Today most of the organizations spread across the globe are connected via Network. All systems within an organization are usually connected via networks and network components such as routers, switches, servers, firewalls, etc.
Since the organizations are dependent on these networks, organizations must invest in the best network application monitoring tools and free Network monitoring software to manage their devices’ visibility and availability.
For this purpose, various vendors are releasing free Network monitoring software almost every year. These tools will help you gather useful information about different parts of the Network and manage and control the entire Network.
With the best network monitoring tools, organizations will perform fault monitoring, performance monitoring, account monitoring, and examining components like email servers, applications, and other internal members of the Network.
As there is a plethora of free network monitoring software available in the market, we have included the best ones in this article.
Before that, let us enhance your understanding of Network Performance Monitoring.
What is Network Performance Monitoring?
Network Performance Monitoring is a network performance monitoring system that monitors performance problems in the Network and collects data related to performance such as network delays, performance bottlenecks, crashed servers, packet losses, etc. This can also be found by doing a performance testing of the applications.
It is the responsibility of these tools to ensure that the network problems are mitigated.
As a part of network management, paid and open-source Network monitoring software monitors a network for any failures and sends a notification to the network administrator of the same via SMS, email, or any other type of alarm.
Features of a Network Performance Monitoring
Network performance monitoring software and tools have the following features:
- Baseline threshold calculation
- Customizable reports
- Hardware health monitoring
- Automated device discovery
- Wireless infrastructure monitoring
- Packet capture analysis
- Network Performance Monitoring
- Network mapping
- Network capacity planning
We have listed ten tools in this article and all of which have similar or different features. So, you can select the one which is most suitable for your organization.
Types of Network Monitoring Tools
There are two types of network monitor software:
- Packet sniffers: They are used to sample network traffic.
- Network performance monitors: They collect network device reports.
As for network monitoring tools, these are of seven types:
- Performance testers – These systems issue commands such as ping and traceroute used to gather statistics.
- SIEM tools – This tool is used to examine log files for security breaches.
- Wireless sniffers – This tool is based on packet sniffers for wireless networks.
- Performance monitors – SNMP status message processors are present.
- Intrusion Detection Systems – It can identify standard and abnormal patterns in traffic.
- Firewalls – It can read packets traveling via network boundary.
- Protocol analyzers – These are based on packet sniffers for LANs.
Advantages of a Network Performance Monitor
There are several advantages of having a Network monitoring tool as part of your organization. Here we are listing a few of those advantages:
These tools can address issues and troubleshoot them quickly.
- They can provide support to IT services.
- The productivity of networks, users, and business can flourish using these tools.
- With a real-time monitoring solution, the downtime of the servers and the system can be significantly reduced. It can help in detecting bugs early.
- Wait time and response time of the technical resolution process can be mitigated.
- Admins get instant notifications for remediation and verification.
- The maintenance costs can be mitigated with the help of automated and scheduled updates, patches, etc.
- These tools optimize the performance of the Network.
Applications of Network Monitoring Software
- Threshold-based monitoring – These tools define various thresholds on which each performance management metric is measured. It can generate alerts for identifying network errors and troubleshoot them.
- Detailed Reports – You can use these monitoring solutions to create detailed reports and gain complete insights into the Network’s performance.
- Real-time Network monitoring – With the live graphs, you can watch all network devices’ performance in real-time.
- Reactive Network monitoring – The network monitoring software is reactive, which means it can solve errors by responding instantly to the corresponding errors.
- Physical and virtual server monitoring – These tools can monitor CPU’s performance, disk space availability, memory usage, physical servers, or other devices vital to the Network.
How does Network Performance Monitoring work?
Simple Network Management Protocol or SNMP is an industry-standard used by most network monitoring tools that collect SNMP agents’ data and require an SNMP manager.
All network devices that network device manufacturers ship have pre-installed SNMP agents. The SNMP manager is provided by your network monitoring tool.
In general, the following steps are involved:
Step 1. Monitoring the essentials
If the top network components are faulty, then the Network’s performance will be affected. These tools perform continuous monitoring of network devices and performance metrics to avoid network discovery problems.
Step 2. Deciding monitoring interval
Once the network components that need to be monitored are decided, the monitoring interval is determined based on the Network element’s vitality.
For example, servers and routers will be monitored more frequently than desktop and printers.
Step 3. Choosing the right protocol
The protocol used for network management must be secure and should not consume bandwidth, minimizing network performance.
