The top 9 Server Monitoring Tools reviewed

Newsroom -

August 15, 2022

Our Newsroom Consultants evaluated and compared nine of the best server monitoring solutions on the market

Servers are the backbone of every IT infrastructure and, as such, they build the foundation for the availability and performance of your internal processes, services, and applications. Using server monitoring software is the best way to ensure that your physical and virtual servers function properly and run smoothly at all times.

What does server monitoring include? Which key aspects should be monitored on your servers? What are the benefits of server monitoring?

There are plenty of server monitoring tools and utilities out there, including commercial products and open-source solutions alike.

Paessler PRTG Network Monitor, Site24x7, SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor, ManageEngine OpManager, Progress WhatsUp Gold, Zabbix, Datadog, Checkmk, LogicMonitor

We didn’t evaluate Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), one of the most popular data center monitoring solutions. Reasons are its lack of important features such as a central dashboard, its ultra-high complexity, and the narrow focus on monitoring Microsoft-based virtualization applications.

What does server monitoring mean?

In general, monitoring your servers means that you observe key metrics on the health, availability, performance, security, and overall processes of your physical and virtual servers in your IT infrastructure.

This is particularly important as servers are the backbone of any IT infrastructure and perform many business-critical tasks. Mail servers manage email delivery and backup, NAS servers are important for network storage, file servers are necessary for accessing shared files, DHCP servers manage IP addresses in a network, database servers store, manage, retrieve, and update data – the list can be easily extended.

There are bare-metal, physical servers and virtual servers that exist as a partitioned space on a hardware server. Because the server landscape is so diversified and specific servers with specific functions by specific vendors might have even more specific monitoring needs, it is crucial that a good server monitoring tool offers an extensive feature set to cover almost all monitoring use cases.

What key aspects should be monitored on your servers?

Comprehensive server monitoring tools monitor the following aspects:

  • CPU usage to make sure that enough processing power is available
  • Memory usage to ensure that enough RAM is available for all applications to run smoothly
  • Hard disk space to make sure that there is enough storage space
  • Other hardware parameters such as fan status, temperature, or power supply
  • Availability so that all your business-critical processes are up and running without interruptions
  • Performance metrics, for example bandwidth, throughput, and response times
  • The operating system, including services, system updates, and backups
  • The various applications that run on a server and the protocols that are used for communication
  • Security aspects including user access, antivirus software, and firewalls

Of course, this list can only be a very general overview. As different types of servers serve different functions and run different operating systems, applications, and services, server monitoring metrics can vary greatly.

What are the benefits of server monitoring?

Server monitoring is very important for your IT infrastructure. If business-critical servers go down, not only the hardware itself is affected, but also the services and applications that run on them, not to mention the end users that are dependent on these applications – employees and customers alike.

The advantages of server monitoring are as follows:

  • You make sure that servers have enough resources available to run their processes
  • You identify potential failures and thus protect servers from crashes
  • You reduce downtime to the very minimum
  • You find out about unused resources and reduce your costs
  • You make sure that your business processes run smoothly and productivity is high
  • You see to it that customers have a great user experience, which is good for customer retention
  • You enhance your security and detect potential threats faster
  • You save time, resources, and money

1. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler offers all important features for monitoring your physical and virtual server infrastructure. As an all-in-one monitoring tool, you can not only monitor hardware parameters of your bare metal servers, but also the operating systems, applications, and services that run on them, in addition to server racks and server rooms – even in distributed networks. 

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PRTG keeps an eye on all types of servers such as mail servers, web servers, NAS servers, DHCP servers, database servers, file and storage servers, and more. For easier deployment, the tool offers a large number of preconfigured sensors for monitoring all key health, performance, and security aspects of physical servers from the most popular vendors such as NetApp, Buffalo, Cisco, Dell, HPE etc.

Virtual server monitoring includes preconfigured sensors for VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft Hyper-V. PRTG even offers sensors for monitoring servers in the industrial IT/OT environment, for example, OPC UA servers or Rittal CMC III. The tool also supports monitoring via the IPMI standard and its successor Redfish. And the best thing: you don’t need to purchase any plug-ins, add-ons, or modules to get the full server monitoring stack.

A huge plus of PRTG is also its excellent usability and intuitive user interface. Thanks to the automatic network discovery feature, your server monitoring is set up pretty quickly. Customizable alerts notify you in time via email, SMS, push notification, and more, if any element in your server infrastructure is not working as it should or if it is about to fail. Individual dashboards offer an easy-to-read, concise view of your server infrastructure and monitoring metrics.

Overview of server monitoring metrics in PRTG Network Monitor
Overview of server monitoring metrics in PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor pursues an all-in-one approach, which means that all monitoring features are included in a license. The costs for a PRTG license depend on the number of required sensors (= monitored aspects) and starts at $1,485 for up to 500 sensors. Even if you only consider the server monitoring feature, PRTG is comparatively affordable. Download

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2. Site24x7

Site24x7 is a cloud-based, all-in-one IT infrastructure monitoring tool from Zoho Corporation that combines website, server, cloud, network, application performance, and real user monitoring. With Site24x7, you can get insights into database servers, mail servers, application servers, virtual servers, and more, to monitor server availability, health, and performance alongside Windows services and Linux processes.

