Network Magic by Cisco Systems is no longer available. This useful tool was ideal for home networks and the networks of small business users. The version of the system for home users was called Network Magic Essentials and was available for free. The small business edition was called Network Magic Pro and cost just $50.
Since Cisco discontinued the program, Network Magic users have found that the system has gradually slipped out of date, often doesn’t work properly, and doesn’t have a help desk backing it.
If you are looking for an alternative to Network Magic, you may struggle, because this useful tool had some unique features. These were:
- Map network automatically
- Report on the IP address of each device
- Report on the hardware and software versions of each device
- Can communicate with both Windows and Mac OS
- Maintenance utilities for troubleshooting and network performance improvements
- Bandwidth usage history per computer
The Pro version of the system had a couple of extra features:
- Enhanced wifi security
- Status alerts
- Control access to the internet
- Get screenshots of activity on a computer
Although many of these features are available in other packages, most of the alternative systems are aimed at businesses. Home users may find them a little complicated for their requirements. Many top quality corporate network management systems offer a free version for small networks. So, getting a very comprehensive system for your home network is not a problem. However, there are very few network management systems written for Macs, so you have a lot less choice of Network Magic alternatives if you are a Mac user.
Here is a list of five alternatives to Network Magic. These are not exact matches for the functionality of the Cisco program. However, many of these options include features that Network Magic did not have, so you may end up liking them more than your trusty old network management software.
Here is our list of the best Network Magic alternatives:
- Paessler PRTG Network Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
- HomeNet Manager
- Spiceworks IP Scanner
- Network Scanner
- Axence NetTools
Paessler PRTG Network Monitor is an infrastructure monitoring package. It tracks activities on network devices, network links, and servers. The performance of websites, applications, and virtualizations are covered by this software and it can even reach out to cloud services and remote sites.
You can choose to install the PRTG Network Monitor software on premises or access it as a cloud service. If you choose the online version, you still have to install a collector on your in-house system. The software installs on Windows systems.
When you first start up the installed PRTG software it will map all of your infrastructure. This initial baseline establishes an inventory of all of your equipment. It also creates a log of all of your software. You can see the layout of your system on a network map. The monitor then runs continuously and keeps track of network activity and the health of all of the devices connected to the system. The monitoring process includes three methods.
The device monitor uses SNMP, which uses an industry standard messaging system to check on all equipment connected to the network. A packet sniffer captures the real-time traffic on the network to enhance the accuracy of activity monitoring. This only copies the headers of packets traveling across the network to preserve data privacy. Network traffic messaging systems are also employed by PRTG to get deeper insights into the network’s performance. These systems include NetFlow, IPFIX, jFlow, and sFlow, which are used by routers and switches to report on statuses and activities.
The constant checks performed by PRTG generate alerts that arise from status problems, unusual activity, and critical conditions. You will be notified if any new equipment connects to the network and you will also be able to see unusual activity, so the monitor can be used to detect intrusion. Network activity can be filtered by IP address, by MAC address, by port number, or by application. All of this detection extends to remote sites and also includes wireless networks.
Although the monitoring software installs on Windows, it is able to interact with equipment running other operating systems. The Paessler PRTG system is available on a range of plans with pricing based on the number of sensors that you deploy. Sensor is a monitored condition. The software is free to use for up to 100 sensors. Paessler offers a 30-day free trial for larger implementations.
HomeNet Manager is produced by SingleClick Systems. The company doesn’t make its software available on its own website, but you can download it from CNet. The software is free to try through a 30-day free trial. After that, you have to pay $39.95 to keep using it.
The interface is very user-friendly and you won’t feel overwhelmed by extra professional network management features aimed at businesses. This package was designed with home users in mind.
A network discovery feature will map your network automatically and keep monitoring for any added or removed equipment. A great feature of this system is that it can detect other wifi-enabled devices and connect to them directly in an ad hoc network instead of connecting through the router. If you install this software on your laptop, you will be able to get information on any network that you connect to, such as a public wifi hotspot in a café.
