What is a LAN monitor?
A LAN monitor (or Local Area Network monitor) provides you with visibility of your local computer network including computers, routers, servers, printers and more.
LAN monitoring software will monitor network performance and alert you to issues such as a printer going offline or a router that’s not functioning.
Here is our list of the best LAN monitoring software tools:
- SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor EDITOR’S CHOICE The key feature of this tool that makes it number one on our list is the well-organized dashboard. This gives a clear overview of the whole network’s performance and the ability to monitor remote sites. Full SNMP compatibility and advanced filters and notifications for real-time status alerts make this an all-round top performer.
- ManageEngine OpManager (FREE TRIAL) A comprehensive network management system that installs on Windows and Linux. The tool uses SNMP to check on network devices.
- Auvik (FREE TRIAL) This cloud-based service offers autodiscovery, network inventory, and mapping functions plus device status checks and a higher plan with a bandwidth analyzer.
- Paessler LAN Monitoring with PRTG (FREE TRIAL) This tool monitors servers and applications as well as LANs. It runs on Windows and includes sensors for traffic monitoring as well as network device health checks.
- SolarWinds Flow Tool Bundle (FREE TOOL BUNDLE) A trio of utilities that assists you to test the capacity of your network.
- Site24x7 (FREE TRIAL) A cloud-based service that monitors networks, applications, and user behavior.
- Syxsense Manage (FREE TRIAL) A monitoring system that is able to unify the management of networks on multiple sites. This is a SaaS platform.
- SolarWinds Hybrid Cloud Observability (FREE TRIAL) This service performs monitoring for local networks and connections out to cloud services. Runs on Windows Server.
- Atera A remote infrastructure monitoring system designed for use by managed service providers.
- Nagios Core and Nagios XI Paid (Nagios XI) and free (Nagios Core) versions of a network monitor that is suitable for small and middle-sized companies.
- Pandora NMS An SNMP-driven network monitor that includes IP address management and configuration management modules.
- Zenoss – Available in paid and free (Zenoss Core) versions, you can opt to run this network monitoring software on-site or access it from the Cloud by subscription.
- Dynatrace A network connection monitor that also covers server and device statuses.
- ConnectWise Automate A network monitor that includes automated actions that get triggered by status alerts.
- Zabbix A free open source network monitor that uses SNMP to track network device statuses.
LAN monitoring tools assessment
LAN Monitors range in complexity from packet sniffing tools through to full network administration systems. The key tasks when managing a network are the ability to keep track of facility utilization, ensuring equipment doesn’t get overloaded and the ability to monitor and ensure all equipment is operational. LAN monitor software keep you informed in real-time so that you can head off problems before they impact performance.
As your network probably contains equipment sourced from a range of manufacturers, you don’t want to be tied into a proprietary system for your LAN monitoring software. It is important to check that the monitoring system that you buy is compatible with all of the networking equipment you already have. Although wireless networks are not officially part of the definition of “LAN,” getting a monitor that can also include your wifi router is also a good option to look out for.
What should you look for in LAN monitoring software?
We reviewed the market for LAN monitoring software and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:
- An SNMP manager to query device statuses
- Constant availability monitoring
- The ability to communicate with the devices provided by many different vendors
- Alerts for device status problems
- A network topology map
- A free tool or a free assessment period
- A useful set of monitoring utilities for free or at a good price
The best LAN Monitoring Tools
This guide will list LAN monitoring tools that cover the whole spectrum of requirements, not just systems for large corporations. When looking at the available LAN monitoring tools, the following attributes were taken into consideration:
- Visualization — you need the monitor to show you the status of the overall network at a glance
- Alerts — the monitor should incorporate a feedback system to highlight failures and stress
- Customizations — the system should allow you to write your own scripts to automate reporting
- Multi-vendor compatibility — the monitoring system should be able to communicate with all your existing equipment.
- Analysis tools — you sometimes need to be able to explore the network, right down to the packets
With these criteria in mind, we have assembled a list of the best LAN monitoring software.
SolarWinds is one of the big hitters in the LAN technology market at the moment. The company produces a range of products for network administrators that can be bought individually, or assembled together to form a complete network management system.
- SNMP processes
- Monitors device health
- Live statuses
You don’t have to commit to buying all of the other modules in order to use the Network Performance Monitor, but you may be tempted to take a look at the other SolarWinds utilities once you have gotten used to the LAN monitoring tool. The key feature of this tool that makes it a winner on our list is the well-organized dashboard. You get an overview of the whole network’s performance with just one glance at the user interface. Real-time performance metrics on network activity are made instantly visible by graphic presentations, including pie charts and line graphs.
