Best Network Monitoring Tools

The network monitoring software market is so packed full of tools that it can be difficult to choose. Comprehensive network monitoring tools give you the visibility to manage your devices and make sure that they’re available when you need them.

With so many different considerations in network management, it is no surprise that there is a very wide range of tools that qualify as “network management tools.” For example, a LAN analyzer or packet sniffer that taps the network to enable you to see the data as it travels is a network tool, but it won’t monitor all of the factors you need to cover in your task as a network manager.

Taking these factors into consideration, this guide will cover a range of network monitoring tools that can help you monitor the performance of your network, no matter what its size and configuration.

Here is our list of the best network monitoring tools:

  1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor EDITOR’S CHOICE Far more than just a simple scanner. Most network security issues arise when configurations are changed and SolarWinds NPM identifies these and can automatically resolve many. Alongside solid vulnerability scanning and advanced options to create and monitor policies, this is by far the top choice for network monitoring systems. Get a 30-day free trial.
  2. Datadog Network Monitoring (FREE TRIAL) Offers a great visual overview of your network components and the network traffic flows between each component. This division of system monitors from a cloud platform provides device health checks and traffic flow analysis. Start a a 14-day free trial.
  3. Auvik (FREE TRIAL) This SaaS system is based around a network mapper and offers two plan levels that both include system management tools. Start a 14-day free trial.
  4. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor (FREE TRIAL) Free network monitoring software that uses SNMP, packet sniffing and WMI to monitor your network. Access a 30-day free trial.
  5. ManageEngine OpManager (FREE TRIAL) Network monitor that can monitor SNMP devices, switches, servers, and virtualized network services. Get access to the 30-day free trial.
  6. Site24x7 Network Monitoring (FREE TRIAL) A combined IT infrastructure, applications, and user behavior monitoring service available in the cloud.
  7. Checkmk (FREE TRIAL) This is a system-wide monitoring service, not just for networks, and it is available in free and paid editions. Runs on Linux or a physical appliance.
  8. Progress WhatsUp Gold (FREE TRIAL) A network performance monitor that utilizes SNMP to check on network device health and can be expanded by paid add-ons to monitor other resources. Installs on Windows Server.
  9. HelpSystems Intermapper (FREE TRIAL) This straightforward tool starts off with an autodiscovery tool and maps your network and then offers constant performance monitoring. Available in free and paid versions for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
  10. Domotz (FREE TRIAL) This SaaS platform offers a range of network monitoring services from SNMP polling to security scanning.
  11. Nagios Core One of the top open-source network monitoring tools. Includes a dashboard view, alerts system, community plugins, and more.
  12. Zabbix Open source network monitoring software with SNMP and IPMP monitoring. Includes an alerts system and community plugins.
  13. Icinga Open source network monitoring system with a DSL. Includes extensions.

The best network monitoring tools

As part of our comparison we’ve looked out for important network management platform features such as SNMP, network mapping, uptime/downtime, alerting, bandwidth monitoring, network health, dashboards, and more to highlight tools with an exceptional user experience.

What should you look for when choosing network monitoring tools and software?

We reviewed the network monitoring tools and software market and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:

  • An autodiscovery system to log all network devices
  • A network topology mapper
  • The ability to collect live network devices statuses by using SNMP
  • A facility to analyze network performance over time
  • Graphical interpretation of data, such as charts and graphs
  • A free trial period, a demo, or a money-back guarantee for no-risk assessment
  • A good price that reflects value for money when compared to the functions offered

The network monitoring software and tools we review include a combination of free, paid, and open-source software for Windows, Mac, and Linux. We’ve also listed the main features in each section to help you find the right tool for your network.

1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is a comprehensive network performance monitoring tool that can monitor the status of devices with SNMP. It can automatically discover network devices connected to your network. Use the dashboard to monitor the availability and performance of connected network devices from a holistic perspective.