The utilities of the package include a software inventory report for each device and that includes a detailed examination of the firewall installed on each device on your network. You can rename discovered devices or eject them from the network. Once you have accounted for all of your network nodes, you can set the system to block any new devices, thus preventing intrusion from unwanted equipment. This is a great feature for those who live in close quarters with neighbors who might get hold of your wifi password and use your internet access for free.
The HomeNet Manager includes an alert window, which reports status failures on any device on your network. You can elect to have emergency conditions notified as pop-up messages as well as having them appear in the status log.
Unfortunately, HomeNet Manager only works on Windows, but it can detect computers with other operating systems when they are connected to the same network.
Spiceworks IP Scanner is a cloud-based service, but it requires a small program to be downloaded onto your computer. The system is free to use and it gives you the basic network discovery and device inventory functions that you enjoyed with Network Magic. This system will work with Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu and Debian Linux. The dashboard for the system is accessed through your regular web browser.
The IP Scanner will automatically trace all of the devices connected to your network and give an inventory on each device including its IP address, MAC address, hostname, manufacturer, operating system, a description, and a list of open ports.
The little program that you download in order to get this utility gathers data about your network and uploads it to the cloud. The communications between the agent on your computer and the Spiceworks server are encrypted, both in transit and at rest on the server. You have to use a special access key in order to see the information on your network. That prevents third parties from being able to get information on your network. This program doesn’t run all the time, but instead, will document your network on demand.
The interface allows you to filter and sort the list of connected devices. You can also export the status report to a CSV file for import into a spreadsheet.
For a more in-depth tool, you could try Spiceworks Inventory, which is also a free, cloud-based system. This system is probably more appropriate for small businesses because it tracks user activities and all the software installed on devices on your network in its inventory. Spiceworks Inventory can be scheduled to run periodically, giving you a near-live network monitoring tool.
Spiceworks Inventory runs on the cloud but requires a program to be downloaded on your computer. This program will only run on the Windows operating system. However, it can track Macs and Linux machines as well.
Network Scanner by Lizard Systems is very similar to Network Magic. Home users can have the software for free and businesses can get a license for $79.95. This utility does not require admin privileges to collect data, so any user connected to any network can run a scan and get a report. Although this might seem like a security risk, keep in mind that the user would have to have the software installed on his computer and the commands in the utility do not allow for alteration of network setup. This tool only gives information — it doesn’t control network settings.
This network management tool scans your network and discovers all devices. You get a report on the addresses and statuses of each device. The scan lists shared folders on the network so you can keep track of which computers have made files available to others. There is no limit to the number of IP addresses that this utility can cope with. You can narrow down the report to a range of IP addresses or just one device. It is also possible to focus the scan on one device type.
The scan will check the ports on each device and assess whether it is on and whether a specified user has access privileges to it. You can’t alter those access rights through the interface. However, the information in the scan results will let each user know whether they can connect to a specific resource, such as network attached storage.
Report results can be filtered and sorted and you can export data to HTML, TXT, or XML formats. Network Scanner is specifically concerned with identifying devices and shared resources on the network, including cataloging all the shared folders on your system. It won’t give you any alerts on hardware statuses and you don’t get a software inventory out of it.
The software is only available for Windows.
Axence has produced a package of ten network tools and they are free. The interface for this bundle is available in English, German, Polish, and Spanish. Unfortunately, these tools only run on Windows.
The tool most like Network Magic is the Network, Port, and Service Scanner. This has an autodiscovery feature to check on all of the devices connected to your network. It will check on the services running on each device and verify that each is functioning properly. Examples of the services that the system looks for are HTTP, POP3, and SQL services. In all the tool will examine 50 different services.
Another tool in the package that mirrors Network Magic functionality is Netstat, which gives a list of all open ports on your network-attached devices and the activity on each. Local Info lists the configuration details of each device. Netcheck tests the physical attributes of your network, such as the quality of the wiring. One more useful tool is the Bandwidth Tester.
