In an era where cyber attacks occur every 40 seconds and ransomware attacks, where hackers demand money to unlock your company’s files, are increasing by 400% each year. This means it's super important for your organization to protect its network.

But do you know if you're spending enough resources on checking how safe your network is? Is your network performing well enough to protect from cyber-attacks? Are you monitoring the performance of core network security devices like firewalls? Have you identified the most vulnerable assets, applications, and servers? Have you thought about how much money you might lose during system downtime?

These are big questions for every organization today. To find the answers, you need to get good at doing something called a network risk assessment.

What is A Risk Assessment in Networking
What is A Risk Assessment in Networking

Now, let's break down what a network risk assessment is all about. It's basically like giving your organization's network a check-up to see if it's healthy and safe from cyber threats. This thorough audit carefully examines every area of your network, from WAN to LAN, using several procedures and tests.

As a part of overall network assessment reports, the main goal of network risk audit is to find any weaknesses or pitfalls in how your network is set up.

Think of it as a detective job. You're looking for clues that could show where hackers might try to break in or where your network might be slow or not working properly.

A good network risk assessment looks at two main things: performance and security.

Performance is about how well your network is doing its job. Are things running smoothly, or are there problems like slow Internet or data getting stuck somewhere?

Security is all about keeping your network safe from bad guys. You want to make sure there are no holes or weaknesses that hackers could sneak through to steal information or mess things up.

network risk assessment

Moreover, most businesses just can’t afford to have their networks down from cyber threats due to huge financial and reputational risks. A stunning statistic from Gartner should pique the curiosity of everyone making choices for the organization: 98% of businesses estimate that even an hour of downtime can result in lost revenue of more than $100,000. An incredible 81% of responders stressed that the hourly cost grows to $300,000 or more.

Network Risk Assessment Process
Network Risk Assessment Process

In the realm of network risk assessment, it's essential to address both security and performance aspects to ensure the resilience of your organization's network infrastructure. Alongside vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, incorporating network performance monitoring as an additional process is vital to comprehensively evaluate and fortify network defences.

Network Performance Monitoring:

  • Network Performance Monitoring serves as a proactive approach to assess and optimize network performance.
  • By continuously monitoring network traffic, latency, packet loss, throughput, jitter, and device connectivity, organizations can identify potential bottlenecks or issues affecting performance.
  • This process provides valuable insights into the health and functionality of the network infrastructure, allowing for timely interventions to optimize performance and mitigate risks.
What is Network Performance Monitoring

Learn about network performance monitoring to optimize network performance. Discover key network metrics, tools & techniques & the benefits for businesses.

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Vulnerability Assessment:

  • A vulnerability assessment serves as a strategic tool for organizations to pinpoint and understand their weaknesses within the network infrastructure.
  • This assessment involves a comprehensive examination of potential vulnerabilities in software, configurations, and protocols that could be exploited by malicious actors.
  • Vulnerability assessments shed light on critical areas where security defences may be lacking, enabling organizations to prioritize remediation efforts effectively.

Penetration Testing:

  • Penetration testing, on the other hand, simulates real-world cyber-attacks or social engineering tactics, such as phishing or spear phishing.
  • By emulating the tactics and techniques employed by malicious actors, penetration tests provide insight into the effectiveness of network security defences under realistic threat scenarios.
  • These tests measure the resilience of network defences and gauge the potential impact of an attack on specific assets, helping organizations assess their readiness to withstand cyber threats.

Both vulnerability assessments and penetration testing play pivotal roles in evaluating the efficacy of network security defences and gauging the organization's preparedness to mitigate cyber risks. Together with network monitoring, they offer a comprehensive approach to identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, bolstering the resilience of the network infrastructure against evolving cyber threats.

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The Ultimate Network Risk Assessment Checklist
The Ultimate Network Risk Assessment Checklist

Now that we understand what a network risk assessment is all about, let's dive into its different parts. Think of these as the building blocks that help you understand and evaluate the performance and safety of your organization's network.