Key features:

  • SNMP monitoring
  • Automatically discovers connected network devices
  • Network packet analysis
  • Intelligent network maps with NetPath
  • Create WiFi heat maps
  • Alerts system
  • Reports system

Any devices, applications, or services that have been discovered can also be viewed on a network topology map where you can see how your infrastructure links together. The NetPath feature allows you to trace packet transfers hop-by-hop, which can help to diagnose the origin of performance network issues more effectively.

The custom alerts system enables you to set trigger conditions for alerts. Once the trigger conditions are met the software will send you a notification by email or SMS to let you know that an event has taken place. The user can view a comprehensive list of alerts according to severity by going to the All Active Alerts page.

Pros:

  • Designed with large and enterprise networks in mind
  • Supports auto-discovery that builds network topology maps and inventory lists in real-time based on devices that enter the network
  • Has some of the best alerting features that balance effectiveness with ease of use
  • Supports both SNMP monitoring as well as packet analysis, giving you more control over monitoring than similar tools
  • Uses drag and drop widgets to customize the look and feel of the dashboard
  • Robust reporting system with pre-configured compliance templates

Cons:

  • This is a feature-rich enterprise tool, small LANs and operations may find it overwhelming

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is a top network monitoring system because of its diverse feature set. It can rotate between SNMP monitoring to packet analysis with ease, giving you control over what segments of your network you monitor. The price of SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor starts at $2,995 (~£2,500). You can download the 30-day free trial.

EDITOR'S CHOICE

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor gives detailed insights into what causes network slowness and allows you to quickly resolve the root causes using deep packet inspection. By identifying network traffic by application, category, (business vs. social), and risk level you can eliminate and filter problem traffic and measure application response time. With a great user interface, this is an excellent choice for packet sniffing and network analysis.

Official Site: solarwinds.com/network-performance-monitor/registration

OS: Windows Server

Related post: SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor – Full Review

2. Datadog Network Monitoring (FREE TRIAL)

Datadog Network Monitoring

Datadog Network Performance Monitoring is a cloud-based SaaS infrastructure monitoring service that examines network traffic flows. It is partnered by a Network Device Monitoring service, which focuses on the statuses of each device on the network, such as switches, routers, and appliances.

Key features:

  • Live network mapping and protocol analysis
  • Alerts on performance thresholds that are adjusted through machine learning
  • Correlation with data from SNMP and other sources

The Network Performance Monitor is able to blend together the network monitoring effort for many sites and also include cloud resources. As a SaaS package, the service includes the processor to run the monitoring software and storage space for gathered statistics. As well as displaying live statuses, this network monitoring service offers packet capture and analysis utilities.

By combining both the Network Performance Monitor and the Network Device Monitor, you get complete oversight of your networks. The system implements an autodiscovery function on enrollment that identifies all of the devices connected to your network. The service creates an IT asset inventory and then generates a network topology map from that. The autodiscovery process repeats continuously, so any changes you make to your infrastructure are automatically reflected in the network inventory and the topology map.

The Network Device Monitor uses the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to query switches and routers for status reports. These reports are interpreted, providing live device health data on the screen. This system also gathers information about each device, such as make, model, age, and processor capacity.

Each network device has an SNMP agent preloaded onto it by its manufacturer and if that program spots a problem with the device it sends out a notification. The Datadog Network Device Monitoring service picks up those messages and displays them in the system console as alerts.

The alerting mechanism in Datadog Network Device Monitoring can be extended to generate an alert if any of the metrics that the system gathers passes a specified threshold. You can set up your own thresholds to get alerts on any condition that you choose. The alerting system is also available in the Network Performance Monitor so traffic limits will be highlighted when bottlenecks start to form.

You can set up an alert forwarding rule so that you can receive notifications by email, SMS, PagerDuty message or Slack message. This means that you can leave the two network monitoring systems to automatically monitor the network because you know that you will be notified if human attention is needed.

The traffic monitoring services in the Network Performance Monitoring module don’t just count packets circulating around the network. It is also able to identify data traffic within a virtualization system and it can perform activity monitoring for containers. The tool extends to cloud services, where it is able to show you the traffic in and out of each of your cloud-based accounts.

