In the past network monitoring was a practice that was resigned to larger organizations. However, today network, server, and application monitoring suites are so accessible that more SMBs than ever before are starting to get in on the action. Administrators in enterprises of all sizes are on the lookout for network monitoring tools that help to strengthen their online service.
Only have time for a summary? Here is our list of the best network, server, and application monitoring software:
- SolarWinds ipMonitor (FREE TRIAL) A combined network and server monitor that will discover all of your network assets automatically and continuously monitor them.
- Paessler PRTG Network Monitor All-in-one network, server, and application monitor that is a collection of sensors. You customize the tool by deciding which sensors to turn on.
- Zabbix A free infrastructure monitor that runs on Linux.
- Nagios XI An infrastructure monitor that can be extended by community-created extensions. A free version is called Nagios Core.
- ManageEngine OpManager A network monitor that runs on Windows Server or Linux and uses SNMP procedures.
- Icinga 2 A free network monitor that is a fork of Nagios Core. Can be enhanced with Nagios extensions.
- ConnectWise Automate A customizable infrastructure monitor that includes a long list of task automation scripts out of the box.
- WhatsUp Gold A network monitor that can be extended by add-ons to include server and application monitoring.
- Spiceworks Network Monitor A free network management tool that is available on the Cloud or can be downloaded and installed.
As the technological needs of organizations and consumers have increased, so has the need for network monitoring products. Even small networks can bring out hundreds of connections that need to be monitored. Modern network monitoring tools have the ability to maintain networks, servers, and applications. Having a program capable of juggling the maintenance of these systems helps administrators to stay on top of what is going on.
This not only frees up time that is spent on tedious administrative tasks but also boosts an administrator’s ability to respond to small issues before they become more complex and problematic.
The Best Network, Server and Application Monitoring for SMBs
At the number one spot on this list, we have SolarWinds ipMonitor. While SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor has drawn lots of attention as one of the most scalable network monitoring solutions on the market, ipMonitor has stood alongside it as a good tool for SMBs. With SolarWinds iPMonitor you can monitor network devices and servers from a centralized location.
One of the things that makes this product great for smaller organizations is that the setup process is very lightweight. When starting out with SolarWinds ipMonitor you are taken through the configuration process with a Startup Wizard. This holds your hand until you get to an autodiscovery feature which recognizes devices connected to your network automatically.
When you’ve finished with the setup process you can start to view your devices through the first class user interface. The user interface delivers an experience with high-quality visualizations. You can view status bars and maps of your network infrastructure. The maps and NOC view is one of the standout displays here because it provides you with a geographical perspective of your network.
Of course manual monitoring isn’t the most efficient way to catch emerging problems which is why SolarWinds iPMonitor has its own alerts system. The alerts system notifies you via email or text message if a device or application experiences adverse performance or an outright failure. As a consequence you are provided with an automated monitored experience that lets you know when to take action.
SolarWinds ipMonitor is a great tool for SMBs on account of its accessibility and fast-track setup. Cost wise, SolarWinds ipMonitor starts at a price of $1,995 (£1,545). If you’d like to download this tool then you can do so by making a purchase or by downloading the 14-day free trial.
Another formidable network monitoring product is Paessler PRTG Network Monitor. This tool has climbed to being one of the top network monitoring tools in the world on account of its fast-paced design and variety of features. Network autodiscovery with PRTG Network Monitor allows you to scan devices connected to your network by IP range. Scanning the network in this way means that you don’t have to manually configure everything from scratch.
PRTG Network Monitor includes network, traffic, application, and cloud monitoring so that you can stay on top of current developments. The user interface is on the whole very clear-cut and while some displays can be confusing, once you’ve become acclimatized to the product this isn’t too big an issue. The health of your infrastructure is color-coded and can be displayed in dials and graphs so that you see how well everything is performing.
One of the biggest attractions of PRTG Network Monitor is its flexible pricing structure. There is a freeware version of PRTG Network Monitor that supports up to 100 sensors. This is great for smaller businesses who want to dip their toes into network monitoring without taking on a hefty financial commitment. Mid-size organizations can opt for PRTG 500 which offers 500 sensors for $1600 (£1,239).
If this isn’t enough, then you can scale up to PRTG 1000 with 1000 sensors and PRTG 2500 with 2500 sensors. These cost $2850 (£2,208) and $5950 (£4,610) respectively. The next up is PRTG 5000 which includes 5000 sensors for $10500 (£8,135). There is also a version with unlimited sensors called PRTG XL1 which can be purchased for $14500 (£11,235). If you’re interested in downloading PRTG Network Monitor then you can download 30-day Free trial.