If you are responsible for several sites, you can extend the competence of Network Performance Monitor thanks to its remote monitoring capabilities. This way, you can manage all of the devices in your WAN from one central location.
One of the four panels of the Summary view includes a list of critical conditions that have occurred in the day. Live data transmission that feeds into this summary page comes from the SNMP methodology. Most new network-compatible equipment comes with SNMP functions pre-loaded in the firmware and the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor automatically detects and interacts with device agents to keep you informed of equipment status.
Those real-time status alerts are the core of the monitoring system, but you don’t want to be swamped by every status message that feeds into the monitor. The interface can be customized to filter status alerts and notify different team members according to different network activity conditions that might arise. This helps you to manage your time more effectively if you are in charge of a large network, supported by a group of specialists. This facility is particularly useful if a lot of your hardware support is outsourced — the Network Performance Monitor directly notifies the service provider, so you don’t need to waste time putting in calls for support.
The monitoring package manages wired and wireless networks. You can drill down to get details of each node on the network to examine problems and keep track of utilization. Again, the node detail screen has graphic displays to give you a full picture of performance at a glance.
- Built with scale and enterprise in mind, can support thousands of devices across multiple LANs
- Intuitive dashboards provide at-a-glance health reports alongside more granular metrics
- Can support WAN environments and multiple VPN configurations
- Dashboard configuration uses simple drag-and-drop widgets for easy customization
- Alerts allow sysadmins to manage their LAN more proactively than most other products
- This is an enterprise tool, and likely not the best fit for home networks or very small LANs
The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is aimed at large corporate networks, with the entry-level system coming in at $1,638 (£1,237). Prices increase according to the number of nodes on your network. So, if you only have a small network and a very tight budget, this comprehensive LAN monitoring tool is probably not for you.
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is a great choice for a LAN monitoring software tool because it includes autodiscovery that creates a network inventory. That log of network equipment is constantly updated and it is also the source of an automatically drawn network topology map. The system will continuously check on the availability and health of all network devices by using the Simple Network Management Protocol.
OS: Windows Server
OpManager is produced by ManageEngine, another significant player in the network software industry. You can get a free version of the OpManager system to get familiar with its features and get your small enterprise’s network properly monitored.
- Network SNMP monitoring
- Free version
- Also monitors servers
- Virtualization monitoring
You are allowed to monitor up to three devices with the free OpManager. However, you still get the same level of system notification that users of the paid version get. The engine of the monitoring methodology uses SNMP.
This is built into all new network-compatibility hardware, so you will automatically be able to get real-time feedback on network activity from all of the devices connected to your network. Another common technology that underpins the OpManager system is the NetFlow traffic monitoring methodology.
Whether you are using the free system, or if you have opted to pay, the software can be loaded onto Linux or Windows. It includes the capability to interact with SQL-based databases and MySQL, Active Directory, and Eventlog.
If you are looking into buying the OpManager system, you have the choice of two plans: Essential and Enterprise. You can manage up to 1,000 nodes with the Essential plan and up to 10,000 with the Enterprise package. Both of these options can extend their monitoring to WAN and voice systems with remote monitoring and QoS functions.
A feature that you don’t get with the free version of OpManager is the auto-discovery utility. This will map your network and present it in a nice graphic in the dashboard. The map displayed on the screen is based on a real map of the world, so you can get a visual representation of your entire network even if it is global. The top strap of the dashboard’s main page is packed with miniature graphs, charts and dials. Although each of these will go full screen if you click on them, the color-coding of those icon displays makes it very easy to get a quick overview of the network’s status.
- Has a freeware version for testing and smaller network to utilize
- Uses both SNMP and NetFlow for monitoring giving it more coverage options than other tools
- Can scale easily, Enterprise package supports up to 10,000 endpoints
- Supports WAN management alongside the LAN
- Utilizes automatic network discovery to create live inventories and network maps for administrators to track assets and network size
- Freeware and paid version allow for both small and large size networks to effectively use this tool
- OpManager is dense with features, integrations, and settings, and may take time to fully learn
If you are looking into buying the OpManager system, you have the choice of three plans: Standard, Professional, and Enterprise. The Enterprise package is designed to monitor multiple sites from one central location. Both the Standard and Professional plans are intended for use on LANs. The more expensive Professional package includes extra features, such as automated and regular device discovery. It also includes virtualization and VLAN monitoring, which you don’t get with the Standard plan. You can download OpManager on a 30-day free trial.
Related post: ManageEngine OpManager – Full Review
Auvik is a SaaS platform that offers network performance monitoring and has a higher plan that also provides traffic analysis. All versions of the Auvik system start with a network discovery routine. The service operates through an agent that needs to be installed on one of the hosts connected to the network. This intermediary collects network device data through SNMP and uploads it to the Auvik server for processing. Auvik then compiles a network inventory and a map.
