7 Top Network Monitoring Tools (2020 Reviews)

Looking for the best network monitoring tools?

We reviewed seven excellent monitoring suites that can control any network.

Our Evaluation Methodology:

  1. We examined features, ease of use, and monitoring capabilities.
  2. We checked what real users have to say about the platform.
  3. We evaluated whether the price is fair for the product quality.

Building a network? Choose the best monitoring system from the list below.

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Top 7 Network Monitoring Tools

1. PRTG Network Monitor

Looking for a starter solution that can last you a long time? PRTG is excellent for smaller networks, yet it’s also one of the most scalable solutions. That’s why it’s so affordable! You can get a perpetual license for just $1,600 and collect 500 different metrics. What’s more, the software is so lightweight, it doesn’t even require a full machine. You can run it on something as small as a virtual server without trouble. To top it off, PRTG can let you monitor just about anything, and it has extensive alerting capabilities. What more could you ask for? FULL REVIEW

  • Extensive vendor support
  • Distributed monitoring
  • Awesome alerting engine
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Looking for a starter solution that can last you a long time? PRTG is excellent for smaller networks, yet it’s also one of the most scalable solutions. That’s why it’s so affordable! You can get a perpetual license for just $1,600 and collect 500 different metrics. What’s more, the software is so lightweight, it doesn’t even require a full machine. You can run it on something as small as a virtual server without trouble. To top it off, PRTG can let you monitor just about anything, and it has extensive alerting capabilities. What more could you ask for? FULL REVIEW

Ease of use

Average

Support

Only ticketing

Pricing model

Perpetual registration per sensor

Free trial

Free forever for 100 sensors

2. ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine can track a range of systems, like servers, firewalls, VM performance, applications, network traffic, and more. The alerting and reporting systems are incredibly advanced and granular. The software automates most of the setup. You can begin monitoring your entire network in a matter of minutes. Best of all, the per-device pricing is very reasonable. You can get started for as little as $245 for ten devices. You can’t get a better value deal! FULL REVIEW

  • Decent monitoring features
  • Excellent mapping
  • 3D floor modeling
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ManageEngine can track a range of systems, like servers, firewalls, VM performance, applications, network traffic, and more. The alerting and reporting systems are incredibly advanced and granular. The software automates most of the setup. You can begin monitoring your entire network in a matter of minutes. Best of all, the per-device pricing is very reasonable. You can get started for as little as $245 for ten devices. You can’t get a better value deal! FULL REVIEW

Ease of use

Very straightforward with a quick setup

Support

Phone and email support

Pricing model

Per device

Free trial

Free for three device

3. LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor focuses on businesses that utilize cloud and hybrid networks. The system can keep track of both server instances and serverless services, as well as dynamic microservices and containers. Robust forecasting tools help you predict future trends and optimize your system accordingly. Best of all, powerful access controls make it a fantastic asset for larger companies. It’s the top choice for cutting-edge firms that need a monitoring solution that can keep up. FULL REVIEW

  • Cloud-based
  • 2,000+ vendor support integrations
  • Extensive cloud features and support for containers and microservices
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LogicMonitor focuses on businesses that utilize cloud and hybrid networks. The system can keep track of both server instances and serverless services, as well as dynamic microservices and containers. Robust forecasting tools help you predict future trends and optimize your system accordingly. Best of all, powerful access controls make it a fantastic asset for larger companies. It’s the top choice for cutting-edge firms that need a monitoring solution that can keep up. FULL REVIEW

Ease of use

Setup takes time

Support

Excellent support and knowledge base

Pricing model

Two quoted tiers

Free trial

14-day trial

4. Datadog

Datadog is a real treat if you run mission-critical applications in the cloud. It works for all kinds of instances, including serverless ones, and supports tracking services and containers. FULL REVIEW

  • Excellent cloud and hybrid network monitoring
  • Support for containers and microservices
  • UX monitoring
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Datadog is a real treat if you run mission-critical applications in the cloud. It works for all kinds of instances, including serverless ones, and supports tracking services and containers. FULL REVIEW

Ease of use

Requires some technical skill

Support

Email, live chat, and Slack

Pricing model

Monthly licensing calculated per device

Free trial

Free for five devices

5. SolarWinds NPM

With the ability to track anything with an IP address, support for 1,200+ different applications, and a robust alerting engine, SolarWinds NPM is every network admin’s dream. Add excellent mapping and powerful single-pane-of-glass dashboards, and the solution is easy to use as well. The smallest plan would let you track 100 physical devices, 100 interfaces, and 100 logical disks. The perpetual license would set you back $2,995. A fair price for a robust piece of tech. FULL REVIEW

  • Vendor-agnostic hardware monitoring
  • Support for 1,200+ applications
  • Solid alerting and reporting
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With the ability to track anything with an IP address, support for 1,200+ different applications, and a robust alerting engine, SolarWinds NPM is every network admin’s dream. Add excellent mapping and powerful single-pane-of-glass dashboards, and the solution is easy to use as well. The smallest plan would let you track 100 physical devices, 100 interfaces, and 100 logical disks. The perpetual license would set you back $2,995. A fair price for a robust piece of tech. FULL REVIEW

