Kentik - Network Observability

Network Monitoring Alerts: 7 Best Practices for Network Alert Management

Table of Contents

What are Network Monitoring Alerts?Best Practices for Network Alert Management1. Define Clear and Actionable Alert ThresholdsThe Art and Science of Setting Alert ThresholdsLeveraging Historical BaselinesThreshold Customization and FlexibilityEmpowering NetOps Professionals2. Ensure Alerts Demand Action: Beyond Just FYICrafting Alerts That Compel ActionThe Philosophy of Meaningful AlertsIntegrating Context and ActionAvoiding Alert Fatigue through Relevance3. Use Policy Templates for Efficient Alert ConfigurationStreamlining the Configuration ProcessCustomization for Tailored AlertingLeveraging Built-in Expertise4. Optimize Notification Channels to Reduce Alert FatiguePrioritizing Alerts Based on SeverityIntegrating with Daily Communication ToolsSetting Up Escalation PathsCustomizable Notification OptionsLeveraging Kentik’s Notifications Documentation5. Implement Silent Mode for Strategic Alert SuppressionStrategic Use During Maintenance and Expected EventsCustomizing Silent Mode to Fit Operational NeedsEnsuring Critical Alerts Remain UnmutedGuidelines for Implementing Silent Mode6. Embrace Automation for Timely Alert Response and MitigationAutomating Corrective ActionsProactive Mitigation StrategiesIntegration with Existing WorkflowsCustomization and ControlEnsuring Reliability Through Automation7. Continuously Review and Refine Alert StrategiesBest Practices for Regular Network Alert ReviewsEnsuring Alignment with Network ConditionsSee for Yourself How Kentik Facilitates Best Practices in Network Alert Management

In the complex and continually-evolving world of network operations, quickly identifying and responding to issues is critical. Network monitoring alerts are essential linchpins in this dynamic environment, providing the insights that NetOps professionals need to maintain optimal network health and performance. This article describes best practices for network alert management, emphasizing the creation of actionable alerts, the strategic use of policy templates, the optimization of notification channels, and the importance of automation in response and mitigation strategies. It also highlights the necessity of continuously refining alert policies to stay on top of network changes and emerging threats.

Drawing on insights from industry experts and the advanced features of the Kentik platform, this article aims to equip NetOps pros with the knowledge and tools needed to implement an effective and efficient alert management system.

What are Network Monitoring Alerts?

Network monitoring alerts are automated notifications triggered by anomalies or specific conditions in a network’s performance, health, or security. Unlike continuous monitoring, which collects and analyzes data to provide insights into network operations, alerts are designed to prompt immediate action and ensure timely response to potential issues. Alerts and notifications play a crucial role in proactive network management. Alerts enable network operators to address problems before they escalate, maintaining optimal network performance and reliability.

Understanding the distinction between monitoring and alerts is vital to effective network management. While monitoring continuously tracks and analyzes network data to provide insights, alerts serve as targeted signals that indicate when attention is needed. At their best, alerts are proactive: They’re not just about detecting issues but about enabling timely interventions to prevent network disruptions. As we delve into the best practices for network alert management, we’ll explore strategies for optimizing alert systems for clarity, relevance, and effectiveness, ensuring network operators can maintain high performance and reliability in their networks.

Network Monitoring Alerts: Alerting dashboard page in Kentik, showing an overview of network monitoring system-related alerts and activity
Network Monitoring Alerts: Alerting dashboard page in Kentik, showing an overview of network monitoring system-related alerts and activity

Best Practices for Network Alert Management

Here are seven best practices for managing alerts and notifications in today’s complex network monitoring environments:

1. Define Clear and Actionable Alert Thresholds

In network operations, the effectiveness of an alerting system hinges on its ability to separate the ordinary from the extraordinary, ensuring that every alert warrants attention. Establishing clear and actionable alert thresholds is not merely a best practice but the cornerstone of a robust network monitoring strategy. Conceptually, thresholds are the dividing line between normal and abnormal network behavior. They represent the point at which some signal veers from “normal” into the realm of the unusual or critical.

