What is a Cisco Netflow Analyzer and How Does it Work

The more you understand about your Cisco equipment, the better you’ll be able to run your business. Read on to learn about the Cisco Netflow Analyzer.

The hardest part of being a business owner in today’s modern environment is the level of technical expertise you are required to have to run your business.

Today’s offices require such an expansive network of computers, teleconferencing equipment, servers, routers, and modems to run effectively. If you’re not up-to-date in your technical knowledge it’s easy to get lost.

For a long time now, Cisco has been the premier manufacturer of business networking hardware and software. In fact, in 2014, Cisco reached a market cap of $128 billion, surpassing a wildly popular company Facebook.

So if you’re a business owner or a network administrator, Cisco is the company you should turn to. And their most recent tool, the Cisco Netflow Analyzer is a must-have if to manage your business’ network traffic.

Below, we’ll explain what exactly the Cisco Netflow Analyzer is, what it does, and how it works.

But First, What Is Cisco Netflow?

It’s important to note that Cisco Netflow and the Cisco Netflow Analyzer are two different things. At its most basic level, the Cisco Netflow is a network protocol.

A network protocol is typically defined as “formal standards and policies comprised of rules, procedures, and formats that define communication between two or more devices over a network.”

Essentially, a network protocol as an invisible set of terms or agreements two computers or other pieces of hardware must agree to before communicating and sharing information.

A very basic example of a network protocol is a WiFi password. In order for your computer to communicate with the router and other computers on the network, you have to enter the password.

Of course, the average network has a ton of other “protocols” it forces devices to abide by.

So Cisco Netflow is a network protocol that allows you to collect data on all of the IP traffic going to and coming from your network’s router(s).

With this information, you can monitor your network’s bandwidth, see how it’s performing, and where on the network most of the bandwidth is being used.

Netflow is now the industry standard. It is included in nearly every business-grade router and network switch that Cisco and other manufacturers produce.

Netflow was introduced first in 1996. Before that, network administrators were forced to rely on SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) to monitor network and Internet traffic.

SNMP was significantly worse than Netflow. It didn’t provide the same in-depth, granular data on network traffic and bandwidth usage that Netflow now provides.

What Is The Cisco Netflow Analyzer?

It may be self-evident at this point but the Cisco Netflow Analyzer is a software program that allows you to interpret the data gathered from Cisco’s Netflow in a digestible way.

Cisco Netflow collects the following data, and then sends it to the Analyzer for you to view:

  • The IP addresses of the sender and receiver of data on the network (e.g. an email sent from one computer to another)
  • Sender and Receiver TCP/UDP ports
  • Type of Service (ToS)
  • Packet and byte counts
  • Start and finish timestamps
  • Input and output interface numbers
  • TCP flags
  • Routing information

For every exchange that takes place between two devices on your network, this information is collected, if applicable.

As you can see, the level of detail Netflow provides is extremely granular. If you know your way around it you can really be the king of business network administration.

What Are The Benefits of The Analyzer?

With the Analyzer, you can see whats going right or wrong with your network at a glance. The Analyzer places all of the information it collects on easy to read graphs and charts.

As we’ve mentioned above, one of the primary benefits of using this software is that it allows you to monitor the bandwidth of your network.

You can spot trouble areas where bandwidth is being used inefficiently. If, for example, one computer is your entire network is using up over 50% of the bandwidth, chances are something is going wrong with that computer.

On top of that, it also allows you to see what that bandwidth is being used on. The Cisco Netflow Analyzer collects all of the IP addresses of every device interacting with your network.

So, if you see that the computer sucking up all of the network’s bandwidth is transferring data with high byte counts, it quite possibly means that it’s downloading large files that it shouldn’t be downloading. It could be downloading a movie from a torrent, for example.

Even if nothing sticks out as problematic when it comes to your network’s bandwidth, you can still make sure the employees on a network are using their time properly.

With Netflow, you can monitor the website’s your employees are going to and spending the most time on.

If the IP addresses of time-wasting sites like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and others are popping up frequently, you have concrete information on who is dilly-dallying at work and at what frequency.

With Netflow, you can discover more about your employees work habits than with anything else.

The Bottom Line

Network administration is confusing, we know. There’s so many different moving parts and esoteric vocabulary that it’s hard to get a foothold in fully understanding the processes involved.

But when it comes to Cisco Netflow and the Netflow Analyzer, the important thing to remember is that Netflow is simply a protocol.

It collects data on your network traffic and that the Analyzer is the software that allows you to view this data in an easier-to-understand way.

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