- SNMP-based device tracking
- Network asset inventory
- Network topology map
- Traffic analysis
The SNMP process recurs and all of the information gathered with each report request goes up to the Auvik server. This allows the system to update both the asset inventory and the network map to account for any changes in the network’s infrastructure. Both the asset inventory and the map provide routes through to detail screens for each device.
Details of each device show its make, model, and identifiers, plus an overall status category. The system also shows the results of the SNMP status reports that each device sends, which offers details of any problems that have been discovered.
An alerts system shows a list of issues that could threaten the successful performance of the network and those that are critical and need to be dealt with immediately. The home screen of the Auvik console also displays a system-wide alert list.
The console is resident in the cloud and can be accessed through any standard Web browser. It is possible to customize the standard screens and even compose extra display pages.
The base plan for Auvik is called Essentials. The higher plan is called Performance – it includes all of the features of Essentials with some extra services added on. Those extras include Syslog collection and network traffic analysis
The traffic analysis feature can communicate with network devices through NetFlow v5, NetFlow v9, J-Flow, IPFIX, and sFlow. It segments traffic throughput data by application, source, and destination. It can also show traffic volumes of outbound packets that leave the network to destinations on the internet.
The log manager in the Auvik Performance package collects and stores Syslog messages. A Log Viewer in the console enables those log messages to be loaded in for examination. The tool includes facilities to sort, filter, and group messages to gain performance and security insights. Log storage space is included in the plan and log messages are retained for 14 days.
- SNMP-based performance monitoring
- Bandwidth analyzer in the Performance plan
- Log file management
- NetFlow, J-Flow, IPFIX, and sFlow capabilities
- Constantly updated data
- Integrations with external systems
- Doesn’t collect Windows Events
- No price list
Auvik doesn’t publish a price list because the exact subscription rate for the service depends on the size and complexity of the network that is to be monitored. It is possible to find out how much the service will cost you by requesting a quote. You can get a look at the Auvik platform with a 14-day free trial.
Paessler PRTG covers server monitoring as well as LAN and WAN supervision. The underlying technology that drives this monitoring utility is the NetFlow system. This is able to track packet transfer rates around your network in real-time. A drill-down utility to get a look right down to the network protocol level is provided by a packet sniffer utility. Monitoring isn’t just the task of watching the traffic go by, however.
- SNMP manager
- Network device monitoring
- Adaptable suite of sensors
- Traffic flow monitors
The Paessler PRTG LAN monitoring functions rely on SNMP to provide alerts to hardware statuses. The alerts provided by SNMP enable network administrators to stay ahead of crises. You can save a lot of money on your support desk if you can stay ahead of hardware failure and fix it before user calls start to get out of hand.
A great benefit of SNMP is that it uses very little bandwidth, so your monitoring with this suite will not slow the network down. The dashboard of the Paessler system is a great user interface that includes graphs, charts, and dials to give you instant information on the overall status of your network. You can query individual nodes on the network to get instant status reports containing live data. Those device-specific pages contain easy-to-follow graphics and the whole dashboard can be accessed from any computer on the network as well as tablets and smartphones.
PRTG is particularly powerful for multi-site operations that include internet connections and cloud services. You can centralize all of your network management functions in one location, accessing each individual site LAN remotely, thanks to Paessler’s Remote Probe technology. PRTG will also monitor your wireless networks.
A Paessler PRTG install is very heavily guided. A lot of the installation procedures are automated and the integrated network discovery feature gets your topology mapped automatically. The LAN monitoring tool includes templates that gather status information on each device. That brings a standardized format to your monitoring effort, enabling you to pay equal attention to all of the equipment on your network. Many aspects of the PRTG monitoring system can be customized, giving you the notifications and statuses that have become critical to the success of your network.
- Supports both LAN and WAN monitoring across multiple networks
- Is one of the most scalable tools for LAN monitoring, great for both growing networks and established enterprises
- Utilizes a number of different visualizations to help keep teams and administrators informed on network performance
- Alert templates are easy to get started with
- Sensor functionality can easily be expanded upon through customization or any of PRTG’s other solutions
- Provides up to 100 sensors completely free, great for smaller businesses
- Has a lot of different features and options for customization, requires time to fully explore all options and features
Paessler’s PRTG free trial allows for an unlimited number of sensors but is only available for a 30-day period. There is also a freeware version – aimed at assisting small businesses as they grow – which currently allows for up to 100 sensors to be used for an indefinite amount of time.
The Flow Tool Bundle from SolarWinds is a set of three network traffic analysis utilities. This pack is completely free of charge.