The Art and Science of Setting Alert Thresholds

Setting these thresholds is both an art and a science, requiring a deep understanding of the network’s normal operational parameters and the ability to anticipate potential anomalies. The goal is to create a finely tuned system that balances sensitivity and specificity: Sensitive enough to detect genuine issues early on, yet specific enough to avoid the cacophony of false alarms that lead to alert fatigue.

Kentik simplifies this process with its dynamic thresholding capabilities, which are powered by advanced analytics and historical data analysis. This approach allows for thresholds that are not static, but that evolve with your network. By analyzing patterns and trends in historical data, Kentik can discern what constitutes normal behavior for your network and adjust thresholds in real-time to reflect this understanding. This dynamic adjustment is crucial in today’s ever-changing network environments, where yesterday’s norms may not apply today.

Reviewing a network alert policy in Kentik, showing threshold conditions
Reviewing a network alert policy in Kentik, showing threshold conditions

Additionally, Kentik’s “Insights” go beyond threshold intelligence by leveraging advanced analytics to provide a more nuanced understanding of network behaviors. These insights can be used to alert teams to anomalies that merit attention, even in the absence of a pre-defined notification threshold. With these AI-powered insights, NetOps can craft alerts that are not just reactive but predictive, anticipating issues before they escalate.

Exploring a Kentik Insight, showing an unexpected drop in utilization for a network interface
Exploring a Kentik Insight, showing an unexpected drop in utilization for a network interface

Leveraging Historical Baselines

One of the main strengths of Kentik’s platform is its ability to leverage historical baselines for setting thresholds. This means that thresholds are based on a deep analysis of what’s typical for your specific network rather than relying on arbitrary or fixed values. This historical perspective ensures that alerts are triggered by significant deviations in the context of your network’s normal operations, improving the relevance of each alert.

For example, a sudden spike in traffic might be routine for a retail network during a sale event but could signify a DDoS attack for a corporate network during off-hours. Kentik’s intelligent thresholding understands these nuances, ensuring that the resulting alerts are meaningful and warrant attention.

Threshold Customization and Flexibility

Kentik recognizes that each network is unique, with its own challenges, priorities, and operational norms. This is why the platform offers extensive customization options for threshold settings. Network operators can define thresholds based on a wide range of metrics, from bandwidth usage and latency to error rates and more. This flexibility allows you to tailor the alerting system to precisely fit your network’s characteristics and your organization’s risk tolerance.

Moreover, Kentik’s platform enables setting multiple thresholds for different severity levels, allowing for a graduated response to emerging issues. This means you can configure alerts for when a metric crosses a “warning” level and escalate to “critical” based on the severity of the deviation. This tiered approach ensures that responses can be calibrated to the nature and severity of the issue, allowing for more nuanced and effective network management.

Empowering NetOps Professionals

For NetOps professionals, defining clear and actionable alert thresholds is empowering. It transforms the alerting system from merely notifying issues into a strategic tool for proactive network management. With Kentik’s advanced thresholding capabilities, network operators can ensure that their alerting system is a reliable partner in maintaining network health and performance, capable of delivering insights that prompt timely and effective action.

2. Ensure Alerts Demand Action: Beyond Just FYI

Alerts in network management should be more than mere notifications: They need to be catalysts for action. This principle, humorously discussed in Leon Adato’s talk “Alerts Don’t Suck: Your Alerts Suck!” underscores the need for alerts to be purposeful and impactful. In Kentik, this philosophy is ingrained in how alerts are structured, ensuring they go beyond being informational to being instrumental in driving immediate and necessary responses. Check out the video below for Leon’s insights around managing an effective network alerting strategy.

In this video, Kentik evangellist Leon Adato discusses the common misconceptions and pitfalls of alerts in network monitoring, discussing effective versus ineffective networking alert strategies.