The tool supports monitoring of Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and OS X servers, cloud servers in AWS or Microsoft Azure, and your virtual environments including VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Docker containers. While out-of-the-box support for popular vendors and providers is rather limited, you can use more than 100 ready-to-install plug-in integrations that cover all important systems, servers, and services. If you don’t find the plug-in that you need, it is easily possible to write and integrate custom scripts.

Another benefit of Site24x7 is its IT process automation feature set. With it, you can automate repetitive tasks and workflows, automatically execute actions based on specific thresholds and alarms, use server commands to restart processes and trigger service recoveries, or prevent the oversubscription of virtual resources, for example.

Server monitoring dashboard in Site24x7
Server monitoring dashboard in Site24x7

Pricing for Site24x7 is subscription based and paid annually. The Infrastructure package (includes server, log, network, and cloud monitoring) starts at $10 per month for 10 servers, 5 network monitoring interfaces, and 2 NetFlow analyzer interfaces. Additional server and interface monitors can be bought as add-on packages. A great offer is the All-in-one package (additionally includes website, application performance, and distributed monitoring) that starts at $36 per month. Download

3. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor

SolarWinds offers a bunch of software products for different monitoring needs. The tool of choice for comprehensive server and application monitoring is SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM).

SAM keeps track of health and performance metrics of your physical and virtual servers via more than 1,200 monitoring templates. The list of the tool’s supported vendors and applications is quite impressive and includes monitoring for all server types. Cloud services like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure can also be added to your monitoring environment out-of-the-box. 

A nice feature: for nodes monitored via SNMP and WMI, you can make use of the Real-Time Process Explorer to view data for both monitored and unmonitored processes without having to manually log in to a server. To display your data, SAM offers custom dashboards that are, however, not very appealing to the eye.

You can combine SAM with SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor (SCM), a tool to detect and compare configuration changes to servers, applications, and databases. SAM and SCM are sold together as the Server Performance & Configuration Bundle.

Server and application summary views in Server & Application Monitor
Server and application summary views in Server & Application Monitor

A subscription license for SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor starts at $1,385 and a perpetual license starts at $2,559, although it is not transparent what the starter price includes. Moreover, if you want to monitor other elements of your network like web applications or network performance, you need to purchase other applications or modules. This way, prices will add up quickly to tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the work that goes into planning which solutions you need for comprehensive monitoring. Download

4. ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine OpManager is an infrastructure monitoring tool that provides all the necessary features for physical server monitoring via SNMP and WMI including multi-vendor support. OpManager monitors hardware parameters, files and folders, server availability, and server performance metrics, and displays them in custom server monitoring dashboards.

You can also use OpManager to monitor processes as well as Windows and Linux services, although not every metric can be collected out-of-the-box – and this is a major drawback of the software in comparison to, let’s say, an all-in-one solution like PRTG Network Monitor. Monitoring your virtual servers, Exchange servers, and SQL servers, for example, is not included in the Standard edition, and bandwidth and storage monitoring, among others, is only available as an add-on.

For comprehensive, in-depth server monitoring that also includes application performance, you will additionally need the Applications Manager (APM) plug-in, as APM focuses more on web servers, mail servers, or application servers and the applications that run on these servers. A huge benefit of APM: you can make use of performance trend analysis as well as forecast reports based on machine learning that predict, for example, disk utilization.

Server monitoring overview in OpManager
Server monitoring overview in OpManager

Pricing for ManageEngine OpManager is device based. The Professional edition starts at $345 for 10 devices and the Enterprise edition starts at $11,545 for 250 devices. If you further add the price for the various add-ons that you need for comprehensive server monitoring as well as an Applications Manager license, license costs can rapidly reach prices of $50,000 and more, depending on your network size. network-monitoring/download.html">Download

5. Progress WhatsUp Gold

Progress WhatsUp Gold (formerly Ipswitch) is a network monitoring tool which includes all necessary features to keep track of the health status of your physical and virtual servers. WhatsUp Gold needs to be installed locally on at least one Windows machine, as a SaaS version is not yet available.

With the automated device discovery feature, you can quickly set up your server infrastructure monitoring. WhatsUp Gold also creates a detailed device inventory with which you can get information about your server hardware, software patches and updates, services, and more.

In comparison to a comprehensive, all-in-one monitoring software like PRTG Network Monitor, however, the server monitoring scope is quite basic and there are no preconfigured monitoring templates available.

The tool provides a good graphical overview of your entire server landscape and your ongoing network usage. While earlier versions of WhatsUp Gold had poor usability, the current version is much easier to use. A plus are the fully personalized dashboards that let you view your monitoring data the way you want.

