Having a good network diagram gives you a bird’s eye view of what’s going on which is great for troubleshooting problems, planning ahead, and staying on top of network changes.
Many network performance monitoring software include some level of network mapping, drawing or diagram functionality that usually includes autodiscovery of the devices connected to the network.
The tools on offer range from rudimentary maps that are backed by automatically-collected inventories to sophisticated topology graphics tools that do not have any autodiscovery capabilities.
Here is our list of the best network mapping and topology software:
- SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper EDITOR’S CHOICE Automatic and on-demand network topology mapping options that can also record VMWare and Hyper-V virtualizations. Auto-detects all updates and changes to your network in real-time.
- Datadog Live Network Mapping (FREE TRIAL) A cloud-based real-time network mapping tool that monitors traffic flows for direct network mapping with great visualizations for troubleshooting and network design considerations.
- ManageEngine OpManager Network Mapping (FREE TRIAL) A package of network and server monitors that includes autodiscovery and network topology mapping functions. Available for Windows Server and Linux.
- Microsoft Visio A graphics package with a library of network symbols.
- Intermapper Get network maps generated automatically through network discovery or draw your own from scratch.
- Lucidchart A chart editor with a library of network symbols. It can import maps from other utilities for editing.
- ConceptDraw Pro A graphics editor with a network symbol library. Can import and export maps.
- eDraw A network map editing package with icon libraries that include symbols for Cisco, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform devices.
- LANFlow A chart creation and editing package with a network symbol library.
- NetProbe A full network monitoring system that includes a live map feature. Runs on Windows.
- Network Notepad A network map graphic editor that includes network discovery features.
- netTerrain Logical An automated network documentation tool that includes discovery and network mapping.
- D3M A network map editor for sales agents that can generate quotes.
- LANTopoLog An SNMP-based network discovery system that generates a hierarchy of network devices and their connections.
- Creately Available as downloadable software or as a cloud service, this is a network map creation editor.
- 10-Strike Network Diagram A network map creation editor that is supported by a network discovery module.
The best network mapping software
What should you look for in network mapping and topology software?
We reviewed the network mapping and topology software market and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:
- Automated device discovery for topology mapping data sources
- A live redrawing of the map to account for recent layout changes
- A choice of views, such as all devices or just Layer 2
- The ability to integrate with live device status data
- A system that can map wireless networks and WANs as well as LANs
- A free trial or money-back guarantee for no-risk assessment
- A price that offers a good deal for the amount of services provided
The following tools will improve your documentation and presentation. Improved presentation enhances the network administrators’ ability to communicate with non-technical stakeholders in your organization and help you win the right budget for the network creation project.
The SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper includes on-demand device discovery and automated mapping. This gives you a great starting point if you are adding to an existing network. You can choose whether the discovery procedure uses SNMP or ICMP (Ping and Traceroute) to locate devices. It can also identify network infrastructure through WMI and CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol) methods.
- Network autodiscovery
- Customizable topology maps
- Maps Hyper-V and VMWare virtualizations
- Icon selection for different devices
The mapping discovery procedure can also plot the network infrastructure that composes virtualizations and maps clients to hosts for VMWare and Hyper-V implementations. Maps can be exported into presentation formats for distribution and it is also possible to export them into Visio for further work.
The map development environment supports different network plans and can compile several perspectives from one scan. The icon library has a suitably diverse set of device representations to enable you to distinguish between types of network equipment visually on the map. You can also adapt existing icon designs to create your own.
If you don’t want to use an automatically-generated map, you can set the discoverer tool to just create a device inventory, from which you can plot your own topology map. An auto-update feature would not be useful for a network plan for expansion. However, you can store different maps and set your current system topology to update automatically when alterations to the existing network occur.