Crafting Alerts That Compel Action

Kentik’s platform is designed to facilitate the creation of alerts that both inform and compel action. This involves setting alerts based on conditions that significantly impact network health or security and require immediate intervention. Each alert should be a clear signal that something needs urgent attention, guiding the recipient towards the necessary steps to mitigate the issue. This approach helps avoid the common pitfall of overwhelming users with FYI alerts that lead to alert fatigue and dilute the urgency of truly critical issues.

The Philosophy of Meaningful Alerts

As highlighted in Adato’s talk, the essence of a valuable alert lies in its ability to prompt a specific response to a problem occurring in real time. Kentik embraces this philosophy by allowing users to define alerts that are triggered by specific conditions and carry clear instructions on the action required. This clarity ensures that alerts are not just background noise but critical components of network management.

Integrating Context and Action

In Kentik, alerts are designed to provide context—an understanding of why an alert was triggered, what it signifies, and what actions are needed. This context is crucial for differentiating between alerts that require immediate action and those that are informational. For example, a warning about a sudden spike in traffic could include details on whether it’s a potential security threat or an expected increase due to a known event.

Avoiding Alert Fatigue through Relevance

To further ensure alerts are action-oriented, Kentik allows for customizing alert thresholds based on historical data and network behavior, as Adato suggests. This customization means alerts are not triggered by normal fluctuations but by anomalies that signify real issues. By focusing on relevance and context, Kentik helps network teams concentrate on alerts that matter, reducing unnecessary noise and enhancing the effectiveness of their response strategies.

3. Use Policy Templates for Efficient Alert Configuration

Policy templates can improve alert management efficiency, offering a structured approach to defining alert conditions that cover a wide variety of common network scenarios. Kentik’s pre-built policy templates are a collection of pre-configured settings that reflect industry standards and accumulated best practices. They serve as an essential tool for NetOps teams aiming to streamline their alerting processes.

Network policy templates in Kentik
Network policy templates in Kentik

Streamlining the Configuration Process

The primary advantage of using policy templates is the significant reduction in time and effort required to set up effective alerting mechanisms. These templates provide a well-defined starting point, enabling rapid deployment of consistent alerts across the network infrastructure. This consistency is crucial in minimizing human errors and ensuring that alerting mechanisms are reliable and uniformly applied, an essential factor in maintaining network health and performance.

Customization for Tailored Alerting

Kentik understands that networks vary significantly in their setup, usage, and the challenges they face. To accommodate this diversity, Kentik’s policy templates are designed with flexibility in mind, allowing for extensive customization. Network operators can modify these templates to align with their network’s specific requirements, adjusting thresholds, metrics, and conditions to reflect their environment’s unique characteristics and operational priorities.

Well-crafted, customized alert policies can significantly enhance the effectiveness of a team’s network monitoring and incident response strategies. The ability to customize templates ensures that alerts generated within Kentik’s platform are highly relevant to the specific operational context of each network. By fine-tuning templates, NetOps teams can ensure that alerts are actionable and directly tied to their organization’s operational needs and priorities.

Leveraging Built-in Expertise

Kentik’s policy templates are more than just pre-set configurations. They represent a distillation of extensive networking expertise and best practices into a form that’s readily accessible and usable by network operations teams. By adopting these templates, teams can leverage proven strategies and insights, ensuring their alerting mechanisms are sophisticated and aligned with industry-leading practices.

Kentik’s policy templates offer a practical and efficient pathway to setting up a robust alerting system, ensuring that alerts are consistent, reliable, and tailored to each network’s unique needs.

4. Optimize Notification Channels to Reduce Alert Fatigue

Alert fatigue remains a significant challenge in network operations, where a deluge of notifications can often obscure critical alerts that require immediate attention. The key to mitigating this issue lies in the strategic optimization of notification channels. Kentik’s advanced notification system offers robust support for a wide variety of notification channels that your NetOps team already uses. By fine-tuning these channels, NetOps professionals can ensure that each alert captures attention and compels the right action.

