The evolution of the modern network has brought many things but simplicity is not one of them. The variety of devices that have come to make up the contemporary networks is jaw-dropping. Computers, servers, switches, routers, and virtual machines are just some of the diverse infrastructure that comprises a modern network.
We get into a lot of detail on each of the tools we feature below. To save you some time, here is our list of the 10 best IT infrastructure monitoring tools:
- SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (FREE TRIAL) Network monitor that checks on device health statuses with SNMP procedures. Installs on Windows Server.
- Datadog Infrastructure Monitoring (FREE TRIAL) A cloud-based system monitor that will supervise the operations of networks and servers. This can be combined with an application monitor to gain deeper insights into traffic.
- SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL) A comprehensive monitoring tool that can be integrated with the Network Performance Monitor.
- Paessler PRTG Network Monitor All-in-one infrastructure monitor that covers networks, servers, and applications. Runs on Windows Server.
- Site24x7 Server Monitoring Cloud-based tool that monitors networks, servers, and applications, including off-site infrastructure.
- Atera An IT infrastructure monitoring and management platform designed to serve managed service providers (MSPs).
- ManageEngine OpManager SNMP-based network performance manager that installs on Windows or Linux.
- Nagios XI Network monitor with a browser-based console that installs on Linux. The free version is called Nagios Core.
- Zabbix Free, open-source network monitoring tool that runs on Linux.
- Icinga 2 Highly customizable free, open source network monitoring system that runs on Linux.
In this article, we’re going to look at the best infrastructure monitoring tools and software. Before we do that, we need to look at what infrastructure monitoring is and why it’s important.
- 1 What is Infrastructure Monitoring?
- 2 The best infrastructure monitoring tools
- 2.1 1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
- 2.2 2. Datadog Infrastructure Monitoring (FREE TRIAL)
- 2.3 3. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
- 2.4 4. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor
- 2.5 5. Site24x7 Server Monitoring
- 2.6 6. Atera
- 2.7 7. ManageEngine OpManager
- 2.8 8. Nagios X
- 2.9 9. Zabbix
- 2.10 10. Icinga 2
- 3 Choosing an infrastructure monitoring tool
What is Infrastructure Monitoring?
Infrastructure Monitoring is the process of monitoring network infrastructure for vulnerabilities. Infrastructure monitoring tools monitor the health status, availability, and performance of devices throughout the network.
If an issue is detected the user is sent a notification that a problem has been found. The user can then use the infrastructure monitoring tool to generate a report to look deeper at the causes of the problem.
Using an infrastructure monitoring tool is important because attempting to stay on top of network events manually would be next to impossible. A network administrator could not realistically keep track of all physical and virtual resources.
The abundance of cyber threats online has made it a necessity to protect networks with infrastructure monitoring software. More sophisticated threats have led to a need for more advanced network monitoring.
The best infrastructure monitoring tools
To keep you protected against the latest threats, the best infrastructure monitoring tools can be used to:
- Automatically discover connected devices
- Create custom dashboards
- Show visual displays for network performance (Charts, graphs, dials etc.)
- Alert you through email and SMS once devices experience problems
- Generate reports
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is the number one infrastructure monitoring tool on this list. With this tool, you can automatically discover devices and monitor their health status through the dashboard. Here you can see an overview of all the connected devices being managed.
All of the performance information is shown in lists and pie charts so that you can tell from a glimpse if a device is experiencing issues that impact performance. However, if you’re on a more complex network then you have the option to view an intelligent map of the entire network topology.
Here you will be able to see the geographical location of different devices throughout your network and how they connect to each other. This view is also color-coded with down devices marked with red. These maps are automatically updated to keep up with topology changes in your network.
Like all top of the range infrastructure monitoring tools, SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor has an alerts system. To monitor the network, users simply create intelligent alerts with trigger conditions to determine the type of alerts they see. For instance, you can configure the program to only send you critical alerts. There is also an All Active Alerts page where you can view a full list of active alerts with names that provide details such as High response time, or High packet loss.
All-in-all, SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is a choice tailor-made for enterprises that want a low maintenance network monitor that is easy to configure. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor starts at a price of $2,995 (£2,287). There is also a 30-day free trial available.
