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The best 11 network monitoring tools of 2021

Network monitoring tools minimize network downtime and ensure optimal performance output no matter how long ago it was set up.

Published: August 18, 2021 By Rakesh Naik

Man uses laptop, server kabinet is open and cables are visible

Image source – freebip.com

Imagine painstakingly setting up a network for you to connect all your computers and IoT devices, only to have the entire thing slow down over time or even crash entirely.

The solution that you're looking for is called network performance monitors. These tools constantly analyze your network to point out any potential flaws or issues that might impede its performance. If you want to have also security overview on your network, then SIEM solutions will help you better.

In this article, we look at 11 different network monitors that are currently the best in the market and help you keep your network in perfect shape minimizing the network downtime and optimize its performance.

I have personally tested all the tools listed in the article and rated them according to how useful I found each tool. This rating is purely based on my experience with it; your personal opinion may not always match with mine.

 

1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

The SolarWinds NPM dashboard showing various network data and status

Image Source – solarwinds.com

The SolarWinds network monitor software is one of the best network monitors in the market, and I don’t even have to tell you how great this tool is at doing its job. The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor can monitor your network constantly along with the devices connected to it.

SNMP automatically detects any new devices that connect to the network, which can be viewed on a topology map of the entire structure. The software also comes with all advanced features such as data packet tracing, packet analysis, and even custom alerts.

After using this for a couple of days, it does feel easy to use, provided you have a basic understanding of the concept. But it is more suitable for enterprises, and I wouldn't recommend it for personal use unless you have almost $3000 just lying around.

Verdict: 9/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
30-day free trial
Windows & Linux
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Allows packet analysis and tracing
  • Automatically detects new devices in the network
  • Constant monitoring of network and devices
  • Meant for large enterprises and might be overwhelming for small ones
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Automatic device detection
  • Advanced alert systems
  • Network heatmaps marking each connected device

 

2. Datadog

The Datadog dashboard showing various traffic information in the network

Image Source – datadoghq.com

Datadog Network Performance Monitor is a cloud-based SaaS network solution that can be used to monitor live stats of a network as well as the devices connected to it. The network monitor from its continuous monitoring activity can create an inventory of all network devices as well as create an interactive topology map of the network and devices.

The Datadog Network Performance Monitor comes with an auto-discovery system that automatically detects any new devices added to the network and adjusts the inventory accordingly.

The network topology map created holds various information about the network as well as the connected devices, such as how much each of them contributes to the network traffic, and also allow traffic analysis of all network data – their source, path, destination, and such.

The free version of the app, even though lacking in most of the advanced network monitor features, allows the basic network performance monitoring features. The free version does not come as a cloud-based service but instead can be run locally. You can definitely use this for small-scale as well as personal uses.

Verdict: 10/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
Free with Paid plans
Windows, Mac, & Linux
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Interactive visual maps of network traffic flow
  • Supervises DNS server
  • Being cloud-based SaaS allows easy deployment
  • Steep learning curve
  • Documentation could use more details and improvements
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Live status of the network and connected devices monitored
  • Visually maps all traffic data to interactive topology map
  • DNS server monitoring

 

3. NinjaRMM

NinjaRMM dashboard showing individual device stats and health

Image Source – ninjarmm.com

The NinjaRMM Network Monitoring solution is a powerful endpoint management system built for IT professionals and any form of a service provider. It offers advanced device management features as well, allowing you remote control over these network devices.

NinjaRMM also has an IT documentation feature, which was added quite recently, that offers a powerful system for documentation. It can document everything in the IT environments, standardize documentation across environments, securely store and even share passwords, etc.

After a few days of using the software, it does seem like something suited for a business environment rather than personal usage, but it still can do. The only problem would be that it doesn't offer a free version but instead offers a 30-day free trial.

It does, however, have a few bugs here and there, mostly during the update and patch installation. The user interface could also use some work, in being a bit simpler, which at the moment is quite confusing and cluttered to use.

Verdict: 8/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
30-day free trial
Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, & Android
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Automate third-party application updates and patches
  • Standardize deployment and configuration of all devices in the network
  • Monitor other peripheral network devices such as routers and switches
  • User-interface is congested and takes time to get used to
  • Minor bugs during patching
  • Poor support for Mac and Android devices
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • IT Documentation
  • Control devices connected to the network
  • Take inventory of all networked hardware and software

 

4. PRTG Network Monitor

The PRTG user interface displaying the entire IT infrastructure concerning a network

Image Source – paessler.com

The PRTG network monitor is a solution that uses the SNMP protocol along with packet sniffing, SSH, and even WMI to monitor the host network. It has one of the most advanced infrastructure management systems that displays all devices in the network in a hierarchical view with all information listed along with it.

It has a few interesting features such a real-time network topology maps or heatmaps, a customizable dashboard, a threshold-based alert and notification system, etc.

