The four best network monitoring tools in the business

As one of the most critical IT functions, network monitoring is essential when it comes to combating slow and failing network systems. By optimising system performances and managing usage and performance, you can save money, improve employee productivity, and stabilise your network’s overall infrastructure.

With an effective monitoring system, you’ll be equipped with the right set of tools to help you best manage your network. Whether you’re interested in open-source options or a commercial monitoring system, there are several viable options to choose from. Below are four of the most reputable monitoring systems in the IT industry.

Top four network monitoring tools

Open source network monitoring tools have benefits that rival many commercial solutions. However, with thousands of monitoring tools to choose from, determining which tool is best for managing your network can be a challenge. If you’re interested in a powerful monitoring tool that is easy to install and demands less involvement on your end, consider investing in a commercial network monitoring tool. Though this solution is an investment, it doesn’t require the strenuous amounts of learning, installation, or configuration; it is ready to be used directly out-of-the-box.

1. Nagios Core

As an IT professional, chances are you’ve heard about Nagios Core - one of the industry’s most popular free network monitoring tools. Because Nagios is capable of doing virtually everything, it’s one of the most recommended solutions for proficient IT specialists. From external plug-in support and shell scripts, to extended graphing and notification escalation, Nagios has all the essential features needed to properly monitor your network. It also has active development community and advanced plug-in capabilities, and as such is a great solution for individuals who have time to learn and master the tool.

2. Cacti

Cacti harnesses the power of high performance data logging and graphing systems (RRDTool) to provide advanced IT monitoring solutions. With Cacti, you can collect data from virtually any network element, such as routing and switching systems, firewalls, load balancers, and servers. You can then display all of this valuable information on one concise graph. Cacti’s single, easy-to-use interface is great for anything from LAN-sized installations to complex, multi-device networks. Some leading benefits include:

  • Fast poller capabilities
  • Advanced graph templating
  • Multiple data acquisition methods
  • User management features

With a strong community of developers, Cacti has advantageous device support and graphing capabilities that stand out from similar open-source systems.

3. Zabbix

Designed to monitor and track the status of various network services, servers, and other devices, Zabbix offers a single, simple GUI that many users find easy to manage and navigate. With technologies like SNMP, ICMP, Telnet, and SSH and Zabbix supports agentless monitoring solutions that complement major operating systems and databases like Windows OS, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and others. There are several monitoring options including:

  • Simple checks that verify the availability and responsiveness of standard monitoring services without installing software on the host
  • Monitoring agents that help track stats like the CPU load, network utilisation, disk space, and more
  • Real-time notification mechanisms like XMPP

Though setting up Zabbix is complex and time consuming, it remains one of the most popular open source network monitoring tool due to its customisable capabilities and advanced programming language.

4. Network Performance Monitor by SolarWinds

SolarWinds’ Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is easy to install and has monitoring and reporting capabilities that seamlessly complement many of the fundamental tools you’re using for free. As a simple and comprehensive network fault, NPM has the ability to monitor networks of any size. Whether you’re working with a small, growing network or a multi-vendor matrix, NPM offers a blanket of benefits including:

  • Fast-track response time
  • Availability and uptime of routers, switches, and other SNMP-enabled devices
  • Out-of-the-box dashboards, alerts, reports, and expert guidance and what you should monitor and how to monitor it

When shopping for your ideal monitoring system, keep in mind the benefits of these leading options. With several reputable systems in both the free and commercial realms, you’re sure to pick the best monitoring solution that fits your wants and needs.

Brooke Cade, freelance IT writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens