PRTG stands for “Paessler Router Traffic Grapher,” which was the tool’s original name. Paessler is a German company that began operations in 2001. It first released PRTG in 2003. Since that date, the monitoring tool has become one of the industry leaders.
One problem you might encounter with PRTG is Paessler’s steadfast determination to keep this utility as a pure monitoring tool. Thus, there are not and never will be any configuration management, DDI (DHCP/DNS/IP Address Management), or intrusion prevention measures in the tool.
Paessler’s strategy might backfire and lose it some customers because rival systems monitor infrastructure just as well as PRTG and are expanding to include more process automation and problem remediation processes. In this guide, you will encounter tools that are just as good as PRTG and some that have added functionality that PRTG will never have. First, let’s take a look at the strengths of PRTG.
Paessler ships the same package to all clients, be they large or small. The PRTG Network Monitor pack is a collection of monitoring functions, which are called “sensors.” A sensor is either a utility, such as Ping, or an action that monitors one hardware element. For example, a switch port monitor is one sensor per port. If you activate the monitor on all of the ports on your switch, you have used up that many sensors, not just one.
The number of sensors that you activate is very important because that is the basis of Paessler’s charging structure. The company has a number of price points that give a sensor allowance. These are:
|PRTG Free||100 sensors with a single server implementation|
|PRTG 500||500 sensors reporting to one server installation|
|PRTG 1000||1,000 sensors reporting to one server installation|
|PRTG 2500||2,500 sensors with one server installation|
|PRTG 5000||5,000 sensors with one server installation|
|PRTG XL1||An unlimited number of sensors on one server installation|
|PRTG XL5||Unlimited sensors on up to five servers.|
The monitor covers networks, servers, and applications. That is rare in the industry, where the monitoring of these three equipment sectors is usually divided into separate tools. It is also rare to find a tool that includes both network device monitoring and network traffic analysis – often these two functions are split between two separate tools.
So, Paessler PRTG has a lot going for it and its ability to be tailored is fairly unique. If you just want a network monitor and you aren’t interested in server or application monitoring, then you only turn on the network-related sensors. Similarly, you can decide to just monitor your network device status or spread your paid-for sensor allowance to traffic monitoring functions as well.
No matter which paid PRTG package you think would be most appropriate for your needs, you start off with a 30-day free trial, which gives you an unlimited number of sensors. During this trial period, you are probably going to go for those sensors that cover the infrastructure monitoring functions. However, while there are no limits on the number of sensors, you may well investigate many of the other areas in the package and ultimately decide to extend your original monitoring boundaries.
PRTG network monitoring
PRTG’s main functions is as a network monitor and central to that task is the status monitoring of network devices. The tool performs these tasks by employing the procedures of the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This system has the advantage of already being installed on all of the network equipment that you buy. SNMP requires a central controller to poll the agent software, which is the pre-installed software on your routers and switches.
As the SNMP manager regularly broadcasts report requests to all device agents, the responses to those requests provide a bonus feature to the system, which is autodiscovery. This enables PRTG to gather information on all of the devices on your network and how they link together, so you don’t have to type in your equipment inventory when you set up PRTG. As these request broadcasts are ongoing, PRTG can spot any changes to your infrastructure.
The tool creates a network topology map from the information in the equipment inventory. Again, this task is performed automatically and the map gets updated without any manual intervention whenever the layout of the network and its component devices changes.
The SNMP system includes a message type, called a “trap.” This allows device agents to send a status report in emergencies without having to wait for a request. These are interpreted in the PRTG console as alerts, which can also be forwarded to you by SMS or email.
The main package installs on Windows Server, but it is able to monitor devices with any operating system. Paessler also produces mobile apps for Android and iOS so you can keep in touch with the dashboard when you are away from your desk.
Frequently-deployed sensors in the pack include Ping, Traceroute, a packet sniffer, a NetFlow sensor, a J-Flow sensor, an IPFIX sensor, and an sFlow sensor. Traffic throughput rates are calculated by querying network devices with SNMP for their in/out processing reports every five minutes.
