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How are a network analyzer and a network scanner different?

By Justin Stoltzfus | Last updated: July 2, 2020

Network analyzers and network scanners may accomplish similar things in network administration, but they work differently.

A network analyzer is also sometimes called a 'packet analyzer’ or 'packet sniffer.’ The analyzer or sniffer works to evaluate data in transit across the network, by inspecting data packets. The analyzer may look at the raw data in a packet, including values or settings in the header, in order to help network administrators better understand data traffic and how it's moving through the system. This may include strategies like packet capture or interception of data traffic.

Network scanning is a different kind of procedure that identifies active hosts and network ports in order to assess them for security. Network scanning tools can look at how IP addresses are attached to network hosts. Tools called 'vulnerability scanners’ look for weak points where the system may be vulnerable to hacking.

Both of these types of tools can also be employed by unauthorized parties, in order to attack systems. In general, using a monitoring tool like a network analyzer or a network scanner can help with network troubleshooting, as well as creating better security for the network and looking out for threats.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus | Contributor, Reviewer

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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.

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