Network Performance Issues in Network Risk Assessment:
Network Performance Issues in Network Risk Assessment:

Network performance and security are intricately linked, seeing as the efficiency of a network directly influences its ability to withstand and respond to security threats. A poorly performing network, experiencing issues like high latency, packet loss, or congestion, can create vulnerabilities and opportunities for attackers to exploit.

For example, sluggish response times may slow down the detection of security threats, while congestion can potentially be exploited for denial-of-service attacks. A poorly optimized network may also struggle to enforce security measures effectively, such as intrusion detection and prevention systems.

On the other hand, a well-optimized network not only reduces the attack surface by addressing potential performance-related vulnerabilities but also enhances the effectiveness of security measures by facilitating timely and accurate threat detection and response. So, maintaining a balance between network performance and security is crucial for establishing a resilient and robust network infrastructure.

Performance issues are like roadblocks that slow down or disrupt the flow of data within your network. Here are some key things to look out for:

Bandwidth and Latency: This is like checking how fast and responsive your network is. Are there any bottlenecks or delays in data transmission?

Traffic Analysis: It's important to analyze the patterns of data traffic in your network. Are there any unusual spikes or congestion points that could indicate problems?

Hardware Performance: Your network hardware, like routers and switches, needs to be working efficiently. Are they up to the task, or are there any signs of strain or malfunction?

Scalability: As your organization grows, your network should be able to handle the increased demand for resources. Is your network flexible and scalable enough to adapt to changes?

network risk assessment

Security Issues in Network Risk Assessment:
Security Issues in Network Risk Assessment:

Unauthorized access, data breaches, and malware infections are examples of security breaches that can result in data loss, financial losses, and reputational harm to a business.

Cybercriminals may be able to gain access through misconfigurations, weak security mechanisms, or vulnerabilities in network architecture. Furthermore, successful assaults can potentially interfere with network operations, resulting in lost services and downtime. Beyond their immediate effects, security events can lead to lost customer trust, legal penalties, and regulatory non-compliance.

So, security risks are like weak points in the fortress walls of your network that could let attackers in. Here's what to focus on:

Vulnerabilities and Exploits: These are like cracks in your network's armour that hackers could exploit to gain unauthorized access. Are there any known vulnerabilities in your software, protocols or configurations?

Threat Analysis: It's crucial to assess both external and internal threats that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data and systems in your network. What are the potential risks posed by hackers?

Access Controls: Are the mechanisms in place to control who can access what parts of your network? Are user authentication and authorization systems effective in preventing unauthorized access?

Security Policy Compliance: Does your organization have clear security policies in place, and are employees following them? It's important to ensure that security measures are implemented and enforced consistently.

By examining these components, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your organization's network, allowing you to prioritize and address any areas of concern effectively.

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Identifying Network-Related and User-Related Issues - Network Risk Assessment Example:
Identifying Network-Related and User-Related Issues - Network Risk Assessment Example:

When it comes to network risk assessment, it's also crucial to distinguish between issues that stem from the network itself and those that are influenced by user behaviour or actions. By pinpointing these differences, you can better target your efforts to improve network security and performance.

Network-Related Issues:
Network-Related Issues:

Network-related issues are problems that originate from the infrastructure and configuration of your network. Here's what to consider:

Number of Networks or Servers: Take stock of how many networks or servers your organization uses across different locations. Are there any areas where the network architecture could be streamlined or consolidated for better efficiency?

Performance Bottlenecks: Analyze network traffic patterns to identify bottlenecks or congestion points that could be slowing down data packet transmission. Are there any hardware or configuration issues contributing to these bottlenecks?

Capacity and Storage: Assess whether your network has enough capacity and storage to meet the demands of your organization. Are there any limitations or constraints that could hinder scalability or performance?

network risk assessment

User-Related Issues:
User-Related Issues:

User-related issues are challenges that arise from the actions or behaviours of individuals within your organization. Here's what to look out for:

Security Awareness: Evaluate the level of security awareness among employees. Are they trained to recognize and respond to potential security threats, such as phishing attempts or suspicious activities?

Compliance with Policies: Ensure that employees are adhering to established security policies and procedures. Are there any gaps or deviations from these policies that could pose security risks?

