Skip to main content

Home Network tap

Network tap

(also network Test Access Point, TAP)

Network tap definition

A network tap is a hardware device or software tool that monitors network traffic by creating a copy of the data packets that pass through a network connection. Network taps provide real-time visibility into the data flowing across a network, enabling network administrators and security professionals to analyze, troubleshoot, and secure network infrastructures.

See also: packet capture, logical topology

Network tap examples

  • Hardware tap: A physical device connected to a network link, which captures and duplicates data packets for analysis without disrupting the flow of network traffic.
  • Software tap: A virtual tap implemented as a software application or feature within network devices, such as routers or switches, that replicates data packets for analysis without requiring additional hardware.

Comparing network taps to other similar terms

Network tap vs. port mirroring: Port mirroring is a method used by network switches to copy network traffic from a specific port to another designated port for analysis. While both network taps and port mirroring provide visibility into network traffic, taps offer a more comprehensive and non-intrusive view of the data flow, while port mirroring may introduce latency or drop packets under a heavy network load.

Pros and cons of using network taps


  • Network taps provide real-time, non-intrusive monitoring of network traffic, enabling network administrators to quickly identify and address network issues and potential security threats.


  • Hardware taps require physical installation and can be costly, while software taps may introduce additional overhead to network devices or be limited in functionality.

Tips for using network taps

  • Choose the appropriate type of network tap based on your network infrastructure and monitoring needs.
  • Implement network taps at key points in your network topology to gain comprehensive visibility into network traffic.
  • Use network taps in conjunction with network monitoring and analysis tools to improve network performance and security.