscovered; visibility must be complete. Visibility also needs comprehensive data, such as complete packet captures, in addition to NetFlow and log data. Monitoring tools such as packet brokers are essential components of network visibility systems. However, network visibility also requires packet capture and storage capabilities, as well as the capacity to acquire network data from public cloud installations and SaaS apps. This emphasis on extensive, detailed data from all network components distinguishes visibility from monitoring.

The security team is often interested in network visibility since they want access to whole packet data to check for malware signatures and unusual activity, as well as perform threat hunting. Visibility of the network is essential for an effective Network Detection and Response (NDR) system. Visibility allows the Network Security Operations (NetSecOps) IT discipline to develop.

What is the Difference Between Network Visibility and Network Observability?

Research published by Gartner in 2020 characterized network observability as:

"the evolution of monitoring into a process that offers insight into digital business applications, speeds up innovation, and enhances customer experience".

Saying that a network is "observable" indicates that IT teams can quickly comprehend how the network affects the services and experiences that rely on it. This is the all-encompassing, comprehensive perspective. Typically, network observability measurements concentrate on the overall connection and the end-user experience rather than the individual devices along the path.

The primary objective of network observability is to proactively identify network dependencies or faults before they impact users or services. Then, if necessary, the IT team may investigate further using the network visibility measures in place. Observability may also be automated or made intelligent by layering machine learning and big data analysis methods on top of visibility solutions' comprehensive networking data. Numerous CIOs and CISOs are interested in this goal. Observability also opens the path for AIOps, where the resolution of network problems is totally automated. Instead of depending on the NetOps team to detect troubleshooting difficulties, an observability solution is distinguished by its ability to identify them automatically.

Increased usage of cloud and SaaS applications has shown the limitations of conventional network monitoring, which has led to a rise in demand for observability. There was no method for IT teams to view the packets going between their cloud-hosted apps when the three main public cloud providers were previously invisible. Monitoring tools embedded within the public cloud only provide a partial view of the situation. Observability solutions contribute to the demand for a multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud perspective on the network.

Modern network infrastructures are scattered and complicated. Identifying the cause of problems quickly and correctly, especially if they are outside of the typical tech stack, remains a key challenge for IT teams. Observability for the network is gaining popularity because it promises to alleviate this difficulty. Successful network observability may deliver considerable value to the business in the form of decreased Mean Time to Resolution, more productive workers, and more satisfied customers, as well as more time for the IT staff to devote to other initiatives.

The History and Evolution of Network Visibility

In the past, troubleshooting required entering into network devices individually to go through logs. Luckily, SNMP was established in the late 1980s, allowing engineers to remotely manage network equipment. It rapidly evolved into a method for collecting and managing information about gadgets. It represented the beginning of network visibility.

In 1995, NetFlow, which allowed us to transfer network traffic data straight from our routers and switches to a centralized flow collector, was introduced. Flow data was a significant advancement in the sort of data we could gather since it enabled us to get information on program activity in addition to CPU and link use.

Then, we saw the first dashboards displaying SNMP alarms and network traffic statistics through vibrant bar graphs and pie charts. The fact is, this is where the industry halted temporarily. We became more adept at SNMP and flow analysis, graphs became more attractive, and menus were streamlined. However, it was a collection of SNMP traps and flow collectors behind the scenes.

This initial generation of network performance monitoring tools was mainly concerned with enhancing visibility into business networks and the server components connected to them. This includes basic agent and agentless network server and appliance monitoring capabilities. These technologies offered network professionals the optimal combination of visibility and alerting capabilities for the majority of corporate wired and wireless LANs (WLANs), wide area networks (WANs), and privately managed data networks at the time.

Today's requirements are somewhat different from those of the mid-1990s. As virtualization, IaaS, hybrid cloud, edge computing, and WAN connection choices advanced, it became evident that the data sources and methodologies utilized to give network health status information lacked visibility. Network visibility had to adapt since the technology for which visibility was required had changed. As a consequence, new network performance monitoring solutions include far more sophisticated deep packet inspection (DPI) and streaming network telemetry data collection and analysis capabilities into their entire platforms.

However, monitoring the functioning of network components is no longer sufficient. Today's enterprises want a more expansive, comprehensive, and intelligent picture of the health and performance of a broad range of end devices, apps, and SaaS-delivered services. Since these monitoring activities all begin and finish with the health of the network, the network team is ultimately responsible for monitoring all devices, applications, and service flows. This implies that numerous features of application performance monitoring have snuck into NPM systems, hence combining formerly distinct tasks.

In the meantime, the introduction of IoT technologies has necessitated a closer connection between performance and security monitoring, using advanced NPM tools. IT organizations must increasingly monitor and manage the performance and security health of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of autonomous Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that link to corporate and non-corporate controlled networks worldwide. Collecting data from numerous sources, including the network itself, is the most effective method for gaining insight into the health of these devices.

Modern network visibility platforms are beginning to use machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) by analyzing data from multiple sources to automate the identification, root cause analysis, and remediation steps deemed necessary to resolve performance-related and even security issues. This predictive analysis allows businesses to dramatically reduce the time required to identify and fix issues. This new degree of capability also demonstrates how the phrase " network performance monitoring" no longer adequately describes the capabilities of today's powerful and comprehensive performance analytics solutions.

The next stage in network visibility is network observability, which involves discovering correlations between data points, inferring visibility when it is difficult or impossible, and extracting meaning from data beyond linking an issue with a date. Given sufficient time, a committed team of engineers and data scientists may be able to do this, but network observability gets us there sooner and, theoretically, with more knowledge than a trained engineer could deliver. It answers the challenge of how to manage the vast quantity and diversity of network data that exists today.

Network observability does not replace traditional network visibility. Instead, network observability is founded on years of network visibility technology and the most up-to-date data kinds and methodologies. It automates correlation, conducts anomaly detection, gives actionable information, and explains not just that something is occurring on the network, but also why.