Access Controls: Review user access controls to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information or resources. Are access permissions aligned with job roles and responsibilities, or are there instances of over-privilege?

Device Management: Assess the security of devices used by employees to access the network, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Are these devices properly configured and updated to mitigate security risks?

By identifying and addressing both network-related and user-related issues, you can enhance the overall security and performance of your organization's network infrastructure. This targeted approach ensures that vulnerabilities are mitigated effectively and resources are allocated efficiently to safeguard against potential threats.

The Best Network Risk Assessment Tool
The Best Network Risk Assessment Tool

Now that we've discussed the components of network risk assessment, let's explore how you can use Obkio, a powerful network performance monitoring tool, to detect and address performance issues within your network. Obkio excels in providing real-time insights into network performance metrics such as bandwidth utilization, latency, and packet loss, making it an invaluable tool for optimizing network efficiency.

network risk assessment

It's important to note that while Obkio is an excellent solution for performance monitoring, it should be paired with other specialized tools for the security aspect of network risk assessment. Security monitoring requires dedicated solutions tailored to detecting and mitigating security threats effectively. By integrating Obkio's performance monitoring capabilities with robust security monitoring solutions, organizations can achieve a comprehensive approach to network risk assessment, ensuring both performance optimization and security resilience.

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Real-time Bandwidth and Latency Monitoring:

  • Obkio provides real-time monitoring of your network's bandwidth and latency. This means you can continuously track how much data is being transferred and how long it takes for data to travel from one point to another.
  • By monitoring bandwidth and latency, you can identify potential bottlenecks or congestion points in your network that may be slowing down data transmission.

Proactive Traffic Analysis for Anomaly Detection:

  • Obkio's traffic analysis tools allow you to proactively identify abnormal patterns or behaviours within your network traffic.
  • By detecting anomalies early on, you can take proactive measures to investigate and mitigate potential issues before they escalate into larger problems.

Continuous Device Performance Monitoring:

  • Obkio enables continuous monitoring of your network hardware, including routers, switches, and firewalls.
  • By monitoring hardware performance metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and packet loss, you can identify any hardware issues that may be impacting network performance.

Firewall Monitoring:

  • Your firewall serves as the first line of defence, filtering all Internet traffic before it reaches your network to safeguard against potential security threats. Its role is paramount in protecting your business assets.
  • Obkio meticulously monitors firewall performance to ensure uninterrupted operation and prompt detection of any security threats. This proactive approach helps in maintaining network security integrity.
  • Undetected traffic anomalies or CPU bursts within your firewall can lead to intermittent network issues and serve as early indicators of approaching problems. Addressing these issues promptly is essential to prevent further security risks.
  • Additionally, Obkio’s monitoring capabilities extend to identifying performance issues indicative of poor load balancing on the firewalls. For example, in the EcoSys case study, they were able to pinpoint and optimize load-balancing inefficiencies, ensuring optimal firewall performance.

SASE and SD-WAN Monitoring:

  • The foundation of your organization's security and connection is your SASE architecture. It is crucial to make sure it operates at peak efficiency, which is why Obkio’s Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) tools come in handy.
  • In 2024, around 65% of enterprises want to implement a SASE (secure access service edge) framework. SASE makes use of WAN features, such as Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, or SD-WAN, which allows network traffic to be routed effectively and adaptable. This part ensures that data travels throughout the network efficiently, following the shortest path to its destination.
  • One of SASE's fundamental principles is zero trust. It relies on the idea that no entity—internal or external to the network—can be automatically trusted. By 2024, 30% of businesses will incorporate Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solutions into their cyber security plans. One important part of SASE is ZTNA, which upholds the least privilege principle and makes sure that access is only allowed once users' and devices' identities and security postures have been verified.

network risk assessment

By leveraging Obkio's comprehensive suite of performance monitoring tools, you can effectively detect and address performance issues within your network, ensuring optimal performance and reliability for your organization's critical applications and services.

Sounds like a perfect choice for you? Get started with Obkio for free!