Network alert notification channels in Kentik
Configuring network alert notification channels in Kentik

Prioritizing Alerts Based on Severity

One foundation of effective notification management is prioritizing alerts based on their severity. This approach ensures that high-priority alerts stand out, prompting timely responses to critical issues. Kentik facilitates this by allowing users to categorize alerts into different severity levels, each with its own notification settings. This granularity ensures that alerts are not just a barrage of information but a structured hierarchy of issues that are clearly defined by their urgency.

Integrating with Daily Communication Tools

Integrating alerting systems with daily communication tools is crucial in today’s interconnected work environments. Kentik’s notification system seamlessly integrates with widely used platforms such as email, Slack, PagerDuty, and more, ensuring that alerts are received in the tools that teams use most frequently. These integrations ensure that alerts are immediately visible and can be acted upon without disrupting the team’s workflow.

Setting Up Escalation Paths

To further combat alert fatigue, Kentik enables the setup of escalation paths for alerts. This feature allows critical alerts that are not addressed within a predefined timeframe to be escalated, ensuring they receive the attention they deserve. Escalation can involve notifying a broader audience or higher-level personnel, increasing the likelihood of a prompt response. This systematic approach to alert management ensures that critical issues don’t get overlooked, enhancing the overall responsiveness of the NetOps team.

Customizable Notification Options

Users can tailor notification channels to direct alerts through their preferred mediums, ensuring that the right people are alerted at the right time. This customization extends to setting specific targets for each notification type, allowing for a highly-targeted approach to alert dissemination. By ensuring that alerts are directed to the most relevant team members, Kentik minimizes unnecessary distractions and keeps the focus on addressing critical issues efficiently.

Leveraging Kentik’s Notifications Documentation

For NetOps teams looking to delve deeper into optimizing their notification strategies, Kentik offers comprehensive documentation on its alerting and notification system. This resource is invaluable for understanding the full capabilities of Kentik’s policy-based notification system. It provides detailed instructions on setting up and customizing notifications to fit the unique needs of each network.

5. Implement Silent Mode for Strategic Alert Suppression

In the dynamic environment of network operations, the ability to discern which alerts warrant immediate action is crucial. Kentik’s “silent mode” feature can be instrumental during periods of planned maintenance or in anticipation of events known to trigger high-volume—but non-critical—alerts. With judicious use of silent mode, NetOps teams can effectively suppress these expected alerts, ensuring that the focus remains squarely on those that signify genuine and immediate network issues.

Strategic Use During Maintenance and Expected Events

Silent mode is especially useful during planned maintenance windows or events that typically result in a surge of predictable alerts. These are scenarios where the network behavior, though deviating from the norm, is understood and expected by the team. Activating silent mode during such periods prevents being inundated by alerts that would typically signify potential issues, but are expected and non-critical under these specific circumstances. Strategic alert suppression allows teams to concentrate on maintenance tasks or event handling without the distraction of redundant alerts.

Customizing Silent Mode to Fit Operational Needs

Kentik offers a range of customizable options for silent mode, allowing teams to tailor its implementation to fit their specific needs. Options can involve specifying the duration for which silent mode should be active, selecting particular types of alerts to suppress, or even defining specific network segments where silent mode should apply. This level of flexibility ensures that silent mode can be a precision tool in the network operator’s toolkit.

Ensuring Critical Alerts Remain Unmuted

While the suppression of alerts during known events is advantageous, it’s essential that this doesn’t extend to alerts that could signify unexpected and critical issues. Kentik’s silent mode is designed with this in mind, allowing for the nuanced application of suppression rules. This ensures that while most predictable alerts are muted, any that fall outside of those predefined conditions (and might indicate a genuine network threat) continue to be flagged for immediate attention.

Guidelines for Implementing Silent Mode

To leverage silent mode effectively, it’s essential to establish clear criteria for its activation. This involves a thorough understanding of the network’s normal operations and the specific conditions expected during maintenance or other anticipated events. It’s also crucial to communicate the activation of silent mode to all relevant team members, ensuring that everyone is aware of the current alerting state and can adjust their monitoring activities accordingly.

