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What is Simple Network Management Protocol?

By Troy Holmes
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computer networks require a complex orchestration of protocols and standards across multiple physical hardware devices. Simple network management protocol (SNMP) is a standard method used to manage network devices and computers on a network. This standard direct the monitoring and configuration processes required for computer networks. It is considered an application layer process because it enables the manipulation of network traffic and messages.

The application layer is considered the highest level within the network communication model. This layer defines the standards for how applications transfer and manage messages across the network. The simple network management protocol uses special software, which manages the messages and devices on a computer network. This software provides methods to retrieve and trap data sent throughout the network.

The simple network management protocol uses a manager program, which interacts with special agents processes. Each agent is designed to access the individual message on a network connection. The manager sends a command to the agent, which in turn accesses the actual message from the network hardware device. The message can then be inspected and routed appropriately based on predefined rules.

This network management service is considered a simple service because it only provides a few basic commands for operation. These commands allow for access and modification of network messages, which is why it is considered simple. Once a message has been accessed it can either be modified or transferred into a network alert notification.

The SNMP service has a specific process for accessing messages. This formal standard is defined with a unique object identifier (OID). The SNMP manager process sends a request for a specific message by passing the OID number of the agent service. This process ensures the correct message is accessed and manipulated.

Simple network management protocol can also be used as a hardware device monitoring tool. This is accomplished by creating a process that proactively sends acknowledgment messages to hardware devices on the network. If a device does not respond, the network management process can send an alert message, which will alarm system administrators of potential device failures.

Most network data centers use graphical monitoring displays that represent the general health of the company's entire network. The simple network management protocol provides messages that can be represented graphically. These messages are transformed into mapping software that provides data points for each network device. When an error is detected the monitoring tools changes appearance, which alerts the administrator.

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