An unobstructed flow of data is paramount when it comes to achieving a smooth and fast network experience for users. As a network administrator, it is essential to ensure a fair distribution of bandwidth for resource-intensive applications, maintain an uninterrupted flow of network speed, and guarantee a secure network that’s free from internal and external threats. It is also important to keep an eye on latency, packet loss, and jitter and comply with service level agreements (SLAs). By keeping all these factors in check, you can influence and improve the quality of service (QoS) of your network and user experience.

QoS plays an essential role in the management and optimization of network traffic. It comprises protocols designed to optimize a network’s performance by supporting mission-critical applications within a limited capacity. This is achieved by allocating bandwidth to prioritize specific traffic packet flows within the network. Network administrators assign the priority (or order) in which the network packets should be handled, and they also allocate the amount of bandwidth to each particular application.

QoS: The bouncer for your network party

Let’s think of the network as a high-end, celebrity event, packet flows as the guests, and QoS protocols as the security team that handles the guest list. As long as the queue of guests entering the event is in a smooth flow, there is no traffic congestion. But, if any congestion occurs, the QoS protocols are going to allow the A-list guests (e.g., the mission-critical applications) to pass through the network first, while the ordinary packets have to queue up until they are allowed to pass. This process is to ensure that the mission-critical applications don’t experience any latency that affects the overall network performance. In-short, QoS acts as a digital bouncer that redirects and orders data packets based on their importance.

How to apply QoS policies

QoS plays a key role in the following areas:

  • VoIP calls
  • File transfers
  • Interactive applications
  • Electronic retailing markets

Let’s take a real-world use case. In many organizations, the support team’s key interactions will be over VoIP, video conferencing, and video-on-demand calls, over other areas like file transfers or e-shopping. In such instances, QoS policies ensure that these interactions are highly protected from latency and jitter issues, and prioritize them as mission-critical applications over non-critical applications. By prioritizing VoIP and video traffic, QoS policies can assure clear and uninterrupted conversations that result in successful virtual meetings.

QoS policies give priority to the appropriate packets. The goal is to provide the highest service and an uninterruptible end-user experience within a limited bandwidth capacity. But how is this done? This is implemented in three main stages:

  1. Define mission-critical services using QoS: QoS policies ensure consistency and adequate network resources to allocate for important applications and services.
  2. Determine SLAs for traffic classes: Network packets are classified by packet headers to know their source and destination in order to prioritize non-critical packets.
  3. Curate and implement QoS policies: An effective QoS tool uses various rules and policies to handle data flows. With a proper QoS traffic shaping technique, you can optimize and guarantee better bandwidth performance, leading to increased productivity.

Why QoS is essential to security

No organization wants a disorganized or congested network. With effective QoS policies, network administrators have the power to determine and prioritize the critical applications that contribute most to the needs of the organization. If QoS policies are compromised in a network, data integrity and security is jeopardized, leading to potential network breaches for both staff and customers. A synergy between QoS policies and network security is required to nurture a resilient and secure network system.

NetFlow Analyzer and QoS traffic shaping

Generally, QoS traffic shaping is done in two ways:

  • Application-level traffic shaping
  • Router-level traffic shaping

NetFlow Analyzer‘s holistic network monitoring system has extended its scope from network traffic analysis to QoS bandwidth shaping, allowing you to edit and apply effective QoS policies for mission-critical traffic.

With application-level QoS traffic shaping, it is now possible to add the required flexibility for bandwidth capacity by viewing speed, utilization, and IN and OUT traffic speed of devices, along with their interfaces. Whereas in router-level configurations, policies and criteria can be applied instantly, including setting QoS’ differentiated services code point (DSCP) codes and filtering ACL rules and service policies.

Here are some of the QoS traffic shaping features in NetFlow Analyzer:

  1. Revise the QoS policies using a Network-Based Application Recognition (NBAR) application.
  2. Apply traffic filtering based on host addresses through the ACL configuration.
  3. Configure a class-based QoS to address network traffic loss resulting from post-policy drops.
  4. Administer different QoS configurations by modifying the Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) codes.
  5. Generate customizable QoS forensic reports for a selected time period to manage bandwidth consumption in your organization.
  6. Block attackers’ IPs, and limit unwanted traffic.

The current trend towards optimized and secure cloud interactions, the rising demand of IoT devices, and the expectations for seamless data transmission are soaring high, and QoS will continue to play a major role in effective traffic management.

ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer is a flow-based, network bandwidth analytics tool that offers real-time insights into your applications, interfaces, and devices. Feel free to explore our free, 30-day trial, or contact our support team for additional information.