Pros:

  • Autodiscovery to create a network asset inventory, which is constantly updated
  • Monitoring for network devices through SNMP
  • Network topology mapping
  • Alert notifications by SMS, email, Slack, or PagerDuty
  • Monitoring for traffic patterns, including activity within virtualizations
  • A cloud-based system with storage space for metrics included

Cons:

  • A longer trial period would be nice

Datadog Network Performance Monitoring and Datadog Network Device Monitoring are just two modules on the Datadog platform. These systems work well together with other Datadog monitors, which include the Synthetic Monitoring service and the Datadog APM. You can try any and all Datadog units with a 14-day free trial.

Datadog Network Performance Monitoring Start 14-day FREE Trial

3. Auvik (FREE TRIAL)

Auvik Network Monitoring

Auvik is a cloud-based network monitoring system that includes a number of system management tools. The package is accessed through a Web browser and when you open an account, the setup process installs collectors on your system. The Auvik package is able to monitor multiple sites and centralizes their control. This makes the package ideal for monitoring a WAN.

The service provided by Auvik begins with a network discovery process. This automatically populates all of the base information needed for the monitor to work. The discovery service is continuous, so it will spot when new devices are added to the network.

Key features:

  • Automated setup
  • Network mapping
  • Resource utilization alerts
  • Configuration management

As a cloud-based system, Auvik is designed for remote system monitoring – even your home network is remote to the processes on the Auvik servers. Network monitoring works on a system of thresholds. The service tracks a list of metrics on network activity and a threshold for resource usage or system performance is added to each of these conditions. If that threshold level is passed, the Auvik service will generate an alert. This means that your team of technicians doesn’t need to pay attention to the network unless a problem arises.

The Auvik service can be expanded through the use of third-party tools for which the network monitor has integrations. There are two plan levels for Auvik – Essential and Performance. The Performance plan is the higher plan and it offers traffic analysis functions and Syslog management on top of the network monitoring services that are available in the Essentials plan.

Pros:

  • The monitoring package is able to monitor many networks on different sites and unify their data
  • The console is browser-based and can be accessed from anywhere
  • This system offers out-of-the-box performance thresholds but it is also possible to create new rules
  • Automated system asset inventory creation and maintenance
  • Traffic analysis features in the higher plan

Cons:

  • This service is the only package offered by Auvik, so there are no related services to add on

Auvik doesn’t publish its prices. Your buyer’s journey begins by requesting a 14-day free trial and seeking a quote.

Auvik Network Monitoring Start 14-day FREE Trial

4. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

Paessler PRTG
PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler is a free network monitoring suite that uses SNMP, packet sniffing, and WMI to monitor your network. Scan network segments to discover and add devices to monitor. You can choose between a range of sensors to monitor various segments of your network. Each sensor monitors an individual value in your network, for instance, there are Bandwidth Monitoring Sensors, Hardware Parameters Sensors, network data usage meters, SNMP sensors, VOIP and QoS sensors, and more.

Key features:

  • SNMP monitoring
  • Bandwidth monitoring
  • Scan for network devices by IP segment
  • Custom dashboards
  • Threshold-based alerts system
  • Reports system
  • Customizable network maps

For greater visualization, the tool has a customizable dashboard that allows you to produce real-time network maps of your infrastructure. You can create maps with the drag-and-drop editor and use over 300 map objects to build the map. You can even create your own map objects with custom HTML.

The threshold-based alerts system keeps the user updated if the status of a sensor changes, a value changes or a threshold is breached. Notifications are available in a variety of formats including email, push notification, SMS, Slack message, Syslog message, SNMP trap, HTTP action, execute program, and more.

Pros:

  • Uses a combination of packet sniffing, WMI, and SNMP to report network performance data
  • Full customizable dashboard is great for both lone administrators as well as NOC teams
  • Drag and drop editor makes it easy to build custom views and reports
  • Supports a wide range of alert mediums such as SMS, email, and third-party integrations into platforms like Slack
  • Each sensor is specifically designed to monitor each application, for example, there are prebuilt sensors whose specific purpose is to capture and monitor VoIP activity
  • Supports a freeware version

Cons:

  • Is a very comprehensive platform with many features and moving parts that require time to learn

PRTG Network Monitor is a must-try for enterprises looking for cost-effective but comprehensive network monitoring tools. The platform is available for free for less than 100 sensors, after which you have to pay. Paid versions start at $1,600 (~£1,335) for 500 sensors and 1 server installation. The software for PRTG runs on Windows Server and you can get it on 30-day free trial.

PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler Download 30-day FREE Trial

Related post: Paessler PRTG Network Monitor – Full Review

5. ManageEngine OpManager (FREE TRIAL)

ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine OpManager is a network monitoring solution that can monitor the performance of network devices, servers, routers, switches, and virtual machines in real-time. Customizable dashboards provide over 200 widgets for you to create a unique monitoring experience.

Key features:

  • Automatic discovery
  • Network mapping
  • SNMP monitoring
  • Email and SMS alerts
  • Customizable dashboards

SNMP monitoring keeps you updated on the performance of devices within your network. For increased visibility, you can use the network mapping feature to automatically discover and map new devices. You can schedule network discovery to find new devices once they’re added to your network.

The alerts system helps you to respond to performance changes quickly. ManageEngine OpManager correlates network events and only presents relevant alerts to the user while minimizing false positives. The program sends alerts by email and SMS to keep you updated on any emerging problems.

ManageEngine OpManager is an all-in-one network monitor that is recommended for users that want a simple infrastructure monitoring tool.

Pros:

  • Designed to work right away, features over 200 customizable widgets to build unique dashboards and reports
  • Leverages autodiscover to find, inventory, and map new devices
  • Uses intelligent alerting to reduce false positives and eliminate alert fatigue across larger networks
  • Supports email, SMS, and webhook for numerous alerting channels
  • Integrates well in the ManageEngine ecosystem with their other products

Cons:

  • Is a feature-rich tool that will require a time investment to properly learn

ManageEngine OpManager is an all-in-one network monitor that is recommended for users that want a simple infrastructure monitoring tool. Paid versions start at $245 (~£205) for 10-1,000 devices up to $11,545 (~£9,630 for 250-10,000 devices. You can download the 30-day free trial.

OpManager from ManageEngine Download 30-day FREE trial

Related post: ManageEngine OpManager – Full Review

6. Site24x7 Network Monitoring (FREE TRIAL)

Site24x7
The Site24x7 cloud-based network monitoring tool that covers IT infrastructure, applications, and user behavior. The network monitoring section of the tool is able to automatically discover all devices attached to the network. Site24x7 compiles an equipment inventory from the results of that search and then draws up network topology maps automatically. The inventory and maps all get updated automatically whenever equipment gets added, moved, or removed.

Key features:

  • All-in-one solution with automatic network discovery
  • Real-time application and network device monitor
  • Powerful reporting, analytics, and alerts

The autodiscovery feature of Site24x7 is driven by the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This system is built into all network devices. It just needs an SNMP manager to request status information from the agent software that is loaded onto every switch and router by their manufacturers. Site24x7 fulfills that SNMP manager.

SNMP includes a procedure that allows device agents to send a notification to the manager when it discovers a critical condition on the device that it is monitoring. This message gets converted into a warning or an alert by the Site24x7 dashboard, depending on the severity rating marked on the message from the agent.

Site24x7 monitors switches, routers, firewall appliances, power supplies, load balancers, wireless networks, cloud services, and WAN connections. It isn’t a bandwidth traffic monitor. The monitor focuses on connected hardware. A wider view of the Site24x7 package shows that the system also monitors other hardware, such as endpoints and servers. It also tracks the performance of applications. A user behavior module in the package is of particular use to businesses that run websites. It includes real user monitoring to analyze typical buyer journeys and also synthetic web transaction monitoring, which simulates access to a website.