For these purposes, SNMP, WMI, and CLI protocols are used on maximum network devices. SNMP agents are enabled and configured to communicate with the Network Management System (NMS).
Step 4. Setting thresholds
Thresholds play a significant role in finding performance bottlenecks proactively in comprehensive network monitoring tools.
You must configure these threshold limits according to your network components and businesses.
Who uses Network Performance Monitoring?
Network Monitoring tools are used by organizations that have Network dependent businesses or applications.
These tools can track various networking aspects such as bandwidth utilization, uptime, and traffic.
Choosing the right Network Performance Monitoring
The right network performance monitoring tool for you is the one that suits your and your organization’s needs.
To help you identify the best network monitoring tool, here are a few features that a useful network performance monitoring tool must have:
- Performance expectation thresholds must be present that can define an acceptable performance.
- It must have pre-written report templates using which critical network performance statistics can be automatically extracted for presentations and analysis.
- It contains an automated network topology mapper.
- The tool must include appropriate alerting mechanisms so that operators can view the problem quickly on the dashboard.
- To compile network inventory, the tool must have an auto-discovery function.
- For aiding rapid status recognition, it is best to have color-coded data visualizations.
- For each network device, the tool must provide statistics and a network performance summary.
Top 10 Best Network Application Monitoring
Here we have created a list of the latest application performance monitoring tools and systems that will help your organization track and monitor the network at all times.
Known for the advanced infrastructure management capabilities, the PRTG Network Monitor tool can display a summarized hierarchical view of performance and alerts for all systems, applications, devices, and traffic.
PRTG Network Monitor allows users to create a dashboard using a map designer and integrate network components.
Infrastructure technologies such as WMI, Flows/Packet Sniffing, REST APIs, Pings, SNMP, SSH, SQL, HTTP requests, etc., can be monitored using this tool.
The software allows a 14 day free trial with pricing plans anywhere between $1600 to $60000.
- By pinging defined IP ranges, PRTG can scan network segments.
- The alert generation is easy to use and flexible using its ten built-in technologies such as emails, play alarm audio files and pushes.
- Every license of PRTG comes with one failover to monitor failover tolerance.
- You can export the generated reports in XML, PDF, CSV, or HTML formats.
- Web pages can be created with desired designs and updated data center.
- Pricing plans are flexible.
- The tool has a desktop version and mobile app.
2. Nagios XI
The Nagios XI system aims at a broad audience such as freelancers, large corporations, and SMBs (Small to Medium Business), making Nagios’s pricing model one of the most flexible in the market.
The tool’s adaptability to plug-ins allows it to be extremely flexible for monitoring and alerts at a low cost.
The pricing plan for Nagios starts at $1995 for 100 nodes. However, the tool does not come with a free trial.
The key IT monitoring components for Nagios are Database, Network, and Infrastructure.
- Nagios can monitor node availability, response time, and uptime.
- It supports Linux, Microsoft, and VMWare and comes with a comprehensive dashboard.
- The software provides reports and visual representations that allow you to receive alerts for any abnormal activity.
- You can keep track of specific network flow information subsets.
- Using advanced, user-friendly options, IT teams can work together efficiently.
- Network monitoring tools can monitor issues like crashed servers using Nagios.
- The application provides complete insights on overall network health, network traffic, and bandwidth.
Datadog is a specially designed Network Performance Monitoring service (NPM) designed for hybrid cloud environments – on-premise and cloud-based networks.
To track performance, this software uses a unique and tag-based approach. You can break down network traffic between services, hosts, containers, or other Datadog tags.
Datadog provides extensibility via various APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and offers excellent documentation.
The software is straightforward to install and can be easily downloaded via various agents available on Windows, Mac, Chef, Linux, Puppet, Docker, etc.
By combining Datadog Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) with metric-based Network Monitoring solution, organizations can achieve complete visibility for network traffic analysis, traces, logs, and infrastructure metrics. Metrics such as volume and can be seen without writing queries.
Datadog comes with various pricing plans starting from $5 and can also be attained for free for up to 5 hosts.
- Datadog can map the network traffic flow between containers, hosts, services, teams, availability zones, or other tagged categories to identify any downstream effects and traffic bottlenecks.
- The software enables its users to get excellent visibility in modern networks with human-readable and meaningful tags.
- The application allows users to unify troubleshooting into a single platform by correlating traffic data with relevant host metrics, logs, and application traces.
- Custom graphs, alerts, and metrics can be created instantly and adjusted dynamically by the software depending on various conditions.