- Uses autodiscover for automated mapping, great for larger more complex networks
- Uses multiple protocols to identify network devices, ICMP, SNMP, WMI, and CDP
- Designed to work in virtual environments and supports both VMWare and Hyper-V hosting
- Can build static maps and include devices from your network for capacity planning and testing
- Would like to see a longer trial period
The network mapper is compliant with PCI and FIPS-2 standards. This software runs on Windows environments and you can access it on a 14-day free trial.
Network Topology Mapper is our go-to tool. Comprehensive automatic discovery of the network topology with intuitive diagram production. Supports a host of discovery methods. We particularly like auto-discovery and detailed maps creation.
Official Site: solarwinds.com/network-topology-mapper
OS: Windows 10, 8.1, 8, and 7 desktop OS and Windows Server 2003 and later, .Net 3.5 of later
Datadog includes live network mapping services in its two network monitoring packages. These plans are the Network Performance Monitor, which provides network data flow analysis, and the Network Device Monitor, which provides constant checks on switches, routers, and network appliances. Both of these services are delivered from a cloud platform.
- Network autodiscovery and vizualization
- Tagging and filters enhance search capabilities
- Live mapping and traffic patterns
The Live Network Mapping system is able to cover local, remote, and cloud-based systems, even monitoring traffic flows on the internet connections between locations. The service automatically draws up a network map. Once assessed, the network topology view can be altered on demand to show the connections to a specific device, a topology plan of the whole network, or a focused layout of a specific route between two endpoints.
The plan constantly checks on the nodes available on the network and will automatically redraw the network topology map if any devices are added, moved, or removed. The visualization of the network also shows a live report of the traffic flow throughput on each link.
- Has one of the best interfaces for network mapping
- Uses live network mapping to pull in new devices, and reflects changes in the network right away
- Features data flow analysis to help administrators understand dependencies as well as performance metrics between devices
- Subscription model makes DataDog accessible to any size business
- Would like to see a longer 30 day trial period
Datadog’s monitoring systems are charged for by subscription with a rate per month or at a lower rate if paid annually. Both the Network Performance Monitor and the Network Device Monitor include live network mapping and you can get both of these plans on a 14-day free trial.
ManageEngine OpManager is a combination of network and server monitoring systems. It includes automated network discovery and topology mapping. As well as tracking and recording all physical connections, the system is able to monitor and map virtualizations and VLAN systems for VoIP.
The OpManager system runs its first system sweep with Ping and the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to identify every network device and endpoint on the system. It is able to record all information about each device, such as make, model, and operating system.
The network search also reveals how all of the equipment on the system connect together. This information is then made available to a network topology mapping in the monitoring bundle. The system discovery process is continuous, so it adjusts the network inventory whenever changes are made to the network.
The network topology maps are generated anew whenever the map module is accessed by the user. That means that the topology map that is displayed is always based on the latest version of the network inventory and is never out of date.
- Supports network and server monitoring capabilities built into the topology map
- Has an option to simulate and track physical connections, great for messy switches and larger complex networks
- Uses both Ping and SNMP to discover devices, making it more thorough than some smaller tools
- Maps are automatically redrawn when a device changes, keeping it up to date and accurate every time it is viewed
- Available on both Linux and Windows
- Is a feature-rich tool that requires time spent with the product to fully learn all of its features
OpManager is delivered as on-premises software for Windows Server or Linux. The system is available for a 30-day free trial.
Visio is a high-end chart and map creating tool and is widely-used throughout businesses for a range of tasks. It is possible that many managers in your enterprise already use Visio.
- Charting tool
- Network icon library
- Add-on to Microsoft Office 365
Many other applications enable network maps to be exported to Visio, so you can use this tool to consolidate information from a range of sources.
As a leading design tool, Visio is a little pricey. However, it includes IT icons and network design templates to speed up your topology mapping tasks.
- Easy to use, part of the Microsoft Suite
- Good for network planning and theoretical designs
- Widely used file format
- Only available in Windows
- Lacks live network auto-discovery builtin
- Fairly expensive when compared to its competitors
Visio runs on Windows environments and is also available online. It can be bought individually or added to Microsoft Office 365 at an additional cost.