  • 14-day free trial of all premium features
  • Deploy in just 10 minutes
  • Monitor performance in all key network locations
  • Measure real-time network metrics
  • Identify and troubleshoot live network problems
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How to Perform a Network Risk Assessment with Obkio
How to Perform a Network Risk Assessment with Obkio

By leveraging Obkio's robust capabilities, we'll explore practical steps to identify and mitigate potential risks, ensuring the resilience and reliability of your network infrastructure. Let's dive in and unlock the secrets to a comprehensive network risk assessment with Obkio.

Network Risk Assessment Step 1: Install Obkio’s Network Performance Monitoring Tool from Obkio!
Network Risk Assessment Step 1: Install Obkio’s Network Performance Monitoring Tool from Obkio!

Monitoring client connections and internal network performance is made easier with Obkio's end-to-end Network Monitoring SaaS service. A comprehensive solution for evaluating network health and spotting potential vulnerabilities is offered by the user-friendly web application.

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Network Risk Assessment Step 2: Install Agents to Monitor the Network!
Network Risk Assessment Step 2: Install Agents to Monitor the Network!

Specialized monitoring agents are distributed throughout the network infrastructure to efficiently monitor network performance. These agents are strategically positioned to continuously monitor internet and network performance without interfering with user activity.

Every 500 milliseconds, they continuously exchange synthetic traffic, offering insightful information about how well networks function across a range of hubs, such as corporate headquarters, branch offices, data centers, clouds, and the Internet. This distributed monitoring strategy provides essential information concerning client networks and is perfect for businesses with different network locations.

network risk assessment

Network Risk Assessment Step 3: Monitoring Network Health for Core Network Devices
Network Risk Assessment Step 3: Monitoring Network Health for Core Network Devices

A thorough understanding of network equipment, including firewalls, switches, routers, and servers, is essential for Network Health Monitoring. The Network Device Monitoring feature of Obkio provides a quick and simple way to get comprehensive data regarding the functionality of essential network devices.

By providing administrators with information on device performance, connectivity, and status, this monitoring enhances network functionality as a whole.

Early Problem Identification: By using monitoring tools, network admins can identify any problems or anomalies early on and take proactive measures to address them before they have an adverse effect on network performance.

Capacity Planning: Capacity planning is made easier by tracking device performance and usage statistics over time. This helps administrators foresee future network requirements and make sure their devices can manage growing workloads.

Device monitoring: Device monitoring using SNMP polling facilitates troubleshooting by helping identify the cause of network problems, expediting the process, and reducing downtime.

network risk assessment

Network Risk Assessment Step 4: Monitoring Firewalls
Network Risk Assessment Step 4: Monitoring Firewalls

Obkio takes firewall performance seriously and offers comprehensive monitoring solutions to address your network security needs effectively.

Features include the ability to:

  • Simulate firewall traffic using Obkio’s monitoring agents exchanging synthetic traffic to mimic real user activity
  • Measure the true impact of firewall performance on network and end-user experience
  • Collect real-time metrics related to firewall performance, such as CPU and bandwidth usage
  • Enable automatic smart notification of network problems affecting the firewall, facilitating rapid troubleshooting and resolution.

network risk assessment

Factors Affecting Firewall Performance:

  • Your firewall's performance can be influenced by various factors, including the volume and type of traffic, the number of users accessing the firewall, the volume of VPN connections, and the complexity of security features.
  • As long as your firewall supports SNMP Polling, Obkio’s network device monitoring feature can communicate with your firewall or SNMP-enabled device, providing key performance metrics.
  • Obkio meticulously measures the usage of each CPU core and other device interface metrics, offering precise insights into network and firewall performance.

Undetected traffic anomalies or CPU bursts in your firewall can lead to intermittent network issues and serve as early indicators of security problems. By incorporating firewall monitoring into your network risk assessment strategy, you can proactively identify and mitigate potential security risks and performance issues, ensuring the resilience and reliability of your network infrastructure. Obkio provides the tools and insights necessary to optimize firewall performance and maintain a secure network environment.

“It happens that, after deploying Obkio, we discover that an Internet connection was often congested or that a client's firewall was slightly undersized, leading to packet loss. … Without Obkio, diagnosing this problem, which was very subtle, would have taken much longer”
Daniel Sarrasin
CEO and Senior Solution Architect at EcoSysIP

Network Risk Assessment Step 5: Collect Core Network Health Data
Network Risk Assessment Step 5: Collect Core Network Health Data

As the eyes and ears of the monitoring system, Obkio's agents actively engage with the network and continuously gather vital key metrics for comprehending and enhancing network health.

