Network Monitoring Technologies

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Network Monitoring Technologies

In Microsoft Windows Server 2003 network monitoring technologies help network administrators track and manage the functions of devices on the network.

Network Monitoring Components

There are two network monitoring technologies that help network administrators track and manage the functions of devices on the network:

  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

    SNMP is a network management protocol that can monitor and alert administrators regarding the condition of hardware components such as workstations and servers.

  • Microsoft Computer Browser Service

    The Computer Browser Service in computers running Windows enables network administrators and users to browse and gain access to the resources of the network. The browser service provides a convenient listing of devices such as workstations and printers, and allows network users access to them with the proper authentication.


SNMP management software is used to monitor any network device on which SNMP agent software is installed. The SNMP agent, an optional component of Windows Server 2003, interacts with other SNMP management software to enable the transport of information about network status between monitored devices and applications and the management systems that monitor them.

SNMP Management Systems and Agents

SNMP provides a method of managing network hosts such as workstation or server computers, routers, bridges, and hubs from a centrally-located computer that runs network management software. SNMP performs management services by using a distributed architecture of management systems and agents.

SNMP management system

The management system, also called management console, sends information and update requests to an SNMP agent. Any computer running SNMP management software is an SNMP management system. The management software application does not need to run on the same host as the SNMP agent.

The SNMP management system requests information from a managed computer, (SNMP agent), such as the amount of hard disk space available or the number of active sessions. The management system can also initiate a change to an agent’s configuration. However, this is rare because most clients have read-only access.

SNMP agent

The SNMP agent responds to management system requests for information. Any computer running SNMP agent software is an SNMP agent. The Windows Server 2003 SNMP service, which is agent software, responds to information requests from one or multiple management systems. The SNMP service can be configured to determine which statistics are tracked and which management systems are authorized to request information.

Typically, agents do not originate messages, but only respond to them. A trap message is the only agent-initiated SNMP communication. A trap is an alarm-triggering event on an agent, such as a system reboot or illegal access, which provides enhanced security.

Management hosts and agents belong to an SNMP community, which is a collection of hosts grouped together for administrative purposes. Defining communities provides security by allowing only management systems and agents within the same community to communicate.

Computer Browser Service

The Computer Browser service is the mechanism that collects and distributes the list of workgroups and domains and the servers within them. The list is displayed in the window of Microsoft Windows Network and related windows in My Network Places.

The architecture of the browser service is complete when several computers are brought together on a network to perform Browser Service roles. Individually, these roles are just parts of the Browser Service, but when combined on the network, they form a browser system that enables efficient sharing of network resource information. The computers that perform these roles make up the components of the browser system.

Browser System Roles

There are four Browser Service roles that computers can play in the browser system:

  • Potential browser

  • Backup browse server

  • Master browse server

  • Domain master browse server

Network Monitoring Scenarios

The need for network monitoring corresponds to the size of the network. Small networks with few devices attached and with a small geographical size might be easily managed without SNMP or a large reliance on the Computer Browser Service. A large network with many devices is more difficult to monitor. Unlike a small network where administrators might be able to visually inspect network devices regularly, large networks might require the use of SNMP and the Computer Browser Service to make it possible to track network devices from a single computer. Thus, these technologies become more useful and more essential as networks expand.