See also: Application Mapping Tools
The Help Systems Intermapper is available in both a free and paid version. The tool includes discovery and an automatic mapping feature to get you started, alternatively you can create your own plan from scratch. The autodiscovery system is also capable of plotting virtualization as well as physical network topology.
- Autodiscovery and automatic map drawing
- Topology map editor
- Free version
The graphics editor includes a library of icons, and you can also create your own. Other features in the tool extend to network monitoring functions. It is also capable of storing network performance data to assist with capacity planning and SLA compliance reporting.
- Offers a free and paid version
- Is capable of using auto-discovery to find new devices
- Features SLA compliance reporting, good for MSPs and larger networks
- Available on Window, Linux, and Mac, making it a flexible option across multiple operating systems
- Dated user interface is clunky
- Visual options are limited
- Maps are generally not visually appealing, not great if used in a presentation
The free version of the tool limits you to monitoring 10 devices. The paid version is available as a subscription service or you can buy it for a one-time fee. Charges are made per monitored device. The software runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can get the paid version of the tool on a 30-day free trial.
Lucidchart is a general flowchart creation topology tool that has specialized icon libraries for a range of industries, including network topology. You don’t get any autodiscovery features with this tool, but it would be a great option if you are creating a network from scratch.
- Import existing network maps
- Library of IT icons
- A free version
You can import and export maps in a range of formats, including Visio. That means that you can import maps of existing networks from any tool that exports in Visio format.
This is a pure chart editor, so you don’t pay per device, you pay per user account. There is also a free version, which doesn’t include an import/export feature. There is also a free version, which can only be used to create or edit three charts per month. The paid version is offered in three editions: Individual, Team, and Enterprise. The two higher plans let you create many user accounts on the Lucdchart system. Those users have the option of sharing chart editing or sending finished charts to those who aren’t registered as users within the system.
- Uses a simple color scheme and interface that makes maps look great
- Features a free and paid version
- Can import maps saved in Visio format, making this a good option if you plan to ditch Visio
- Team version allows for collaboration
- Is available multi-platform as well as on iOS and Android devices
- No autodiscovery
- Does not support live devices in any way, is strictly a charting software
The software for the service installs on Windows, Linux, macOS, Chrome OS, iOS, and Android. You can try the paid version for free for seven days. The system can also be accessed through Google Apps.
ConceptDraw Diagram is a map-creating tool that has specialized templates and icons for network mapping. You can import and export maps in various formats, including Visio.
- Import existing maps
- Compatible with Visio
- IT icons
The tool also integrates with a range of productivity software, including Microsoft Office and Google G Suite.
- Lightweight tool that uses very little system resources
- Supports Visio file format
- Integrates well with other tools like Office and Google, making it a flexible option for users who use those tools
- Supported on Windows and Mac
- No autodiscover functionality
- Does not support live devices in any way, is strictly a charting software
- Graphics and interface feel outdated
This tool can be bought individually or as part of a tool package, called ConceptDraw Office. That suite includes project management and planning utilities. The software can be installed on Windows or macOS.
Edraw is a general map, plan, and chart creation tool that includes some great formats for network topology mapping. The editor has libraries of network and IT equipment in different styles, including Basic, Detailed, and 3D.
- 3D-maps possible
- IT icon library
- Network map templates
It also has libraries of icons that derive from Cisco, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, so you can create network maps that look as though they came straight from a professional graphics artist. Different perspectives available in the tool include Rack View, LDAP, and Active Directory mapping, and a physical world view that includes icons of cities and offices if you need to draw a WAN.
