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Also referred to as network traffic analysis NTA, Network Traffic Analysis or network traffic data is a set of cyber security measures that entail the observation of network traffic communications. This is done using analytics to unmask threats and analyze encrypted traffic patterns and the likelihood of potential threats happening.

Any serious organization aiming to stand the test of time must integrate NTA solutions into its existing security controls and operations. These solutions allow organizations to receive security alerts before potential harm happens, preventing costly damages that could impede an organization’s seamless operations.

Today, with the advancement of technology, there are many cyber security solutions. Unlike today’s security solutions, traditional network traffic analysis software would define a baseline for normal network operations. Once the baseline is identified, the information about the anomalies, an unauthorized connection analyzing traffic from foreign countries, or a connection from an unrecognized device would be categorized as a threat actor or otherwise.

This method is way outdated and could lead to too much noise. Hence, the new advancement means that the solution works more robustly and intelligently and accounts for past trends and entity behaviour.

Importance of Network Traffic Analysis

Businesses rely on NTA to strengthen network management and enhance security posture. Here are some of the reasons why organizations should embrace it in 2023.

1. Detects Network Anomalies Automatically

Unlike traditional solutions, which inform users whenever an unauthorized device connects to the network or the network is operating abnormally, network traffic analysis tools do not account for the changes caused by normal network behaviour. On the other hand, network traffic analysis tools work even without needing a cyber security professional to manually monitor DNS and DHCP logs, configuration management databases, directory service infrastructure, and other data sources to comprehensively view abnormal traffic patterns and your network’s operations.

Instead, the cyber security expert relies on network traffic analysis tools to perform threat analysis and detect anomalies speedily. Using the context provided, they can get to the root cause of the anomalies and provide solutions quickly.

2. Network Availability at All Times

Any organization needs to have its network available around the clock. Network traffic analysis provides an organization with information about its network uptime while analyzing network traffic and improving overall performance.

Analysis of network elements detects downtime due to subnet unavailability, faulty network interfaces, and any hindrance to the availability of the network promptly. Network analysis helps your security teams detect threats and quickly get to the root of the network failure time, reducing the chances of a negative user experience.

3. Enhanced Network Security

Over the past few years, cyber exposure cases have been more rampant than ever before. Cyber criminals have perfected their art of striking fast without being detected. They use real credentials gotten through ill ways, such as phishing, to access trusted network sources.

Since they use legitimate login details, it becomes hard for networks without intrusion detection systems to detect and prevent such intrusions. However, cyber criminals’ efforts will prove futile if you monitor network traffic using the available effective tools. One more reason why a network traffic analysis solution is vital to implement.

4. Robust Visibility

Due to the pandemic, many organizations have shifted to relying heavily on cloud computing, DevOps, and IoT, among others, in their daily operations. Throw in remote working, and it becomes hard for your network administrators to maintain effective network visibility. Thanks to NTA, tech teams can now handle the lack of network visibility as it serves as the single source of truth for organizations. In short, NTA generates insights that no other data source can accomplish.

Your tech team can easily use network traffic analysis to gain visibility into otherwise unmonitored network communication of your organisation. NTA can monitor TCP/IP packets, cloud workloads, API calls, vSwitch-based virtual network traffic, serverless computing instances, and all network communications in real-time.

It also provides granular visibility into network component operations and helps IT teams solve problems effectively. IT experts can quickly identify network locations and sites that various devices belong to, creating accurate topography diagrams that improve network visibility and prevent blind spots between network components and sites, thus making troubleshooting easy.

5. A Strong Network Performance

A network with high availability must operate at peak performance. For this to happen, however, your IT team must be able to track its performance with an overview of resource usage. Network Traffic Analysis helps your team do this, facilitating efficient network capacity and planning.

NTA assists your team in identifying network connections that need an upgrade because it can also locate bandwidth issues. Your IT experts can use NTA to identify de-commissionable network resources and help reduce IT costs.

Network Traffic Analysis Features

Since your business could use many NTA solutions for data collection and security implementation, you must use the most effective one. This one can continuously monitor your network and detect any threats that could have bypassed the network perimeter or originated from within the business because it has network traffic analysis tools. These features will help you evaluate the appropriate solution to use.

