Sales, pre-sales, human resources, the company cafeteria: they’re all online. If the network is down, employees are angry and customers have gone elsewhere.
That’s why network traffic monitoring is a critical part of maintaining a healthy enterprise.
We’ll cover how to proactively watch systems, and why it’s important.
We’ll also review a list of the best tools available to monitor your network traffic so you can find the system that best suits your individual needs.
Why Network Traffic Monitoring?
Fixing network problems when they happen isn’t good enough. IT managers have to proactively watch systems and head off potential issues before they occur.
This means observing network traffic and measuring utilization, availability, and performance.
A useful monitoring tool offers these features:
- real-time network monitoring
- an ability to detect outages in real time
- a mechanism for sending alerts
- integrations for network hardware, such as SNMP and NetFlow monitoring
This is a list of the best tools available for monitoring your network traffic. Several of them are sold as SaaS, others for running on-premises, and a couple are open-source with optional commercial versions.
All of these tools offer more than just network monitoring. They also offer varying degrees of system, web, and application performance monitoring too.
Monitis is a SaaS offering that has been around for more than a decade. It features the ability to get your network traffic monitoring up and running in minutes.
Monitis also offers custom plans based on the number of nodes in your network and the type of monitoring you desire. The system supports agent-based and agentless monitoring of a wide variety of devices.
Monitis supports SNMP too, of course. Monitis offers users:
- a browser-based management console
- monitoring for users, websites, servers, applications, and networks
- 30+ locations around the world for running availability checks
- Detailed reporting based on preset and custom date ranges on up to two years of data
Monitis will send alerts via email, SMS, telephone, Google Talk, or Twitter, or they will post them to a web URL that you define.
It also integrates with Pager Duty. Except for Spiceworks Network Monitor, Monitis is the most basic network monitoring tool on this list.
OpManager is a software application that runs on-premises. While it is a fully-featured monitoring platform, it has a strong emphasis on network traffic monitoring.
Ops Manager has explicit support for real-time monitoring, threshold-based alerts, and a built-in set of troubleshooting tools. OpManager sends alerts via email and SMS.
Some key features in OpManager are the following:
- correlating related events in the management console to detect patterns
- highly customizable management interface
- real-time network graphing for statistics such as bandwidth utilization on network ports
- built-in network tools such as ICMP ping and traceroute that simplify the process of troubleshooting problems
- complete SNMP integration
OpManager is a complete network management tool. It boasts a client list that includes NASA, DHL, and AT&T.
A trial version is available for download. Licensing is based on the number of nodes you want to monitor.
Zabbix is an open-source monitoring platform with a complete set of networking traffic monitoring features. You can download it and install it yourself, purchase consulting support, or buy a turnkey solution.
Zabbix has broad community support with extensive online documentation. Zabbix also has an extensive collection of plug-and-play “templates” for network hardware.
The templates support major vendors like Cisco, Brocade, Netgear, and HP. Among Zabbix’s major networking features are:
- active and passive scanning of network hardware and servers
- automatic detection of new devices and configuration changes
- tools for building predictive functions based on historical data
- full SNMP integration with templates for conventional network equipment
A version of Zabbix for the cloud is in beta.
LogicMonitor is another SaaS offering. It’s a complete solution for system and network monitoring with a wide variety of off-the-shelf integrations.
LogicMonitor has an extensive list of integrations, such as Slack and Pager Duty for messaging. The system can alert your team using email, SMS, and its integrated messaging system.
Logic Monitor includes these features:
- interface metrics, such as throughput, error rates, and utilization statistics
- automatic discovery of network devices and interfaces
- profiles for monitoring VOIP, QOS settings, and wireless access points
- predictive alerting and trend analysis
- SNMP integration
Logic Monitor is sold in three licensing tiers, so you can customize your system to the size of your network.
Nagios and Nagios XI
Nagios is another open-source project available both as a free or a supported product.
The open-source project, called Nagios Core, is a platform that can be configured with open-source plugins. These plugins cover thousands of network traffic monitoring situations.
Nagios XI is a commercial fork of the open-source project. It’s available as a licensed application with a variety of support options. Both the open source and commercial variants applications run on-premises.
While there are differences between the two versions, both are mature products. Nagios XI has a network analyzer package with features specific to network traffic monitoring.
- monitoring of network services
- a browser-based management console
- a simple plugin for custom service checks
- Alerts via email, SMS, and user-defined scripts.
- the ability to define event handlers to be run during service or host events for proactive problem resolution
- extensive device support via SNMP
PRTG Network Monitor is an application that is available as both a download or a hosted application. It runs on a Windows server but can be viewed from any browser and on Android and IOS applications.
PRTG will send notifications over email, SMS, push notifications to their mobile apps, and Amazon SNS events. Paessler has impressive online documentation, including tutorial videos, on their website.
PRTG network monitor offers:
- network traffic monitoring
- in-depth reporting features
- a customizable network map
- SNMP management and monitoring
Paessler licenses PRTG Network Monitor on a per-node business. And Paessler also offers a collection of freeware monitoring tools.
Ipswitch’s WhatsUp Gold is an on-premise networking monitoring solution. It provides status and statistics for network devices, servers, storage, and wireless access points.
It has an add-on for network traffic analysis that provides detailed data about bandwidth utilization for individual devices.
WhatsUp Gold can send alerts via SMS, Slack, email, and application alarms. It has a comprehensive list of features, including:
- automated network discovery
- customizable dashboards
- network traffic analysis
- SNMP integration
WhatsUp Gold is licensed based on the number of nodes you wish to monitor.
Spiceworks Network Monitor
Spiceworks Network Monitor is a free networking monitoring application for Windows and Linux. It offers basic monitoring capabilities via SNMP versions one and two.
Spiceworks works well with more network hardware. However, it has sponsored advertisements—that’s why it’s free. Spiceworks Network Monitor sends alerts via email and inside the application.
Spiceworks is a basic network monitoring application with
- real-time monitoring for servers, switches, and any IP device that support SNMP
- support for up to 25 devices
- very easy installation and configuration procedures
Selecting a network traffic monitoring tool requires doing your homework. You’ll find that there are a lot of good tools available, but each of them has their strengths and weaknesses.
The good news is the best have free trials and good online documentation. Take advantage of them to find the network traffic monitoring system that best suits your individual needs.
(And remember, regardless of how you monitor your network traffic, you can always incorporate it as a Scalyr data source).
This post was written by Eric Goebelbecker.Eric Goebelbecker has worked in the financial markets in New York City for 25 years, developing infrastructure for market data and financial information exchange (FIX) protocol networks. He loves to talk about what makes teams effective (or not so effective!)