- Network capacity tests
- Traffic generator
- Free to use
Network performance monitors usually focus on the statuses of network equipment; network traffic analysis tools, such as this one, look at the volumes of traffic that pass along the network cable between devices. You don’t need to put a network tap on the cable to see that traffic in transit because all packets flow along the cable between two network devices. So you can get an understanding of the events on the cable by looking at the flows of traffic on the network equipment at either end.
Cisco Systems created NetFlow to enable Systems Administrators to collect traffic at the router. This system focuses on collecting packet headers, port, and interference information, all part of Cisco’s CDP. It both duplicates traffic and calculates summaries of traffic types and volumes. The Flow Tool Bundle works with NetFlow v5 and helps you to exploit the data created by NetFlow for analysis.
The pack includes three utilities:
- NetFlow Configurator
- NetFlow Replicator
- NetFlow Generator
The NetFlow Configurator acts as an interface to all your Cisco routers. NetFlow works on IP packet headers, so it is a relevant function of switches. Rather than logging in to each router in turn and working through the router manager menus, you can just use this simplified front end that narrows down all of the functions to just turning on NetFlow capabilities and directing that traffic to your NetFlow collector. This acts as a great time saver.
The NetFlow Replicator tool takes your saved NetFlow data and replays events on your network. This enables you to get a look at traffic in a replay. This saves you the worry of having missed the reasons for any slow down or failure that might have occurred while you were out of the office or away from your desk.
The NetFlow Generator creates fake traffic to give you extra volume to run around your network. This is a great exercise if you plan to increase services or add extra endpoints to your network that would result in greater traffic volumes. You can test the performance of your load balancers, firewalls, and network performance monitoring alerts before planned changes occur.
- Entirely free suite of tools
- Simple interface is easy to use and can be used even by non-technical users
- Compatible with Cisco’s NetFlow tools
- Great option for replicating network conditions for in-depth troubleshooting on the LAN
- Could use a data visualization feature in any one of the tools
The Flow Tool Bundle helps you head off disaster before it happens. You don’t get any graphical data representations in this tool, but you do get the opportunity to test your network on your own time to prevent things going wrong when you are occupied elsewhere. The Flow Bundle is offered as a free utility.
The Site24x7 Network Monitoring Tool is a comprehensive IT infrastructure monitoring system that also has application monitoring baked in. Another module in the package tracks user behavior on websites and creates synthetic user walk-throughs for website testing.
- Cloud based
- Uses SNMP
A major part of the infrastructure monitoring service is the network monitor. This is a network performance monitor that communicates with network devices rather than watching traffic as it passes over the cables of the network.
This is a cloud service, so there is no need to install any system management software on-site. The service connects to the monitored network over the internet. All communications between the network and the controller in the cloud are protected by encryption. Access to the dashboard, which is resident in the cloud, is facilitated through any web browser. The data transmissions of this access are also protected by encryption.
Site24x7 begins its service by contacting the monitored network and performing a system sweep. In this phase, the network monitor contacts every device for its identification details, including make, model, and statuses. The results of these inquiries are written into an inventory. Site24x7 also creates a network topology map from the information gleaned during the autodiscovery phase.
The inventory and topology map are constantly updated to reflect changes in the network and the devices that run it. Apart from switches and routers, the service monitors firewalls and other network appliances. It will track the performance of WAN links, wireless networks, and cloud services as well as the on-site cabled network.
The heart of the Site24x7 LAN monitoring service is based on the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This network protocol is an industry-standard. There are two elements in the SNMP system: device agents and an SNMP manager. The role of the SNMP manager is to poll device agents. Each agent scans the device that it is monitoring for statuses and places that information in a standard format. When the information request arrives, it replies with the current version of the status report, which is called a Management Information Base (MIB). The SNMP manager compiles the received MIBs into statuses shown on the system dashboard.
SNMP agents are loaded onto every network device by the equipment manufacturers. Site24x7 fills the role of the SNMP manager. The manager also receives urgent status notifications from device agents when a critical condition is detected. These notifications get translated into warnings and alerts in the Site24x7 dashboard, so network managers don’t have to wait until a problem with a device causes noticeable network performance issues.
- Provides a comprehensive monitoring tool for the LAN and beyond
- Is a lightweight cloud service, meaning not bulky on-premise installs or long onboarding procedures
- Can test the LAN internally as well as the WAN from their cloud site
- Web dashboard is accessible from virtually anywhere
- Network topology map automatically discovers new devices and reflects changes almost instantly
- Features a free version, as well as four paid plans that make it viable for any size network
- Goes well beyond simple LAN management, requires a time investment to learn the entire platform. Good support though
Site24x7 is available in a free version and four paid editions. The free version is limited to active monitoring of five websites or servers. The charged-for versions are paid for by subscription and each is available on a 30-day free trial.
Further Reading: Site24x7 – Full Review
Syxsense Manage is SaaS platform that offers system monitoring that focuses on endpoints but also monitors networks. The service requires an agent program to be installed on enrolled networks. The Syxsense Manage service can unify the monitoring of many different sites, you just need to install the agent on each network.
- Cloud based
- Includes endpoint management
The service scans each enrolled network and identifies the devices connected to it. This creates an asset inventory. The discovery process is continuous, so new additions to the network will be included in the inventory automatically.
The Syxsense service also scans each endpoint to compile a software inventory. This records the operating system version and the software packages installed on each endpoint. The service can scan endpoints running Windows, macOS, and Linux.
The software inventory is the basis for the automated patch manager that is included in the Syxsense Manage package.
The platform logs all events on the network and records all actions taken for maintenance. That includes both manual processes and automated maintenance services. The audits are stored automatically on the Syxsense cloud server. An account includes 50 GB of cloud storage space for logs and patch installers.
The logs will be stored in a meaningful directory structure and that makes compliance auditing easier. The system can produce security and activity reports that are suitable for PCI DSS, HIPAA, and SOX. The Syxsense Manage service also produces assessments on the security weaknesses on the network with a Security Risk Assessment report.
- A SaaS platform
- Can consolidate the management of networks on multiple sites
- Includes an asset and software inventory manager
- An automated patch manager
- This is more an endpoint manager than a network monitoring system
Syxsense Manage is a subscription service. The console for the system is hosted in the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere through any standard Web browser. The minimum service for the package is for coverage of 10 devices and fees are levied annually in advance. You can access Syxsense Manage with a 14-day free trial.
SolarWinds Hybrid Cloud Observability tracks the performance of networks and the devices connected to them. It is designed for businesses that use cloud services as well as on-premises infrastructure, so it monitors those remote platforms and the connections to them as well.
- Asset discovery
- Inventory creation and dependency mapping
- Live activity monitoring and performance analysis
The Hybrid Cloud Observability system includes an autodiscovery service that identifies all of the devices connected to the network. It creates a network inventory from this information and provides the source information for a network topology mapper.
The LAN monitor watches activities on the discovered devices and the connections between them, which includes cloud services and internet connections.
This package will monitor virtual systems as well as physical infrastructure. That includes VLANs, virtualizations, cloud virtual servers, and SD-WANs. The system will document and map these virtual structures.
The SolarWinds tool composes an application dependency map from the information it picks up while monitoring operations. This map is a tool for root cause analysis, should problems need investigating. The dashboard also provides a visual Traceroute service for testing end-to-end connections on demand.
An alerting mechanism will send out a notification to technicians via SMS or email if an evolving problem is detected.
- Autodiscovery, inventory creation, and topology mapping
- Application dependency mapping
- Live performance monitoring
- Route analysis
- No SaaS version
Hybrid Cloud Observability is available in two editions: Essentials and Advanced. Both are subscription services with a rate per node per month, although this is an on-premises software package that runs on Windows Server. You can get
a 30-day free trial of the Advanced edition.
Atera is a cloud-based support package for managed service providers (MSPs) The system includes professional services automation (PSA) tools, which MSPs use to run the business and remote management and monitoring systems (RMM), which are the software tools that technicians use to support client systems. The Atera RMM includes LAN monitoring.
- Designed for managed service providers
- Remote monitoring
- Device discovery and inventory creation
As the service is based on the cloud, the subscribing MSP doesn’t need to install any software on its own site in order to use the platform – all of the processing and hosting is based on the Atera servers. Technicians access the dashboard for the system through any standard browser.
The network monitoring system uses SNMP to supervise devices on the network. The service requires that agent programs are installed on the client site. That agent communicates SNMP data to the Atera server for processing via a secure link.
The LAN monitoring pages of the RMM are attractively laid out and include alerts and performance data in color-code graphical elements. The layout of the monitoring page can be customized to create limited views. This also enables the MSP to make information screens available to the client.
As well as monitoring networks, the RMM is able to monitor servers and applications. All of the screens are customizable and the dashboard also gives access to process automation features. One automated tool in the system is its network discovery utility. This does an initial sweep when the agent is first installed on a new site. The autodiscovery program will compile a device inventory. The process runs recursively, so the inventory is updated with a live list of all equipment connected to the network.