Additionally, it’s advisable to review the outcomes of silent mode post-activation, assessing whether any critical alerts were inadvertently suppressed and adjusting the silent mode parameters for future use based on these insights. This continuous refinement of silent mode settings ensures that it remains an effective tool for managing alerts in line with the evolving needs of the network and the organization.

6. Embrace Automation for Timely Alert Response and Mitigation

Obviously, it’s essential for NetOps teams to be able to respond swiftly and effectively to alerts. Automation can help achieve high levels of responsiveness, allowing NetOps teams to address issues preemptively before they escalate. Kentik offers robust network automation features that let teams configure automated actions in response to specific alert conditions, improving efficiency while safeguarding network performance and reliability.

Automating Corrective Actions

Kentik allows for the automation of various corrective actions tailored to the nature of the triggered alert. For example, in the event of traffic congestion alerts, the system can be configured to automatically reroute traffic through less congested paths, ensuring seamless network performance even under strain. Similarly, during server outages, Kentik can initiate failover processes, seamlessly transferring operations to backup systems to maintain service continuity. These automated responses are not just about maintaining uptime: They’re about preserving the quality of the user experience and the integrity of network operations with minimal human intervention.

Proactive Mitigation Strategies

Beyond reactive measures, Kentik’s automation capabilities enable the implementation of proactive mitigation strategies. By analyzing trends and patterns in network behavior, Kentik can predict potential issues and automatically adjust network configurations to prevent these problems from arising. This forward-looking approach transforms network management from a reactive task to a proactive strategy, ensuring that potential issues are mitigated before they can impact network performance.

Kentik’s automation capabilities are further enhanced by “Kentik AI,” which introduces intuitive, natural language query features. This innovation allows teams to engage with their networks conversationally, asking questions and receiving insights in plain language. It streamlines the path from alert to action, allowing for faster troubleshooting and a more proactive approach to network health.

Integration with Existing Workflows

Understanding that network operations often involve a complex ecosystem of tools and systems, Kentik’s automation features are designed to integrate seamlessly with existing workflows. Whether it’s triggering alerts in third-party monitoring systems, integrating with incident management platforms, or automating communications through team collaboration tools, Kentik ensures that automated actions fit smoothly into the broader operational landscape of the organization.

Customization and Control

A deep commitment to customization and control is at the heart of Kentik’s automation features. Recognizing that each network’s needs and challenges are unique, Kentik provides a flexible framework that allows teams to define automation rules that align with their specific requirements. This customization extends to the granularity of the alert conditions, the specificity of the automated actions, and the control over when and how these actions are executed. This level of detail ensures that automation enhances network operations without sacrificing oversight and control.

Ensuring Reliability Through Automation

The ultimate goal of embracing automation in network management is to ensure the reliability and performance of the network. By leveraging Kentik’s automation features, NetOps teams can ensure that their networks are monitored and actively managed, with systems in place to respond instantly to any issues that arise. This automated vigilance is critical to maintaining the high standards of performance and reliability that modern network operations demand.

7. Continuously Review and Refine Alert Strategies

Adhering to Leon Adato’s insights, ensuring that alerts demand action is not a one-time task. It’s an ongoing commitment. Kentik’s platform facilitates this continuous refinement, enabling teams to adapt their alerting strategies to the evolving needs of their network environments. Regular reviews and updates are crucial for maintaining the relevance and efficacy of alert policies.

Best Practices for Regular Network Alert Reviews

  • Schedule Regular Audits: Establish a routine, be it quarterly or bi-annually, for auditing alert configurations. These audits should assess the effectiveness of current alerts, review false positives and negatives, and identify any gaps in the alerting strategy.

  • Analyze Alert Trends: Use Kentik’s analytics to examine trends in alert triggers. Look for patterns that indicate over-sensitive thresholds or under-monitored conditions, adjusting as necessary to balance responsiveness with relevance.

  • Engage with Stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders in the review process. Gather feedback from network operators, security teams, and other relevant parties interacting with alerts daily. Their insights can provide valuable context for refining alert criteria.