Pros:

  • One of the most holistic monitoring tools available, supporting networks, infrastructure, and real user monitoring in a single platform
  • Uses real-time data to discover devices and build charts, network maps, and inventory reports
  • Is one of the most user-friendly network monitoring tools available
  • User monitoring can help bridge the gap between technical issues, user behavior, and business metrics
  • Supports a freeware version for testing

Cons:

  • Similar to other tools higher on this list, it’s a very detailed platform that will require time to fully learn all of its features and options

Site24x7 offers a free network monitoring service. However, this is just a straightforward Ping-based uptime monitor for up to 50 URLs or servers. The cloud platform offers a range of system monitoring and management tools and these are packaged in editions. There are five editions in total:

  • Website Monitoring
  • Infrastructure
  • APM
  • All-in-one
  • MSP

All of these packages include the network monitoring service. Each of the Site24x7 plans is available on a 30-day free trial.

Site24x7 Network Monitoring Start 30-day FREE Trial

7. Checkmk (FREE TRIAL)

Checkmk Dashboard

Checkmk is a system monitoring package that is able to track the performance of networks, servers, and applications. The network monitor can be used for LANs and wireless networks, so it can also be useful for following activity on networks that use both wired and wireless technology.

Key features:

  • Monitors servers and applications as well as networks
  • Network discovery
  • Network topology map
  • Wired and wireless networks

This network monitoring system starts its service by searching the network and identifying all connected devices. The package compiles a device inventory from the results of this search and that list of equipment forms the basis of the network monitoring dashboard’s status reports. The package also creates a live network map.

The base package of Checkmk is completely free to use. There is also a paid version of the system, called Checkmk Enterprise, which has an edition that caters to managed service providers.

As a free tool, the basic service is very attractive to small businesses and companies on a tight budget. The monitor queries switches, routers, and firewalls through the SNMP system. All of your network devices will already have SNMP agents installed on them but that function might need to be enabled. The Checkmk software polls agents for status reports. The responses get compiled into live reports on network readiness and capacity performance.

The dashboard allows network managers to get an overview of all activity and then has a number of options to drill down through to reports on individual devices both live and over time. The Checkmk package also offers bandwidth monitoring, which gives you indicators on where device and cable capacity is not enough to cope with demand.

Pros:

  • Both network performance and bandwidth utilization monitoring
  • Locally hosted software
  • A good deal for small businesses
  • Alerts for device problems
  • Integrated server and application performance monitoring

Cons:

  • This is a copy of Nagios Core, which is an impressive rival

The paid version of Checkmk is priced on a sliding scale based on the number of hosts that are on the monitored network. Access the free version, which is called Checkmk Raw to assess the package. Both Checkmk Raw and Checkmk Enterprise run on Linux. The Enterprise edition can also be bought on a physical appliance. There is a 30-day free trial available for Checkmk Enterprise

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8. Progress WhatsUp Gold (FREE TRIAL)

WhatsUp Gold Network Analysis Dashboard
WhatsUp Gold from Progress Software Corporation is a network performance monitor that uses the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to check on network device health. The flexible pricing system of this software allows you to add on other services, including configuration management, log management, application monitoring, and traffic analysis capabilities.

Key features:

  • SNMP-based
  • Status alerts
  • Network discovery
  • Automated network mapping
  • Diagnostic tools

The WhatsUp Gold system includes an autodiscovery module. This populates the monitoring device inventory at startup and then continues to poll for any changes in the resources on the network. The system will automatically update the network inventory should any devices get added, moved, or removed.

WhatsUp Gold also includes a network topology mapper that uses the device inventory data to automatically create maps of your network. These topology maps also adapt automatically if the device inventory changes.

The network monitoring features of WhatsUp Gold cover LANs, wireless networks, and Internet connections out to remote sites or cloud resources.

Progress doesn’t publish a price list for WhatsUp Gold. The exact price you pay depends on the number of servers, applications, and network devices that you have on your network. There are two additions to the system: WhatsUp Gold Premium, which is a network performance monitor. The higher plan is called WhatsUp Gold Total Plus, which includes Network Traffic Analysis, Virtualization Monitoring, Application Performance Monitoring, and Configuration management modules. Customers of WhatsUp Gold Premium can add on any of those extra modules individually for a fee.

