With the ever-expanding size and increasing complexity of today’s networks, utilizing tools designed to streamline network configuration and backup has become a necessity in the vast majority of production networks.
Configuring dozens or even hundreds of individual nodes is virtually impossible without the right tools. Even straight-forward tasks like backing up router configurations become long, tedious affairs without the assistance of additional software when brought to scale. From automation to network-wide monitoring, network configuration software is designed exclusively with busy administrators in mind.
The options available are almost as numerous as the nodes they will eventually be used for. It seems almost every vendor has their own proprietary backup and configuration manager, while a dizzying array of third-party developers feature their own programs with multi-vendor support. These can range from incredibly powerful to barely functional.
This list aims to bring together a handful of the top choices, both free and paid, to help you find the right solution for your network.
What to look for
When searching for configuration software, it’s good to take a look at a few different key things:
Scalability – How well the product scales with size. Not all software is meant to be used on a massive sprawling multi-vendor network with thousands of nodes. A product that works beautifully with a dozen network assets may become a struggle to manage with a hundred. It’s important to pick the software that will work not just for the current size of your network, but for any potential increases in scale as well.
Customization – Every network is different, and being able to tailor the application managing it is key to good configuration software. The best products will have some amount of inflexibility in order to meet their intended design goal, with enough flexibility in customization to fit a wide range of networks.
Features – Some applications are designed only to be used as network configuration software. Others take a more broad approach, functioning as more than just configuration repositories. Knowing what you want your software to do is critical to getting the most out of your selection.
Product Support – The available documentation and support for any given product can range from overwhelmingly good to “play with it until things start working.” This can be particularly true for free products. Make sure you can get up and running quickly with whatever you end up using.
Presentation – Some configuration managers simply provide a text dump in a Command Line Interface (CLI), that may be entirely functional for some users. Others will have robust GUIs with complex topology visualizations, analytics laid out in graphs, and your own logo splayed across the back-end interface. The presentation of a configuration manager, from its aesthetic interface to ease-of-use, should play a part in your decision to use a given piece of software.
Here is our list of the best network configuration and backup software available:
- SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager (FREE TRIAL)
- LogicVein Net Line Dancer
- Infoblox NetMRI
- LibreNMS with Oxidized addon
- BMC Truesight Network Automation
- ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager
The first entry on this list and our Top Pick, SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager aims to be the total package for network management. Not only does it include robust configuration options, it introduces useful asset management features that can be used to monitor hardware life cycle and other ITAM tenants.
Equipped with multi-vendor server monitoring, SolarWinds software is dynamic enough to fit into a wide range of networking environments, including those that have multiple hardware vendors in their ecosystem. A seamless change between managing Cisco, HP, and other devices from one centralized piece of software, with full administration access control to provide an easy security solution for hardware access. Automatic network discovery and asset mapping help actively monitor both network topology and hardware life cycles.
Automated configuration backup and deployment makes restoring devices a simple, worry-free process, and network-wide vulnerability scanning helps to ensure devices are compliant with the National Vulnerability Database. Robust reporting and analysis help spot problem areas before they become an issue
Full integration with both Cisco ASA and Nexus devices means SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager can make full use of the unique advantages those devices offer large networks.
SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager provides an all-in-one NMS solution for networks of various sizes. It’s easy to use, has an intuitive GUI, and gives administrators the tools they need to effectively manage even large-scale networks. Visit their site to download a 30-day 100% FREE trial.
A fully cloud-based NMS solution designed for easy integration with workflow platforms like Freshdesk and Autotask, Auvik is a largely by-the-books network manager with some intuitive features. Its cloud-based installation makes setup and deployment a smooth experience while offering distinct portability advantages over traditional in-house software.
Automatic network discovery and mapping help aid Auvik’s active topology search and export. It can easily identify active assets and export their information with minimal effort. Address management helps keep complex networking environments with multiple subnets and VLANs clean and organized.
Auvik’s major selling point is its seamless integration with workflow applications. Auvik officially supports ConnectWise, FreshDesk, Slack, and Autotask. Being able to quickly communicate changes and updates over these platforms fits well with Auvik’s cloud approach, and Auvik gives the impression that it’s designed for Agile design environments.
All the standard configuration management features are here, including automated backup and deployment.
For organizations that operate rapid, ever-changing design environments, Auvik presents an attractive approach to network management software. You can visit their site to find out more about pricing.