But a feature that I enjoyed using the most was its mobile app that can be used to monitor all the devices. Each device summary can be viewed very easily by simply scanning a QR code using the app on the mobile device. Each device would have its own QR code that can be printed out and attached to the physical hardware.

Like a few other tools in this article, the PRTG network monitor, too, is mainly aimed at enterprise and business use. The tool does have a free version supporting most of the basic functions, but the advanced ones do require purchase.

You could use the free version for personal use, but it does have a decently steep learning curve.

Verdict: 8/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
Free with paid plans
Windows
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Combination of various technologies for network monitoring
  • Easy monitoring of individual devices using a mobile app
  • Customizable dashboard
  • 10 different methods of alert & notification
  • Steep learning curve
  • Only runs on Windows machines
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Auto-discovery of devices in the network
  • Real-time network topology map
  • Sensors to monitor important devices and their health

 

5. Nagios Core

The Nagios dashboard displaying host data along with individual device information

Image Source – nagios.com

Nagios is one of the most flexible network monitors in terms of the category of users for the tool. Nagios can be used by a normal person or a networking professional, with the software being available in versions supporting each type of user.

Nagios even has an open-source version available for more advanced users who can make small tweaks to the software to better suit their needs.

Nagios can monitor your entire network along with all devices and hosts in the network. The software also allows improving user experience by providing thousands of plugins available in the Nagios community platform.

Furthermore, Nagios also can track performance and send necessary alerts through SMS or email, which can be further customized by the user.

The free version of the software is more than enough for personal use and comes with all the basic network monitoring functions that a regular user like you and I would need.

The only drawback to the solution is the tedious installation process of the entire software. If you don’t have the right knowledge, you will find the whole process of installing Nagios very complicated and quite technical.

Verdict: 10/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
Free
Windows, Linux, & UNIX
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Thousands of plugins are available through community platforms
  • Customizable alerts through email or SMS
  • Open-source version available
  • The installation process is quite tedious
  • The open-source version lacks enough support even though it is paid-for
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Can monitor availability and status of network resources
  • Visual representation of network infrastructure and devices
  • Can be integrated with APIs

 

6. LogicMonitor

Network overview along with topology map in the LogicMonitor network monitor tool

Image Source – logicmonitor.com

LogicMonitor is a SaaS network monitoring solution, which can be deployed on-premises, cloud, or even with hybrid infrastructure, meaning a few services and software will be on-premises while the rest will be on the cloud.

Like most other similar tools, the LogicMonitor will also discover the entire network infrastructure on its own. In addition, the tool also monitors network health and identifies potential issues through trend analysis and predictive alters.

What makes the LogicMonitor one of my favourite tools for network monitoring is the granularity it allows in the monitoring function, with it even monitoring CPU temperature, cooling fans, memory, and other hardware.

The solution also comes with a high amount of customizability with its dashboard, alerts as well as reporting function.

Frankly, this tool is more suited in a corporate setting or for networking aficionados as the software mostly runs locally on Linux and a few other Unix-based systems.

Verdict: 8/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
14-day free trial
Linux, Unix, & cloud platforms
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • The granularity of components monitored
  • High customizability
  • Hybrid deployment
  • Only runs locally on Linux
  • Needs more options for reporting and documentation
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Provides monitoring of highly granular network components
  • Almost everything on the tool can be customized
  • Auto-detection of all network devices as well as peripheral components

 

7. Zabbix

Zabbix dashboard displaying the network data along with the topology map

Image Source – zabbix.com

Zabbix is the most popular open-source network monitoring tool, second only to the Nagios network monitor. Zabbix uses SNMP & IPMP protocols to monitor a variety of different platforms besides networks, such as servers, cloud, applications, and even services.

The tool automatically detects new devices in the network and updates the device inventory accordingly.

One quite interesting feature in the tool is the availability of pre-configured templates for monitoring which can be easily deployed for most of the popular vendors.

The alerts and notifications system of the tool is highly flexible, allowing alerts through emails, SMS, messenger, etc., and even allow custom scripts for potential network changes. The notification and alerts can also be customized to better suit the needs of the user.

However, as much as I praise the notification and alerts system, it isn’t without its flaws. The system returns quite a few false positives and isn’t as intuitive as a few of its competitors when it comes to being intuitive.

Verdict: 7/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
Free
Linux & web-based
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Open-source
  • Pre-configured templates allow quick deployment and launch
  • The use of both SNMP and IPMP makes the monitoring range broader
  • Reports a few false positives here and there
  • Alert system could use more functionality
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Pre-configured templates for most vendors
  • Integration with APIs
  • Can monitor network, cloud, server, application, and services

 

8. Icinga

Icinga user interface displaying individual host information and status

Image Source – icinga.com

Icinga is a free-to-use and open-source network monitoring solution that can monitor networks, cloud-service, and even data centres or servers. The software can be deployed as web-based or can be run locally in a few different Linux distros.

Icinga can be configured using a GUI or a Domain Specific Language (DSL), giving the user a choice to choose between the two as per convenience. Furthermore, being built on top of MySQL and PostgreSQL, it is backwards compatible with Nagios scripts which can be easily imported.