Datadog Infrastructure is a module of a complete systems monitoring service that is available in the cloud. As it is a remote system, the Datadog Infrastructure monitor isn’t limited to monitoring networks and servers on one site. It can easily cover WANs and cloud-based servers as well.
The services will map your network automatically and keep network topology maps updated whenever you make changes to your network layout. The system also automatically generates a network device inventory and begins live monitoring as soon as you subscribe to the service. The Datadog Infrastructure monitoring system is easy to set up and includes a wizard to get the right agents installed on your servers to start the monitoring process.
As well as tracking standard network traffic, Datadog has a particular ability to identify containers and virtualizations, tracking all of the supporting services and their performance to ensure smooth delivery of services and data.
There is a Free version of Datadog Infrastructure, which allows you to monitor a system that includes up to five hosts. The paid plans include an alert system, which enables you to get on with other tasks and only switch focus to the network performance when a potential problem is spotted. The lower of the two paid plans, which is called Pro, uses thresholds to identify warning conditions. The higher plan, which is called Enterprise, includes an AI-based machine learning method, called Watchdog, to spot potential problems from combinations of activities and performance indicators.
Network and server performance data is tracked live but is also stored for analysis. A Network Performance add-on gives you the ability to analyze traffic flows and implement traffic shaping.
As a SaaS provider, Datadog charges for its software on a subscription and includes the virtual server to run it. All modules of Datadog are available with a 14-day free trial.
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is another SolarWinds-created infrastructure monitoring tool built specifically for monitoring servers and applications. For instance, you can monitor the performance and availability of Azure and AWS resources.
The main difference between this platform and SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is that the former is more adept at monitoring virtualized resources. For instance, to make sure that you can clearly see network applications, there is the option to map infrastructure dependencies.
On the map, you can see how applications and servers relate to each other and run more targeted troubleshooting. This is beneficial because it allows you to find the root cause of performance issues more easily.
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor keeps the configuration process lightweight. There are templates provided out-of-the-box for monitoring over 1,200 supported applications and servers. Systems that can be monitored include Active Directory, Java, IBM WebSphere, Office 365 email, and XenApp.
Any organization that requires infrastructure monitoring that can monitor virtual resources would be well supported by SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor. The price of this tool starts at $2,995 (£2,308). There is also a 30-day free trial which can be downloaded here.
PRTG Network Monitor is an infrastructure monitoring platform that can monitor device health and network usage. Technologies supported by PRTG Network Monitor include SNMP, NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, SSH, WMI, PING, SQL and more.
The wide variety of technological support provides you with everything you need to have a clear grasp of what is happening on your network. The setup process takes a matter of minutes so that you can deploy quickly.
To keep the monitoring environment up-to-date, PRTG Network Monitor uses automatic network discovery. However, you need to ping IP ranges in order to do this. Once this is done, you are free to start creating sensors to monitor devices throughout your network.
To monitor your network you will need a range of different sensors to monitor different segments of your network. There are over 200 sensors that you can use. For example, there are Bandwidth Monitoring Sensors, SNMP sensors, Linux/Unix/OS X Sensors, and IoT sensors to name a few.
When using PRTG Network Monitor you have complete control over the dashboard. You can use the PRTG map designer to create new dashboards with real-time maps and the status of live devices. You can then generate a link to send so that other key decision makers can view performance data.
One of the reasons why PRTG Network Monitor is so popular is that it is free for the first 100 sensors. After you exceed the 100 sensor limit you will have to pay for an upgrade.
The paid versions of PRTG Network Monitor start at $1600 (£1,221) for 500 sensors with one server installation and go all the way up to $60,000 (£45,820) for unlimited sensors and five server installations. There is also a free trial version you can download here.
Site24x7 Server Monitoring is a cloud-based infrastructure monitoring system. It is able to track the performance of networks, servers, applications and websites. As a site monitor, 24×7 needs to keep track of all of the underlying services that can cause performance issues. This overview also extends out to Cloud-based services.
As it is an online service, you don’t need to install any software on your site in order to use 24×7. The console is accessed through a browser and all data storage is included with the plan and held offsite. That means you don’t even need to be running your own servers. If you contract in virtual servers and pay for hosting for your websites, those resources can be monitored by Site24x7.
Site24/7 can monitor hosts running Windows, Windows Server, Linux, FreeBSD Unix, and OS X. It can also interact with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud servers.