3. LogicVein Net Line Dancer
Aimed at large-scale networks with multi-tenancy address space, LogicVein’s Net Line Dancer is largely dedicated to device configuration and hardware asset management. LogicVein offers a free version of Net Line Dancer in the form of Net Street Dancer, a limited application that LogicVein markets as having 80% of the functionality of its flagship networking product.
Net Line Dancer can automatically generate hardware inventory reports with full asset reporting to help aid in asset management on network assets. This focus on large-scale asset management is a big part of Net Line Dancer. Combining this with regular reporting and analytics can help administrators gain an edge on hardware life cycles and change management tracking. These tracking features are largely hardware-based.
Net Line Dancer’s main strength comes in its ability to scale, thanks to its use of smart bridges to support multi-tenancy address configurations. Controlling subnets separated by address space using one centralized application is made easy with Net Line Dancer.
Net Line Dancer is mostly focused on providing administrators a straight-forward device configuration and hardware asset management platform to work with on large or complex networks. It features all the standard NMS features, including automated changes and real-time change detection that will work across the entire network. You can download a 30-day trial on their site.
4. Infoblox NetMRI
Made by Infoblox, NetMRI is a network configuration and analysis application with mobile integration. Designed to provide a high level of security to large-scale networks, NetMRI can be used for a wide range of network tasks, including automated compliance assessments and non-configuration data analysis.
With a number of tools to aid in multi-vendor and virtual routing, NetMRI shines in complex networking environments. It’s able to scan connected assets for configuration and compliance issues proactively, helping to stop potential issues before they start.
NetMRI also supports mobile access, with a large portion of its monitoring and configuration controls available from the convenience of a mobile device. It can locate device locations, browse network inventory, and control connections all from a mobile platform.
As network management software, NetMRI also features all the standard configuration options. Automatic network detection and audits, configuration analysis, and configuration backup are all found in NetMRI. Its search and analysis suite also helps locate correlations between network problem areas to help diagnostics.
Change automation and configuration deployment, along with automatic network discovery and topology mapping round out NetMRI’s list of features. NetMRI will lend its strengths to complicated networking environments with many connected nodes that need constant upkeep and analysis. You can download and evaluate NetMRI from their website.
5. LibreNMS with Oxidized addon
The first open-source solution on our list, LibreNMS is available via GitHub repository for downloading and editing. Don’t let the free nature of LibreNMS fool you, it’s a fully-featured NMS solution used by many organizations.
We’ve listed Oxidized along with LibreNMS to provide an integrated configuration backup solution. LibreNMS is designed to be used alongside Oxidized with limited setup. This provides LibreNMS users a simple way to do both configuration backup and deployment.
LibreNMS as a standalone package that features automatic network discovery across a wide range of protocols, customizable alerts, data collection, automatic LibreNMS updates, and even an iPhone/Android app. There’s a wealth of customization available in LibreNMS, and that’s largely attributed to its open-source nature.
This functionality isn’t without its own downsides, however. LibreNMS can struggle at scale and has almost no support to speak of. It has enough documentation and is used widely enough to be able to find answers on your own, but it’s not for the faint of heart or those looking for a fast, ready out-of-the-box solution.
Still, for more experienced administrators or those not afraid to get their hands a little dirty, LibreNMS solutions offer a huge amount of flexibility. Another plus is that it’s entirely free and will always be open-source. It can be paired with a huge number of open-source plugins to provide almost any functionality you may need for your network. This potential for adaptability and no cost of entry earn it a place on this list. Find out more about integrating Oxidized Into LibreNMS from the repository.
Designed to automate tasks normally performed manually, Backbox offers a mostly one-dimensional approach to network management software. It’s a simple but effective tool that can provide all the functionality most users will need in a centralized network control solution.
Backbox’s strong suit is in secure backup and configuration recovery. The Backbox software goes to extreme lengths to ensure each configuration backup is safely stored, verified for authenticity, and double-checked for errors. The attention-to-detail provided by Backbox’s “Five-step verification” for each backup ensures corrupted or tampered with configuration files never reach the end-points on a network.
Backbox also provides real-time inventory reports on connected assets, as well as automatic network discovery. A visual topology map provides an easy-to-use method of exploring and configuring your network, giving you access to most of Backbox’s features directly through the topology map. It’s a creative way to make network management simple, but can understandably become limiting in very large networks.
Task automation gives administrators a good measure of control over their networks, including the ability to create complex task chains for Backbox to execute across multiple devices. Again, Backbox is largely designed around the idea of using automation to make network administrators lives easier, and in that regard, it succeeds.