Ease of use

Very straightforward

Support

Phone and email

Pricing model

Perpetual licensing

Free trial

30-day trial

6. InterMapper

If you love visually stunning and easy-to-follow maps, InterMapper is for you. You can go as far as designing a full-on model of your data center, with exact locations of machines and switches in server racks. Detecting the root cause of hardware problems is a breeze. And then there is support for pretty much any device, capacity planning tools, and hands-down the best automation systems in the game. And did I mention using the interface is a breeze? If you’re interested in one of the best monitoring tools, contact InterMapper’s team for a quote. FULL REVIEW

  • Vendor-agnostic
  • Traffic monitoring
  • Extensive mapping features
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If you love visually stunning and easy-to-follow maps, InterMapper is for you. You can go as far as designing a full-on model of your data center, with exact locations of machines and switches in server racks. Detecting the root cause of hardware problems is a breeze. And then there is support for pretty much any device, capacity planning tools, and hands-down the best automation systems in the game. And did I mention using the interface is a breeze? If you’re interested in one of the best monitoring tools, contact InterMapper’s team for a quote. FULL REVIEW

Ease of use

Incredibly user-friendly

Support

Live chat, email, and phone

Pricing model

Per-device quoted plans

Free trial

30-day trial

7. WhatsUp Gold

WhatsUp Gold is excellent for medium and enterprise-grade networks. Monitoring for local and cloud setups, advanced dashboard features, and extensive alerting options make it a powerful network monitoring system. The add-ons for traffic monitoring, application performance tracking, and distributed monitoring can make it work in just about any setup. The tools go as deep as letting you manage the configuration of individual hardware components. It’s a powerful tool for any network administrator. FULL REVIEW

  • Decent monitoring features
  • Functional customizable dashboards
  • Great alerting
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WhatsUp Gold is excellent for medium and enterprise-grade networks. Monitoring for local and cloud setups, advanced dashboard features, and extensive alerting options make it a powerful network monitoring system. The add-ons for traffic monitoring, application performance tracking, and distributed monitoring can make it work in just about any setup. The tools go as deep as letting you manage the configuration of individual hardware components. It’s a powerful tool for any network administrator. FULL REVIEW

Ease of use

Easy to use

Support

Phone support

Pricing model

Quoted plans

Free trial

30-day trial

Network Monitoring Tools – Essential for Network Administration

I see you want to start monitoring your network.

Have no fear!

Your friends at TheHostingTribunal reviewed the top network monitoring tools in 2020.

Finding the best solution is no small task. Computer networks are constantly evolving, and advanced setups like a hybrid cloud configuration are commonplace. Moreover, every network is different. Fortunately, all sorts of monitoring solutions evolved to keep up with the demands.

To help you pick the right one, I tested the industry-leading solutions. Read our comprehensive reviews below to discover the best network monitoring software for your needs.

How We Tested the Network Monitoring Tools—Our Review Process

This is how we handpicked only the best monitoring solutions:

  1. Market Research – First, we checked what’s on the market. Plenty of software is available, so we compiled a list of the most relevant solutions.
  2. Evaluate the frontrunners – Second, we shortlisted the monitoring tools based on features and reputation. The most promising offers got further testing.
  3. Sign Up– We signed up for a trial of each network monitoring software. This let us collect first-hand performance data.
  4. Test – From there, we tested what the platforms can do and how reliable they are. Bonus points for any outstanding or exclusive features.
  5. Pricing – Expensive software can do wonders, but not everyone can afford it. And free solutions usually require more manhours put in. The overall value for money plays a key point in the selection process.
  6. Review – Finally, we used all the data to pick out the seven best-performing tools. We ranked them based on monitoring features, alerting capabilities, ease of use, price, and many other factors.

We put all our findings into the comprehensive reviews below. There is something for everyone, from small-scale network monitoring solutions to enterprise-grade platforms.

The 7 Best Network Monitoring Tools of 2020

PRTG Network Monitor
PRTG Network Monitor

BEST FOR SMALL BUSINESSES & SCALING

Starting at
$ 1,600
  • EASE OF USE Average
  • SUPPORT Only ticketing
  • PRICING MODEL Perpetual registration per sensor
  • FREE TRIAL Free forever for 100 sensors
  • Extensive vendor support
  • Distributed monitoring
  • Awesome alerting engine
  • Very lightweight
  • Reasonably user-friendly
  • Decent free tier
  • Reasonable plans
  • Pricing model can be pricy if you want to track a range of metrics/interfaces for every device
  • The setup could be easier

PRTG Network Monitor by Paessler is one of the most well-known network monitoring tools. It’s meant to be a user-friendly solution that can fit all businesses.

I tested PRTG to confirm this.

Features

You can install the PRTG desktop client on Windows or on a Mac. You can access it via web client or Android and iOS apps.

Monitoring Capabilities

PRTG supports various protocols, like SNMP, WMI, and HTTP. You can monitor just about anything, including servers, firewalls, switches, databases, mail servers, VMs and cloud instances, and more. There are 200+ different monitors for particular vendors, including big ones like Cisco, HP, Dell, IBM, Oracle, and Synology.

It’s also one of the best network monitor tools for distributed monitoring. You can track devices in multiple facilities.