- Lightweight cloud-based tool
- Built with MSPs in mind, and includes RMM and PSA tools built-in
- Dashboard access from any browser makes Atera extremely flexible
- Can scale and support multiple networks in an organized manner
- Could use better reporting functionality
- Automated remediation and automatic ticket assignment could use improvement and more functionality
As this is software-as-a-service, Atera bundles processors and storage space on the cloud in with the use of the software. You don’t need to buy the software you pay for access to it on a subscription. This removes a lot of the startup costs involved in creating an MSP, so Atera is very popular with small MSPs and startups. Prices are set per technician per month or per year, so it is easy to expand the MSP by just adding on seats. You can get a look at Atera by applying for a 30-day free trial.
Related post: Network Configuration Management Tools
Nagios manages open-source network monitoring software, which is completely free to use. The interface for this free system, which is called Nagios Core, is not very comprehensive. You get a basic web interface with the main download, and then you can search through the Nagios Core community pages to look for plugins and skins that other users have developed for themselves and are willing to share.
- Free and paid versions
- Networks, servers, and applications
- Free plug-in extensions
The Nagios Core system is a great option if you have no budget for LAN monitoring tools and you are prepared to compromise on presentation. There is a free version of Nagios XI that is free with limitations — you can only use it to monitor seven nodes. However, this offer, together with two grades of paid usage, means that Nagios XI is suitable for all network sizes.
The Standard paid version is available for $1,995 with a minimum of 100 nodes on the network, and the Enterprise edition starts at $3,495. That is a one-time purchase price and includes access to email support and community forums. You can pay extra for phone support. The buyers of the Enterprise editions are obliged to subscribe annually to a maintenance plan or a maintenance and support plan.
With Nagios XI, you get the real-time monitoring capabilities of Nagios Core, but the data that is collected is managed, presented and filtered in a much more digestible format. The graphics on the dashboard do all of the work for you. You can see instantly where there are problems on the network. The pages of the interface include charts, graphs, and dials that help you get performance data at a glance.
The Nagios XI system is easy to set up because the software includes auto-discovery, so it maps the network by itself. This feature is very useful when you add equipment to the network. A Configuration Wizard helps you to get the interface operating to your tastes. You can create user groups and individual accounts to delegate partial access to data among team members.
Nagios is able to monitor equipment on remote sites and you can deepen your remote monitoring capabilities for server physical statuses by installing the Remote Program Execution agent on those servers.
- Is open-source and completely free, with a paid option for enterprises
- Supports autodiscovery for easy device management
- Can monitor devices through an additional agent
- User interface is lacking, could be easier to use and feature more customizable looks
- Network mapping visualizations need improvement
- Not nearly as comprehensive as some of our top choices
The range of subscription options, including Nagios Core and the free version of Nagios XI for small networks, means that this system is truly scalable. Nagios Core upgrades to Nagios XI with just a software install. When you switch from the free Nagios XI to the Standard version and then up to the Enterprise package, you don’t lose any of your customizations. This is a very good feature for rapidly expanding companies.
Related post: Nagios vs Zabbix
A Pandora NMS install begins with a network sweep that enables the system to map your topology. The network map is just one of the graphics contained in the dashboard that helps you keep track of the system at a glance.
- Free version available
- Network discovery
- Manages multiple sites
The monitoring functions of Pandora NMS is based on SNMP procedures. Your central network manager node will poll the system constantly to keep track of device statuses. Standard SNMP alerts report critical conditions as they arise without waiting for a status request from the network manager. The Pandora engine is able to communicate with devices using SNMPv1, v2c, and v3.
The Pandora package doesn’t just cover real-time network monitoring. The wider system, called Pandora FMS, includes address management as well with a built-in IPAM. The IP address manager can operate with both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.
The third element of Pandora FMS is its configuration management system, which can keep track of your company’s software patch status and detect rogue software on the system.
Whether this combination would be of interest to you depends on if you already have a DDI suite and configuration management system with which you are happy. However, if you are looking for an entirely new networking toolkit, this option could work out well for you.
If you have a multi-site network, you can centralize all of the management of your organization’s WAN into one location through remote monitoring. However, it is possible to divide up the responsibilities and system access in the dashboard to limit onsite managers’ access to just their subnets — the dashboard’s contents are fully customizable. It is also possible to define roles within the console to give partial access to the controls of the dashboard, enabling junior staff to safely participate and upline managers to access reporting functions.
Pandora NMS is a Spanish product and its prices are set in Euros. The basic network monitoring software package is available as a “Community” edition of its open-source software for free. The full feature Network Management System starts at €850 (£716), which includes professional support. That price is for a package that includes 35 endpoint licenses and the price increases with larger license counts.
