12 Network Metrics and KPIs You Should Probably Care About

Network KPIs are the key to defining service level agreements and meeting user expectations. Here are 12 KPIs you should know about.

Network KPIs are the key to defining service level agreements and meeting user expectations.
(Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

It is a given that your network monitoring or network management solution collects data that drives metrics and key performance indicators (KPI). The trick is deciding which of these to track, analyze, and use as network performance and operational goals.

First, metrics and KPIs are different but can be the same thing. Does that sound weird? Not really. I’ll explain.

Network KPIs are goal-oriented metrics that measure and benchmark the network's operation and show network professionals what they need to do to achieve optimal network performance, boost service levels, and set and then meet service level agreements (SLAs). Think of KPIs as business-oriented metrics.

The KPIs can tell network pros when they should be:

  • Investing in better network infrastructure

  • Reconfiguring the network to achieve performance goals

  • Using bandwidth shaping and load balancing to optimize performance

  • Changing end-user network use policies.

KPIs Versus Metrics

A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square. The same is true for metrics and KPIs, where a KPI is always a metric, but a metric isn’t always a KPI.

While all KPIs are metrics, metrics like rectangles are a broader category that tracks and quantifies items that aren’t necessarily critical or business-oriented.

Metrics become KPIs when they are identified as important and tied to objectives and goals. The KPI measures performance against these goals just as an SLA does. In fact, KPIs are key to creating and meeting SLAs.

12 Top Metrics and KPIs

Below are 12 of the most popular network metrics and KPIs:

1) Application Layer Latency: Key to application performance and end user experience, this metric measures application layer request/response pairs to find application latency that ultimately impacts application performance.

2) Bandwidth Usage: One of the simplest metrics, bandwidth usage, impacts the performance of applications and end-user response times. With it, IT can find areas of the network that are saturated with traffic and address those places with network upgrades, traffic redirection, load balancing, or bandwidth shaping. This can support end-user and application experience goals.

3) Connection Time: How long it takes to connect two devices. This metric, or KPI, can spot issues with connections, server response, and other network concerns that can slow performance and degrade the user experience.

4) Connectivity: Networks are all about connections; this metric/KPI monitors connections between nodes and devices. By spotting bad connections or malfunctioning devices early and fixing them, downtime or performance issues are solved or mitigated. These connectivity issues often stem from malware that infects specific nodes, degrading specific areas of the network, but when unaddressed, spread across other areas, wreaking more havoc.

5) Mean Time to Repair (MTTR): This KPI is often the basis of MTTR SLAs. Repairs are hastened by in-depth network monitoring tied to actionable alerts that give network pros the details needed to quickly fix the problem, accelerate a fix, or even create an automated solution.

6) Network Availability: This measures uptime over IT-defined or set time periods and indicates how the network is delivering key services. With a historical view, IT can spot network availability trends and address the cause of ongoing issues.

7) Network Latency: Network latency, or network delay, monitors performance by measuring how long it takes data to move from one place to another.

8) Quality of Service (QoS) Metrics: Very often implemented as an SLA, QoS can be based on multiple metrics, including bandwidth usage, connectivity, and availability. These measurements help IT prioritize bandwidth levels, which is crucial in defining QoS for bandwidth-intensive services such as VoIP.

9) Response Time: A key performance measurement, this is how quickly network requests reach and get a response from a device.

10) Round-Trip Time: The time in milliseconds for a ping request to come back from a remote device.

11) Server Response Time: The time it takes for a request to a server to be received, completed, and responded to.

12) Throughput: The speed of data transmission across the network. This metric/KPI measures how many data packets reach their destination. Packet loss (another metric/KPI) is often the cause of low throughput.

A Final Word in Key KPIs

KPIs can be different for every organization, as their business goals are unique and performance needs individual. The best approach is to understand network metrics and decide which should be elevated to KPIs for your enterprise and which should have SLAs attached.

While an SLA can be so-called discrete or based on a single KPI or metric, such as packet loss, downtime, or jitter, they can also rely on several measurements. In this latter case, the KPI itself includes several metrics. Take broad categories, such as application performance, Quality of Service (QoS), or the even broader end-user experience. Multiple metrics are used to paint the full picture and provide broader network services such as downtime.

About the Author(s)

Doug Barney, Tech Evangelist, Progress

Doug Barney is a Tech Evangelist at Progress. He was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News, and Virtualization Review. Doug has also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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