The best network monitoring tools for 2022 compared

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Tools: Paessler PRTG, LogicMonitor, Zabbix, Checkmk, DataDog, Auvik, WhatsUpGold, ManageEngine, SolarWinds, Nagios

What is a Network Monitoring Software? Which are its requisitions?

There are plenty of network monitoring tools and utilities out there, which include commercial products and open-source solutions alike. On the one hand, this is good news for IT administrators because there is a strong demand for network performance monitoring software. On the other hand, the wide array of network monitoring tools makes it difficult to choose the perfect solution for your own infrastructure. Most solutions offer a free trial to find out if the monitoring tool fits your company’s needs.

Our Newsroom Consultants put the leading network monitoring solutions to the test and cross-compared the best network monitoring tools for 2022.

1. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor by Paessler is a comprehensive tool for monitoring network devices, traffic, performance, and applications.

One of the strengths of PRTG Network Monitor is its excellent usability. It can be installed with just a few clicks and, like most professional tools, has an auto-discovery feature which scans the network and automatically adds elements to the monitoring setup. The tool does not only come with a user-friendly web interface, but also with a desktop application as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android. This makes your network monitoring on the go very convenient.

Paessler PRTG a great network monitoring software

PRTG is vendor agnostic and uses the most popular technologies such as SNMP, WMI, SSH, or flow protocols (NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, IPFIX) for the integration of network devices into your monitoring. For easier deployment, it comes with a huge number of preconfigured sensors and device templates for well-known manufacturers and providers.

Highly customizable real-time alerts make problem-solving a lot easier. You can set individual thresholds and notification triggers to reduce alert noise, and choose from a variety of notification methods like email, SMS, push messages, and more for different escalation levels.

With PRTG, you can view your monitoring data in customizable, interactive dashboards and maps that offer a huge number of visualization options in the form of drag-and-drop widgets. A nice little feature is that you can publish different maps to show them, for example, on network operation center screens and use the map rotation feature to display different views of your business-critical infrastructure. All maps and dashboards in PRTG respect user access rights so that no one gets to see what they shouldn’t see.

Download the Full Version for 30 days

PRTG offers a free 30-day trial that automatically switches to a free license for monitoring up to 100 sensors (= monitored aspects) after the trial has expired. Another advantage: PRTG is an all-in-one monitoring tool, which means that all features are included in every license. The price per license depends on the number of required sensors. With a price ranging from about $ 1,485 for a max. 500 sensors to $ 14,300 for 10,000 sensors, PRTG is comparatively affordable. Download

2. LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor is a cloud-based network monitoring platform for monitoring the health and performance of network devices and traffic.

As an SaaS tool, LogicMonitor does not need an on-premises installation. It can be quickly set up via its auto-discovery feature that automatically collects information about your IT infrastructure based on the hostname or IP addresses you enter. New network devices are then discovered dynamically.

LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor uses SNMP, flow-protocols (NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, IPFIX), WMI, and NBAR2 for monitoring your network devices. It comes with countless integrations for popular vendors that make the deployment of your monitoring easy.

Something noteworthy: Intelligent alerting prevents alert fatigue by distinguishing alerts that impact your services from non-service impacting alerts. You can also customize the preset alert thresholds and make use of built-in integrations for communication or service management tools to notify your teams.

In terms of visualization options, LogicMonitor is quite limited to its network topology maps. However, these are automatically generated and enable you to discover relationships between business-critical devices and services in your network. The topology maps are interactive so you can quickly get to the root cause of an issue.

The free trial that LogicMonitor offers lasts only 14 days, which is the common time span for demo versions of the cloud-based monitoring platforms mentioned in this article. Unfortunately, this is quite a short period to test all functionalities. For a full version, you can choose from two pricing plans: Pro for up to 199 devices and Enterprise that includes AIOps functionalities for more than 200 devices. The price per device is quote based. Download

3. Zabbix

Zabbix is an open-source infrastructure monitoring tool that can monitor anything, as they claim. If you are ready for the extended configuration work that comes with open-source monitoring software, Zabbix is a great alternative to commercial products.

