SNMP v2 vs v3 | All about the differences

4 min

What are the differences between SNMPv2 vs SNMPv3?

Over the last decade, the number of devices connected to corporate networks across the globe has risen astronomically. The primary drivers of this include more internet connectivity and greater access to mobile and IoT devices.

A report by Juniper shows that the number of IoT connections will reach 83 billion by 2024. That’s a 130% rise from 35 billion devices in 2020. As the number of devices increases, so do the complexities of managing networks. 

To sum things up, service providers need to monitor more devices. One way to do this is through the simple network management protocol (SNMP).

This protocol helps you monitor the health of your network. Many device entities natively support the protocol making it extremely useful to technicians.

Secondly, pre-configured SNMP templates (like those available on Domotz) automatically extract variables from SNMP enabled devices like printers, NAS and UPS. 

Nowadays, you can monitor information on your devices like printer ink levels, available memory and hard disks available. And you won’t require any specialized training.

SNMP Overview

SNMP is a basic network protocol that reports data from network devices to connected IP networks. In most cases, SNMP only operates in a read-only capacity. However, by altering the gathered information, it can be used to alter the behavior of connected devices.

It is a critical element in network management. Without it, identifying and monitoring the performance of devices is virtually impossible. Due to the evolving nature of network management needs, SNMP has adapted accordingly over the years.

As such, there are three versions of SNMP.

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What is SNMPv1?

SNMP version 1 (SNMPv1) is the original protocol version of the Simple Network Management Protocol. It was designed to monitor devices over TCP/IP networks and was first launched in 1988. One of the key features of SNMP v1 is the ease of setup. This is because only a plaintext community is necessary.

However, SNMPv1 also has some notable drawbacks. These include:

●   Little security

●   Only functions with 32 bit counters as it does not support 64 bit

While SNMPv1 is still in use today in limited cases, it only provides basic functionality and is slowly becoming obsolete.

What is SNMPv2?

To a great extent, SNMPv2 is identical to SNMPv1. However, to accommodate growing networks and increased usage, it supports 64-bit counters. It also offers

  • Enhanced security
  • Increased flexibility when establishing hierarchical structures
  • Simpler Management Information Base (MIB) discovery

In general, SNMPv2 is easier to use as it has new commands. These commands include:

  • GETBULK: This makes it possible for managers to use one message to request several variables
  • INFORM: Alters the function of ‘TRAPS’ in SNMPv1 by requiring managers to confirm receipt of messages by responding to the agent.

There are three versions of SNMPv2, namely SNMPv2c (the standardized version), SNMPv2u, and SNMPv2. It’s important to note that SNMP version 2 actually refers to SNMP v2c.

Due to a new security feature in the SNMP v2, its adoption was low. This is why SNMP v2c was developed without the security feature and reverted to the popular community-based approach. However, even with key improvements in MIB structure elements, protocol packet types, and transport mappings, SNMPv2c still had key security limitations.

While it’s still in use today, it is largely used for internal networks.

What is SNMPv3?

In response to increasing security concerns, SNMP v3 was introduced in 1998. Compared with previous SNMP versions, its setup is more complicated. It involves more than defining simple community strings. But this is a small trade-off considering that it enhances security to 64-bit counters.

Additionally, it comes with authentication and encryption capabilities which can be used together or separately. These are delivered via three new elements: SNMP Users, SNMP Groups, and SNMP View. With such capabilities, the risk of unauthorized persons gaining access to read/write data.

When malicious actors want to penetrate networks, they leverage SNMP’s access to network devices to discover authentication credentials. It is this weakness that the three elements of SNMP v3 address.

Here’s an overview of what the three SNMP elements offer:

  • View: This allows you to define the information users can access. For example, you can give different user groups access to different datasets. In doing so, you limit unnecessary and unauthorized access to data.
  • Groups: Using groups you can choose the type of security that’s active when the network interacts with a device. Furthermore, you can also define the type of user access allowed, which may be read/write or read-only.  
  • User: You can assign users to particular groups. This determines the level of access they get and the security used.

In comparison to previous versions of SNMP, you’ll enjoy greater levels of security thanks to the user-based model. Moreover, there’s no limit to the number of individual usernames you can generate. Therefore, enforcing role-based access control is easier for administrators.

With a focus on improving security, SNMP v3 goes the extra mile to address risks such as eavesdropping and tampering. And it does this without using a lot of resources by using MD5, SHA, and DES encryption methods.

The key differences between SNMPv2 vs SNMPv3

Given that each new protocol version builds upon the previous, they have notable differences. But, SNMP v1 is not used a lot. That’s why this section will focus on the differences in protocol versions between SNMP V2 vs V3.

For your network to run efficiently, SNMP is a non-negotiable element. And while there are three protocol versions, only two can deliver the necessary functionality for modern-day network needs.

With SNMP v2 vs v3, it’s not necessarily a question of which protocol version is better. It’s about choosing the one that best suits your particular needs.

For example, if you’re operating a low-risk internal network, then SNMP v2 can work perfectly. However, if it’s for a public and internet-facing network, then you’ll need the enhanced SNMP monitoring capabilities of SNMP v3.

Getting started with monitoring for SNMP v2 vs v3

You can seamlessly monitor SNMP entities without having to do much work through existing software.

In other words, they’ve built features to help you monitor SNMP entities. Such features automatically detect if a device has SNMP variables available. And there is no complicated configuration involved. Lastly, you can easily monitor SNMP variables on printers, NAS and UPS devices.

Here’s an overview of what you can monitor on devices:

  • Printers: See toner cartridge levels, drum units and supply levels.
  • UPS: Access battery status, voltage, current, temperature, estimated remaining minutes and remaining charge level. 
  • NAS: Get total available memory, free memory, number of hard disks, uptime and CPU temperature. 

Learn more about SNMP and how it works.

About our pre-configured SNMP sensor templates.

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