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Packet level vs. flow based network tools

Can someone tell me if they are using packet level or flow tools for network management/monitoring?

I know that packet level is more expensive given the added hardware, but do the benefits outweigh the additional cost? An friend is looking at a few options for their organization but wanted to see if anyone had recomendations …


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benjamin breeland

Ms. Blaskowsky,

If your friend has the ability to control the type of traffic flowing through the network and had the ability to configure network devices, the best choice is a packet level tool. However, if your friend is like most of us – need to exhaust all application problems before the network people listen – then a monitoring (flow tool) is the best option. Monitoring the performance of an application using flow tools works very well, costs a lot less, and looks at the results – the application is slower than normal for a Friday. The key to the flow tool is establishing a baseline. One must know what a good day looks like so it is possible to determine when there is a problem. If the application is already broken (always slow and no one knows why) – go with a packet level tool. Otherwise, save the money you would spend on a packet level solution and implement a good flow control tool and monitor the performance (real-time and historical) of all application components. This way one recognizes performance patterns and problem components.