Network and protocol analyzers are test equipment used to troubleshoot and analyze network problems. Network analyzers monitor the traffic on a network. They collect information such as packet sizes, the number of packets, error packets, overall usage of a connection, the number of hosts and their MAC addresses, and details about communications between hosts and other devices. Protocol analyzers capture all the traffic on a medium, and parse it according to the rules of any network protocols that are present, and display the results. Configuration, performance specifications, and features are all important to consider when searching for network and protocol analyzers.
Important configuration parameters to consider when selecting network and protocol analyzers include network protocol and port type. A protocol is an agreed upon format for transmitting data between two devices. Choices for network protocol include ATM, 10 Base-T Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, gigabit Ethernet, FDDI, Fibre Channel, Frame Relay, E1, ISDN, modem, parallel, PPP, serial, SLIP, SONET, T1, and TCP/IP. Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is a high-speed network technology that uses fiber optic or CAT-5 copper cables. 10Base-T (also called Twisted Pair Ethernet) is one adaptation of the IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet) standard for Local Area Networks (LAN), which uses twisted-pair cables with a maximum length of 100 meters. Fast Ethernet is the 100 Mbps Ethernet Specification. Gigabit Ethernet is the standard for a high-speed Ethernet, approved by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.3z Gigabit Task Force in 1996. Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) is a reliable, high-speed backbone for mission critical and high traffic networks.
Important performance specifications to consider when searching for network and protocol analyzers include number of ports, data rate, and buffer size. The number of ports refers to the number of ports available for input and output. The data rate is the rate by which data is transferred through the system. A buffer is a temporary memory location for data in transit from one device to another device. Common features for network and protocol analyzers include printer port, remote control port, software included, and wireless. Some units have a suitable port where a printer can be connected. Some devices can be controlled / programmed by remote control by connecting a computer, modem or any other device through the remote port. Test software may be included with the device. Some devices can be configured to test wireless systems.