Cisco Systems produces switches and routers and many other types of network devices. The company has a large catalog of entire network hardware including gateways, firewall, and wireless access points.
Whether you chose Cisco for all of your network equipment or you have the company’s product providing some of your network services, you will need to monitor and manage them.
In this guide, we will explain the options available to you when you search for network monitoring software.
Here is our list of the best Cisco network monitoring tools:
- SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor EDITOR’S CHOICE The industry-leading network monitor, which focuses on tracking the health of network devices. This monitor uses SNMP to report on problems with devices made by a wide range of providers, including Cisco.
- N-able RMM (FREE TRIAL) A remote monitoring and management tool that includes monitoring a range of network devices including those produced by Cisco Systems.
- Site24x7 Cisco Network Monitoring (FREE TRIAL) Cloud-based all-in-one monitoring system for IT infrastructure, applications, and end users that offers remote monitoring of any network anywhere.
- Datadog Cisco Monitoring (FREE TRIAL) A network device monitor that is able to extract information from Cisco Meraki routers and switches using SNMP and by examining the event logs produced by the equipment.
- Paessler PRTG Network Monitor A package of network, server, and application monitors that includes SNMP-based device health monitoring.
- ManageEngine OpManager A network and server monitoring tool that uses SNMP to spot potential problems with network devices, such as those produced by Cisco Systems.
- Cisco Network Assistant A free network monitor produced by Cisco Systems that can monitor devices provided by that company.
- Spiceworks Network Monitor A free, ad-supported network monitor that has excellent live performance data visualizations.
- LogicMonitor A cloud-based network monitoring service that includes device health monitoring and network traffic metrics.
- Zabbix A free network monitor with a good front end that features great live network device status graphs.
The best Cisco network monitoring tools
What should you look for in a Cisco network monitoring tool? We reviewed the Cisco network monitoring software market and analyzed tools based on the following criteria:
- The ability to monitor the statuses of Cisco network devices
- The capability to communicate with the Cisco-friendly traffic sampling protocols NetFlow and IPFIX
- Monitoring other supplier devices as well for multi-vendor environments
- Performance metric logging for historical analysis
- Alerts for performance issues
- An interface that includes data visualizations, such as graphs. As well as lists of statistics
- A free trial period, demo, or money-back guarantee for no-risk assessment
- A good value out of the package of services
You can learn more about each of these tools in the following sections.
The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is the leading network monitoring package available today. Like many of its rivals, the software deploys the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to get constant feedback on network device statuses, including those produced by Cisco Systems.
All Cisco network devices have an SNMP agent pre-loaded onto them. The network engineer just has to ensure that this function is turned on when adding a new device to the network. The Network Performance Monitor is then able to communicate with that new device.
The NPM automatically polls all devices on the network when it first goes into service. With the responses it gets from its SNMP requests, it creates a device inventory for the network and automatically draws up a network topology map. That map is instantly updated when any new device is added to the network or removed. Location changes of devices are also automatically reflected in the network map.
The Network Performance Monitor also can also check on the statuses of wireless APs and draws up a wireless heat map, showing the signal footprint of each on an office plan.
All devices, including those by Cisco, send regular reports to the NPM, which shows those live statuses in the system console. Any device agent that detects a sudden problem with the device that it is monitoring will send an SNMP Trap message to the NPM, which interprets that into an alert. Alerts are shown on the screen but can also be sent out automatically to key personnel via email, SMS, or Slack message
The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is built on a proprietary platform, called Orion, enabling the service to integrate seamlessly with other infrastructure monitoring modules produced by SolarWinds.
Some cross-modular utilities in the Orion platform include PerfStack, which shows the full stack of all supporting service layers for running software, identifying the element that is causing trouble. Another utility is NetPath which shows a visual path across the network from one given device to another, displaying link capacity and device performance for each hop.
- Network autodiscovery
- Automatic network topology mapping
- Wireless heat maps
- 30-day free trial
The software can be installed on Windows Server and SolarWinds offers a 30-day free trial of the Network Performance Monitor.
The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is our top choice for Cisco network device monitoring because it works with the device agents that are already loaded onto each Cisco device. This immediate compatibility means that network managers don’t need to adapt new Cisco devices or upload monitoring software onto them in order to get them included in the performance and health tracking performance by the NPM.
Get 30-day Free Trial: solarwinds.com/network-performance-monitor/
OS: Windows Server
N-able RMM is a remote network monitoring and management software bundle that is suitable for an IT department that wants to administer the IT infrastructure on several sites from a central location. This is a SaaS system, so it includes the server to run the software and all necessary storage space.