Zabbix is considered by many to be the king of open source network monitoring. This platform has been used by brands from Dell to Salesforce as well as countless SMEs. Zabbix offers a network and infrastructure monitoring experience that covers all the bases. You can monitor your infrastructure for high CPU and memory utilization. If you need to monitor your network performance you can also monitor network bandwidth usage too.
This product offers a comprehensive environment through which you can conduct network, server, cloud, services, and KPI/SLA monitoring. It also offers users a healthy range of templates for popular technology providers. This includes the basic infrastructure monitoring mentioned above as well as the ability to monitor configuration changes.
Notifications and alerts are also included in the Zabbix product. You can send notifications via email, SMS, Jabber, Ez texting, or a custom script. You also have the ability to completely customize the content of your notifications. This allows you to determine the information that you send to your first point of contact. For instance, you can include details such as date and time, host name, items’ value, trigger values, host profile, user macros, and escalation history.
In the event that no one responds to your notification, you can escalate it to another member of staff automatically. This is one of the features that make Zabbix a standout product on this list. Zabbix is available as a download for free on CentOS, Debian, Oracle Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu.
4. Nagios XI
Nagios XI is one of the most-respected infrastructure monitoring products in the world. This platform is available on Windows, Linux, and VMware and allows you to monitor your network activity meticulously. It has a web-based GUI that allows you to view the health of your network infrastructure and key services. The user interface strips back the unnecessary detail in favor of a back-to-basics design.
Infrastructure health is color-coded so that you can tell at a glance if there is a problem. This is particularly useful in summary views. You can view summary views on host status and service status to see which elements are up and running. Devices and services are marked as Up, Down, Unreachable, or Pending. You can also view more general overviews with displays such as the Top Alert Producers window which shows you all the devices that have triggered alerts that could warrant a response.
The user interface is not only easy-to-use but is also supported by configuration wizards. These wizards take you through a variety of processes such as autodiscovery and bulk host cloning so that you don’t get lost along the way. This is particularly useful for newer users who are unsure of how everything works.
There are two versions of Nagios XI available for purchase: the Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition. The Standard Edition provides you with custom dashboards, summary reports, notification escalations, and configuration wizards. The Enterprise Edition is available for $3,495 (£2,708) and adds capacity planning reports, audit logging and web-based server console access to the mix as well. You can also download the 60-day free trial.
5. ManageEngine OpManager
Network monitoring may be a tricky practice but ManageEngine OpManager is a tool that has been designed to minimize any resistance. Whether you’re monitoring networks and servers or conducting bandwidth analysis, ManageEngine OpManager provides you with the clarity needed to look out for potential problems.
Convenience is the number one selling point of ManageEngine OpManager. One of the areas this is displayed is with regards to configurations. There is minimal need for configurations because the program offers a suite of configuration management options. You can backup existing configurations and receive notifications if configurations are changed without your permission. This makes your monitoring experience much smoother.
This experience is built on with the IP address management abilities of ManageEngine OpManager. You can view the availability of IP addresses on your network and track the connected devices in real time. The ability to manage IP addresses in this manner provides you with an additional layer of scrutiny to check that there are no issues.
Overall this a program you should consider if you want to simplify your manual administrative duties. There are three versions of ManageEngine OpManager available on the market: Essential, OpManager Plus, and Enterprise. The Essential and OpManager Plus versions support up to 1000 devices with monitoring for Windows, Linux,SQL, AD, mySQL, eventlog, Trap, and SNMP. The Enterprise version can monitor 50,000 devices and also provides distributed monitoring. You’ll need to request a quote in order to see the price tag. You can also download a free trial.
6. Icinga 2
Icinga 2 is a network monitoring product that is brought to you by the same people that brought you Nagios. In many ways, Icinga 2 replicates the features that made Nagios successful while adding a few extra ingredients. One of the distinct differences is the use of a RESTful API. With the RESTful API you can change configurations at a rapid rate in addition to interacting with your dashboard. The RESTful API combined with the ability to run thousands of checks per second makes this one of the best tools for working in a fast-moving environment.
As with all top-of-the-line network monitoring tools Icinga 2 has its own alerting system. You receive notifications through email and text when a performance issue has been flagged. You can not only select your first point of contact but you can also establish an escalation chain in case the initial recipient doesn’t respond. This ensures that there is always someone on hand to respond to new problems.
Visualization is another feature where Icinga 2 delivers a solid experience. You can take Graphite metrics (a monitoring tool for hardware and cloud services) and display them in the host/service detail view. These graphs are neatly designed which makes them easy to read on the fly. The result is a monitoring experience that allows you to put your finger on the trends as they occur.
Given that Icinga 2 came from the heritage of the team behind Nagios, it is no surprise that this is a top-of-the-range product. While the RESTful API’s CLI is a little complicated to get your head around after the learning curve, it is not too much of a problem. Icinga 2 is available for Debian, RHEL, SLES, Windows, Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE. Icinga 2 can be downloaded for free.