Icinga is very customizable when it comes to functionality with the wide array of plugins available, which are known as "Icinga Modules". These modules include monitoring of virtual machines, host systems, peripheral hardware, and much more.

The availability of a community platform means free support through other users, plus access to even more community-created add-on modules.

Verdict: 8/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
Free
Windows & Linux
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Can be configured using GUI or DSL providing better control
  • Can extend functionality using add-on modules
  • Reliant on community for updates
  • Designed for technical users
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Web-based GUI
  • Icinga modules to add functionality
  • Open-source

 

9. ManageEngine OpManager

The ManageEngine OpManager dashboard showing heatmaps and other network info

Image Source – manageengine.com

The ManageEngine OpManager is a network monitor that can result in real-time monitor the performance of various network devices as well as hardware, including routers, switches, and even virtual machines.

The software also has a customizable dashboard with over 200 different widgets that can allow users to create a unique user experience.

ManageEngine OpManager uses the SNMP protocol to monitor the network that uses the network mapping feature to automatically discover and map new devices in the network. While the discovery process isn’t entirely automated, it can be scheduled to run and discover devices at set times.

The software has over 2000 built-in performance monitors, which can also monitor both visual and virtual servers as well as server host performance.

The ManageEngine OpManager is a free tool and can be easily deployed on-premises for all network-related activities.

The only flaw that I found is the steep learning curve of the software. If a new user who has never used this tool is to pick it up, they will find it quite difficult to use the software and will take some time to get used to it.

Verdict: 7/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
Free
Windows & Linux
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Can be used right after deployment with over 200 different widgets available
  • Integrates well with other ManageEngine tools
  • Intelligent alerts to reduce false positives
  • Steep learning curve
  • No truly automated device discovery feature
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • SNMP protocol to monitor network
  • Automated network mapping
  • Over 200 widgets are available for easy deployment

 

10. Connectwise Automate

The Connectwise Automate dashboard with various network information

Image Source – connectwise.com

The Connectwise Automate network monitor, formerly known as Labtech, is a cloud-based monitoring solution capable of tracking networks and connected devices at a single location. The software employs proactive network management with automated scans and updates for new devices.

Connectwise Automate is also capable of interpreting potential threats using historical data analysis, which can prevent any issues or system crashes.

One interesting feature that I quite like in the tool is the “Patch Management” utility that allows simultaneous installation of patches/updates through a centralized manager. This ensures all your devices stay protected in the network

Verdict: 7/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
7-day free trial
Windows, Mac, & Linux
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Regular updates and maintenance
  • A vast array of plugins and add-ons
  • Supports scripts to improve functionality
  • Poor support
  • Poor UI/UX
  • Takes quite some time to configure and deploy
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Proactive network monitoring
  • Endpoint management
  • Patch management for simultaneous patching

 

11. Spiceworks

The Spiceworks user interface showing data and status of each device

Image Source – spiceworks.com

The Spiceworks brand offers a variety of IT management tools of which, my point of interest is the network monitoring solution. Built on protocols such as SNMP and WMI, the tool provides a lot of details on network devices as well as potential issues.

The software also has customizable alerts, which can be set up to notify the user of any issues or fluctuations in the performance of the network and devices.

Furthermore, the software also allows remote restart of connected devices remotely without direct access to the device.

Verdict: 6/10


$$$ PRICE
PLATFORM
Free
Windows
+++ PROS
--- CONS
  • Web-based UI offers global access to the software
  • Customizable alerts and notifications
  • Can’t be integrated with any third-party software
  • The user interface could be a bit less cluttered and simple
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
  • Web-based user interface
  • Simple and easy to deploy

 

Infographics

Since many our readers prefer easily digestible information over the practical and comprehensive tables, I have prepared specially crafted inforgraphics with all reviewed and tested tools in there.

Infographics listing the top 11 network monitors in the market for 2021 along with their individual rating, price as well as supported platforms

Feel free to share the code of infographics

<iframe width="574" height="2597" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="overflow-y:hidden;" src="/sites/default/files/pictures/security/monitoring-tools-2021/monitoring-tools-2021-12.jpg"></iframe>

Conclusion

Our two vendors for Nagios Core and Datadog, which took 10 or 10 possible points, seem to be the best solutions on the market in 2021.

Even though the SolarWinds solution reached 9 of 10 points, everybody remembers the beginning of 2021 with a big scandal because of RAT Trojan distribution on the manufacturer site. This particular case is clearly showing that even enterprise solutions are very vulnerable to supply-chain attack.

Monitoring tools are helping to narrow down and identity problems, but you have to tweak those measures to ensure Internet and network optimal performance.

If you found this article educating, or you want to make some edits or suggestions to it, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Tags: 
Security
Author
Rakesh Naik
Freelance Cyber Security Analyst and Writer practicing in Infosec Assessment.

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