Pros:

  • Automatic device discovery and network topology mapping
  • Tracks network device statuses with SNMP
  • Identifies traffic throughput at each device
  • Alerts that can be forwarded as notifications by email
  • Processes device status alerts

Cons:

  • The free trial only lasts two weeks

The software for this monitoring system installs on Windows Server and it is available for a 14-day free trial.

Progress WhatsUp Gold Download 14-day FREE Trial

9. HelpSystems Intermapper (FREE TRIAL)

HelpSystems Intermapper Screenshots

HelpSystems Intermapper offers a network map on its main screen. However, this tool offers more than just a visual representation of your network. For a start, that network map is derived from an autodiscovery function. The network probe cycles around constantly and if any changes occur in the network’s layout, the network map is updated automatically. The system operates around the clock.

Key features:

  • Autodiscovery
  • Constantly refreshed network map
  • SNMP-based network monitoring
  • Performance alerts
  • Capacity planning tool

The network map operates as a menu to details on each of the devices on the network. Click on an icon to see the activity on that particular node. You will see throughput data as well as status reports.

You can set performance threshold levels on each of the metrics that the monitor tracks, such as CPU capacity or interface throughout. This helps you monitor availability and other SLA-related conditions because the system will raise an alert if one of those thresholds gets tripped.

You can set up the preferences in the system so that Intermapper will send you an email or a text message if an alert occurs. That means that you don’t have to sit and watch the network monitoring screen all of the time.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t need a server for a host – a PC is fine
  • Constant automated monitoring
  • Live time series throughput graphs
  • Free version available

Cons:

  • No cloud version
  • Free edition limited to monitoring five devices

Intermapper is on-premises software and it will install on Windows, Linux, or macOS. There is a free version available that will monitor up to five devices. The paid version has scaleable pricing that starts with ten devices. You can choose between a subscription or a perpetual license. The paid version of Intermapper is offered on a 30-day free trial.

HelpSystems Intermapper Start a 30-day FREE Trial

10. Domotz (FREE TRIAL)

Domotz Network Monitoring

Domotz is a cloud-based system that offers network monitoring. It can unify the supervision of multiple networks and also has a multi-tenant configuration for use by managed service providers.

The system is accessed through an attractive cloud-based console with any standard Web browser. Setting up an account involves installing an agent on a host that is connected to the network that is going to be monitored. The package also includes network and endpoint management tools and workload automation facilities.

Key Features:

  • Network autodiscovery
  • Automated network mapping
  • IT asset inventory
  • SNMP-based device monitoring

The Domotz package has a large number of features. The tool is centered on network monitoring via SNMP and other network protocols. This includes the possibility to easily configure SNMP sensors and alerts. You can also specify your own alert conditions.

SNMP reports enable the system to compile an asset inventory and draw up a network map. These services are updated with every SNMP agent response cycle. The information attached to each node in the map and the inventory list details the make and model of each divide and its capacity.

The package also includes a switch port mapper, and management tools within the package allow the remote access and configuration management of network devices. IoT services can also be accessed and controlled remotely. The system is able to cross network platforms to access wireless networks and devices, through hundreds of integrations and the possibility of implementing customized monitoring drivers.

There are two editions to Domotz. The first of these has a stated price tag of $21 per month per network. It doesn’t matter how many endpoints or users there are on each network. This is called the Pro account and it is a month-to-month subscription system so there are no long-term prepayments or lock-in periods to deal with. The top plan adds on an account manager at Domotx and longer data retention periods. This is the Enterprise plan and it is priced by negotiation. You can try Domotz on a 14-day free trial.

Pros:

  • Live network monitoring
  • Historical data for analysis
  • Multiple user accounts per client
  • Merges the monitoring of multiple sites
  • Encryption to protect interactions between the platform and the network
  • More than 500 integrations with third-party tools

Cons:

  • No endpoint agent for macOS

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Related post: Network Configuration Management Software

11. Nagios Core

Nagios XI

Nagios Core is an open-source network monitor that has a web interface for monitoring network performance. Through the user network interface, you can monitor your Current Network Status with your Host Status Totals and Network Service Status Totals broken down at the top of the page. The GUI is color-coded so you can easily see elements that are unavailable or compromised.

Key features:

  • Performance dashboard
  • Alerts system
  • Availability reports
  • Capacity planning
  • Community-created plugins
  • APIs

Track performance events through the alerts system, which sends out notifications by email and SMS. View the Alert History section to see what alerts were created and when. The list of alerts is also color-coded making it easier to prioritize critical alerts.

You can use APIs to integrate other network services. If you require more functions then you can also check the thousands of community plugins available on the Nagios Exchange to help you add additional functions. For example, there is a check SNMP CPU load plugin that allows you to monitor the SNMP load or CPU usage of your network device.

Pros:

  • Open-source transparent tool
  • Simple, yet informative interface
  • Flexible alerting options support SMS and email
  • Robust API backend makes it a great option for developers who want to integrate their own custom applications

Cons:

  • Open-source version lacks quality support found in paid products
  • Installation can be technical and complex

Nagios Core is an excellent free network monitoring software however the setup can be slightly more hands-on than other products on this list. Download Nagios Core for free, or depending on your needs, see how it compares with Nagios XI. Both versions of the package run on RHEL, Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian Linux. The software will run on Windows over a VMWare or Hyper-V hypervisor.

12. Zabbix

Zabbix

Zabbix is an open-source free network monitoring tool that combines network, server, cloud, application, and services monitoring into one unified solution. Zabbix uses SNMP and IPMP to monitor your network. The autodiscovery feature automatically locates network devices and adds them to be monitored. The tool can also detect configuration changes automatically so you can tell if a network device has been updated.

Key features:

  • Autodiscovery feature
  • SNMP and IPMP monitoring
  • Application monitoring
  • Server monitoring
  • Network monitoring templates
  • Automatic detection of configuration changes
  • Alerts system

Network monitoring templates make it easy to configure the program for monitoring. For example, there are preconfigured templates for vendors such as Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell, Intel, Netgear, and more. If you require more variety then you can access even more community templates form the Zabbix community site.

To ensure that you can respond to alerts in time, Zabbix has a notification system. Alerts are sent by email, SMS, messenger, jabber, or custom scripts to update you on evolving network security events. The notification content can be customized according to the recipient to make sure that the point of contact has everything they need to reopen intelligently.

Pros:

  • Open-source transparent tool
  • Uses both SNMP and IPMP for a broader monitoring range
  • Can detect new devices and configuration changes immediately
  • Offers useful templates for quick insights
  • Robust notification system supports SMS, email, custom script, and webhook

Cons:

  • Interface isn’t as intuitive as solutions such as Datadog or Site24x7
  • Would like to see better-alerting features, specifically related to reducing false positives

Zabbix is one of the top Linux network monitoring tools on the market. Autodiscovery and templates make the program straightforward to deploy. The software for the package is installed on Linux, macOS, and Unix. Although the main server for Zabbix isn’t available for Windows, there is an agent program that enables it to monitor Windows endpoints over a network. You can download the software for free.

Related post: Nagios vs Zabbix

13. Icinga

Icinga

Icinga is an open-source network monitoring tool that monitors the performance of your network, cloud-service, and data center. The software is web-based and can be configured through the GUI or with the Domain Specific Language (DSL). Having the choice between the two gives you the power to monitor however you want.

Key features:

  • Web-based GUI
  • DSL configuration available
  • Dashboard
  • Icinga Modules / Extensions

You can log in to the GUI and use the dashboard to view an overview of performance management. The dashboard displays whether there are any problems with performance or availability and color-codes them according to severity. Critical or Down network devices are marked in red.

Extensions or Icinga Modules, allow you to add more functions to the program. For example, the Icinga Module for vSphere allows you to monitor virtual machines and host systems. There is a range of community-created plugins you can download for free from the Icinga Exchange.