7. ConnectWise Automate
As the name suggests, ConnectWise Automate is a platform that has automation at the heart of its network monitoring philosophy. This tool has almost 400 scripts for network maintenance to help you automate your network management. You can use scripts to generate random passwords and schedule reports through the use of scripts. If this wasn’t enough, you can also automatically schedule and approve patches to keep your network infrastructure up to date.
With regards to its network monitoring experience, it offers 500 default monitors to help you hit the ground running. You have the ability to monitor infrastructure, desktops, and servers as you see fit. For example, you can customize your control center by dragging and dropping columns into device lists.
ConnectWise Automate also has its own autodiscovery feature. This platform uses Network Probe Technology to scan for new devices automatically. This keeps your network up-to-date without your having to constantly add new devices manually. This gives you back a large amount of time that would otherwise be spent adding new devices.
Anyone in need of a product that automates network administration should consider downloading ConnectWise Automate. If you want to purchase ConnectWise Automate then you’re going to need to contact the sales team directly. You can also download the free trial.
8. WhatsUp Gold
At number 2 on our list, we have WhatsUp Gold. This tool has developed a reputation as one of the best entry-level tools for smaller organizations. The user interface delivers one of the most minimalist experiences you’ll encounter in the network monitoring industry. With the dashboard, you can flick through tabs such as Top 10, Actions and Alerts, Wireless, Cloud Storage, Core Network, and Wireless Network to monitor various facets of your network infrastructure.
On the home screen, you can view the status of your devices within a four box view, which details devices as Up, Down, Maintenance, and Unknown. This acts as a general status report that lets you see if there are any problems on your network. There are also more specified views showing information on Interface Errors, Interface Discards, Interface Utilization, Ping Availability, and Disk Utilization.
WhatsUp Gold also has its own topology map for you to view as well. The topology map shows how devices are connected to each other on your network. This is also color-coded so you can immediately see if a device in your network chain has fallen.
If this isn’t enough visibility you can fall back on alerts and reports for further analysis. The alerts system is set up so that you can configure your own alert conditions. This adds a touch of automation to the monitoring process that keeps you in the loop at all times. The reports function allows you to generate a report on the status of all your network components. This is useful for passing on to other team members.
There are three different versions of WhatsUp Gold available: the Premium annual subscription and the Premium and Total Plus licenses. The premium subscription and license includes network device and server monitoring, automatic discovery, interactive map, availability and performance monitoring, and cloud storage monitoring. The Total Plus license also offers network traffic analysis, application monitoring, and virtualization monitoring as well. In order to see a price, you’ll need to ask for a quote directly from Ipswitch. However, there is also a free trial.
9. Spiceworks Network Monitor
Finally, we have Spiceworks Network Monitor which uses SNMP to poll devices throughout your network and generate real-time data for you to analyze. You monitor your data through a web-based GUI. This is great for accessibility because all you need to begin is to open up the web browser and log in.
Keeping the experience nice and lightweight, Spiceworks Network Monitor has its own notifications system. You can customize the notifications you receive once problematic usage data is recognized. This ensures that you keep abreast of current developments on your network.
One of the great things about Spiceworks Network Monitor is that it has the backing of one of the most active network monitoring communities online. The Community section of the Spiceworks site allows you to ask questions and view additional information and events posted by other users. This is good for building up your knowledge of the product as well as other network monitoring knowledge.
You can use Spiceworks Network Monitor to monitor up to 25 devices for free. This is recommended for smaller networks that don’t have many devices. If you have more than 25 devices then you’re better off with going for another product. You can download Spiceworks Network Monitor.
Deciding on a the right tool
As you can see there is plenty of choices when it comes to high-functioning network, server, and application monitors. Whether you’re an SME that needs to add a little more scrutiny to your network monitoring, or a large enterprise that needs to have the possibility of upscaling future infrastructure, there is a platform out there for you.
Our top picks for SMBs on this list are SolarWinds ipMonitor and Paessler PRTG Network Monitor, an analytical lightweight approach to network monitoring allows users to see which devices are up or down at a moment’s notice. You don’t need to mess around with fancy displays or complex navigation trees in order to find the information you need.
SolarWinds ipMonitor stands out as the best network monitoring tool because it provides an experience that is streamlined from start to finish. You’re aided with an easy-to-use Startup Wizard that leads straight into an autodiscovery feature. Once you’re in position to monitor your network, the user interface makes that easy to do without running into any hiccups.
Both these products are accessible to smaller enterprises and epitomize the modern network monitoring experience that has become so familiar. If you’d rather go the open source route then Zabbix is also a welcome alternative. It offers excellent out-of-the-box templates and support along with a robust alerts system.