The features are supplemented by a decent alerting engine. You can receive notifications via email, SMS, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or even push notifications.

You can adjust alert sensitivity, notification thresholds, and up to three escalation levels. Even better, you can run custom scripts, so PRTG can try resolving issues automatically.

Lightweight Solution

One outstanding thing is that PRTG Network Monitor is way less demanding than many other network management tools.

Running 1,000 sensors would require a production server with 2 CPU cores, 3GB RAM, and about 250GB storage (for one year of data retention). PRTG doesn’t require a separate database server. You can easily get away with setting it up on a virtual machine.

The sensors are also relatively lightweight. You can run scans every minute with up to 5,000 sensors and put little strain on the network.

If you want a low-requirements solution, PRTG is it.

Interface and Usability

PRTG’s overall design could be more polished.

You can use the smart setup feature to handle essential configuration info. This can make the setup stage faster for first-time users.

The map creator requires you to manually add each device yourself. What’s more, configuring alerting and setting up reports can be time-consuming.

Once you get past the initial stages, the network monitoring software works fine. Still, you’ll likely spend some time adjusting.

Pricing

There are several pricing plans to choose from. The features are the same across the board, though, and the perpetual license fee depends only on the number of sensors. If you need more than one PRTG installation, you can request a quote.

  • Free trial—100 sensors, free forever
  • PRTG 500—500 sensors, $1600
  • PRTG 1000—1,000 sensors, $2850
  • PRTG 2500—2,500 sensors, $5950
  • PRTG 5000—5,000 sensors, $10,500
  • PRTG XL1—Unlimited sensors, $14,500

The number of sensors you need kind of differs based on your needs. Any metric you collect on an individual device or interface requires one sensor. So, if you want to monitor every single port on your network, you might have 50+ sensors per switch. This is a bit overkill, though. More likely, you’ll need 5-10 sensors per device.

If you’re unsure, you can use the free tier to confirm how many sensors you usually assign.

Verdict

PRTG can monitor just about any device and get you decent utility. Plus, it’s relatively affordable and lightweight. It’s one of the best network monitoring tools for small businesses, but it can scale to handle complex networks.

ManageEngine OpManager
ManageEngine OpManager

BEST EASE OF USE & DATACENTER MAPPING

Starting at
$ 245
  • EASE OF USE Very straightforward with a quick setup
  • SUPPORT Phone and email support
  • PRICING MODEL Per device
  • FREE TRIAL Free for three device
  • Decent monitoring features
  • Excellent mapping
  • 3D floor modeling
  • Great alerting and reporting
  • User-friendly interface
  • Automatically populates devices with monitors
  • Straightfoward per-device pricing
  • Kind of limited starter edition

You’ve probably heard of Zoho, ManageEngine’s parent company. Zoho is a cloud SaaS company behind industry-leading solutions for mailing, accounting, CRM, webinars, web conferencing, HR, and much more.

Let’s see if its network management tool is as useful as the other products.

Features

OpManager is Java-based, so it’s platform-agnostic. You can install it on Windows or a Linux and access it via the mobile app or any browser (the default port is 8060).

Monitoring Capabilities

OpManager can inspect a broad range of elements, including networks, servers, WANs, firewalls, wireless networks, VoIP, Syslog, etc.

The network monitoring software can discover virtual machines, and it supports VMWare, Hyper-V, and XenServer. You can get detailed stats for both host and guest machines.

If you have trouble pinpointing what’s spending all your bandwidth, OpManager can use NetFlow. You can determine exactly which applications use the most traffic and collect data on bandwidth spending.

You can monitor application availability. A compliance scanning tool can make sure your setup remains in line with various standards. If you have a website, you can monitor individual URLs and go as deep as tracking specific keywords on a web page.

The network monitoring program has a comprehensive toolset.

Mapping

You can enter an IP range and map out a logical topology of your entire network. Another nice option is to pick a seed device and find all devices connected to it. The Switch Port Mapper goes as deep as documenting connections made to every port.

You can even view the physical topology through Zoho Maps or Google Maps. You can get a birds-eye view of your entire setup.

And if you run a big organization with a ton of machines, you’ll love the 3D Floor Modeling tool. You can create a 3D representation of the data center, complete with racks and mounted servers and switch ports. You’ll know exactly where to find problem devices.

Alerting/Reporting

ManageEngine is one of the best network monitoring systems for robust alerting. You can configure all kinds of alert conditions.

Alerts are color-coded, so you can easily find the category you want to address. Clicking on an alarm brings up various stats and possible actions. For instance, you can ping the device, enter it via remote desktop, or clear the alarm.

You can set multi-level alert thresholds or escalate them based on severity.

Another option is to set up outage windows. It avoids triggering alerts during network maintenance.

You can start with basic availability reports—simple and nice for bragging in front of your boss. Most report templates are a bit more advanced, though, and go into different metrics like network performance monitoring, inventory lists, storage performance, VM health, etc.

Forecasting reports are handy for capacity planning. OpEngine will gauge things like CPU usage for a specified period.

As expected of top software, OpManager has decent alerting and reporting features.

Interface and Usability

OpManager has a relatively beginner-friendly interface. You can easily navigate the program from the header menu.