As an integrated infrastructure monitor, Site24x7 is particularly well suited to the management of virtualizations. It will monitor Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware virtualization and also Docker Containers.
Site24/7 is part of the same group of companies as ManageEngine (see below). While ManageEngine is well established in the infrastructure monitoring tool market, Site24x7 is a relatively new enterprise. However, the parent company, Zoho Group, has been able to apply all of the expertise that it has in its ManageEngine division to the creation of Site24x7. This has the advantage of creating a new and innovative service out of a history of expertise.
There are a lot of similarities between ManageEngine products and Site24x7. One big difference is the charging structure. Site24x7 is Software-as-a-Service. So, it is charged for by monthly subscription, whereas you pay a one-time bill to access ManageEngine software.
Site24x7 is available in five editions. The lowest of these is a restricted Free edition. This will enable you to monitor up to five servers or URLs. The four paid plans are called Starter, Pro, Classic, and Enterprise. All of these plans can be enhanced by add-ons in case the standard editions bundles don’t fully cater to your requirements. You get more services with each progressively more expensive plan and you can bring down the cost of the service by paying annually instead of monthly.
You can get a 30-day free trial of the system. At the end of the trial period, you have the option of selecting a paid plan and subscribing. If you choose not to pay, your account will be switched over to the Free edition, which you can use in perpetuity without paying anything.
Further Reading: Site24x7 – Full Review
While the other tools in this list are intended to be used in-house, Atera is a software platform that is to be used by managed service providers (MSPs). The outsourcing of IT management tasks is becoming increasingly common and the successful operations of MSPs can only be accomplished with the support of tools, such as those provided by Atera.
The Atera system is a remote monitoring and management service, or RMM. The RMM functions enable a team of technicians to monitor the IT infrastructure of a client from afar. Tools include network, server, and application monitors and also management utilities such as patch management, system backups, and disk maintenance.
The network monitoring system of Atera works on Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) procedures. This also enables the tool to discover all assets attached to a network as soon as it is put in service for a new client. The autodiscovery service continues to scan the network and automatically adjusts the equipment inventory should devices get added or removed. SNMP also ensures that network devices are in good health and not being pushed to full capacity – a situation that would impair network performance.
Atera scans servers and endpoints for installed software, which enables the monitoring team to ensure that only authorized programs are installed. The system watches processes running on the client’s hosts to watch for unexpected activity and also to ensure that the CPU capacity of all equipment is not hit.
The Atera system is a cloud-based service, so the MSP doesn’t need to install any software on its premises or operate servers and infrastructure in order to host it. The Atera package includes processing and storage servers as well as the software. Agent software will need to be installed on the equipment of the clients that are being monitored.
As it is delivered as “software as a service,” Atera is charged for by subscription per technician per month – there is also an annual payment plan available. You can get a 30-day free trial of the system to examine all of its functions.
ManageEngine OpManager is a network monitoring tool for Windows and Linux. The platform is capable of monitoring physical and virtual infrastructure. Virtual infrastructure that you can monitor with ManageEngine OpManager includes VMware, Hyper-V, and Xen.
There over 2000 network performance monitors that can be accessed through a customizable dashboard. In terms of customization, ManageEngine OpManager also has more than 200 different widgets that you can use to create your own dashboards.
Automation is another invaluable feature offered by ManageEngine OpManager. With automation, you can configure automated responses for troubleshooting. This is managed via the workflow automation view where you can create automated responses without the need for coding. For example, you can select ‘Execute Windows Script’ to respond once certain activity is recognized.
In addition, ManageEngine OpManager has an alerts system. Notifications are sent to the user via email and SMS. Alerts are shown on the All Alarms page where you can view a list of all alarms with supporting information. You can also view pie charts that categorize active alarms as Critical, Trouble, Attention, or Service Down.
There are three versions of ManageEngine OpManager available: the Free, Essential, and Enterprise versions. The free version supports up to 10 devices with basic network monitoring.
The Essential version expands on this by supporting up to 1000 devices with automatic network mapping. The Enterprise version is aimed firmly at larger organizations and supports up to 10,000 devices. Download the free trial.
Nagios XI is a network monitoring solution for CentOS, RedHat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and Debian. It has a web-based user interface. To speed up the setup process Nagios XI has configuration wizards that show you how to monitor different segments of your network. The dashboard is customizable and you can use a variety of dials, graphs, and charts to visualize your network’s performance.
The extendable architecture of Nagios XI is one of the reasons why it is so widely-used. The platforms APIs can be used to integrate third party applications to enhance the core functionality of the program. The Nagios exchange site has a range of APIs that you can use to add new features. For instance, you can add the Webmetrics api plugin for Nagios to view even more performance metrics.
There are two versions of Nagios XI to purchase: the Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition. The Standard Edition starts at $1,995 (£1,537) and comes with configuration wizards, reporting and custom user dashboards.
The Enterprise Edition starts at $3,495 (£2,694) and comes with extra features like capacity planning reports and audit logging. There is also a 60-day free trial version.
Zabbix is an open-source network monitoring tool. With Zabbix you can conduct network monitoring, server monitoring, cloud monitoring, application monitoring, and services monitoring.
Setting up Zabbix doesn’t take too much work either. You can install the program in a matter of minutes and start monitoring with out-of-the-box templates. As you become more confident with the program you can build your own custom templates.
Autodiscovery allows you to periodically discover network devices. This is preferable to manual configurations as it keeps the monitor up-to-date. All you need to do is enter network discovery rules.
When entering network discovery rules you simply enter an IP range and which services to look out for. Once a device is discovered you can then configure notifications, remote scripts, and whether to add or remove a host.
The integration offered by Zabbix is one of its greatest strengths. You can use the API to automate manual event responses and add new monitoring rules that can’t be done with the prepackaged program. There are also additional Zabbix plugins and modules that you can deploy to enhance the basic functions of the product.
Zabbix is a tool that should be considered by those organizations looking for an open source infrastructure monitoring tool. Zabbix is available to download on CentOS, Oracle Linux, Ubuntu, Debian, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and Raspbian. You can download Zabbix for free.
Icinga 2 is a web-based network monitoring tool with a customizable user interface. You can create custom views to view different events throughout your physical and virtual infrastructure. In fact, the capabilities of Icinga 2 can monitor entire data centers and cloud services. It is, therefore, an excellent tool for those companies operating within hybrid network environments.
For configuration, Icinga 2 has its own configuration language. The engine can be complex but it gives you complete control over how you monitor your infrastructure. For instance, you create monitoring objects and use the rule-based engine to dictate just how a network element is monitored. However, there is also a web-based configuration interface if you wish to lay out your configurations in a way that is less difficult.
Icinga 2 modules are Icinga 2’s answer to plugins and add-ons. These modules allow you to enhance the basic functionality of Icinga and monitor new facets of your network. For example, there is an Icinga Module for vSphere which integrates your VMware environment into Icinga.
Likewise, there is an Icinga Module for Graphite which shows you metrics directly in the user interface. These integrations help to extend and enhance the functionality of what is already a very diverse product.
Overall Icinga 2 is a tool that suits those network administrators who are comfortable adopting the configuration language and building their own monitoring environment from scratch. Icinga 2 is available for Debian, RHEL, SLES, Windows, Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE. You can download the tool for free.
Choosing an infrastructure monitoring tool
Though there are many high-performance infrastructure monitoring tools on this list a few stand out on account of their accessibility. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, Datadog Infrastructure Monitor, and PRTG Network Monitor are solid choices for organizations of all sizes.
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is worth consideration on its low maintenance but high visibility approach to network monitoring. The dashboards are simple to navigate and alerts are easy to configure. Features like the built-in autodiscovery help to make this a low maintenance tool in terms of deployment.
On the other hand, PRTG Network Monitor is an excellent starting tool because of the free version. The user can build up competency with the sensors-based monitoring approach without paying the cost of a full license. The variety of features offered in terms of physical and virtual monitoring is enough to rival any other tool on the market.
Atera is a tool that is ideal for those organizations looking to build a single pane of glass monitoring experience. The monitor provides all the necessary information to monitor your network without leaving the home screen.
Depending on your needs, every tool on this list has something to offer. Whether you’re looking for the sculptability of an open-source tool or the simplicity of a proprietary tool, there are plenty of options available to you.
Related Post: Data Usage Meters Reviewed