  • Bandwidth Utilization: In order to fully understand network capacity and consumption patterns, bandwidth utilization – which quantifies the amount of bandwidth in use at any one time – must be understood.
  • Latency: Measures latency, or the amount of time it takes for data to move from one place to another. This is important for making sure networks operate quickly.
  • Packet Loss: Packet loss monitoring keeps track of packet loss incidents and detects any problems with data transmission dependability.
  • Device Connectivity: Helps find possible points of failure or connectivity problems by continuously monitoring the state and connectivity of network devices.
  • Throughput Analysis: By measuring actual data transfer rates throughout the network, throughput analysis sheds light on the effectiveness of data transmission.
  • Jitter monitoring: Jitter monitoring tools rack changes in packet latency to maintain consistent network performance.
  • CPU Utilization: Tracks how much CPU time network devices are using to identify any bottlenecks and how resources are being used.

network risk assessment

Network Risk Assessment Step 6: Examine Past and Current Network Data
Network Risk Assessment Step 6: Examine Past and Current Network Data

Testing your network after significant modifications is one of the primary applications of network testing, often known as network performance testing.

Understanding the performance of your network before, after, and during significant changes to its infrastructure requires analyzing historical performance data.

For you to examine, contrast, and troubleshoot performance from the past, Obkio measures and gathers historical network performance data.

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Network Risk Assessment Step 7: Optimize Your Network – The Main Goal of Network Risk Assessment
Network Risk Assessment Step 7: Optimize Your Network – The Main Goal of Network Risk Assessment

To make sure your network functions properly and satisfies your company goals, it's critical to optimize network performance after testing and finding vulnerabilities. Here are a few crucial tactics to think about:

  • Troubleshoot network problems: Timely resolution of network issues can guarantee seamless network operation and stop them from impairing overall performance.
  • Check the connectivity to the networks: Verify that every network connection is operational and appropriately configured. Verify the connections and configuration of cables, switches, routers, and other gear.
  • Update the hardware: Improve network performance by updating the hardware on your network. Think about adding more bandwidth and storage, as well as upgrading to faster servers, switches, and routers.
  • Optimize network settings: Network performance can be improved by adjusting parameters such as Quality of Service (QoS) settings, packet and buffer sizes. By allocating priority to critical traffic, QoS settings can lower latency and enhance user experience.
  • Use load balancing: To reduce server overload and improve resource usage, divide network traffic among several servers. Network load balancing can minimize downtime and lessen network congestion.
  • Employ CDNs (content delivery networks): By delivering web content from the server nearest users, content delivery networks (CDNs) lower latency and enhance network efficiency.
  • Use Software-Defined Networking (SDN): SDN improves network performance and increases the agility of your company by streamlining network management, control, and optimization.
  • Maintain the network on a regular basis: Security risks and other problems that can impair network performance can be avoided by routine network maintenance, which includes traffic monitoring, patching and updating the network and keeping an eye out for possible problems.

network risk assessment

Risk assessments must be carried out regularly (e.g., annually) and any time major changes take place in your network. Your information security staff can work more efficiently since you will always know where to focus their efforts if you regularly do risk assessments.

You can spend that time addressing vulnerabilities in your security procedures and processes so you can prevent the issue from occurring in the first place, as opposed to constantly responding to a problem after it has produced a security incident. Network risk assessments also help you determine which threats are worth spending more time and effort on and which ones you can afford to ignore.

Balancing Security and Performance in A Network Risk Assessment
Balancing Security and Performance in A Network Risk Assessment

Achieving an equilibrium between network security and performance is crucial for maintaining the integrity and functionality of your organization's network infrastructure. Here's how you can strike the right balance:

Understanding Trade-offs:

  • Recognize that there may be trade-offs between implementing robust security measures and maintaining optimal network performance.
  • For example, encrypting data for enhanced security may introduce overhead and impact network transmission speeds.