Getting started takes all of a few minutes. Just enter the necessary info, like the IP range. The system will auto-discover all the devices in no time.

Better yet, OpManager assigns standard monitors to all discovered elements. For instance, servers get monitors tracking CPU and memory utilization, disk space, logical disk details, and process count.

You might want to do some customization based on your needs. However, you can effectively start monitoring devices on the network within minutes from getting started.

Pricing

ManageEngine OpManager prices depend on the number of devices you need to monitor. You should figure out how many you have connected to your network and contact the provider for a quote.

There are three tiers that differ in features:

  • Standard Edition—$245 for 10 devices, includes basic features like network discovery, and can monitor most processes and services.
  • Professional Edition—$345 for 10 devices, adds monitoring for VMs, databases, firewalls, and switch ports, network traffic analysis, etc.
  • Enterprise Edition—$11.545 for 250 devices, adds advanced network monitoring tools like failover management and distributed network monitoring.

The Standard Edition is kind of bare-bones, but it does the job if you need simple network monitoring. You should go for the Professional tier to keep track of everything on your network. The Enterprise Edition is for larger businesses running complex business-critical setups.

Verdict

ManageEngine has in-depth features and is user-friendly. The per-device pricing scheme is great if you don’t want to worry about the number of sensors or elements. Best of all, it can work for businesses of just about any size.

LogicMonitor
LogicMonitor

BEST FOR MONITORING CLOUD & HYBRID NETWORKS

Starting at
Custom
  • EASE OF USE Setup takes time
  • SUPPORT Excellent support and knowledge base
  • PRICING MODEL Two quoted tiers
  • FREE TRIAL 14-day trial
  • Cloud-based
  • 2,000+ vendor support integrations
  • Extensive cloud features and support for containers and microservices
  • Powerful access controls
  • Forecasting tools
  • Stunning dashboards
  • Setup could be easier
  • Unclear pricing model

LogicMonitor is a tool made by IT experts. Many ideas behind it come from input by real administrators dissatisfied with other solutions.

I checked if LogicMonitor indeed is the best network monitoring software.

Features

LogicMonitor is cloud-based, so you only have to install a small collector program. The upside is the low hardware requirements. You will need a working internet connection, though.

Monitoring Capabilities

Although its focus is on the cloud, LogicMonitor can track just about anything. It works for infrastructure, applications, databases, cloud services, storage, websites, and virtual machines.

There are well over 2,000 integrations. They add vendor support for big names like Cisco, Azure, AWS, VMware, Citrix XenServer, Hyper-V, and HP, among others. This means you can quickly map out just about any kind of network, including cloud and hybrid ones.

One nice feature is support for containers and microservices. Containers are usually rapidly deployed, so most network monitor solutions can’t keep up. LogicMonitor scans the network continuously and runs event-based discovery. It can immediately react to any changes in cluster resources.

You can see all the data from attractive, customizable dashboards. There’s no cap on the number of dashboards, and you can customize them any way you like.

Role-based Access

LogicMonitor’s permission controls make it fantastic for large teams. You can set up a range of different roles, all with their own permissions. Alerts can go to specific teams to streamline problem resolution.

It’s easy to manage roles individually or by group, filter them, change role permissions, view role stats, and even log off all users in a role. LogicMonitor keeps logs of everything individual users do, so you can easily keep track of activity within the network monitoring software.

Forecasting

LogicMonitor can take any data you collect, remove data gaps or anomalies, and project future trends. It can even predict when an alarm is most likely to get triggered. You can extrapolate forecast data from just about any data graph.

You can go for a 95% confidence forecast, which gives you a range where datapoint values are most likely to fall. Alternatively, the line of best-fit forecast draws a single line on the graph. It’s the software’s best guess of future trends.

For instance, if a drive is 80% full, the program can tell you when the drive is most likely to reach 95% capacity. Handy for capacity planning.

The tools are more comprehensive than that of most network monitoring applications.

Interface and Usability

LogicMonitor runs in the cloud, so you don’t have to do much to install it. That said, you’ll need to set up collectors on network segments you want to track. It’s a bit of CLI work.

There are many options to go through as well. It usually takes a bit of trial and error to set everything up and design the dashboard that gets you the best view.

There are some good sides, like an auto-discovery tool. It’s also easy to move stuff around your dashboard via drag-and-drop.

Still, there’s a bit of a learning curve to the server network monitoring software.

Pricing

LogicMonitor has two pricing tiers. The more expensive one allows two years of data retention (as opposed to one) and adds AI prediction.

In both cases, LogicMonitor determines the price on an individual basis. You can contact sales about getting a quote.

Verdict

LogicMonitor is ideal for businesses with large teams working on cloud and hybrid systems. The capability to monitor anything and predict future issues makes it a very versatile tool.

Datadog
Datadog

BEST FOR MISSION-CRITICAL CLOUD NETWORKS & APPLICATIONS

Starting at
$ 15 /mo
  • EASE OF USE Requires some technical skill
  • SUPPORT Email, live chat, and Slack
  • PRICING MODEL Monthly licensing calculated per device
  • FREE TRIAL Free for five devices
  • Excellent cloud and hybrid network monitoring
  • Support for containers and microservices
  • UX monitoring
  • Robust single-pane-of-glass consoles
  • Advanced alerting
  • AI anomaly detection
  • Not that user-friendly
  • Add-on charges can pile up

Datadog is a monitoring service focused on the cloud. It’s so successful that it even made it to the Forbes Cloud 100 list back in 2019.

