What Is a TAP—and Why Should You Use One?

September 28, 2021

In today’s connected world, businesses need to be online 24/7. As a result, it’s more critical than ever for network admins to consistently seek out and prevent disruptive network activity. This can be accomplished by adding a network TAP into the link.

What is a TAP?

A test access point—usually referred to as a “TAP”—is a device that’s temporarily or permanently inserted into a network segment so technicians can analyze the network traffic. A TAP interrupts the connection between a router and a switch—or 2 other networking devices—so the technician can leverage a tool to analyze the network traffic. It has access to both outgoing and incoming data streams and can transmit both at the same time. It can also combine the 2 data streams in real time without making any alterations to the data.

Why use a TAP?

Although installing a TAP involves an initial breaking of the link, a TAP offers significant functionality that allows for in-depth monitoring of your network traffic with more integrity of entire packets to numerous devices.

Because you can see every packet of incoming and outgoing data, your network becomes completely visible. This enables you to analyze web server traffic, e-commerce, real-time communications, and VoIP. It also provides the insight you need to optimize network speed and performance.

A TAP has no impact on the network. It doesn’t alter any data—it simply makes copies of the incoming and outgoing data and sends those copies to the connected analytical tool or tools. The device has no MAC or IP address, so it’s invisible—plus, it can’t be hacked.

If you need to connect more than one monitoring or analytical tool, you can use the 2 monitoring ports on an aggregation TAP to transmit the copied data. For even more tools, you can leverage a combination of aggregation TAPS in SPAN/Regen mode and aggregation mode.

A network TAP is CALEA-approved because it can’t be hacked and ensures that all the copied data is received by the analytical or monitoring tool. This means that it’s more secure if you need to safeguard and prove an evidentiary chain of custody for legal purposes.

The different types of TAPs

There are 6 types of TAPs:

  1. Aggregation TAP: This TAP merges the traffic that flows from ports A to B and B to A into a single monitoring port. It then transmits all the data to the connected tool—as long as the merged traffic doesn’t oversubscribe the monitor ports. Because the merged traffic can be transmitted via a single port, the TAP can send all the data to 2 different monitoring tools.
  2. Breakout TAP: You can use a breakout TAP when the traffic on the link is sufficiently heavy to result in oversubscription if both the incoming and outgoing traffic were aggregated to one single monitor port. This type of TAP needs to be attached to a tool that requires 2 NICs—one for the eastbound traffic stream and one for the westbound traffic stream.
  3. Bypass TAP: This TAP includes a heartbeat packet along with the data that it transmits to the in-line tool. As long as the in-line tool is online, the heartbeat packet will always be returned to the device. The TAP removes the heartbeat packet before sending the data back into the network.
  4. Filtering TAP: When a monitoring or analytical tool like a Wireshark or VoIP needs to see specific data only, a filtering TAP enables you to capture only the data that the tool requires. This ensures that the monitoring ports don’t become oversubscribed.
  5. Media Conversion TAP: When the media types of your live connection and monitoring or analytical tool aren’t the same, a media conversion TAP can convert the link to the specific type of monitoring port you have.
  6. SPAN/Regeneration TAP: When there aren’t sufficient monitor ports on an aggregation TAP to connect to multiple monitoring and/or analytical tools, you can connect one monitor port to a regeneration TAP. This enables you to distribute the traffic on the aggregation TAP monitor port to up to 3 different tools.
USR’s new TAPs

For more than 40 years, USR has been providing hardware to ensure that businesses worldwide have dependable Internet access—and the company continues to lead the industry when it comes to developing new, high-performing solutions. What follows is a selection of their new TAPs:

Learn more about USR’s new TAPs

Ensuring reliable, secure Internet access is critical for businesses around the globe. That’s why the SYNNEX Stellr team has partnered with USR to help you bring your customers the most cutting-edge TAPs available today. Please reach out to your SYNNEX sales representatives to learn more about USR’s new TAPs.