Zabbix monitoring tool

Compared to Nagios, Zabbix comes with a more appealing web interface. A huge benefit of the tool are its automation and customization features. Zabbix offers a huge number of preconfigured monitoring templates to monitor all devices from popular vendors out of the box. However, you need to bear in mind that most of the monitoring with Zabbix is agent based, so you also need to install agents on the respective devices.

Smart alerting lets you intelligently detect anomalies, predict trends, offer root cause analysis, and classify issues according to severity using tags. You can also use sophisticated regular expressions to define intelligent and flexible thresholds. For alert messages, you can choose from many different messaging channels and even define different messages for different channels, depending on who the receiver is. Similarly, you can specify different escalation scenarios based on the severity of an issue.

Visualizing your monitoring data is also easy and highly customizable. You can create widget-based dashboards via drag-and-drop and configure each widget to your needs. Dashboards can be private or public and respect user access rights.

Zabbix is free of charge, which can be very attractive, particularly for large infrastructures. However, you should also always calculate the staff and time that is required to set up, customize, and maintain the open-source monitoring software. Download

4. Checkmk

Checkmk is a comprehensive IT infrastructure and application monitoring tool that runs under Linux and Windows. It comes as an open-source Raw edition or a subscription-based Enterprise edition.

The basic monitoring tool can be installed and set up from a single package in a few minutes. The auto-discovery feature scans your network for devices and services and automatically sets up the initial monitoring for you.

Checkmk-software

Checkmk offers a huge number of preconfigured checks for all kinds of vendors and providers, which can help with monitoring many network components out of the box. However, many of these plug-ins are agent based and need additional, complex configuration that you should consider when setting up Checkmk. In addition, the monitoring of network flows is only available in the Enterprise edition.

One of Checkmk’s strengths is its rule-based configuration concept. With just a few clicks, you can set up specific monitoring rules that are automatically deployed to all devices concerned, or you use the Checkmk REST API to automate the configuration and operation even further. Checkmk also intelligently filters collected data so that you do not need to review all monitoring data just to find the piece of information that you actually need for your network monitoring.

For visualization, Checkmk provides very basic graphic maps and charts in addition to customizable dashboards. If you want to have more advanced viewing options, we recommend that you use the respective plug-in to view your data in Grafana.

The Checkmk Raw Edition is an unlimited, open-source edition that does not, however, include the full feature and automation set. Checkmk offers the Checkmk Enterprise Edition as an unlimited, 30-day free trial. There is also an Enterprise Free edition for a limited number of hosts, from which you can upgrade anytime to a different Enterprise edition that is available for a fee and scales with the number of so-called services. Pricing starts at $ 760 for 3,000 services. Download

5. Datadog

Datadog is a SaaS-based monitoring platform that offers network, synthetic, and real user monitoring, as well as log and application performance management.

Datadog

Because the monitoring tool is cloud based, you don’t need an on-premises installation; instead, you’ll need infrastructure hosts, which can be any physical or virtual operating system instance. Datadog’s network monitoring functionalities include insights into the health and performance of network devices, as well as the network traffic between all infrastructure components.

Unfortunately, the more than 500 preconfigured integrations for popular vendors and technologies, as well as setting custom monitoring metrics, are not included in the network package. The same goes for the advanced alerting capabilities of Datadog that we highly recommend. You can use machine-learning-powered alerts, for example, to intelligently detect and group anomalies in the network, or make alerts more targeted via tagging.

A huge plus of the monitoring tool is its capacity for visualizing monitoring data. Datadog’s dashboards and maps are extremely visually appealing and can be created and customized via drag-and-drop using a vast range of visualization widgets.

Like with LogicMonitor, the Datadog free trial lasts only 14 days. For network monitoring, Datadog offers two subscription-based modules, the Network Performance Monitoring module that you need if you want to monitor network traffic and that starts at $ 5 per host per month, and the Network Device Monitoring module that you need to monitor hardware health parameters and that starts at $ 7 per device per month. However, for network performance monitoring, you also need to purchase an Infrastructure Pro or Enterprise plan. Thus (and if you want to get more monitoring features besides network monitoring in the strict sense), prices can add up relatively quickly. Download

6. Auvik

Auvik is a straightforward cloud-based network monitoring tool for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that also comes with a comprehensive network management feature set like IPAM or configuration management.