Let’s see if it has the same chops in 2020.

Features

Datadog is one of the network monitoring tools that adopted a cloud-based SaaS model. You just need to download an agent to install on your own infrastructure.

Cloud Monitoring

Datadog is focused primarily on cloud and hybrid environments. Physical networks certainly are supported, but there are few unique features for tracking hardware components.

The system has native support for 350+ vendors, including big public cloud companies like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure. It also supports containers and microservices like Docker, Kubernetes, and Heroku. You can monitor just about anything, including server uptime and performance, network traffic, and applications.

Speaking of, the network traffic analyzer to track application performance in the cloud and detect bottlenecks. It covers both standard cloud instances and serverless platforms like AWS Lambda.

The real user monitoring feature can track user experience metrics based on real sessions. This helps troubleshoot performance problems and monitor application errors.

Security monitoring can detect misconfigurations and security attacks in real-time.

The software is big on log management. You can collect logs and use advanced filtering to easily navigate the data.

And that’s just scratching the surface. You can run forecast monitoring, synthetic monitoring, analyze code-level performance, and more.

Custom Dashboards

Part of Datadog’s power is in its customizable single-pane-of-glass consoles. Setting them up does require a bit of thinking in advance. However, they offer a way better overview of the infrastructure than most network probing tools.

You can display pretty much any data. This can be in the form of high-resolution real-time graphs with data divided by various tags. Of course, you can add standard elements like tables, heatmaps, stacked graphs, and top lists.

There are a few nice additions, like being able to follow data without losing context. You can also copy/paste widgets for quick layout changes.

All in all, you can get a fantastic overview of your network.

Advanced Alerting

You get all kinds of alerting features with Datadog. You can receive notifications via email or a bunch of integrated apps like Slack.

It’s easy to use tags to set up alerts on multiple monitors. Alerts can automatically apply to new hosts, so scaling with the network monitoring tool is a breeze.

You can set up alerts based on any metric or a combination of conditions. Threshold-based alerts and alerts on aggregate value an option.

Possibly the most innovative part is the Watchdog machine-learning system. It monitors applications and services for any anomalies and notifies you of unusual activity. It’s like having an extra pair of eyes on the collected data.

Interface and Usability

Datadog doesn’t really favor simplicity.

The setup itself is arduous. You’ll need to trudge through a bunch of technical details, and you’ll likely need a cloud expert at hand.

The network management tool is agent-based, so it lacks auto-discovery. You have to download and install agents for each unique device. Once you get to monitoring, the interface can get overwhelming.

What’s more, setting up integrations requires you to play around with configuration files, which takes time. And each integration adds its own dashboard, further complicating things.

Datadog is not for the faint of heart.

Pricing

Datadog has three basic tiers:

  • Free—1-day metric retention, up to 5 hosts
  • Pro—$15/month per host, allows various dashboards and integrations, 15-month metric retention
  • Enterprise—$23/month per host, adds machine learning, forecast monitoring, and live processes, 100 host minimum

Remember, add-ons like APM, serverless functions, security monitoring, and real user monitoring cost extra.

Verdict

Datadog’s agent-based model makes it one of the best network monitoring tools for smaller or medium cloud networks with a few critical applications. The feature-rich offer with advanced reporting and in-depth dashboards will get you just about everything you need.

SolarWinds NPM
SolarWinds NPM

BEST FOR MEDIUM TO ENTERPRISE-GRADE NETWORKS

Starting at
$ 2,995
  • EASE OF USE Very straightforward
  • SUPPORT Phone and email
  • PRICING MODEL Perpetual licensing
  • FREE TRIAL 30-day trial
  • Vendor-agnostic hardware monitoring
  • Support for 1,200+ applications
  • Solid alerting and reporting
  • Robust NetPath tools
  • User-friendly
  • Attractive and useful dashboards
  • Very scalable
  • Pricing is kind of convoluted

If you’re in IT, you probably know SolarWinds is the number one company in network management. It serves 320,000+ customers, including 499 Fortune 500 companies. The numbers are a testament to quality products.

This is what SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor can do for you.

Features

You would have to install NPM on a Windows Server. A separate database server is recommended.

Monitoring Capabilities

NPM is vendor-agnostic, so it can track just about any device or app, regardless of manufacturer. It’s easy to track all sorts of data, from CPU load to advanced elements like F5 BIG-IP load balancers.

The network monitoring tool has solid Wireless network tracking. You can check signal strength, bandwidth use, peak use times, and packet loss. WiFi heatmaps can help plan the best position for routers and signal boosters.

You can gather metrics for over 1,200 applications, including AWS, Skype, Dropbox, and Salesforce. It’s handy for collecting data pertaining to business-critical apps.

It’s a robust feature set that can help you detect issues and plan network growth.

Alerting

SolarWinds NPM includes alert templates. Custom alerts are where things really get good, though.