- Extremely detailed, can map out rack views, LDAP connections, and permission relationships
- Supports 2D and 3D views
- Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac
- Dated and cluttered interface can feel overwhelming
- Lacks a live network component
- Cannot monitor devices on a network
- Lacks integrations found in similar tools
Edraw has a stable of products with different specializations. For network mapping, you need to look at Edraw Max, which is available on a free trial. The software installs on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
LanFlow Net Diagrammer is produced by Pacestar Software. The package includes libraries of 2D and 3D icons to enable you to create your own network topology maps.
- IT icon library
- Customizable icons
- Drag-and-drop editor
You can also create your own icons or import them from other graphics tools. The editor employs a drag and drop methodology that allows you to select icons from a side panel and place them on the design board.
- Uses a simple, but effective interface that is easy to use even for non-technical users
- Supports 2D and 3D modeling, good for presentations
- Can build your own icons, making it highly customizable
- Only available for Windows
- Does not support auto-discovery
- Does not support live device management
This is a paid product, but you can get it for evaluation on a 30-day free trial. Don’t try using the free trial version for your business, because it will print a message saying that this is the trial copy on all network diagrams. The software installs on Windows.
Net-Probe is a little more than a network mapping tool – it is really a network monitoring system and it will discover your network for you. The network maps of the system can be overlaid on real-world maps if you run a WAN. There is also a classic network diagram format included in the tool.
- Autodiscovery and automated map drawing
- Real-word maps for WANs
- Network monitoring
The autodiscovery feature will compile a hardware inventory for you, so if you are organizing your network, you can ignore the generated topology plan and work from the hardware list. A live map will show device statuses on equipment icons and also list alerts in a separate window.
This is a very helpful little tool, but it doesn’t have the backing of a big corporation, so support is not so great. The software runs on Windows and the Standard version is available for free. This will monitor up to eight devices.
- Highly detailed, great of admins who are looking for a detailed lightweight tool
- Has a free and paid version
- Can map WAN networks over a physical map
- Supports autodiscovery for live network mapping
- Only available for Windows
- Interface is crowded and outdated
- Can be complicated to use, not the most user-friendly option
This doesn’t include most of the features of the tool, such as Ping, Traceroute, and network scanning. The paid versions are the Pro, to monitor up to 20 devices, Deluxe, to monitor up to 45 devices, and Enterprise, which will monitor up to 400 devices.
Network Notepad is available both as free and paid versions. The software runs on Windows and has a small footprint. You can expand the paid mapper, which is called Network Notepad Professional Edition, and make it into a network monitor by adding on NNMonitor, which is a Ping tool.
- Network discovery feature
- Automated network mapping
- Network monitoring
The basic Network Notepad includes a rudimentary discovery system based on Cisco Discovery Protocol. However, you will probably use this tool more as a network map designer. The editing screen gives you all of the icons that you need to clearly depict your network and the map is built using drag-and-drop. If you use CDP to locate all of your devices, the attributes discovered by that process can be pulled into the descriptions of the network nodes in your map.
- Supports two versions, one for network mapping and another for simple charting
- Barebones interface makes this a lightweight and clutter-free tool
- Supports in-depth networking details like VLANs, subnets, and address pool
- Only available for Windows
- Only uses ping to discover devices
You can run Network Notepad on Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, and 2000. The Freeware Edition is easy to download and you can get a 30-day free trial of the Professional Edition and the Enterprise Edition.
Graphical Networks produces a range of network management software, including netTerrain Logical. This is an automated network documentation system that will compile a hardware inventory and generate network topology maps by probing the network.
- Network discovery
- Automated mapping
- Supports capacity planning
You don’t have to stick with those generated maps because you can adjust the topology to meet your specific project aims.
The netTerrain tool supports capacity planning and network reorganization. Extra features help you identify and shut down security weaknesses on your network. This topology tool is Visio-compatible, which gives you the opportunity to exchange data from netTerrain Logical to a range of other Visio-aligned tools.