While it may not be the ideal scaling solution for every business, Backbox offers a strong suite of features across multiple vendors and devices. It’s both easy-to-use and surprisingly flexible, giving it an edge over some of its competitors. You can download a 30-day evaluation from their site.
7. BMC Truesight Network Automation
Made by BMC, Truesight Network Automation looks to bring multiple tools together in the BMC product family and marry them with network management. If you’re already heavily invested in BMC solutions and products, it’s hard to argue against using Truesight in your network.
A large portion of Truesight’s power and flexibility comes from its ability to seamlessly integrate with other popular BMC products. As an example, Truesight can be set up to integrate with BMC’s change management tools in order to quickly and easily populate a CMDB with attached network assets. For administrators seeking a comprehensive way to combine their ITIL compliant asset management policies with their network, this kind of integration is a godsend. While most CMDB population software has some measure of network discovery built-in, the ability to quickly and accurately generate a full network CMDB with a few clicks is on another level entirely.
That being said, these kinds of quality of life features are entirely dependent on using other BMC products. As a standalone piece of software, Truesight still offers a number of features that make it useful as a piece of network management software.
Scanless detection of potential vulnerabilities and templates for regulatory compliance to compare against ensure that big organizations are in accordance with various policies depending on region.
Configuration of both virtual and cloud-based environments give service-oriented networks a versatile option for configuration and administration from a single, centralized platform. Truesight also supports easy device importing from a variety of platforms, including Ciscoworks and HP Network Code Manager.
Rounding out Truesight’s feature list is the ability to auto-generate configuration scripts that can roll back a device’s configuration without the need for a full reboot (in some cases). This is a smart feature that lets administrators make small changes to a device without needing to remove an entire node just for diagnostics.
Overall, Truesight is a powerful network tool when combined with other products in its parent companies catalog, and still functions well as a standalone product. Learn more and contact their sales team from their site.
8. ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager
Coming from a large family of other ManageEngine products, ManageEngine’s Network Configuration Manager is one part of a larger networking suite distributed by ManageEngine.
Aimed squarely at being a configuration tool, ManageEngine’s Network Configuration Manager is a multi-vendor network configuration and change compliance product for a variety of network devices. Its sole purpose is to take control of the entire life cycle of a given networking device.
All the standard configuration features are found here, including configuration backup and deployment, change history, and configuration comparisons. Change tracking can be done in real-time to monitor network devices for unauthorized changes or potential complications in a configuration.
Standard automation tools are also featured here, including the automation of configuration tasks like regular backups. Network Configuration Manager can also track user activity across devices, and routinely check for compliance with published policies and procedures. Lastly, it brings multi-vendor support along with it.
Similar to the BMC product listed above it, ManageEngine’s Network Configuration Manager shines when paired with other tools in its developer’s suite. As a standalone product it achieves its intended design goal of being a straight-forward configuration manager, but lacks some depth when viewed apart from its overarching software suite. Access their free trial from their site.
The second open-source entry on this list, rConfig is a fairly basic network configuration manager with the potential for a lot of customization to fit the needs of small-to-medium-sized networks. As an open-source product, its code is freely available on the internet and getting started with rConfig costs you nothing.
rConfig’s biggest strength is in its focused design and open-source nature. Its code repository is fairly well-documented and making changes to the base code is encouraged by the community’s developers. This allows administrators willing to get their hands dirty in rConfig’s code the opportunity to custom tailor rConfig to fit their specific networking needs.
In terms of performance, rConfig works as a configuration manager “out of the box.” It has bulk configuration deployment and configuration backups, along with a fast configuration compare and search feature to quickly locate differences between deployed or backed-up configurations. Its own built-in task scheduler provides a limited amount of automation in basic tasks.
Systems backups and built-in reporting flesh out rConfig’s list of features. For a small, free, and dedicated configuration platform, rConfig brings a lot to the table but will begin to struggle with larger networks due to its simplicity. That being said, sometimes simple is good, and you should take a look at rConfig yourself to see if it has the features your network needs. Here are their installation guides and documentation.
Best Network Backup Software: SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager
SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager is undoubtedly the best backup tool on this list. No matter what vendors your network is dependent on, SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager has the potential to keep track of the device’s lifecycle. Device monitoring is supported with automatic network discovery to ensure every device on your network is being monitored.
Whether you’re part of an SME or a large organization we recommend SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager because it is easy to use. The design is so intuitive that there is next to no learning curve once it has been deployed. In the long term, this means that devices stay maintained and minimizes the chance of devices failing due to poor maintenance.