Auvik netwrok monitor

As a SaaS tool, no on-premises installation is necessary for the main instance. However, to access the IT infrastructure of a client, you need to install so-called collectors that run directly in the monitored network. Like LogicMonitor, Auvik not only automatically discovers your network and create detailed topology maps, it also dynamically updates this information as the network grows. Another nice feature is the monitoring of a hardware device’s lifecycle data, which allows you to find out about the status of support contracts or available software versions, for example.

Auvik is vendor agnostic and can monitor devices that have SNMP enabled or integrate with REST APIs or cloud APIs out of the box. For network traffic monitoring and analysis, it supports NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, and IPFIX. A drawback is that there are no preconfigured monitoring templates for popular vendors or use cases.

Regarding alarms and notifications, Auvik is also straightforward: while it offers preconfigured alerts that are classified from informational to emergency, you can also define customized alerts and specify the interval in which you receive notifications. Unfortunately, Auvik offers no customizable dashboards, so visualization options are very limited.

You can start with a 14-day free trial to test all features of Auvik. There are two commercial subscriptions that you can choose from: Essentials, which includes all basic network monitoring functionalities, and Performance, which you need for traffic and log monitoring, and for unified troubleshooting dashboards. The pricing is quote based. Download

7. Progress WhatsUp Gold

WhatsUp Gold by Progress (formerly Ipswitch) is a tool that combines network and application performance monitoring with log and configuration management.

WhatsUpGold

The monitoring software has undergone quite an upgrade since it was acquired by Progress and has overcome many of the usability and interface issues that the tool had been previously criticized for. Like most professional monitoring tools, WhatsUp Gold comes with an automated device discovery feature that scans the network for available devices, but it even goes one step further: after the device discovery, the tool automatically generates interactive layer 2 and 3 network topology maps that are dynamically updated when changes in the network occur, or based on scheduled network scans.

However, in comparison to PRTG, for example, WhatsUp Gold has no prebuilt integration templates. Integrations with 3rd-party systems and applications must be done via REST API calls and therefore need a lot of configuration and setup work.

WhatsUp Gold offers real-time alerts and customizable notifications. A useful feature is that, in addition to defining specific thresholds, you can also specify which application components are critical or not, allowing you to generate only relevant alerts for business-critical components that could impede your network if there are any issues.

A drawback of WhatsUp Gold is its lack of a transparent licensing policy. Each version is custom-tailored, and you must request a quote and provide details about your network infrastructure. Depending on the edition you choose, the licensing is based on devices or on points. Some features like application monitoring or network traffic analysis are only available as add-on modules (or automatically included in the Total Plus license). In comparison to similar monitoring tools, WhatsUp Gold is a little bit more expensiveDownload

8. ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine OpManager is a powerful monitoring software from Zoho Corporation. The tool focuses on infrastructure monitoring and provides all the necessary functions for keeping track of various network parameters and metrics. Like PRTG, it offers mobile apps for iOS and Android to monitor your network on the go and perform basic troubleshooting.

ManageEngine

A benefit of OpManager is also its comprehensive feature set. It offers a huge number of preconfigured network performance monitors for easier deployment and integration. However, a lot of these features are not included in the Standard Edition, such as the monitoring of virtual environments, distributed monitoring, or reports. Many other aspects like firewall or storage monitoring must be purchased as add-ons or plug-ins, for example the Applications Manager (APM).

Automatic real-time alerts notify you via SMS or email in case of breakdowns; different notification methods are not available. You can, however, set custom thresholds, for example multi-level thresholds to break down issues into different escalation levels. To visualize your monitoring data, OpManager provides clean and structured dashboards that are customizable using various preconfigured widgets. However, as with many other features, you cannot use real-time widgets in the Standard Edition.