The network monitoring tool is able to cover wireless networks as well as LANs and it can also monitor the connection to and equipment at remote sites.
PRTG server monitoring
The PRTG system can be set to monitor your servers, wherever they are. It is also capable of monitoring Cloud resources and has specialist sensors for Amazon Web Services, Dropbox, Google Drive, and One Drive. With on-premises servers, you can activate sensors to report on their CPU performance, memory utilization, disc volumes, and spare disk space. The package also includes environmental sensors for the server room and server racks.
The PRTG server monitoring package includes tailored sensors that monitor specialist servers. These include mail servers, web servers, database servers, file servers, and virtual servers. The monitoring of these functions is closely linked to the application monitoring services of PRTG.
PRTG application monitoring
Monitoring the servers that deliver applications to your staff and customers requires application sensors. The PRTG sensor includes mail application sensors that include POP3, SMTP, and IMAP monitors. The database sensors in the pack include monitors for MySQL, Microsoft SQL, and Oracle SQL. Web server sensors can report on IIS and Apache and the main focus of the file server sensors is FTP.
The activity of these applications can be tracked both on the server and when they appear in network traffic. Combining application data with network monitoring enables you to improve your traffic analysis by getting reports on volume per application.
Performance-related sensors monitor VoIP traffic delivery. Firewall and port monitoring are also included to cover your security system and team performance sensors include SLA auditing.
If you operate virtualizations on your network, the combined network, server, and application monitoring capabilities of PRTG will come in particularly handy. There are specific sensors from VMWare vSphere ESXi systems, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix Xen products.
You no longer need to install PRTG on premises because the system is now also available on the Cloud. The online version of the system has all of the functionality of the on-premises software, only you don’t need to maintain the software, in fact, you don’t need to have any servers.
The payment plan for the Cloud-based PRTG is subscription-based with a charge per month. You don’t get to use 100 sensors for free with this service; however, you can get a trial of the 500 sensors package (PRTG 500) for free for 10 days. There are no XL packages available with the Cloud version of PRTG.
The best alternatives to PRTG
We have searched the market to find the best matches for the functionality of PRTG.
Here is our list of the six best alternatives to PRTG:
- SolarWinds ipMonitor (FREE TRIAL) A bundle of monitors accessed through your own web server.
- ManageEngine OpManager A combined network and server monitor.
- Nagios XI An extensible infrastructure monitoring system.
- ConnectWise Automate A Cloud-based system monitoring and management tool.
- Zabbix A free monitoring tool.
- Kaseya Traverse A system monitoring and management tool with threat protection.
You can read more details about these options in the following sections.
The SolarWinds ipMonitor is just one of the PRTG rivals produced by SolarWinds. The company’s best-known network monitoring system is the Network Performance Monitor. However, the ipMonitor is a much closer match to PRTG because of its pricing structure. This tool is a collection of monitors, just the same as PRTG’s sensor bundle. The software is priced by bands of monitor numbers, so you can tailor the system by choosing which sensors to activate.
SolarWinds offers price bands of 500, 1,000, and 2,500 monitors. Examples of monitors are Ping, CPU, memory, disk usage, bandwidth consumption, and response time. The software installs on Windows and Windows Server. This includes an integrated database and a web server, which makes your implementation accessible to your technicians from anywhere in the world.
This monitor uses SNMP to track network device statuses and includes an autodiscovery and automated mapping module. The system integrates SNMP traps and you can also create custom alert conditions and reports. A feature that ipMonitor has that is missing from PRTG is the ability to set automated responses to alerts, which enables you to get issues resolved without manual intervention.
Monitoring features include user-experience simulations so you can check on the performance of your websites. You can get ipMonitor on a 14-day free trial with unlimited monitors.
OpManager is ManageEngine’s main product. It is a combined network and server monitor with application tracking capabilities, so it tracks the abilities of PRTG very closely. This software can be installed on Linux as well as Windows Server, so it goes one better than PRTG.