Site24x7 software is the best full-stack monitoring solution from Zoho Corporation that uses cloud spend optimization and AI-powered performance monitoring to empower IT operations and DevOps.
This software is an SNMP network monitoring tool that monitors network devices’ health, performance, and availability.
The broad capabilities of Site24x7 can quickly troubleshoot problems with applications, websites, network infrastructure, public clouds, end-user experience, and servers.
The tool’s pricing starts from $9 per month, and it gets cheaper on scaling up.
- Vendor and metric can be monitored using custom SNMP monitoring. SNMP traps can receive instant alerts through push notifications, email, SMS, and other third-party applications.
- Top devices and interfaces can be identified using health dashboard and custom dashboard support.
- Health trends, custom reports, and top N reports can identify trends over a certain period.
- All devices (up to 10,000 device templates) present within an IP range, or the whole network can be automatically discovered.
- Datadog uses NetFlow analysis to track bandwidth consumption and traffic.
- Layer 2 and topology maps can be used to automate mapping and discovery.
- To support remote working needs, VoIP monitoring is provided using Out-of-the-box VPN and Cisco IPSLA.
SolarWinds is a Network Performance Monitoring tool that is easy to use and to set up and can automatically discover network components. These devices can be deployed in an hour.
It is an easily managed service that offers an intuitive interface with highly customizable components such as dashboards, views, and charts. The tool allows you to oversee the entire Network.
The users can create tailored topologies of the entire network infrastructure and customized intelligent alerts that are dependency-aware.
You can use SolarWinds tool for free during its 30 days free trial period post which the pricing will start from $1995.
- The software has a robust alerting system with simple/complex trigger options to monitor all devices’ hardware health, such as switches, firewalls, laptops, routers, desktops, servers, etc.
- This tool supports a wide array of OEM vendors, forecast, and capacity planning. It automatically detects and scans for wired and wireless devices.
- You can perform real-time monitoring of critical network components and devices.
- Using the Netpath Critical Path visualization feature, SolarWinds can quickly pinpoint your organization’s network performance. You can identify spots by creating HeatMaps for WiFi.
- It offers a 30 days free trial period for you to test your system.
- The New Network InsightTM can be used to monitor CISCO ASA networks.
- Firewall Rules Browser helps in monitoring firewalls. The tool allows for critical paths and components hop by hop analysis.
OpManager is a well-balanced network monitoring, infrastructure management, and Application Performance Management (APM) software that needs to be installed on-premises.
This tool can manage servers, fault & performance, Network, analyze network traffic and configuration, and check for health and performance. It can also check for all Network devices such as servers, Citrix XenServer, interfaces, Nutanix devices, routers, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware servers, storage devices, etc.
The custom dashboard of ManageEngine OpManager allows the users to have all critical network metrics in a single place without any need to switch screens, thus providing in-depth visibility and complete control over network-related issues.
Using ManageEngine OpManager, network managers, and IT admins to simultaneously perform various operations such as Virtual Machine (VM) monitoring, firewall management, Switch Port Management (SPM), bandwidth analysis, IP Address Management (IPAM), and configuration management.
Ping, traceroute, real-time graphs, automation, switch port mapping, AI and ML-based reports, usage forecasts, and many more other functionalities allow OpManager to monitor the entire organization’s network infrastructure.
The pricing for 25 devices in OpManager starts from $595.
- You can get real-time threshold violation alerts through email, SMS, push notifications, Slack gateway SMSes, etc.
- OpManager comes with highly customizable and intuitive dashboards, network device groupings, heat maps, business views, etc., to achieve a better network overview.
- It provides efficient workflows to automate tasks of Level-1 IT.
- Contextual integrations are present to provide all-in-one infrastructure monitoring and management.
- With the help of 9000+ device templates, OpManager allows intelligent device monitoring and discovery.
Developed by AdRem Software, NetCrunch is a Network Performance Monitoring system used for comprehensive monitoring via flexible visualization, policy configuration, agent-less extensive monitoring, and alerting.
NetCrunch allows out of the box monitoring, configuration, and identification of your Network’s devices.
NetCrunch’s 330 Monitoring packs, services, and sensors learn your Network using baseline thresholds and range triggers and alert you towards any unexpected changes.
This tool allows monitoring every IT infrastructure device from servers to printers, cameras, and temperature sensors.
The pricing of NetCrunch can be adjusted according to the module and infrastructure size are chosen by you.
