April 17, 2019

What Is SNMP Network Discovery?

It’s extremely time-consuming to manage hundreds or thousands of network devices manually. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) can help to manage them.
Editor’s choice 2019
Network Inventory Advisor
Automatically collect all relevant data on all network devices and get detailed OS and devices statistics.
Network Inventory Advisor for Windows scans Windows, Mac OS X, Linux computers and SNMP devices, any of them will count as a node.

In the past, only very large companies and organizations with equally large IT staff had to deal with network management at a massive scale, but times have changed.

Today, even small companies with just a few employees rely on complex networks, and they need every bit of help they can get to manage them, which is where Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) comes in.

What Is SNMP?

Created in 1989 to provide a reliable way for different devices on a network to share information with one another, SNMP is an Internet Standard protocol for collecting and organizing information about managed devices on IP networks. The protocol is supported by servers, workstations, printers, routers, switches, hubs, scanners, and internet of things (IoT) devices, allowing them to communicate even if they are made by different companies and run different software.

“SNMP is an Internet Standard protocol for collecting and organizing information about managed devices on IP networks”

Essentially, SNMP provides a common language that various network monitoring tools can use to determine the status of network devices in real time, keep track of changes to the network, monitor network performance, or identify devices, just to give a few examples. Without it, network administrators would have to catalog and visualize networks manually, which would not only take a lot of time but wouldn’t be able to provide enough visibility to ensure security and plan for future growth.

SNMP in Windows 10

Routers, switches, and sometimes even servers enable SNMP by default, but the same cannot be said about workstations. For example, the Windows 10 operating system makes SNMP available as a separate Windows components but doesn’t install it by default. Windows 10 users can, however, enable SNMP manually with just a few clicks. To install the SNMP component in Windows 10:

  1. Go to the Control Panel.
  2. Click Programs and Features.
  3. Click Turn Windows features on or off.
  4. In the list of Windows features, select Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and the WMI SNMP Provider (provides access to SNMP information via the Windows Management Instrumentation interfaces).
  5. Click OK to confirm.

SNMP Components

SNMP consists of three main components:

  • SNMP manager: In most cases, the SNMP manager is software platforms installed on a separate computer or server whose purpose is to communicate with SNMP agent devices on the network. It can query them, receive responses, set variables in SNMP agent devices on the network, and acknowledge one-way notifications, among other things. There are many SNMP managers available, each offering different features and capabilities. In the last chapter of this article, we talk about a powerful SNMP manager called Network Inventory Advisor and how it can provide visibility across your network.
  • SNMP agent: When you activate the SNMP component in Windows 10, you actually turn on an SNMP agent, a program that runs on a monitored hardware device and collects data about various metrics like bandwidth use or disk space. Apart from Windows 10 workstations and servers, SNMP agents can be found on routers, printers, and even uninterrupted power supplies. They send information when queried by the SNMP manager and sometimes proactively notify the SNMP manager if an error occurs.
  • Management Information Base (MIB): The Management Information Database, or MIB for short, is a text file in a device containing data points specific to that device. These data points are called Object Identifiers (OIDs), and they can be provided to or configured by the SNMP manager. OIDs include network status, run time, disk RPMs, device temperature, CPU and power usage, and many others.

What Is the SNMP Discovery Process?

The SNMP discovery process refers to the communication process between SNMP managers and agents. The exact details of the process depend on which version of SNMP is used.

  • SNMP Version 1 is easy to set up but offers little to no security. It relies on an authentication mechanism called community strings, which are essentially two passwords. Because many network administrators forget to change them, attackers can easily view, alter, or remotely control SNMP-enabled devices.
  • SNMP Version 2C is the most common version of SNMP today, introducing some new features and improvements over Version 1, like sending fewer queries to get the same amount of information.
  • SNMP Version 3 is the newest version of the protocol, and it adds many security features that are missing in Version 1 and Version 2C, including encryption, username and password authentication, and data validation. It’s significantly more complex to set up than the previous versions, but it makes sense for those who require robust security.

In most cases, SNMP communication is initiated by the SNMP manager over User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) using various commands and messages, which are known as protocol data units (PDUs). They include GET, RESPONSE, GETNEXT, GETBULK, SET, TRAP, and others.

What Do I Need to Initiate the SNMP Network Discovery Process?

By far the easiest way how to initiate the SNMP network discovery process is a network discovery and management tool such as Network Inventory Advisor.

This free-to-try software application can collect all relevant data on all network devices, including routers, servers, workstations, and even non-IT assets, and display the collected information in the form of customizable reports.

Network Inventory Advisor

Thanks to its automated network audits, which can scan hundreds and thousands of connected devices in a matter of minutes, Network Inventory Advisor provides the visibility companies of all sizes need to grow their networks in the most optimal manner.

Editor’s choice 2019
Network Inventory Advisor
Automatically collect all relevant data on all network devices and get detailed OS and devices statistics.
Network Inventory Advisor for Windows scans Windows, Mac OS X, Linux computers and SNMP devices, any of them will count as a node.

Conclusion

SNMP has been described as both cool and evil. While it can be used to collect heaps of useful network information easily, it also introduces some security and privacy risks which shouldn’t be taken lightly. The good news is that the shortcomings of SNMP can be avoided with the right network management tool with support for SNMP network management. We recommend Network Inventory Advisor because this simple yet powerful network management tool can automatically collect all relevant data on all network devices and provide you with detailed OS and device statistics.

Editor’s choice 2019

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