OpManager offers a 30-day free trial. Pricing is device based and starts at $ 245 per 10 devices for the Standard Edition, which includes a limited feature set, however. If a company wants to use all features, it needs to purchase the Professional Edition ($ 345 per 10 devices) or the Enterprise Edition ($ 11,545 per 250 devices) in addition to various add-ons and plug-ins. Because of this, costs can rapidly rise to a huge sum of moneyDownload

9. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

SolarWind’s network monitoring software Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is a part of the SolarWinds Orion Platform and keeps track of the performance of all your network elements like servers, switches, and applications.

Solarwinds

A plus of NPM is that it supports almost all network devices out of the box and includes powerful network monitoring features including SNMP, packet sniffing, and SNMP trap receiver functionalities. However, usability is complex and can take days of configuration work due to its modular setup – NPM itself can be integrated with different additional tools, and every feature that goes beyond what the tool offers, such as server, database, or flow monitoring, needs additional add-ons or separate solutions.

Like other monitoring solutions, NPM provides preconfigured default alerts that you can customize according to your needs, including nested alert trigger conditions for better escalation. Next to a scheduling feature to reduce alert noise, you can specify the time at which different team members receive different notifications.

Very appealing are NPM’s dashboards and maps. With the NetWork Atlas feature, you can create customized maps via drag and drop that automatically create L2 and L3 network connections between the selected network devices. The visualization tool NetPath lets you view all paths your data takes in your network including the ability to trace every hop. 

The wide range of functionalities and supported devices is one of the main reasons why SolarWinds NPM is popular with medium-sized and large companies all over the world. Pricing for a perpetual license starts at around $ 2,800. You should always keep in mind, however, the number of expensive add-ons and additional pieces of software that you might also need to purchase to fulfill your more extensive monitoring needs. Like with ManageEngine OpManager, prices can quickly add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

10. Nagios

Nagios is a popular, Linux-based open-source network monitoring solution for monitoring your business-critical IT infrastructure components. The free tool Nagios Core offers basic functionalities for monitoring and managing IT environments.

Nagios open source

Because of its open-source model, there are a huge number of community-developed, free add-ons for Nagios, as well as multiple APIs. This way, you can integrate, for example, network components from any vendor or provider, third-party applications that you already use in your infrastructure; or you can add functionalities like push notifications or data graphs.

This high level of customization, however, also means that the configuration and setup need time and special knowledge – often it takes days to customize Nagios. In addition, monitoring with Nagios is agent based, so that you must also install and configure agents on the network devices that you want to monitor.

Nagios offers the standard alerting and notification functionalities that are common for all network monitoring tools. More advanced alerting options can be acquired via add-ons. If you are someone who values nice-looking user interfaces and dashboards, Nagios won’t be the tool of your choice, as the web interface is quite old-fashioned and not very intuitive to use.

Next to the free Nagios Core, there are also two Nagios IX commercial editions that start at $ 1,995. These editions might be attractive if you are looking for less manual configuration and scripting work since they offer, for example, configuration wizards, advanced visualization and reporting functionalities, custom dashboards, and more. Download

What is network monitoring?

Network monitoring is the process of monitoring the different components that make up an IT infrastructure in real-time to make sure that the network is functioning properly and to proactively detect failing components that might cause issues like system outages. In addition, network monitoring can be used to optimize the efficiency of a network.

With a comprehensive network monitoring software, system administrators should gain insights into the performance, connectivity, availability, utilization, and security of IT networks. The monitoring should encompass the physical network layer (for example, the health of servers, routers, firewalls, switches, etc.), the application layer (for example, the connection and availability of applications, services etc.), as well as virtualized environments and network traffic and data flow.

What does a good network monitoring tool include?

A good network monitoring solution should cover most of the following aspects:

  • Easy installation and setup; ideally with an auto-discovery functionality that automatically discovers network devices
  • Easy-to-use user interfaces; ideally with different interface options that you can choose from
  • Different ways of visualizing the network and its single components in a single pane of glass, for example via dashboards, maps, graphs, and diagrams; ideally with drill-down and customization options to get more detailed insights
  • An advanced alerting mechanism that uses color-coding to indicate issues and sends out notifications via a wide range of communication channels; ideally with customization options to set your own thresholds that trigger alerts
  • Reporting functionalities for different users; ideally with an option to schedule reports
  • A failover mechanism to ensure high availability if the system running the network monitoring tool fails
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