Best network monitoring tools

Spiceworks

Thousands of businesses use Spiceworks to keep an eye on important infrastructure including servers, switches, SNMP devices, services, and more. Get alerts at the first sign of trouble… and stay on top of IT.

Start monitoring in minutes.

Spiceworks Network Monitor is simple to install and easy to set up. Quickly add devices to the dashboard and see data lightning fast.

Fix issues before they are issues.

Get real-time network insights and spot slow, sluggish, or overwhelmed systems and devices long before they crash or users start calling.

Get alerts when you need them.

Don’t sweat IT: Get customizable notifications when it’s time to spring into action, and get more sleep at night when it’s time to… sleep!

 

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One spot to manage your devices.

All your IT, all in one place. Your one-stop shop for managing devices, customized reporting and alerting, and software tracking. Stay in the know and breathe a sigh of relief knowing everything’s as it should be.

 

WireShark

This list wouldn’t be complete without the ever popular WireShark. WireShark is an interactive network protocol analyzer and capture utility. It provides for in-depth inspection of hundreds of protocols and runs on multiple platforms.

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When you launch Wireshark, choose which interface you want to bind to and click the green shark fin icon to get going. Packets will immediately start to be captured. Once you’ve collected what you need, you can export the data to a file for analysis in another application or use the in-built filter to drill down and analyze the captured packets at a deeper level from within Wireshark itself.

Angry IP Scanner

Angry IP Scanner is standalone application that facilitates IP address and port scanning. It is used to scan a range of IP addresses to find hosts that are alive and obtain information about them (including MAC address, open ports, hostname, ping time, NetBios information, etc).

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When you execute the application, go to Tools > Preferences to configure Scanning and Port options, then go to Tools > Fetchers to choose what information to gather from each scanned IP address.

Nagios

Probably the best known free tool, and it comes to no surprise since they’ve been working in the U.S. since 1996 to build this monitoring software. Its core is the most important part of the tool and it allows you to build plugins within that core, to monitor particular elements.

It’s interesting to see how the demand tendency on the Internet has been diminishing with the passage of time. What before was one of the most potent and well-known network tools, is losing terrain.

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It’s large-scale use is due to the fact that it was the first one to develop a tool that covered unexpendable characteristics in a network monitoring process. For this reason, Nagios was very popular. Furthermore, given its great initial market penetration, it’s still quite used.

Advantages

  • There are a lot of professional profiles with Nagios experience
  • If there is a good knowledge of the tool involved, manual configuration can turn Nagios into a very powerful tool to monitor isolated or particular cases
  • It has a large plugin offer to adapt the product to the user’s final needs
  • Basic configuration is very easy

Inconveniences

  • Editing or configuration processes are difficult due to the necessity to make manual modifications in order to properly set up the tool
  • The GUI lacks user-friendliness.
  • Steep and costly learning curve
  • Every installation ends up being a “puzzle” where rather than having a standard product, we finish with a personal appliance with hundreds of patches, self-made or third-party codes. All this apart from it being complicated to evolve or maintain by said third-parties.
  • Simple reports
  • Very lacking when it comes to SNMP, both in polling and trap management.

Review

In a nutshell, Nagios was the origin for monitoring and, as a matter of fact, lots of new network monitoring tools have inherited the Nagios code and made it evolve. Even though you may have a lot of professional profiles on the market, these must have a very vast knowledge of the program, and your installation will depend on them 100%. Future migrations may also be complicated.

Open version:  yes

 

Zabbix

Created by a Lithuanian company in 2005, Zabbix is known for being easy to configure and for having a very powerful GUI. It’s performance starts to decline when a large quantity of nodes is to be monitored. It’s agentless monitoring service stands out above the rest in its category, and experience tells us you can monitor up to 10,000 nodes without performance issues.

Advantages

  • It has quite an active community
  • At low levels, it’s still very strong and efficient.

Disadvantages

  • Even though it has been used for large installations, starting at 1,000 nodes its performance can be diminished
  • It’s difficult to create and define alert and report templates. Configurations can require many clicks and steps to be completed
  • It doesn’t include real-time reporting
  • Difficult to purge when there are errors
  • Poor SNMP trap treatment

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We’ve got the feeling that many Nagios users are moving over to Zabbix because it’s picked up on Nagios’ glove and it begins to have the visibility that Nagios used to have.

Review

As we mentioned earlier, Zabbix is taking Nagios’ relay and starts to appear on many installations. The problem that we can see here is with its scaling on larger CPD’s. We have to tread carefully if our installation has various elements of the same type (for example databases) because their configurations will be complicated.

Solarwinds

Network monitoring tool that excels for its automatic network and node mapping, without the need to manually activate it. This is added to a very powerful GUI that allows you to easily view your network topology and its status. Solarwinds also allows integrating virtual machines in its monitoring.

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Its tendency shows that after a crushing success experienced during 2004 and 2005, a descent happened in which they’re now relatively stagnated.

Advantages

  • Great GUI
  • Wonderful community backing it
  • Mobile device access

Disadvantages

  • File and manual configuration for alerts
  • The report generation system still has room to improve
  • It doesn’t have integration with cloud applications such as Amazon
  • You cannot perform all actions from the same panel and you’ll always require to access other tools
  • Its licensing forces the user to constantly look at every check performed, since licensing is individually done for these.

Review

A very good option for medium sized companies that can afford the license costs.

Open version: No.

You should also take into account that this article discusses network monitoring tools and, today, it’s more important not only to know the status of networks and applications, but to be able to understan how a business works, from the bit that goes along a network cable, yo sales being done at a specific time by a specific company. This point is related to business activity monitoring, or operational intelligence; but that’s better left for another article.

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