Networking Technology: SNMP

Just like traffic police is there to regulate the streams of vehicles in a city, there are protocols that regulate how network traffic flows every day. Network professionals who are new to the IT world will hear ‘SNMP’ at least once or twice. SNMP stands for Simple Network Management Protocol and it is a common network protocol that monitors the health and safety of network equipment.

How does SNMP Work

 In the age of internet, countless transactions happen on a daily basis. Messages flow from one part of the world to the other and files are exchanged. It is the job of the SNMP to look into your network and find out details about network device activity. For example, in your internet router SNMP will check the bytes, errors, and connection speed.

The messages sent by SNMP are called protocol data units (PDUs). These messages, also known as Get-Requests are received by your network devices in the same language devised by SNMP. With these requests, network admins can check any data values. All information checked by SNMP can be transferred to a product that asks for it.

SNMP Architecture

SNMP has a very simple architecture that runs on the client-server model. In SNMP, the servers are called managers that collect and adapt details about devices present on the network. Clients are called agents and are any device that connects to a network. Agents cannot just be computers but also phones, switches, printers, routers and so on.

Some devices have more than one component like a laptop which has both wireless and wired connectivity. The network management station is a base shared by agents and managers. It provides memory and processing functions for network management. These elements together compile information to take to the network requester.

SNMP Versions

 When talking about SNMP, another very important thing is to understand its many versions. Each version varies in features and security levels.

  • SNMPv1: This is the weakest version with weak security features. In this version, managers can authenticate agents without asking for encryption. This means that anyone can intercept or modify information. An unauthorized device can pretend to be a manager or agent in this version.
  • SNMPv2: SNMPv2 came about in 1993 with some security feature improvements. However, it did not stick around for very long and was replaced by SNMPv3.
  • SNMPv3: This version finally brought about data encryption and gave authentication power to admins. Higher authentication means that the manager and agent will interact in a secure environment which is encrypted for data transfers.

While the first version became a bad name because of its weak security, the remaining two versions made quick improvements. The newest versions of SNMP provide updated and a secure way to browse on the network. If an enterprise uses thousands of endpoints and has to check if they are functioning properly or otherwise, a SNMP protocol is used to ease things up. Also, a SNMP may contain more than one network management system on a network.