Part of the job of this RMM is to monitor network devices, including switches, routers, and firewalls. It can also monitor UPSs, printers, desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and servers. Among the device brands that the RMM can communicate with is Cisco Systems.
Device attributes that the service monitors include:
- CPU capacity and usage
- Temperature levels
- Fan status
- Memory capacity and utilization
- Power supply statuses
- Drive status
- RAID status
- Disk status
- Page count for printers
- Toner/ink level for printers
- Printer jams
- Battery levels
Other network services that the system can check while querying switches and routers include VPNs, VoIP traffic, and VM mappings.
The main method that N-able RMM uses to communicate with devices is the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). All Cisco devices are shipped with an SNMP device agent already installed on them. In some cases, that function is turned off by default and will need to be activated to get the device monitor functioning properly.
The N-able RMM acts as the SNMP manager and requests status reports from all device agents periodically. The responses from agents enable N-able RMM to compile a device inventory. This is updated with every network query cycle.
The status details returned by device agents are interpreted into data tables and graphs in the system dashboards. Device agents are also able to send out an urgent message without waiting for a status request. This is called a trap and N-able RMM displays these reports as alerts. Alerts can be sent out to key staff as emails or SMS messages.
- Live statuses
- SNMP reporting
The system dashboard is held on N-able servers and can be accessed by IT professionals through any standard browser or a special app for mobile devices. N-able offers a 30-day free trial of N-able RMM.
The Site24x7 Cisco Network Monitoring module relies on the SNMP system to track the statuses of network devices. The Simple Network Management Protocol includes an agent program that reports back to a controller on demand. All Cisco switches and routers include an SNMP agent and Site24x7 acts as an SNMP manager, collecting status reports from those Cisco devices. Site24x7 is also able to monitor Cisco firewalls and other appliances connected to the network.
Site24x7 is a cloud-based service, so you don’t need to maintain software on your own site to use it. It is able to communicate with a long list of Cisco devices. The SNMP system enables Site24x7 to automatically detect all network devices on the monitored network and it creates a live topology map and a device inventory from that network. Both the map and the network inventory both get updated automatically, should any device get moved, added, or removed.
The device agents don’t have to wait for an information request if they detect problems with the equipment that they are monitoring. In this instance, the agent sends a “trap” message to the Site24x7 system, which interprets that message into an alarm or a warning in the system dashboard.
- Cloud service
- Remote network monitoring
Site24x7 is available in both free and paid versions. The free version is limited to monitoring just five websites or servers. So, that service is suitable for very small businesses. There are four paid editions called Starter, Pro, Classic, and Enterprise. Each of these is available for a 30-day free trial.
The Datadog Infrastructure module is part of a suite of cloud-based IT resource management tools. The Datadog network monitoring system can be enhanced with more than 450 integrations. These integrations are product-specific procedures and screens that focus on the top-selling infrastructure products and applications currently in use. One of these is the Cisco Meraki range of equipment.
Datadog Infrastructure specializes in monitoring the equipment used for IT. The switches, routers, wireless access points, and firewalls in the Cisco Meraki range are in this category. Datadog Infrastructure uses the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to communicate with device agents and get regular status reports. SNMP agents are pre-loaded onto all Cisco Meraki products. The Datadog system performs all of its processing on the Datadog servers. This is also the home of the customer’s system dashboard. However, there is a part of this monitoring system that needs to be installed. This is an agent program and it can be installed on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS.
The special Cisco Meraki integration extends the monitoring capabilities of Datadog Infrastructure because it can access and analyze the event logs produced by these devices for extra information about network activities.
Another module available from Datadog, the Network Performance Monitor, will enhance your traffic flow monitoring on networks run by Cisco devices. This tool is able to communicate with switches and routers to extract samples of network traffic and get traffic flow data from the network devices. This is done by utilizing a communication protocol, invented by Cisco, called NetFlow.
- Cloud service
- Specialized Cisco Meraki monitoring
- Alert system
- 15-day free trial
The Datadog Infrastructure module is available in three plans. The cheapest of these is Free and the two paid plans are called Pro and Enterprise. Both of these paid services are charged for by subscription per host with an option of a monthly or a yearly payment cycle. The Network Performance Monitor is also charged for per host per month or per year. Both of these modules are available on a 15-day free trial.
Paessler PRTG Network Monitor is a collection of monitors, which are called “sensors.” The tool is able to monitor networks, servers, and applications. The main system used by the monitoring suite to watch over network devices is SNMP. This gives PRTG an autodiscovery function on installation and a continuously-updated device inventory. The tool will also automatically draw network topology maps from the inventory data.
The statuses of all network devices are shown in the dashboard. Comprehension is made easier by data visualizations, such as charts, meters, and graphs, which are color-coded. PRTG can monitor the statuses of all network devices, not just those produced by Cisco Systems.
