Network monitoring software is designed to capture statistical information about network protocols; traffic performance over bridges, routers, and ports; and packet movement through gateways and firewalls. Network monitoring software may provide basic command-line functionality through open-source operating systems, or contain web-based components driven by architecture-neutral programs such as Java to provide a graphical user interface (GUI).
Because network status monitoring requires communication between networking hardware components and the network monitoring system, most network monitoring software is compliant with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.1 standards. These standards for network management establish minimum requirements in the analysis of network protocols, traffic performance, and security. Network protocols include those communication formats contained in the open systems interconnection (OSI) standard, which categorizes network communications into seven layers. Network traffic monitoring involves acquiring performance statistics on various protocols throughout those layers, and returning recommendations for improving performance when those statistics do not meet specific benchmarks or pose a security risk. Most network monitoring software uses the simple network management protocol (SNMP) for network performance monitoring. SNMP, which operates through the OSI presentation layer, first saw use in UNIX / Linux network monitoring software by passing data between SNMP agents in network devices to a management information base (MIB) on the console. SNMP has become extremely popular among vendors and users of network monitoring software. Remote network monitoring software typically uses remote monitoring (RMON), an extension of SNMP, and can be configured to trigger alarms on various conditions in network traffic without having to first query network devices. Because wireless access points are relatively easy to install and inexpensive, and corporations are increasingly utilizing wireless area networks (WAN), wireless network monitoring software has become more robust. Such software often uses protocol analyzers to decode wired equivalent privacy (WEP) protocols and keys and insure all traffic within the WAN is valid and authorized.
Suppliers of network monitoring software typically provide solutions designed for multiple platforms. This software should comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) specifications for the program language being used, and be compatible with any network appliances and devices meeting IEEE standards.