- Can automatically discover devices on a network and produce a map
- Supports capacity planning and network restructuring
- Compatible with Visio format
- Only available for Windows
- Interface feels outdated
- Icons are a bit limited
The tool installs on Windows Server 2012 and higher. You can get a free demo of the system to try it out before you buy.
D3M caters to a unique niche market – IT sales professionals. This network mapping tool can be used to plan out a customer’s requirements, compiling an inventory of necessary network equipment as the topology map builds. If you set up a product library with prices, the inventory will also copy to a bid with a total equipment cost calculated on it automatically. Icons used in the map are provided by equipment manufacturers, so customers will be able to see exactly which make and model of device goes where.
- Designed for network services sales executives
- Accessible by mobile app
- Cloud storage included
You don’t have to be a sales professional to use this tool, so it would work just as well for an IT department that needs to plan, adapt, and expand a busy network for an organization. The concept of providing a service for workers in the field means that the tool was designed for collaboration and presentation. Plans can be stored on the Cloud and mobile apps make design and retrieval possible from anywhere.
- Great for sales or MSPs who use network mapping for client presentations
- Interface is simple and sleek
- Has options to include pricing for devices and services in the map
- Supports cloud storage
- Is available on mobile devices
- Is on the more expensive end of the spectrum
- More focused on presentations, less on live network monitoring
- Not the best fit for users wanting to map live devices
The tool is pricey, but you can get your first project completed for free. There is no limit on the number of projects you can use the tool for after that first free trial. There are three charging bands for the system, which work on the number of users that you want to access the tool. The service is charged on a subscription basis with a monthly fee.
LANTopoLog is a free enthusiast-created network mapper. You don’t get a concept of the physical layout of your network from this topology tool. However, the information displayed in the map gives you a very straightforward representation of all the network data that you need quickly.
- Network discovery
- Rudimentary network map
- Free to use
The tool includes a network discovery facility, which is based on SNMP. The resulting map, which is drawn automatically, shows each of the devices in your network and the devices that it connects to. The result of this schematic is a tree structure that gives the IP addresses, port numbers, and hostnames of each device and its connections.
This is a rudimentary network monitoring system. Its use as a network mapping tool lies in the list of discovered devices, which you could use as an inventory. This provides you with the current connections between your devices, which you could use as a guide when replanning your network in a graphics tool, such as Visio. This software runs on Windows environments.
- Completely free tool
- Supports autodiscovery
- Good option for a fast, barebones look into a network
- Only uses SNMP to find new devices
- Only available for Windows
- Outdated and cluttered interface makes mapping larger networks messy
- Not the most user-friendly option
Creately is a neat chart-creating tool that has specialized templates and icons for network mapping. This is a pure topology design tool and doesn’t include any autodiscovery options. However, you could use this designer in conjunction with a basic network explorer, such as LANTopoLog to get the best of both worlds.
- Diagram editor
- Network icon library
- On-premises or cloud-based
The package includes a large selection of templates, which each come with a set of icons. The layouts available include WAN views that feature city and cloud icons. You also get the standard LAN layout option and you can even create rack views.
The Creately system allows you to set up accounts for members of your team and there is a collaboration feature built into the tool, which enables you to grant editing or viewing access to other users.
- Built-in collaboration tools for teams
- Supported across Windows, Linux, Mac as well as on mobile devices
- Can be purchased as either a standalone or cloud product
- Can create racks views and map physical connections
- No auto discovery options
- Does not tap into live networks, cannot pull device information
- Icons are limited and a bit dated
The software can be installed on Windows, Linux, and macOS and access can be granted to users of mobile devices that run iOS or Android. You can also opt to get Creately as a Cloud service. You can try the package by accessing a demo account.
The 10-Strike Network Diagram tool is a dedicated network map creator with autodiscovery capabilities. You don’t have to use the autodiscovery option in cases such as starting the design of a completely new network. The package features a graphics editor, which is the main utility of the software. The editor includes a library of IT icons that you can drag and drop onto the design pad.
