What is Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)?

There can be hundreds, sometimes thousands of devices connected to a single network within an organization. Best practices in informational technology (IT) require your staff to check these devices almost daily to ensure they’re working correctly. This could mean installing updates, checking for malware, and general troubleshooting.

IT is all about making your internal network and devices more efficient. So you can already guess that there’s an easier way to manage all of the devices within your organization’s network.

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is a network protocol designed to make device management and monitoring easier. While old news in the world of IT Managed Services, it’s never a bad idea to review the basics or educate yourself when trying to find the right IT solution for your business.

The Definition of Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

Simple Network Management Protocol is a set of rules designed to monitor multiple devices on a single network. This protocol provides data from various devices while also completing basic commands sent from a central console.

These devices include:

  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Servers
  • Wireless access points
  • Firewalls
  • Printers
  • Scanners
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices

SNMP helps to facilitate multiple types of device data and information into a single source. Through “push and pull” commands, either manual requests or automatic actions, the protocol collects gathered data and organizes it in a way that an SNMP manager can read and understand.

This process makes it easy to collect and analyze the performance of devices within a Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN). By simplifying this process, IT staff can efficiently monitor these devices for a variety of issues, and provide solutions with few obstacles.

The Three Main Components of SNMP

SMNP works through three different components that work together to gather and transmit data from the network. These components are:

  • SNMP Manager
  • SNMP Agent
  • Management Information Base

SMNP Manager

An SMNP manager is the software that an IT staff member uses to monitor and interpret the data received by SMNP agents. Managers can gather data using a Network Management System (NMS), software that acts as a centralized console that agents feed information to. They usually do this by manually requesting the latest data, or by receiving automatic alerts when a certain threshold is reached.

The manager’s capabilities depend entirely on the features of the NMS. Some NMS’s are limited in what they can do or the number of nodes they can support. More high-end systems allow plenty of freedom, support for complex networks and access to thousands of network nodes.

SNMP Agent

This is software that lives and runs on monitored hardware or software. It continually collects data about disk space, bandwidth and other important network performance metrics. It then submits this data to the NMS whenever requested by the manager.

The SNMP agent is always collecting data. That way it can respond to any request from the manager, be it a manual request or an automatic request. There are even some agents that can proactively notify the NMS if an error occurs.

Management Information Base (MIB)

This is the database that the SMNP relies upon, as it tells the protocol what data objects it can access. MIB itemizes and describes all of the data objects that an SNMP can query or control through commands.

Each object is identified using numerical identifiers called Object Identifiers (OID). Since the MIB is a text file, with a .mib file extension, you can access the file to identify the different devices and their data within your environment.

Different Versions of SNMP

While all simple network management protocols monitor and facilitate network data, some features vary depending on the version you utilize. These versions have changed over the years, with the latest being Version 3.

These versions include:

  • SNMP Version 1 (SNMPv1): As the earliest version of the SNMP protocol, it also has the weakest security features. This is because anyone who has access to the network can intercept information about the network or install an unauthorized device disguised as a legitimate manager.
  • SNMP Version 2 (SMNPv2): One of the more common versions of this protocol, v2 offers security enhancements from v1. While the standard when it was released in 1993, it has since been replaced with v3.
  • SNMP Version 3 (SNMPv3): v3 offers data encryption, making high-level cyber security possible.

An easy way to think about the differences between these versions is that the higher the version, the more security you can implement.

Monitoring and Managing Your IT Environment

Within most modern-day organizations, you need to keep an eye on hundreds of devices. These can range from desktop computers, mobile devices, routers, firewalls, etc. In order to meet cyber security standards, you need to make sure they are up to date and operating efficiently.

Simple Network Management Protocol provides a simple method of keeping tabs on your internal devices. By centralizing all of the vital network and performance data you need into a single software or file, you can more efficiently protect your company from cyber security threats.

SNMP gives you the ability to:

  • Monitor resource and bandwidth utilization
  • Diagnose faulty network connections
  • Manage patches and updates
  • Detect early signs of issues
  • Monitor traffic and operation abnormalities

SNMP can improve your cyber security efforts while providing you the information to understand what’s going on within your network.

Limitations of SNMP Management

Simple Network Management Protocol is great at collecting metrics and data for devices connected to a single network. It does come with a few limitations.

Namely, it doesn’t provide any information about user experience or device experience. So while you may notice that a device is using more power than normal, you won’t know why. For example, maybe an employee was using power-intensive software to complete their task?

Overall, this protocol is limited to simple data gathering and presentation. In order to be truly effective, it still requires someone to interpret the data and reach an actionable conclusion.

Manage Your Internal Network

Simple Network Management Protocol is a tried-and-true method of monitoring and managing every device within your internal network. When you need an efficient way to manage your essential devices, SNMP could be your best and quickest solution.

When you don’t have the time or the capacity to explore this option, you need IT experts who know the ins and outs of network management.

Enter NTS, whose subject matter experts bring decades of experience to help your organization be more secure and efficient.

Contact us to schedule a consultation and see how IT Managed Services can improve your daily business operations.