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.
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 monitoring up and running in minutes with custom plans based on the number of nodes in your network and the type of monitoring you desire. And the system supports agent-based and agentless monitoring of a wide variety of devices, as well as SNMP 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. With the exception of Spiceworks Network Monitor, Monitis is the most basic network monitoring tool on this list but also the most straightforward to set up and use.
OpManager is a software application that runs on-premises. While it is a fully featured monitoring platform, it has a strong emphasis on networking. It also has explicit support for real-time monitoring, threshold-based alerts, and a complete set of troubleshooting tools built into its management console. 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 that 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 that also offers a complete set of networking 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. It also has an extensive collection of plug-and-play “templates” for network hardware from 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 common network equipment
A version of Zabbix for the cloud is in beta.
LogicMonitor is another SaaS offering. It is a complete solution for system and network monitoring with a wide variety of off-the-shelf integrations for both cloud services, network infrastructure, and automation.
LogicMonitor has an extensive list of integrations, such as Slack, Pager Duty, and Stride (formerly known as HipChat) for messaging, and a variety of others for ticketing and automation. It can alert your team using email, SMS, and the integrated message systems.
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.
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 that cover thousands of network components, applications, and systems.
Nagios XI is a commercial fork of the open-source project available as a licensed application with a variety of support options. Both applications run on-premises. While there are differences between the two versions, both are very mature network management and monitoring systems. Nagios XI has a network analyzer package with features specific to network monitoring.
- monitoring of network services
- a browser-based management console
- a simple plugin design that allows users to easily develop 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 an 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.
WhatsUp Gold 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 that runs on both Windows and Linux. It offers basic monitoring capabilities via support for SNMP versions one and two and works well with more network hardware. However, there are sponsored advertisements—that’s how it manages to be free. Spiceworks Network Monitor will send 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 online documentation that can help you find the monitoring system that best suits your individual needs.
Use this list to start your search and find the right system. The cafeteria is counting on you.
(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!)