Mitigating Encryption Overhead:

  • Implement efficient encryption algorithms and key management practices to minimize the performance impact of encryption.
  • Utilize hardware acceleration and offloading techniques to alleviate the computational burden of encryption processes.

Implementing Load Balancing:

  • Deploy load-balancing mechanisms to distribute network traffic efficiently across multiple servers or resources.
  • Load balancing optimizes resource utilization, enhances network scalability, and mitigates performance bottlenecks, thereby improving both security and performance.

Evaluating Security vs. Performance Trade-offs:

  • Conduct thorough risk assessments to evaluate the potential impact of security measures on network performance and vice versa.
  • Strive to strike a balance that prioritizes both security and performance requirements, taking into account the specific needs and objectives of your organization.

By carefully considering the interplay between security and performance factors, organizations can devise strategies that optimize network efficiency without compromising security integrity. Balancing these critical aspects ensures that networks remain resilient, responsive, and secure in the face of evolving cyber threats and operational demands.

network risk assessment

Incorporating NPM Tools for Security Enhancement
Incorporating NPM Tools for Security Enhancement

While some NPM tools may offer security features, it's essential to note that not all of them do. Therefore, it's crucial to evaluate the specific needs of your business to determine whether you require a tool that integrates both performance and security monitoring capabilities or if you should opt for a separate security monitoring solution.

Beyond performance monitoring, incorporating Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) tools can significantly bolster the security posture of your network. Here's how:

Network Security Monitoring:

  • NPM tools can serve as a proactive defence mechanism by continuously monitoring network traffic for suspicious activities or anomalies.
  • By analyzing network traffic patterns and identifying deviations from normal behaviour, NPM tools can help detect potential security breaches or intrusions in real-time and send actionable alerts to network admins.

Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) Integration:

  • Integrating IDS capabilities into NPM solutions allows for the detection of known threats and attack signatures within network traffic.
  • IDS integration enhances threat detection capabilities by providing alerts and notifications when malicious activities are detected, enabling rapid response and mitigation.

Log Analysis and Correlation for Security Incident Response:

  • NPM tools often include features for collecting and analyzing log data from network devices and systems. This shows who is responsible for changes in your network, helping to assign tasks to the right members of the team.
  • By correlating log data from various sources, NPM tools can provide valuable insights into security incidents, facilitating effective incident response and forensic analysis.

Continuous Security Policy Enforcement and Compliance Monitoring:

  • NPM tools can aid in enforcing security policies and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements by monitoring network configurations and access controls.
  • By continuously monitoring network configurations for deviations from established security policies, NPM tools help maintain a secure and compliant network environment.

By incorporating NPM tools into your network infrastructure, you can enhance your organization's security posture by proactively monitoring for threats, detecting security incidents, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. These tools provide invaluable support in safeguarding your network against evolving cyber threats and maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of your organization's data and systems.

Network Risk Assessment Template from Obkio
Network Risk Assessment Template from Obkio

In conclusion, conducting a network risk assessment with tools like Obkio not only ensures the optimization of network performance but also provides a deeper understanding of security vulnerabilities. While network risk assessments serve as a crucial component of the overall network assessment template, they offer a specialized focus on identifying and addressing security risks that could compromise the integrity and functionality of the network infrastructure.

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By integrating insights from this article with Obkio's comprehensive free guide to network assessment template, organizations can develop a robust framework for evaluating and enhancing their network's health and security posture. Opposite to boring Excel sheets, this live document includes detailed graphs, network test results and visual dashboards providing a detailed analysis of a network's health and functionality.

It becomes a valuable resource for stakeholders across the organization, providing actionable insights to optimize performance, mitigate risks, and fortify defences against evolving cyber threats.

Put It to the Test: Trying Is the Ultimate Way to Learn!

Networks may be complex. But Obkio makes network monitoring easy. Monitor, measure, pinpoint, troubleshoot, and solve network problems.

  • 14-day free trial of all premium features
  • Deploy in just 10 minutes
  • Monitor performance in all key network locations
  • Measure real-time network metrics
  • Identify and troubleshoot live network problems
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