The network monitoring program can alert for all sorts of conditions. For instance, you can only send out a notification if an alert has been active for a specific time. You can also notify users after a set of alerts are triggered.

Running scripts or rebooting devices on alert are options too. It facilitates easy automation of basic troubleshooting.

Reports

SolarWinds NPM comes with various report templates. It’s pretty easy to customize the reports or export them as PDF.

You can run forecasting reports to analyze historic data. It can automatically predict when certain elements, like CPUs, will likely get overloaded.

The reporting is spot-on.

NetPath

One cool option is that SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor can create hop-by-hop maps of packet paths. The visual representation can help you pinpoint bottlenecks in local or cloud networks.

But it doesn’t stop there.

You can even track the packet routes outside your network. NPM can assemble historic data on performance when contacting often-used web applications, like SalesForce. You can then discuss the bottlenecks with your ISP.

Interface and Usability

Once the setup is done, the network monitoring application automatically maps out all the devices on your network. Naturally, you’ll need to take a deep dive into configuring all the monitoring options.

The single-pane-of-glass console feels very clean and intuitive. You can add various widgets or rearrange them by drag-and-drop. It’s easy to get an overview of metrics and compare them side-by-side.

If one’s not enough, you can create multiple dashboards. There’s even a handy option to have NPM occasionally flip between them automatically.

The maps feel good too. You can get more info on each individual point by simply hovering over the icon. Devices are color-coded according to status, to help find problem points.

SolarWinds NPM is remarkably user-friendly.

Pricing

The network monitoring solution offers five pricing plans, each getting you a perpetual license. The only difference is the number of supported elements. There is an annual fee to extend the software support, but SolarWinds discusses this with individual clients.

  • NPM SL100—Up to 100 nodes, 100 interfaces, and 100 volumes, $2,995
  • NPM SL250 – Up to 250 nodes, 250 interfaces, and 250 volumes, $6,795
  • NPM SL500 – Up to 500 nodes, 500 interfaces, and 500 volumes, $10,695
  • NPM SL2000 – Up to 2000 nodes, 2000 interfaces, and 2000 volumes, $19,795
  • NPM SLX – $33,195 for around 12,000 elements

Nodes are physical devices like servers and switches. Interfaces are single points of network traffic like switch ports. Lastly, volumes are logical disks.

If you want to see SolarWinds NPM for yourself, go for the free trial version. The auto-discover will give you a good idea of how many elements you would support.

Verdict

SolarWinds does many things right and has no significant flaws. It’s one of the best network monitoring systems for organizations of all sizes.

InterMapper
InterMapper

BEST FOR MAPPING & AUTOMATION

Starting at
Custom
  • EASE OF USE Incredibly user-friendly
  • SUPPORT Live chat, email, and phone
  • PRICING MODEL Per-device quoted plans
  • FREE TRIAL 30-day trial
  • Vendor-agnostic
  • Traffic monitoring
  • Extensive mapping features
  • Powerful automation integration
  • Very easy to handle
  • Remote access
  • Secretive about pricing

InterMapper is a product by HelpSystems, which focuses on excellent security and automation solutions. InterMapper is a monitoring tool, but it has a lot of the similar features with other HelpSystems software..

Here’s how it all works.

Features

InterMapper runs on-premises. You can install it on Windows, Linux, or Mac, and it requires no agent installation.

Monitoring Features

InterMapper is vendor-agnostic, meaning it can track pretty much anything with an IP address. That includes physical devices, like routers, switches, firewalls, servers, wireless devices, cloud machines, and even videoconferencing and telecommunications equipment.

The software is map-based. You can keep track of all alerts, traffic congestions, and metrics from its map interfaces.

The tool has decent capacity planning tools. You can go over past trends to predict future spending.

InterMapper Flows doubles as a network traffic monitor tool which can collect NetFlow, Jflow, and sFlow data. This lets you keep track of network traffic, identify which apps hog the most bandwidth, and even catch suspicious activity.

A nice feature is that InterMapper features remote access by default. You can securely manage multiple sites from the comfort of your home.

Supplement all of that with a decent alerting engine and solid reporting features, and you get a competitive offer.

Mapping Tools

Once InterMapper discovers all your devices, it’s easy to drag-and-drop them to create maps.

You get a ton of features and templates here. You can rearrange devices to make the map more representative of your network. You can even create hierarchical submaps to break down maps of complex networks.

The network monitoring application employs layer 2 and layer 3 mapping to give you a more granular view. You can see which device is connected to which switch port and find troublesome hardware faster.

If that’s not enough, you can create geographical maps based on blueprints or floor plans. That way, it’s easy to find the location of problem devices. And if you run a distributed network, you can use the Google Earth integration to keep track of equipment on a larger scale.

All the mapping functionality is off the charts.

Automation

HelpSystems is big on automation, and so is InterMapper.

For instance, you can run different scripts when an alert is triggered. You can also try to fix failed devices by restarting them automatically.

The network management tool’s real power comes from the integration with Automate, which is another Helpsystems software. It can handle things like automating browser processes, data extraction, reporting, file transfers, MS applications, and GUI actions.

You can trigger dozens of different actions on InterMapper alerts. You get a ton of new ways to automatically resolve common issues or gather data on potential problems.