  • Leverage Historical Data: Use Kentik’s historical data capabilities to compare past incidents with current thresholds and conditions. This analysis can reveal whether thresholds need adjustment based on changing network behaviors or new operational benchmarks.

  • Update Knowledge Base: Ensure that each alert is accompanied by up-to-date documentation or a knowledgebase article that outlines the recommended response actions. This ensures that when an alert is triggered, the recipient has clear guidance on how to proceed.

  • Test and Validate Changes: Before fully implementing changes to alert configurations, test them to validate their effectiveness. This can be done in a controlled environment or by using a phased approach in the live environment, closely monitoring the impact of any adjustments.

  • Incorporate New Technologies and Threats: As new technologies are adopted and new threats emerge, update your alerting strategies to cover these developments. This proactive approach ensures that your network remains protected against the latest challenges.

  • Use AI-Driven Insights for Proactive Adjustments: Integrate Kentik’s AI-driven Insights into the review cycle to proactively identify and adapt to evolving network patterns. These insights can offer predictive recommendations, ensuring that alert thresholds and policies are both responsive to current conditions and preemptive of future network states.

Ensuring Alignment with Network Conditions

The dynamic nature of networks and the continuous evolution of the networking technology and threat landscapes require a proactive approach to alert management. By regularly revisiting and refining alert configurations, NetOps teams can ensure that their alerting system remains aligned with current network conditions.

Continuous refinement of alert strategies is critical to effective network management. By embracing this practice, NetOps professionals can ensure that their alerting systems in Kentik are functional and strategically aligned with the overarching goals of network performance, security, and reliability.

See for Yourself How Kentik Facilitates Best Practices in Network Alert Management

Throughout this article, we’ve explored a range of best practices essential for effective network alert management. From establishing clear and actionable alert thresholds to leveraging policy templates for efficient configuration, optimizing notification channels to reduce alert fatigue, and embracing automation for timely response and mitigation, each strategy plays a pivotal role in maintaining network health and performance.

Kentik’s comprehensive Network Observability Platform offers the advanced alerting and notification features NetOps teams need to adopt a best practices approach:

  • Clear Alert Thresholds: Kentik’s dynamic thresholding capabilities, powered by historical data analysis and advanced analytics, ensure alerts are both precise and relevant, minimizing false positives and focusing attention on genuine anomalies.

  • Customizable Policy Templates: With Kentik, NetOps teams can swiftly deploy and tailor alert policies, thanks to a rich library of policy templates designed to encapsulate industry standards and best practices, yet flexible enough to meet the unique demands of each network.

  • Efficient Notification Channels: Kentik’s sophisticated notification system integrates seamlessly with daily communication tools, ensuring alerts are delivered through the most effective channels and are structured to compel action, mitigating alert fatigue.

  • Automation for Timely Responses: Kentik’s platform supports a range of automated actions, from traffic rerouting to failover processes, enabling proactive and reactive mitigation strategies that maintain network performance without needing constant human intervention.

  • Silent Mode for Focused Attention: During known maintenance windows or expected events, Kentik’s silent mode allows for the suppression of non-critical alerts, ensuring teams can concentrate on significant issues that require immediate action.

  • Continuous Refinement: Kentik supports the ongoing review and adjustment of alert policies, ensuring they remain aligned with the evolving network environment and emerging threats, thereby enhancing the resilience and efficiency of network operations.

Kentik’s suite of advanced network monitoring solutions is tailor-made for the complexities of modern, multicloud network environments. By addressing the three pillars of modern network monitoring—comprehensive visibility into network flow, robust synthetic testing capabilities, and a next-generation network monitoring system that supports both SNMP and streaming telemetry metrics—Kentik empowers network professionals to monitor, manage, and troubleshoot their networks with unparalleled depth and agility.

Discover how Kentik can elevate your network observability and streamline your team’s alert management practices. Request a personalized demo or sign up for a free trial today and witness firsthand the transformative impact that Kentik can have on your network operations.

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