Selecting the Right SNMP Remote Monitoring Equipment for Your Network

The basics of SNMP: SNMP Tutorial

SNMP remote monitoring is a vital function for any company with a large network. When you have a network that isn't isolated within a single area, you need assistance to manage it remotely. There's just no way (at least, no economical way) to station a live human being at each remote site to monitor everything that happens there.

What distinguishes SNMP remote monitoring from other types of remote monitoring is the use of SNMP ("Simple Network Management Protocol") to transmit messages between central alarm master (an SNMP manager, by definition, in this case) and the SNMP remotes at each network site. The pros of SNMP are many, and the cons are quite few.

The Pros and Cons of SNMP Remote Monitoring

The main advantage of SNMP is that it is an open standard. Open protocols are designed to combat the wasted effort and costs when one manufacturer develops its own "proprietary" protocol that only it will support. Anyone who buys remote monitoring devices that use these protocols is asking for trouble. The manufacturer may raise prices with little threat of damaging sales volume, since they are "the only game in town." Worse yet, the manufacturer may close up shop. At this point, there is no way to get new products or parts to add or repair your remote monitoring system. You'll most likely end up suffering with a dead-end system rather then switching over to a new system all at once. There's no way to gradually transition between systems if one side doesn't work with the other.

SNMP and non-SNMP gear remotely monitored by the same manager
With the right multi-protocol manager, you can join SNMP remote monitoring with other types of remote monitoring in the same management system.

The cons of SNMP, which are small compared to its openness, include security risks that are normal whenever using an open standard. There is "security through obscurity" linked with any little-used communications standard. Still, the release of SNMPv3 added new encryption and privacy options that had never before existed within SNMP. SNMP is a rather detailed protocol. Detailed messages are sent between devices, not just small preset codes. This downside has been rendered quite small in most applications, since bandwidth has skyrocketed in recent years.

In an SNMP remote monitoring system, the two major components are an SNMP manager and SNMP agents.

The SNMP manager is the central console used by a human operator. It sorts alarm data received from each remote SNMP agent throughout the network.

SNMP agents are located at remote sites, and they fall into two major groups. A lot of modern gear supports SNMP natively. It can send its own alarm messages to the SNMP manager directly. Since not all gear that must be remotely monitored is SNMP-capable, however, SNMP remotes are also required. These devices accept alarms from non-SNMP gear, usually in the form of a discrete contact closure. The alarm remote, which is SNMP-capable, then sends an SNMP message back to the SNMP manager. In this way, both SNMP and non-SNMP devices can be managed under the same SNMP manager group.

How to choose the right SNMP remote
How to choose the right SNMP manager

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There is no other network on the planet that is exactly like yours. For that reason, you need to build a monitoring system that's the right fit for you.

"Buying more than you need" and "buying less than you need" are real risks. You also have to think about training, tech support, and upgrade availability.

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