Network Visibility vs Network Monitoring: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

As an IT service provider, your customers are relying on you to minimize technology disruptions and ensure smooth performance for their business. While this is made possible through remote monitoring and management (RMM), there’s a core focus on maintaining the business’ most vital asset: the network.

This is why it’s vital to offer some sort of network monitoring service—but you can’t have complete monitoring without visibility, and you can’t have full visibility without monitoring. So, what’s the difference and why is it important?

Let’s start with the basics.

What Is Network Visibility? 

At its simplest form, visibility is insight into an IT environment—what devices exist, how they’re wired and connected, and where they sit.

Gaining complete insight into a client’s setup is particularly relevant when prospecting. You need to see what’s there and how it’s operating to understand the business’ IT needs and identify potential problems—which also helps you accurately scope and quote work.

That’s why software products that do mapping exist. When a client calls and says their phone isn’t working, if you have insight into the device’s connections, you can troubleshoot it. If you don’t have any visibility, you’d have to drive over to the client site to determine the issue—which is expensive and unproductive.

What Is Network Monitoring?

Monitoring, meanwhile, is tracking how the environment is performing against average and determining if anything changes. When something goes down, monitoring allows you to identify the affected device(s) and determine the cause of the problem. You can definitively say, “oh, a hard drive failed,” rather than, “something isn’t working anymore.”

This continuous tracking of the IT setup helps MSPs be more proactive because you can identify problems before clients do. Without monitoring, you can track device status by hand or wait for the client to call you with a problem—but it's better if you call them first, alerting them to an issue you’re monitoring and already working to resolve.

Both Network Visibility and Network Monitoring Are Vital

When it comes to the network, monitoring and visibility are highly intertwined. You can’t effectively monitor the performance of a device if you don’t have visibility into its characteristics. And, you don’t have complete visibility into a client site if you aren’t monitoring its performance and changes over time.

Think about it in the stages of a client life cycle. First, you're doing the initial assessment, getting to know the client’s business. You need visibility into what they have—what does the network look like? What does the organization look like? If they have a bunch of stuff sitting in a lab somewhere, is that relevant? 

Once you take the client on, you need to track the performance of the client site to ensure it functions optimally, and so you can prevent—or at least quickly resolve—unexpected issues. As well, monitoring the changes that occur over time will help you provide strategic guidance to ensure IT supports the client’s broader business goals. 

Without visibility and monitoring together, your MSP’s efficiency, productivity, and ultimately profitability will suffer. To deliver outstanding service, you must be doing both.


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