The package also includes Netwatch. This will check on any servers that you have on your network including mail servers. The report generated by this tool lists activities on a range of ports and the packet loss rate. The utility will also check on the DNS entries for your host servers every ten minutes.
A Wintools utility will check on the event logs of each Windows device on the network, reporting back on performance issues related to CPU, disk, page swapping, and memory usage.
There is an SNMP Browser, which queries the statuses of each device, following the SNMP network monitoring standard.
Traceroute is a great tool that is available in many operating systems and Axence created its own version. This utility will trace the location of any given IP address and report on the performance of the internet connection between you and that address. A Lookup function allows you to query DNS and WHOIS information for any given address.
If you own a Mac you are probably annoyed that most of the suggestions in this list are all written for Windows. However, here is a neat network monitoring package just for Macs. NetAdmin is not free. It costs $38.99 and there is an advanced version called NetAdmin Pro, which costs $49.99. This is a software package and not a cloud-based service, so it runs entirely on your Mac. There is also a version for iOS devices.
The program runs continuously to give you live data on your network, although, you can shut it down. The monitoring system can deal with wired and wireless networks alike and was written with both home and small businesses in mind, so its target market matches the Network Magic audience exactly.
The user interface includes attractive graphs that show network performance on a user-specified timeline that can be altered from 90 minutes to one year. Reports can be exported to PDF or as CSV files. Factors that are monitored by the system include port usage, whether devices are online or offline, address allocation history and network response times to each device.
Macs have a native network admin system called Bonjour. NetAdmin can display Bonjour information as well as data gathered through the SNMP method. Although this software runs on Mac, it can also monitor other network-connected computers running Windows, Linux, Unix, and mobile operating systems. It will also register printers, scanners, and VoIP devices.
The basic NetAdmin package will only cover one subnet. However, that profile describes a typical network for a small business or home. If you want to use the system for a network that has more than one subnet, you need to select the NetAdmin Pro version.
The company that produces NetAdmin is called Aribada Inc and it would really rather you buy NetAdmin Pro instead of the standard NetAdmin software. On the company’s website, NetAdmin is listed as only available for iOS devices. However, the standard NetAdmin system is still available on the Mac App Store. It may be that the company will eventually drop support for NetAdmin on Macs and make it exclusively available for iOS.
The five network monitoring systems listed in this review match or exceed the network management functions of Network Magic. However, if you specifically chose Network Magic in order to get screenshots of computer activity on your network to check what your children were doing on the internet, then these new options won’t help you.
Simply getting broadband usage reports and taking screenshots of computers on your home network is probably the wrong method for controlling the internet access of children. There are better systems for imposing parental controls. It is better to block your children from accessing certain types of sites that to use a system that allows them access but reports on their activities. In this respect, Network Magic provided too little too late.
Parental control software is a fairer method to control the activities of children on the internet. It is much better to prevent rather than to blame or shame. If you are specifically looking for a Network Magic replacement that will let you know what your children are up to on the internet, these preventative systems provide better solutions than your current strategy.
Parental control software has really come a long way since the screen capture facility of Network Magic was thought of. These five options provide you with much better security for your children on the internet and include features such as contact logs, social media controls, and cyberbullying protection.
Farewell, Network Magic
If you have been using Network Magic for years, you will probably be reluctant to let it go. Admit it, you’ve been having problems with Network Magic for years. Even before the software was deprecated by Cisco Systems, it stopped working as well as it should have done. It is great to find free software from a trusted provider that does everything you want. However, the networking industry, including Cisco Systems, has moved on and you should, too.
Whichever feature of Network Magic you liked the most, chances are you can get that facility from one of our five alternatives, and that service will actually be better than your experience with Network Magic.
It is time to uninstall Network Magic and replace it. The five alternatives in our list are even better. Whichever one you choose, you will soon love it more than Network Magic.