- Specific infrastructure needs are fulfilled using NetCrunch’s nine features modules.
Developed in 2009 by the team of developers that developed Nagios, Icinga is an open-source network monitoring and infrastructure monitoring tool that is easy and flexible for enterprise and SMB networks.
Icinga provides superior alters and reports of your IT infrastructure’s general health and includes report generation, alerts, and threshold analysis functionalities.
Alerts in Icinga can be displayed on the dashboard and sent via SMS, mobile message applications, or email.
Since Icinga is an open-source network monitoring tool, it is free to use.
- This monitoring software allows monitoring of various services.
- Clustering and Zone Monitoring is possible using Icinga.
- Configuration and templates are allowed.
- This open-source network performance monitor supports direct and SNMP monitoring.
Progress Software Corporation launched WhatsUp Gold as a tool for network monitoring purposes installed on Windows Server.
This tool employs the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to track network performance. SNMP agents prepare status reports for each switch and routers and update them regularly while waiting for the SNMP manager’s request.
However, not all operating systems provide SNMP managers, and for this purpose, WhatsUp is used.
WhatsUp Gold sends out periodic broadcasts to device agents for status reports called MIBs. These responses from device agents are compiled, and the result tells the system exactly what type of devices are connected in the Network and how.
The tool continually refreshes this information and maintains an up-to-date network inventory.
If any of the device agents identify a problem with the piece of equipment, it is currently monitoring. A trap message will be sent, which will be interpreted by WhatsUp Gold.
Using this tool, network administrators can ignore monitoring consoles and leave all the work to WhatsUp Gold, which will notify them if anything goes wrong.
This tool can automatically create a network topology map using live updates to network inventory.
WhatsUp Gold offers a 14-day free trial and various pricing plans based on Network and budget.
- It allows device and service monitoring, automatic discovery of network devices, alerts, and notifications.
- You can customize dashboards and generate reports and perform wireless network monitoring.
- Interactive maps are supported.
- Configuration management, log management, and visualization monitoring are possible using WhatsUp Gold.
Obkio is a SaaS solution for network performance monitoring to empower users to monitor the network performance and improve end-user experience continuously.
It allows the IT team to collect historical data, run synthetic traffic-based speed tests, and visualize network data and performance graphs using a centralized dashboard.
Using a device monitoring module, administrators can monitor routers, SNMP-enabled devices, identify intermittent issues, firewalls, and report incidents.
Obkio offers a 14-day free trial period with all premium features and an on-demand free demo. After the free trial period is finished, you can either continue with the free plan or upgrade to paid plans starting from $29/month.
- It troubleshoots intermittent performance issues and performs an exchange of synthetic traffic to measure network performance.
- Automatic speed tests help in assessing network health.
- This tool can be deployed within minutes and can perform continuous monitoring using various monitoring agents.
- The monitoring is done from the end-user perspective, and user Quality of Experience (QoE) is measured every minute.
- Every 500ms, the tool updates real-time network performance.
- Decentralized monitoring is performed between pairs of agents in distant or different locations.
We hope that these Network Monitoring solutions can fulfill your organization’s needs.
The above ten software are the best network application software in a generalized way. However, you must decide which suits your organization.
You can take the 30 days or lesser free trial periods offered by some of these to assess your organization’s compatibility.
Most of this software comes with a free version, is open source, and can be used on Linux, Windows, Mac, and other operating systems.
Some of this software is web-based and cloud-based and offer third party assistance that can be used for network discovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I monitor my network performance?
You can easily monitor your network performance by employing any of the above-listed software such as PRTG Network Monitor, Dtaadog, NetCrunch, SolarWinds Network performance monitor, etc. One of the service providers named Zabbix is an open source monitoring solution that is also used to monitor the performance of the system.
What is network monitoring?
Network monitoring means monitoring the Network for any issues via a web-based or cloud-based platform. These issues could be anything from heavy traffic to failing components.
Which is the best network monitoring tool?
The monitoring tools such as Datadog, Obkio, SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, Icinga, Nagios XI, etc., are the best in the market.
What are monitoring and its types?
Monitoring means observing a network for possible issues and troubleshooting them. It is of the following types: Performance testers, SIEM tools, Wireless sniffers, Performance monitors, etc.
What are the steps of monitoring?
There are the following steps involved in monitoring performance:
Step 1. Monitoring the essentials
Step 2. Deciding monitoring interval
Step 3. Choosing the right protocol
Step 4. Setting thresholds