Dashboard for server monitoring metrics in WhatsUp Gold
Dashboard for server monitoring metrics in WhatsUp Gold

Pricing for WhatsUp Gold is quote based and its licensing overview shows just very high-level information. Basic server monitoring is included in all editions; however, if you want to monitor network traffic, applications, and your virtual infrastructure as well, you need to buy add-on modules or the Total Plus perpetual license. Download

6. Zabbix

Zabbix is an open-source IT infrastructure monitoring software that can be a good alternative to commercial products if you are ready to invest in the extended configuration work that is needed for setting up and configuring open-source tools.

Zabbix’s out-of-the-box physical server monitoring includes metrics for server performance, availability, hardware health, and connectivity. The tool comes with many preconfigured templates for popular vendors such as HPE, IBM, Dell, or Lenovo.

For virtual server monitoring, you can deploy templates for Citrix, Hyper-V, VMware, and more. Of course, you can always extend the scope of your server monitoring by using community templates or writing your own custom scripts.

A huge strength of Zabbix are its smart features that can be deployed for server monitoring as well. For example, the tool can automatically discover new, replaced, or removed servers, and autodetect configuration changes on your servers like firmware updates. It is also possible to predict downtimes and trends in bandwidth usage and intelligently detect anomalies in network load, for example. Moreover, you can use complex logical expressions to define intelligent and flexible thresholds for alerting.

Server monitoring graphs in Zabbix
Server monitoring graphs in Zabbix

As an open-source tool, Zabbix is free of charge. This can seem very attractive, particularly for larger IT infrastructures. However, you should always keep in mind the staff and time that is required to set up, customize, and maintain the monitoring software, too. Download

7. Datadog

Datadog is a SaaS monitoring and security platform that offers modern infrastructure, application performance, and digital experience monitoring. The tool’s cloud-based server monitoring functionalities let you keep track of the health and performance of servers, hosts, and containers – even in highly complex, hybrid environments.

A strength of Datadog is its ability to track and correlate server metrics in dynamic systems. For example, you can visualize dependencies between cloud-based servers, services, applications, and more in real time with maps that adapt dynamically if your infrastructure changes.

Custom server monitoring dashboards enable you to easily correlate server metrics, application traces, and logs. Furthermore, using tag-based metrics and alerts in combination with intelligent anomaly detection features let you quickly get to the root cause of an issue.

Application and server infrastructure overview dashboard in Datadog
Application and server infrastructure overview dashboard in Datadog

Pricing for server monitoring with Datadog is composed of different plans and modules. To make use of the data correlation and anomaly detection features, for example, you need to purchase an Infrastructure Enterprise plan, which starts at $23 per host per month. The minimum is 100 hosts. For monitoring server health and performance, you also need the Network Performance Monitoring and Network Device Monitoring modules. Depending on which further aspects of your infrastructure you want to monitor, this can get not only confusing, but also quite expensive relatively quickly. Download

8. Checkmk

Checkmk is an IT infrastructure and application monitoring software. It comes as an open-source Raw edition, which is sufficient for basic server monitoring, or a commercial Enterprise edition. The tool lets you monitor almost every operating system; however, you need to install agents on the respective systems to collect monitoring data.

With Checkmk, you can monitor any type of server ranging from mail servers to database servers to FTP servers. While the tool offers some generic checks like POP3, IMAP, or SMTP checks for monitoring mail servers, for example, most of the checks are offered as plug-ins only. Already integrated in Checkmk is virtual server monitoring so that almost no additional setup is required for monitoring your virtual infrastructure.

A nice feature is Checkmk’s hardware & software inventory with which you can centrally manage your servers and keep an eye on their inventory history to keep track of any changes in your server environment. To visualize server monitoring data, the software offers very basic graphic maps and charts as well as customizable dashboards. For more advanced viewing options, you can use a plug-in to view your data in Grafana.

Server performance dashboard in Checkmk
Server performance dashboard in Checkmk

The Checkmk Raw Edition is an unlimited, open-source edition that does not, however, include the full feature and automation set. Checkmk’s Enterprise editions are available for a fee and scale with the number of so-called services. Pricing starts at $760 for 3,000 services. Download

9. LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor is a SaaS-based monitoring platform. The tool monitors the health and performance of your physical and virtual server infrastructure including operating system metrics, server-based applications, and containers.

LogicMonitor’s server monitoring is easy to set up as you can just enter the IP address of a server in your network and the software automatically detects and deploys suitable monitoring metrics. This is possible, for example, for Apache web servers, Exchange mail servers, SQL database servers, and more. With the VMware VCSA package, you can also monitor your VMware infrastructure.

The tool offers intelligent alerting and distinguishes between service-impacting alerts and those that do not impact your services. You can make use of preset warning thresholds or customize alerts according to your needs. Like with Checkmk, visualization options for your server monitoring are limited to very basic charts and graphs, however.

Dashboard for server overview metrics in LogicMonitor
Dashboard for server overview metrics in LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor comes as a Pro version for up to 199 devices and an Enterprise version that includes AIOps functionalities for more than 200 devices. Many features such as cloud or container monitoring are only available as extra packages. The price per device is quote based. Download