When you buy PRTG, you pay for an allowance of sensors. Paessler ships the entire package of all possible sensors to all customers. However, you customize your implementation by deciding which sensors to activate. The Cisco System Health sensor specifically checks on the hardware statuses of your Cisco devices.
Among other monitors in the pack is a NetFlow sensor – there are also sensors for sFlow and J-Flow. Another Cisco-specific monitor in the package is the IP SLA sensor. This accesses “service level agreement” data collected on Cisco switches to check on the qualities of VoIP transmissions. The Cisco ADSL sensor is able to get link throughput and capacity data from Cisco routers.
Traffic shaping measures can be tracked through PRTG with the Cisco CBQoS sensor. This gathers queue information from Cisco switches. The Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) firewall can be queried using PRTG’s SNMP Cisco ASA VPN Traffic sensor and the Cisco ASA VPN Users sensor.
- Live performance graphs
- SNMP methodology
You can get a 30-day free trial of PRTG with unlimited sensors. If you only ever activate up to 100 sensors, the software is free to use forever. The package runs on Windows Server.
OpManager, from ManageEngine is a network and server monitoring package. It is able to manage Cisco ASR series, Catalyst series, Nexus, and UCS devices. This is a general network monitoring tool that can communicate with the devices produced by all suppliers, not just Cisco Systems. It is able to track wireless networks as well as regular LANs by deploying the Cisco WLC system of the company’s wireless access points.
The network monitor can communicate in the Cisco-created protocols NetFlow, IP SLA, CBQoS, and NBAR. The NBAR system is Network Based Application Recognition. This identifies applications in passing traffic running through routers. This system allows you to perform traffic-shaping measures by application, block certain applications, or reroute traffic according to its application.
OpManager enables you to see all of these switch and router settings for all of your devices from one console. The main protocol used by OpManager for network monitoring is SNMP, which means it continues to check constantly on the status of all devices, including those provided by Cisco Systems. As with most SNMP implementations, OpManager compiles a device inventory when it starts in operation. The tool also draws up a network topology map and keeps both the map and the inventory updated though its regular SNMP status enquiries.
- SNMP processes
- Specialized monitoring for Cisco ASR series, Catalyst series, Nexus, and UCS devices
The dashboard of the tool is very well planned and manages to display a lot of information in each screen. It includes eye-catching charts and graphs and shows the alerts sent out by device agents that detect status problems. You can create your own alert rules and even customize the dashboard. ManageEngine offers OpManager on a 30-day free trial. The software runs on Windows Server and Linux.
A network monitoring system from Cisco Systems seems to be the ideal solution for those managing a network that includes Cisco devices. The fact that this tool is free makes it even more tempting. However, there is a catch. The tool can only monitor a network that has a maximum of 80 devices. So, this would be a good choice for a small- to middle-sized company. Another downside is that most of its features only work for Cisco products, so if you have a site with mixed device providers, then you won’t get full information on non-Cisco equipment.
The Network Assistant will track down and log all of your Cisco devices and it will also draw a network topology map. The system includes status reports, both scheduled, and on-demand, and displays alerts on performance thresholds and device conditions. It will also show warranty information on each device and service life expectancy, taken from the Cisco aftersales database.
One unique feature that this product has is its device access service. Most network monitors will interpret commands and implement them on the device – actions such as implementing queuing, for example. This tool lets you access the device’s management menu through the monitor dashboard.
The monitoring software runs on Windows Professional, Windows Ultimate, Windows Server, and Mac OS. The tool might be a useful companion to a full network monitoring software, but unless your network only has and will only ever have Cisco devices, it won’t be enough to monitor your site.
- Supplied by Cisco
- SNMP activated
- Free to use
Spiceworks can manage networks with a mix of device brands, including equipment supplied by Cisco Systems. This tool is designed for small networks, because it has a limit of 25 devices. However, it is free to use. The company makes its money from advertising in the dashboard, so you will have to put up with that.
The tool operates as a standard network monitor and doesn’t have specific tools for managing Cisco devices. However, it includes an autodiscovery feature, which will give you a list of your network equipment that is constantly updated. The monitor uses SNMP to poll all devices for statuses at regular intervals and also includes the SNMP trap system that results in alert messages shown in the dashboard. Alerts can be customized.
Spiceworks produces another tool, called Spiceworks Inventory, which gives you a better track on all of your devices and also includes software auditing and updating facilities. This tool runs discovery procedures on demand.
Another Spiceworks tool that would help you check on the performance of your Cisco devices is called Connectivity Dashboard. This utility is a troubleshooting tool that checks on connection statuses between two endpoints, which could be across the network or across the internet. Either way, the feedback from this facility will identify any problems you have with your Cisco equipment.