1. Built-in Threat Intelligence

Solutions with built-in analytics help your team detect malicious behaviour in your network. Effective NTA tools have different signatures and built-in algorithms to model behaviour and crunch data. This allows for high-fidelity alerts, accelerates threat detection and incident response, and streamlines workload.

2. Coverage of Key Metrics

The tool should be able to watch and critically analyze data from large sources, including time-bound trends, bandwidth utilization per application, and traffic flow, to show insights into your network performance. If a device doesn’t have this feature, then it is obsolete. 

3. Cloud Comprehension

The tool must be able to track cloud traffic. In the post-COVID era, many networking activities occur in the cloud. To stay at par, your organization must be capable of managing virtual private cloud infrastructure, Application Programming Interfaces (API), and cloud monitoring logs to deliver end-to-end visibility. 

4. Actionable Insights

While a Network Traffic Analysis tool should detect possible threats, all doesn’t end there. The response of your preferred security analysis tool must offer actionable instructions to manage the issues and a workable solution for network security, bandwidth optimization, and sophisticated pattern analysis for data breach prevention in the future.

How to Implement Network Traffic Analysis

There are various steps you need to follow when implementing an NTA solution for your company that suits your needs.

Step 1: Identify Network Resources

Identifying and categorizing network resources in your organization that can be used for analysis, such as desktops, applications, servers, switches, firewalls, and routers. All these provide different metrics that can be analyzed. While there are manual and automatic ways to do this, the automatic way is less time-consuming. It is also less tedious as it uses automation and network discoveries such as SNMP, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), flow-based protocols, and transaction tracing. 

Step 2: Tap Data Sources

Tap data sources through an agent-based or agentless collection. For the agent-based approach, use software to tap data at the identified data source. Automatic anomaly detection is excellent for collecting granular data, but storage and processing issues may arise. 

On the other hand, when using the agentless approach on the network layer, you will use processes, protocols, and APIs that are already supported by the data sources within your organization. For example, you can use SNMP on network devices or WMI on Windows servers.

Step 3: Data Sampling

Start with diverse data sampling, which entails picking different sources that provide various datasets for vast enterprises. This way, you can identify systemic issues at a smaller scale before expanding to the entire network analysis to collect data from the whole network.

Step 4: Continous Monitoring

Set up continuous monitoring and choose a preferred destination for the data collected. This lets you spot security threats, detect system failures, and get valuable long-term insights from historical data about your solution. It also allows your IT team to analyze your network quickly and efficiently and detect breaches before they occur.

How Do Organizations Benefit From Network Traffic Analysis?

A network failure in your organization remains this century’s most dreaded IT failure. A network failure drains your business, time, and money. It leads to lost staff time and lost productivity. This is why you need to invest in high-end NTA solutions for your company. Some of the benefits of investing in one include:

1. Benchmark Standard Performance

With NTA, you get visibility to daily benchmark performance and the insight to detect any fluctuations in performance standards. Effective NTA helps your IT teams see early warnings, rectify potential issues before they happen, and reduce system downtime. 

2. Effective Allocation of Resources

NTA helps your IT team understand the problem’s source and minimizes tedious troubleshooting time. They can then implement adequate measures to ensure your organization stays ahead of IT outages.

3. Manage an Ever-Changing IT Environment

Your network needs to be effectively monitored by an effective network traffic analysis tool that can provide your team with a comprehensive inventory of wireless and wired devices. Effective monitoring enables analysis of long-term trends; it reduces expenses and facilitates optimum use of the available assets. 

4. Identify Security Threats

Many organizations still find preventing cybercrime a major challenge as attacks have become more sophisticated and hard to trace. Today’s tools that analyze network traffic have intrusion prevention systems that detect and minimize any network threat. The network analysis tool, therefore, updates security patches continually.

Conclusion on the Network Traffic Analysis

Analyzing your network traffic does not have to be a thorn in the flesh. Thanks to this piece, you now understand its benefits to your enterprise. Also, by now, you know the features you should look for when choosing the appropriate network traffic analysis solution. The best features will guarantee the utmost network security, optimize your network’s bandwidth usage, and guarantee 100% uptime. Use the right approaches to implement Network Traffic Analysis and be ahead of the game.

Let’s talk

If you would like to learn more about how Sapphire can support your organisation’s cyber resilience, get in touch with us.

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