Interface and Usability

Installing InterMapper is as easy as following the wizard. The software is agentless, so there’s no need to install sensors. The auto-discovery tool can map out your network in a jiffy.

The dashboards look a bit dated, as you don’t get the same comprehensive view of most network monitoring tools. Still, it’s easy to get around once you’re used to them.

You can also configure monitors and alerts in no time.

InterMapper is one of the most user-friendly systems.

Pricing

InterMapper only has quoted plans. The price is calculated per device, so you don’t have to count interfaces and monitors. If you want to try out the software, you can use the 30-day trial.

Verdict

InterMapper is the king of mapping and automation. Plus, it’s one of the best network monitors in terms of ease of use. What more could you ask for?

WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold

GREAT FOR MIDRANGE & LARGE NETWORKS

Starting at
Custom
  • EASE OF USE Easy to use
  • SUPPORT Phone support
  • PRICING MODEL Quoted plans
  • FREE TRIAL 30-day trial
  • Decent monitoring features
  • Functional customizable dashboards
  • Great alerting
  • Application monitoring
  • Configuration management tools
  • Traffic analyzer
  • Straightforward setup process and usability
  • Allows reconfiguring the plans
  • Unattractive interface

Not to be confused with WhatsApp, WhatsUp Gold is a robust piece of monitoring tech with exciting features. Here’s what they are:

Features

You would have to install WhatsUp Gold on-premises. It runs on Windows systems.

Monitoring Features

WhatsUp Gold can monitor your network by using ping, SNMP, WMI, or SSH protocols. You can track the availability or performance of pretty much anything.

The network management tool uses auto-discovery to add everything to your interactive maps. You can track a range of metrics like CPU utilization, bandwidth, traffic, etc. And did I mention it works on wireless networks?

The most recent edition of WhatsUp Gold adds cloud monitoring. It can discover elements in AWS and Azure environments. One nice addition is that you can keep track of resource utilization and even add alert thresholds to manage better infrastructure costs.

One nice option is to design different dashboards for specific audiences. For instance, you can create a simplified one for higher-ups that want to be kept in the loop.

The alerting engine is decent as well. You can configure various alert conditions and thresholds. These can go out to different users based on the device in question. You can even alert the hardware manufacturer if they provide technical support.

On top of that, the network monitoring solution can launch a script or restart a device on alert.

Optional Tools

Where WhatsUp Gold really shows its power is all the extras.

Application monitoring can track the performance of databases, web servers, MS apps like SharePoint, etc. You can even create custom profiles for in-house apps.

A network traffic analyzer is there to catch possible bottlenecks based on past trends. It can also catch traffic from suspicious sources.

Virtualization monitoring works with VMWare and Hyper-V virtual machines. You can keep an eye on availability, resource load, and VM performance.

Add distributed monitoring, VoIP traffic monitoring, failover management, a REST API, and WhatsUp Gold is impressive all-round.

Configuration Management

One outstanding add-on is configuration management.

It lets WhatsUp Gold store configuration templates of elements like routers, switches, or firewalls. The system can alert you of any unauthorized changes. It’s an awesome way to catch suspicious activity (or simple mistakes).

Another option is to run a bulk configuration change from the network monitoring software. It can severely cut down the time to reconfigure various devices.

Interface and Usability

Once you install WhatsUp Gold, the system can auto-discover all devices and add them to a logical map of your network. From there, all the options are under three main tabs.

Setting everything up and adding devices feels intuitive. You can even use filtering to quickly find the device you need.

The network probing tool doesn’t have the flashiest interface, but it’s generally user-friendly.

Pricing

WhatsUp Gold pricing is calculated based on the number and type of monitored devices and available features. In other words, you should request a quote.

One cool aspect is that you can always reconfigure your plan without purchasing a new license. You would only need to cover the price difference.

Verdict

WhatsUp Gold has many attractive features for medium and large businesses. It’s not the flashiest, but it does handle everything well with little to complain about.

What Is Network Monitoring?

Put simply, network monitoring is the process of, well, monitoring the behavior of a computer network. This includes traffic type, bottlenecks, spikes in usage and much more.

A typical monitoring tool would map out your network and all relevant devices. Once you configure everything, you can gain insights into key metrics like server CPU or storage utilization, bandwidth usage, application or database performance, etc.

Typically, certain events trigger alerts. This can be a critical occurrence like hardware failure or something minor bottlenecking your traffic. You can track metrics in real-time or even project future issues.

Of course, much more goes into the typical network monitor solution. Most come with advanced features like mapping out cloud and hybrid networks, designing physical 3D maps, catching security threats, and even AI capabilities.

The benefits are finding the root cause of issues faster, more effective network capacity planning, maintaining network visibility, testing new tech, maintaining compliance, etc. The tools simply keep you in the know about the state of your network.

If you’re struggling to keep up with your own network, here’s how to find the best tool for your needs.

How to Choose the Best Network Monitoring Tool

With so many tools to choose from, how do you pick the best one?

Don’t worry, I’ll cover all the key points to consider before you make the purchase.

Evaluate Your Network

First and foremost, the network monitoring software you need primarily depends on your network. If you run a highly specialized network, you’ll want a specialized solution. For instance, hospitals usually need a specific system that supports tracking healthcare devices.

