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A
Network TAP
provides a "Test Access Port" for analyzing high-speed networks in half or
full duplex mode
. When operating high-speed, high-capacity, data communications systems it is often necessary to
monitor and analyze traffic
with an absolute minimum disturbance to the data stream.
Network taps
provide inexpensive, permanent access ports throughout the network, enabling
monitoring and analysis
without interrupting transmission.

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Network Tap - Topology

TAPs Versus Span Port Connection


To enable
monitoring and intrusion detection
, most of the major switch vendors now support span (or mirror) ports on their switches. This allows the traffic to be sent to an analyzer port as well as the original designated port.

A Span Port solution has three major drawbacks.
  1. First, it puts an increased load onto the switch that often increases CPU or memory requirements.
  2. Second, when packets are sent to a span port, most vendors' switches remove low level (Layer 1, select Layer 2) errors from the stream of data. This makes low level troubleshooting impossible.
  3. Third, if the link is a full duplex link running at full line rate, then to mirror this data would require a span port running at full line rate to get both directions of traffic. Unless a non-blocking switch is being used, large amounts of data could be lost because span port traffic is a low priority.
The tap solution for network monitoring and intrusion detection utilizes
passive fiber or copper splitter taps
on the main network links. This solution mitigates the trouble and expense associated with the three drawbacks mentioned above.

TAPs Versus In-Line Connection


Another common solution for monitoring and intrusion detection is to attach the analyzer in-line.
An in-line solution has two major drawbacks:
  1. First, because it is not cost effective to leave an analyzer in-line, network managers must break a connection whenever they need to monitor.
  2. Second, because the analyzer is not passive, attaching an analyzer in-line introduces a point of failure into the network.
The permanent,
passive tap
solution eliminates the risk and inefficiency associated with
monitoring
with an in-line analyzer connection.

Flexibility


Network taps
provide network managers with the flexibility to monitor all aspects of the network 24/7. As network security and reliability continue to grow in importance, taps are an integral solution for any network.

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