The network monitor uses SNMP to monitor equipment statuses and it includes autodiscovery and network mapping functions. The dashboard displays current statuses and also features alerts, forwarding them to technicians by SMS or email. Equipment monitored by OpManager includes wireless Aps, Cloud-based resources, and remote infrastructure. It is also capable of tracking virtualizations built with VMWare, Hyper-V, and Citrix Xen.
OpManager is free to use to monitor up to five devices. The full system is available for a 30-day free trial.
Nagios XI runs on Windows and Linux and has a free version, called Nagios Core. This tool will monitor networks, servers, and applications. Nagios has a very active user community, which distributes free add-ons that extend the capability of the original product.
The network monitor shows live device statuses and system alerts, It also monitors bandwidth usage, and event log messages. Server statuses and application performance can also be tracked with this tool at no extra cost.
The user account structure includes multi-tenant account set up options, which makes this tool a good option for managed service providers. The monitor is available in two editions: Standard and Enterprise. Extra features in the Enterprise edition include capacity planning and auditing. You can get a 60-day free trial of Nagios XI.
ConnectWise Automate is billed as a remote monitoring and management tool. However, the service is Cloud-based, so you could just as easily use it to manage your own IT system. As this is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), you don’t need to install and maintain on-premises software in order to use it.
As this tool’s name suggests, it includes a lot of task automation. The functionality of ConnectWise automate goes a long way beyond the monitoring functions available in PRTG because it also includes a scripting system to get all of your mundane tasks performed automatically. It also has a patch manager, and asset management tools.
Asset management extends to the creation of self-installing software bundles. New users are given a self-service portal to launch the set up of their desktop and mobile devices and they can also perform standard admin tasks themselves, such as changing passwords.
You can get ConnectWise Automate on a 14-day free trial. The sales team will extend that trial period up to a month on request.
Zabbix is a free infrastructure monitoring system that can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Unix. The tool tracks network device statuses through SNMP and also processes alerts. As well as being displayed in the dashboard, alerts can be saved to file or forwarded as notification via SMS, email, or chat app.
The package includes a device discovery procedure and a network topology map creation facility, both of which will update automatically should your infrastructure change. Zabbix can monitor LANs, wireless networks, Cloud-based resources, and remote sites. Communications with the data collectors offsite are encrypted.
Zabbix allows for task automation through scripting. These tasks can include data gathering and problem remediation and they can be triggered by alerts or set to run periodically.
The dashboard aids status comprehension because it is well laid out and includes color-coded graphical data representations.
You have to pay for support for the tool. However, the user community for Zabbix is accessible through a forum and provides lots of tips and tricks on using the system and many eager users are happy to help fellow Zabbixers experiencing problems.
Kaseya Traverse is a system monitoring and management package that is aimed at IT departments. It covers networks, services, equipment, servers, and applications. This software installs on Windows environments.
The network monitoring section of Traverse employs SNMP functionality. It includes an autodiscovery module, which compiles a device inventory and creates a network map. The tool can cover on-premises network, including wifi and also remote resources, including Cloud-based services.
The dashboard is customizable through a system called “service containers.” This gives technicians a front page that relates to the business functions that they are responsible for. A service container creates a view on specific infrastructure elements that contribute to the delivery of applications to a department in your business. All technicians get alerted by SNMP traps or customized threshold breaches. The dashboard includes color-coded data visualizations.
Extra features of Kaseya Traverse include a scripting language, task automation, and automated system monitoring based on baseline establishment. This is an advanced threat prevention tool that goes way beyond the scope of the service offered by PRTG. You can get Kaseya Traverse on a 14-day free trial.
As you can see from this guide, PRTG is good, but is by no means the only product on the shelf and in many cases, other monitoring and management tools may suit your requirements better. Take advantage of the free trials and free versions of the six tools in this list to trial one of them and compare it to PRTG yourself.