- Works alongside Pandora FMS for additional address management functionality
- Supports patch management, making it a more complete tool than other managers
- Can group LANs with other non-VPN WANs into a single group for easier management
- Open-source with paid version
- Outdated interface, visualizations are lacking and nested menus can be overwhelming
- No support for open-source version
- Expensive in terms of functionality when compared to competing products
Some extra features are available as added extras but are included with the Enterprise plan. They include remote access systems and SAP monitoring. If you need those, you might consider upgrading to the Corporate plan where those extra features are included in the price. The Corporate package is priced by negotiation.
Zenoss Core is an open-source network monitoring system that you can install for free. There are two paid versions of this real-time network monitoring and analyzing software. You can get an onsite version, which is called Zenoss Service Dynamics, or you can have a managed cloud-based service, called Zenoss-as-a-service.
- SaaS or on premises
- Extensions called ZenPacks
- Includes physical device monitoring
Whichever option you go for, you will get an auto-discovery module. This automatically maps your network topology and logs all of the devices connected to the system. You are allowed up to 1,000 network devices, but with both of the paid services, the number of devices you can have is unlimited.
The monitoring doesn’t just limit itself to standard network equipment, terminals, and printers. It will also monitor power supplies, server racks, ports, fans, and fabric cards.
The network monitoring system is based on SNMP. This is great because it means that you get automatic compatibility with all new equipment currently manufactured with network connectors. SNMP alerts provide device failure notification that feeds directly into the dashboard. Traffic flows around the network are monitored by NetFlow.
Whether you choose to use the onsite system or the cloud-based version of Zenoss’s LAN monitoring service, the dashboard is web-based, which means that is can be accessed from any GUI operating system. You can extend the capabilities of Zenoss to cover multiple sites and institute remote monitoring by installing data collectors on each site.
The standard monitoring software can be expanded by ZenPacks. These are notification add-ons that cater to specific hardware produced by a range of well-known equipment manufacturers. You don’t need to install all of the available ZenPacks. However, knowledge of the existence of a ZenPack for a specific device will make it easier to buy in new equipment for your multi-vendor environment.
- Open-source, completely free tool with two paid options
- Uses network discovery to automatically pull in new devices that enter the network
- Can support multi-site networks encompassing both LAN and WAN
- Support only for paid tiers
- Dashboard interface needs improvement, specifically the nested menu options on the home screen
- Free version is limited to 1000 devices
All flavors of the Zenoss network monitoring software include server and storage monitoring functions and they all also include IP address management functions.
Dynatrace is different to all of the other network monitoring systems on this list. It focuses on the performance of network connections rather than on the statuses of devices connected to the network. The graphical representations of the network are stunning and they can highlight where physical cabling got overcomplicated, giving you an overview of how you can better lay out your network.
- AI detection rules
- Path analysis
- Virtualization monitoring
The real-time network monitoring extends to virtual environments. As with the physical network, Dynatrace will discover your connections and map them. The layout of the virtual environment shows you how much traffic each of your virtual machines attracts, giving you a better chance of right-sizing capacity. The nodes mapped as part of the virtual environment can also include any cloud services that your business employs.
Dynatrace analyzes network traffic at the process level. You will be able to see which processes use the most resources and which aspects of your infrastructure are being strained. Apart from network resources, Dynatrace presents server utilization metrics, including memory, disk, and CPU usage.
The Dynatrace system would be ideal for online businesses. You can track application performance and see how each user’s activities ripple through to software activation, process network activity, and resource usage. The representations of network activity rely heavily on mapping. This is a fairly unique approach to network performance monitoring and is very effective. The focus on process flows rather than equipment performance makes this more of a network analyzer rather than a straightforward monitor.
- Sleek, customizable interface
- Real-time LAN and WAN monitoring that supports virtual environments, great for MSPs and large enterprise networks
- Can visualize complicated physical connections with ease
- Offers application performance tracking as well as resource monitoring on the process level for in-depth LAN management
- Is more geared towards larger networks and enterprise organizations
- Pricing reflects its value but can be expensive for small to medium size networks
If you looked at the other network monitors on this list and decided that they don’t really give you the details on flows of data that you were looking for, then Dynatrace is probably the answer to your problem.
ConnectWise produces a range of networking services and its network monitoring system is called Automate. This cloud-based solution is aimed at small and mid-sized businesses. The company doesn’t publish its prices on its website. Instead, you have to contact a sales representative to negotiate a quote. The secretive pricing method can be a little off-putting for entrepreneurs.
- Autodiscovery and topology mapping
- Version for MSPs
- Monitors multiple sites
The Dashboard offers several view formats for your data, so you can just watch plain lists of events or get graphical displays of live data.