Pros:

  • Transparent open-source tool
  • Can be configured via GUI or DSL, making it a good choice for admins who enjoy CLI tools
  • Supports built-in visual reporting
  • Modules allow for different functionality, keeping the base installation sleek and lightweight
  • Can run on Linux as well as Windows operating systems

Cons:

  • Reliant upon the open-source community for support and updates
  • Designed for more technical users, other options have better out-of-box features

Overall, Icinga is a scalable solution that gives you control over how you manage your environment. Icinga is available for Debian, Red Hat, SUSE, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Raspbian, and Windows. You can download the free trial version.

Choosing a network monitoring tool

It is common in many IT departments to combine the functions of server, application, storage, and network management, because all of these elements are interdependent on ensuring successful delivery of services to end-users. Combined software packages containing monitoring tools can cover all of these elements of company infrastructure. A network monitoring tool can be a small command-line utility, or a vast suite of services.

Networking technology involves many different specialist functions. At a fundamental level, you have the physical aspects of your network to look out for — the wire or optic fiber that carries LAN data or the transmitters that create wireless networks’ radio waves. You also have to ensure that the network is secure and that the environmental conditions in the building are suitable for your equipment.

In all, you need to keep on top of potential problems on the network and head them off. If failure does occur, try to catch it and fix it before it impacts the work of the users of the network. If all measures fail, the help desk enables you to receive alerts from users to identify undetected problems.

Our editor’s choice for this article is SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor because of its range of features. The tool has all the essential features you need to start monitoring your network including autodiscovery, dashboards, network maps, bandwidth monitoring, and an alerts system.

Paessler PRTG Network Monitor is another solid alternative on account of its highly configurable sensor system. Just remember to pick the solution that’s right for you, as not all programs will match your needs.

Network Monitoring Tools FAQs

What is the difference between network monitoring and application performance monitoring?

Network monitoring is concerned with the performance of the devices that operate the network, such as switches and routers. This activity is called network performance monitoring. The other main task of network monitoring examines traffic flow, this is called network traffic analysis. While some network traffic analysis tasks involve identifying the applications that generate or receive traffic, those monitoring functions are not concerned with whether the applications are running properly. Application performance monitoring watches whether applications are able to get all of the resources they need in order to function properly. One of those resources is access to the network.

What is the best remote network monitoring tool?

All of the tools listed in this review are capable of monitoring networks remotely, that is, they can connect over the internet to another site and monitor all aspects of network performance. Remote monitoring can be performed just as easily by software resident on a cloud server as it can by software resident on a server in the same building as the network administrator. 

What are the types of network monitoring software?

There are two types of network monitors: packet sniffers, which sample network traffic, and network performance monitors, which collect network device reports. There are seven types of network monitoring systems:

  • Performance monitors – Processors of Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) status messages.
  • Performance testers – Issue commands, such as Ping and Traceroute to gather statistics.
  • Protocol analyzers – Based on packet sniffers for LANs.
  • Wireless sniffers – Based on packet sniffers for wireless networks.
  • Firewalls – Read packets traveling through the network boundary.
  • Intrusion detection systems – Identify standard and anomalous traffic patterns.
  • SIEM tools – Examine log files for signs of security breaches.

How do I monitor all network traffic?

Traffic monitoring tools are called traffic analyzers or NetFlow monitors. While network performance monitors query network device statuses, traffic analyzers examine throughput data from network devices and also extract the headers of passing packets to quantify traffic by protocol, source, and destination. 

How does a network monitoring tool work?

Most network monitoring tools use the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This is an industry-standard for networking and requires an SNMP manager to collect data from SNMP agents. An SNMP agent needs to be resident on each device. All network device manufacturers ship their products with an SNMP agent already installed. All that is lacking is the SNMP manager and this is the role that the network performance monitoring tool provides.

What makes a good network monitoring tool?

A good network monitoring tool should include:

  1. An autodiscovery function to compile a network inventory
  2. An automated network topology mapper
  3. Drill-down views giving a network performance summary and then statistics per device type through to each individual network device
  4. Performance expectation thresholds that define acceptable performance.
  5. An alerting mechanism so that operators will be drawn to the dashboard if a problem arises.
  6. Color-coded data visualization to aid rapid status recognition.
  7. Pre-written report templates to automatically extract key network performance statistics for analysis and presentations. 

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