Despite being a producer of free network tools, Spiceworks provides full professional support for its network monitoring software. The company also runs an impressive user community from where you can get tips from other Spiceworks users.
Spiceworks Network Monitor, Connectivity Dashboard, and Spiceworks Inventory install on Windows. Spiceworks Inventory is also available as an online service.
- Designed for small networks
- SNMP processes
- Free to use
LogicMonitor is an online service, so you don’t need to worry about installing or maintaining its software. You do need to install a data collector agent on your system. Communications between the collector and the remote management tool is all encrypted.
This monitor will discover all of your devices automatically, log them in a register, and create a network topology map. The inventory includes the make and model of each device, so you will be able to quickly identify your Cisco equipment.
The LogicMonitor network monitor uses SNMP to log device statuses and it will also process SNMP traps into alerts in the dashboard. The tool uses the Cisco NetFlow system to monitor traffic levels and bandwidth utilization.
The LogicMonitor agent will communicate with your Cisco routers, switches and wireless access points (APs). It will track the statuses of device module and card CPU availability, memory pool, and temperature. It can gather traffic statistics and settings related to VoIP Quality of Service, IP SLA, and traffic shaping measures. The tool has extra functionality when dealing with Cisco Nexus switches.
With Nexus switches, LogicMonitor can perform device configuration management as well as monitoring. In addition to monitoring CPU and memory statuses, the monitor can track supervisor card status and redundancy states, ejector and line card statuses, FRUN status and power draw, VDC status, fan performance, and temperature.
- Cloud service
- Extra Cisco Nexus monitoring functions
LogicMonitor is available in three service levels: Starter, Pro, and Enterprise – none of which are free. However, you can get a 14-day free trial of LogicMonitor.
Zabbix is a great free network monitor that can be extended to have specific functionality. The mechanism for add-ons is called “templates” in Zabbix. The standard monitoring system uses SNMP, so you get device discovery, status polling, and alerts with this monitor.
The templates available for Cisco equipment give you channels to connect directly to Cisco devices, query them, and update their settings. There are templates for all types of Cisco equipment, including firewalls. These templates are available for free from the user community.
The dashboard for the service is very attractive and it is also customizable. You get a network map page, which is updated automatically from regular SNMP status reviews. You also get a device inventory in the dashboard. Equipment statuses and events are displayed on the screen in text and also in color-coded charts and graphs. The monitor ships with several standard reports, but you can also write your own, or get them from the user community.
Unlike other free network monitors, there is no limit to the number of devices that you can monitor with Zabbix. Large organizations might shy away from the standard Zabbix system because it doesn’t include a professional support service. However, you can pay for support, which is available in five service level packages: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Enterprise. The company runs support centers in the USA, Ireland, Japan, and Russia.
Zabbix includes some extra functions that aren’t usually included in standard network monitors. These include network traffic analysis, forecasting features and anomaly detection for intrusion prevention.
- SNMP monitoring
- Good data visualizations
- Free to use
How to choosing a Cisco monitoring tool
Our list includes tools that are suitable for small networks and others that would be good for large systems. Some would work well for companies of any size. Your next stage in narrowing down your options is to eliminate those tools that aren’t appropriate for your network size and number of devices. You also need to pay attention to the providers of your network equipment. If all of your network equipment comes from Cisco Systems, then you could use any of the monitors in this list. If you have devices from other manufacturers, you would probably be better off avoiding the Cisco Network Assistant.
Your other considerations when selecting a monitoring tool should be budget and number of sites and servers. Most of the software in this list can monitor WANs and include Cloud-based services. However, some, such as PRTG charge for their software per site and per server.
You will discover that SolarWinds and ManageEngine produce other infrastructure management tools that integrate with the utilities explained in this guide. That expandable operability could be an advantage for you if you need to monitor mobile devices, add on help desk functions, or add specialist monitoring tools for virtualization or security devices.
Enjoy your search for a new monitor for your Cisco devices. Now you know the best tools to focus on, the time pressure is off and you can make the most of the free offers of these recommended tools to really put them through their paces.
Cisco Network Monitoring FAQs
What are five critical aspects of a network management tool?
According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the five important aspects of network management systems are:
- Fault management
- Configuration management
- Accounting management
- Performance management
- Security management.
Can I use Cisco Active Advisor for network monitoring?
Cisco Active Advisor performs an on-demand network sweep to compile an asset inventory. It is free and very comprehensive but it doesn’t implement live monitoring.
Does Cisco provide a network monitoring mobile app?
Try the Cisco Business Mobile App. This provides management and monitoring tools for wireless networks.