For more typical systems, you should consider things like whether you run Linux or Windows machines. Also, do you use virtual machines or cloud infrastructure? How quickly do you spin up new workloads? Do you need to monitor multiple facilities?

And then there’s the device/service/application type. Most solutions can track servers, routers, switches, and hardware firewalls. But you might also want to monitor databases, applications, email servers, containers, or anything else.

Once you know this, it should be pretty easy to eliminate tools that don’t fit the bill.

The Scope of Network Monitoring

The number of monitored devices is a major factor.

The network monitoring tools above work pretty well both on the small-scale and for larger projects. It can get confusing, though, since some providers charge per sensor instead of per device.

A good rule of thumb is to go for 5-10 sensors per device. This is just the average, though. A clever way to gauge the exact number is to sign up for a free trial and see how many sensors you typically use per device.

Network Scalability

Companies relying on IT often experience exponential infrastructure growth. This is especially true if you run something like a cloud setup where you can spin up workloads on a whim.

It’s worth considering how likely your network is to change in the following years. Your network monitoring program should be able to grow with it.

Ease of Deployment and Use

Some monitoring tools are simple to handle, while others require a lot of manual work.

Most users want something that can be configured easily to clear up time for more critical operations. Things to look for are:

  • An intuitive interface
  • Automatic device discovery and mapping
  • Lots of monitoring and alert templates

OpManager is an excellent example here. As soon as you set it up, it can automatically discover thousands of devices and assign monitors to each one. Just imagine if you had to do all of that by hand!

Unless you have experienced engineers willing to get into the nitty-gritty of network monitoring tools, a straightforward solution is something to look for.

Alert Sensitivity and Customization

Alerts are the reason monitoring tools are such an important asset. They can notify you of issues as soon as they need to be addressed.

It’s best to get a tool that detects even the most minuscule signs of a problem. However, also look for solutions that give you as much freedom in customizing alerts as possible. You’ll want to play around with escalation rules, threshold-based alerts, and alert actions, like automatically running scripts.

In short, you’ll want a system that’s sensitive, but that won’t flood you with alerts when set up correctly.

Support and Documentation

Now, free network monitor tools usually get you little to no support. However, paid ones come with frequent patches and round-the-clock tech support.

Companies often include comprehensive documentation explaining the ins and outs of the products. More recently, many providers started doing webinars to demonstrate the product and teach the basic functions.

You can even check if a tool has an active community. Other users can be a huge asset if you have time to learn from their experiences.

It’s worth checking out how much help you can realistically expect.

Pricing Model

You’ll encounter all sorts of pricing schemes. Some companies charge per device, others per monitor.

Open-source solutions are obviously the cheapest. But, as the saying goes, open-source is only free if your time is worth nothing. Free network monitoring tools usually require a lot of effort and get you no support. Plus, commercial monitoring usually gets you more complete features.

As for paid solutions, the price is usually the last thing you should consider. It’s best to find software that fits all the above criteria and then see if you can cover the costs.

One final thing to point out is that most systems have a free trial or a limited free version that lets you test the main features. It’s a great place to start once you find a tool that looks good.

FAQ

What are tools for network monitoring?

Network monitoring tools are pieces of software used to keep track of a computer network and all devices connected to it. This includes servers, routers, switches, virtual machines, and sometimes even applications. They give administrators all the info they need to effectively maintain a network.

What are network monitoring tools used for?

For the most part, administrators use monitoring tools to easily discover the root causes of a network problem or forecast future issues. It might seem like a trivial matter, but diagnosing a failing network switch among hundreds of devices can be a proper pain.

Of course, the best network monitors typically include a whole slew of other features, like device auto-discovery, alerting and reporting, and thousands of possible ways to monitor a device. For the most part, though, you would use the software to avoid outages and performance bottlenecks.

What are the benefits of network monitoring?

Using a monitoring software can let you reap all sorts of benefits, mainly having a clear overview of the network. You can find the causes of issues faster and even forecast future issues. You can automate various processes, like automatically rebooting failed devices.

And that’s just scratching the surface. You can read more about running a monitoring software above.

What is the best network monitoring software for free?

If you’d like a completely free network monitoring software, you can go for an open-source solution like Zabbix, Icinga, or Nagios Core. All three are popular among its users, flexible, and reasonably scalable.

Just keep in mind open-source options are free, but all the installation, configuration, and troubleshooting are on. What you don’t give to the creators of the software, you might pay in manhours.

If you’re interested in something more stable with support provided, most paid platforms extend a trial version. This lets you see if the platform works for you on a small-scale. If you’re interested, all the best network monitor tools reviewed above have a free version you can give a test ride.

What are the benefits of network monitoring?

Using a monitoring software can let you reap all sorts of benefits, mainly having a clear overview of the network. You can find the causes of issues faster and even forecast future issues.

And that’s just scratching the surface. You can read more about running a monitoring software above.

How do I monitor devices on my network?

There are plenty of monitoring systems available. The best one depends on the size of your network and exactly what you need to monitor. You can get a tool for everything from keeping track of simple things like server CPU load to niche stuff like MRI machine activity. If you’re unsure where to start, you can check out the industry-leading network monitoring tools above.