- Network discovery
- Automatic map creation
- World map view option
Views available within the package include a real-world map, which is based on Google maps. The autodiscovery feature will even trace your connections across the internet, plotting the location of each router as it passes through the real-world map.
- Supports both auto discovery as well as static diagram mapping
- Has a variety of network icons as well as other icons, giving it dual functionality
- Networks can be physically mapped using Google Maps and a traceroute feature
- Available only for Windows
- Interface needs works, specifically around the toolbar menus
This software runs on Windows environments and you can get it on a 30-day trial.
Related post: Network Magic Alternatives
Choosing network mapping software
As you can see from our list, there is a wide range of mapping tools available to you. The best tool for your project will depend on whether you are creating a new network or adapting an existing one.
Network Mapping Software FAQs
Do I need autodiscovery?
Some tools have monitor-integrated topology mappers that automatically monitor and update changes in the network’s inventory which is great for managing changes.
An automated mapper isn’t always the best solution. Sometimes, you would be better off being able to create your own topology maps through a graphics tool. This is particularly the case if you are designing a new network or planning to extend an existing one. In these cases, autodiscovery won’t help you.
How do I create a network map?
You could just create your own drawing in any graphics package, including the free Paint that is integrated into Windows. However, to be considered as a specific network design support tool, a graphics package needs to have the following attributes:
- An icon library that clearly depicts distinct device types
- Editable attributes for plotted devices
- Distinguishable link types
- Icon label options
What are the types of network topology?
In our related post on network topologies, we get into a lot of detail on each of the common network topologies and their appropriateness for each situation. We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each type. These are the most common network topologies:
- Bus Topology – every network device is connected to a single cable that runs the length of the entire network with two endpoints.
- Ring Topology – all network devices are connected in line, each has two neighbors, forming a continuous loop with no endpoints. Typically the flow of network data is unidirectional.
- Dual Ring Topology – a ring topology where each device has two connections to each neighboring network device which allows for bidirectional data flow.
- Star Topology – all network nodes are connected to each other via a central node
- Tree Topology – typically a hierarchical tree structure with a root node and branch connections forming parent-child hierarchies
- Mesh Topology – point-to-point connected devices that allow for various data routing techniques
- Hybrid Topology – typically comprised of two or more common types of network topologies mentioned above
What Is Network Mapping?
Network mapping is a visual record of the layout of all devices in the network. It shows how those devices connect together. Topology mapping is often partnered by an autodiscovery feature that discovers all of the devices to be mapped and records their connections.
Why should I use Network Mapping?
Network mapping gives you an easy-to-recognize look at the layout of the network. It is easier to digest than a dry list of devices and their connections. With a topology map, you can trace paths end-to-end from one device to another.
What is the best software to draw network diagrams?
Our research indicates that the SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper is the best software to draw network diagrams because this creates the network topology diagrams automatically while letting you make manual adjustments. For most purposes, you will also be served well by using Microsoft Visio, Intermapper, Lucidchart, and ConceptDraw Pro along with most other tools mentioned in this post.
Which topology is the best topology?
The best topology for networks is the star topology. All devices are linked to a switch with a cable plugging into a separate socket for each device. Switches themselves are then linked together in order to cover the entire enterprise. Wireless networks model the star topology.
What is the difference between a logical network diagram and a physical network diagram?
A logical network diagram shows the links between all devices in a schematic style. A physical network diagram adjusts the links between devices to accurately depict distances. Some network topology mappers will show the real network with actual device locations plotted onto floor plans and real-world maps.
How do I map all devices on my network?
The easiest way to get a full map of all devices on your network is to use a network topology mapper. If you don’t want to use a standard format for your network diagram, look for a network topology mapper than has a range of templates to choose from or one that allows you to manually change the generated network map.
Do you have a favorite network mapping tool? Do you use any of the topology tools on our list? Leave a message in the comments section and share your experience with the community.
Related: Guide to Network Topologies