The Automate name explains the operating methodologies of the package. The idea is that this monitoring system will do everything for you, including network discovery and user tracking. A number of extra enable you to run a lot of network administration tasks on auto-pilot. For example, version control is not normally a function expected of a network monitoring system. However, Automate includes a patch management tool, which logs all of the versions of the software on your system and enables you to update all of it from one central location.
ConnectWise Automate is not limited to a single site. The software is able to serve an MSP’s multiple clients and their many networks. Automate can monitor multiple locations based on an IP range as well as incorporate subnets of those client networks.
- Great for MSPs, or large multi-site networks
- Integrates well into the ConnectWise ecosystem with tools such as ConnectWise Control
- Can be used as an all-in-one tool for RMM, inventory management, and PSA
- Automation features are not user-friendly, and can require the aid of a ConnectWise professional
- Dashboard features are lacking and difficult to customize
- Steep learning curve when compared to competing tools on this list
Remote management tools, such as ConnectWise Control, are included with the purchase of ConnectWise Automate.This could be a good solution for a software or IT service provider because it gives your IT department full user support capabilities, not just a network monitoring software.
- Free to use
- Customizable screens
- Can monitor multiple sites
Despite being free, the dashboard has a very professional look to it. You can switch out elements of the dashboard to get your most important information visible in the most prominent areas of the screen. Dashboard features include lists of live event data, graphs, and color-coding to make important information instantly recognizable.
The real-time network monitoring module of Zabbix relies on SNMP, so you will be able to benefit from the device agents that your equipment already has installed by its manufacturers. The Zabbix system can monitor cloud services, application performance, hardware such as racks and UPS, and servers. The system can also implement remote monitoring if you have other sites that you want to manage centrally.
There isn’t a pre-written reporting module with Zabbix, but you can create your own custom reports and look for report formats written by others on the community forums of the Zabbix website.
A weakness in many networking protocols is that they operate at lower levels in the protocol stack, which makes encryption difficult. Zabbix includes an encryption layer, which locks out wiretappers and snoopers and enables monitoring data to securely pass through the network. The encryption system makes authentication procedures available so you can create different permission levels for access to the data available in the dashboard of the network monitor.
- Free open-source software
- The interface is minimal, yet informative
- Can monitor WAN as well as cloud-based services alongside your LAN
- Uses secure connections for all reporting and metric collection
- Not the best option for larger networks and enterprises
- Lacking support options, reliant on the open-source community
Zabbix is aimed at small and middle-sized businesses, so if you are just starting out, this free network monitoring solution would be ideal for you.
Open-source Network Software
The concept of open-source software is becoming more common in networking technology. This is because proprietary, closed source systems could cloak malware and so network owners tended to gravitate towards the big software providers such as Microsoft and Cisco. However, larger corporations have been proven on occasion to be not entirely trustworthy.
An example of this situation was unearthed during the Edward Snowden revelations into spying by the NSA on American citizens. It was revealed that Microsoft had built a back door into its encryption for Skype, enabling it to provide the NSA with details of private conversations.
So, the open-source movement is seen as a positive solution to software security. You might think that allowing every hacker in the world access to the source code of network software would give them time to work out how to crack it and break into your network. However, open-source software for security-sensitive applications generally includes tried and tested authentication procedures that no one can crack. Essentially, the open-source model relies on a thorough approach to security rather than expecting that secrecy will suffice.
Open source network monitors can provide small businesses with good entry-level access to network management software for free.
Selecting LAN monitoring software
If you run a small business and you need to start buying monitoring software for your expanding network, then take a look at some of the open-source options listed in this guide. If you want a top quality system that will keep monitoring network activity as your business expands, then SolarWinds, OpManager, and Paessler PRTG would probably be your best options. Take a look at the other monitoring systems in our list, such as Dynatrace to discover some unique features that might suit your overall network monitoring strategy better than the leaders of the pack.
Selecting LAN monitoring software can be a time-consuming task because there are so many contenders in the market. Thanks to this guide, you can now limit your search to just the top ten LAN monitoring tools.
Lan Monitoring FAQ
What can affect network performance?
The three main causes of network performance problems are excessive traffic, damaged equipment, and addressing errors.
- If the amount of traffic that needs to pass through a network device exceeds that device’s throughput capacity, packets will be queued.
- If the queue gets full, packets will get dropped. In the case of TCP communication, the failure to receive an acknowledgment for a packet causes it to be re-sent.
- This increases the amount of traffic on the network, slows down the receiving application, and causes services and software to hang.
- Loose hardware connectors can also cause network traffic problems. If these connectors function some of the time, it makes the problem harder to spot than a node that is completely broken and creates a network dead-end.
Not addressing these problems can cause packets to be dropped and can even prevent some devices from communicating at all.