Way back in 2015, we reviewed the must-have top free networking tools. And honestly, those reviews have stood the test of time. But now that time has passed, the landscape has changed, and we think it’s worthwhile to review those old choices and possibly add a few new ones.
Laying the Foundation
To build a network, you start with an architecture, draw the design, and analyze and choose the hardware that meets your requirements. Because many organizations need their network to be up and functioning to generate revenue, having the right set of tools to monitor and manage the one you so lovingly created is critical.
But how do you find the best network monitoring tools when there are hundreds of commercial products, freeware tools, and open-source software to choose from? While the debate about free versus commercial goes on, there are tried and tested, free network monitoring tools that many network admins swear by. Below, we will share some of our favorites with you.
Open-source choices are good and can even match commercial tools, but you should know that using open-source monitoring requires a high level of involvement with the tool, which may not perfectly suit your needs. As the saying goes, “Open-source is only free if your time is worthless.”
Open-source monitoring solutions often require a significant investment in time and resources. Missing features may have to be built with the help of community support or an in-house IT team. The second consideration is security, which may become an issue, depending on the tool you select and your enterprise’s security guidelines. Additionally, immediate custom fixes may not be available unless you spend time developing and maintaining them yourself.
If you’re looking for a robust yet affordable network monitoring tool offering a greater degree of automation and insight and a lesser degree of required manual input than an open-source solution, SolarWinds® ipMonitor® may be a good option for you. ipMonitor offers scalable network monitoring for your entire network in an easy-to-use, lightweight, and fast solution designed to help minimize downtime and the amount of time you need to spend monitoring your network by hand.
The tool’s Startup Wizard guides you through the processes of alert configuration and automated discovery so you can quickly start getting insights into your network. ipMonitor even offers out-of-the-box recommendations for what you should be monitoring on each of your applications and devices.
One reason someone may want to use a free network monitoring solution is because they’re intimidated by a paid solution. In fact, paid network monitoring tools are typically much easier to use than their free counterparts. This is certainly true when it comes to ipMonitor, as the user-friendly interface helps you quickly identify current (and even potential) issues so you can get to the bottom of them before they cause even more problems for your network performance. ipMonitor helps ensure you never miss anything with its powerful, configurable alerting system. With more than a dozen different notification types built in, ipMonitor helps you make sure the right people on your team know about potential problems as soon as the tool detects them.
ipMonitor is an affordable option for businesses of any size, but if you aren’t sure whether you want to commit to a paid tool, you can try out a free 14-day trial to see if the tool is a good fit for your needs.
When we need a network monitoring tool that is easy to install, and supports monitoring and reporting out of the box, we like SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor (NPM). NPM acts as a single pane of glass to provide complete and comprehensive network monitoring capabilities that complement some of the essential free tools you may already use.
Because enterprise networks are becoming bigger and more complex, it’s important to put network monitoring and managing solutions in place early in the implementation phase.
What’s on the list?
If you do decide to go the free/open-source route, you should check out the following. It’s our list of the best free network monitoring tools available today.
Nagios® is the great-grand-daddy of monitoring tools, with only ping being more ubiquitous in some circles.
Nagios is popular due to its active development community and external plug-in support. You can create and use external plugins in the form of executable files or Perl® and shell scripts to monitor and collect metrics from every hardware and software used in a network. There are plugins that provide an easier and better GUI, address many limitations in the Core®, and support features, such as auto discovery, extended graphing,notification escalation, andmore.
Cacti® is another of the monitoring warhorses that has endured as a go-to for network monitoring needs. It allows you to collect data from almost any network element, including routing and switching systems as well as firewalls, and put that data into robust graphs. If you have a device, it’s possible that Cacti’s active community of developers has created a monitoring template for it.
Cacti supports SNMP polling, which itself covers a wide range of network devices. You can also extend Cacti’s capabilities to use scripts, queries, or commands for data collection, and save it as a template to use for polling other devices for similar datasets. Cacti leverages the power ofRRDTool,an open-source data logging and graphing system for creating graphs from the stored datasets. RRDTool’s data consolidation lets you store collected data forever and is limited only by the size of your storage. Cacti also allows you to add multiple users and give them access with or without edit permissions, which is perfect for service providers and enterprises with a large NOC team.
Admittedly complex to set up, Zabbix® comes with a simple and clean GUI that makes it easy to manage, once you get the hang of it. Zabbix supports agentless monitoring using technologies such as SNMP, ICMP, Telnet, SSH, etc., and agent-based monitoring for all Linux® distros, Windows® OS, and Solaris®. It supports a number of databases, including MySQL®,PostgreSQL™,SQLite,Oracle®, andIBM® DB2®. Zabbix’s VMware® monitoring capabilities allow you to customize using any scripting or programming language, which is widely regarded as its best feature.
Zabbix is probably the most widely used open-source network monitoring tool after Nagios.
ntop, which is now ntopng (ng fornext generation), is a traffic probe that useslibpcap (for packet capture) to report on network traffic. You can install ntopng on a server with multiple interfaces and use port mirroring or a network tap to feed ntopng with the data packets from the network for analysis. ntopng can analyze traffic even at 10G speeds; report on IP addresses, volume, and bytes for each transaction; sort traffic based on IP, port, and protocol; generate reports for usage; view top talkers; and report on AS information. This level of traffic analysis helps you make informed decisions about capacity planning and QoS design and helps you find bandwidth-hogging users and applications in the network. ntopng has a commercial version called ntopng pro that comes with some additional features, but the open-source version is good enough to quickly gain insight into traffic behavior. ntop can also integrate with external monitoring applications such as Nagios for alerting and provide data for monitoring.
ntopng has some limitations, but the level of network traffic visibility it provides makes it well worth the effort.
Built on top of MySQL and PostgreSQL, Icinga is Nagios backwards-compatible, meaning if you have an investment in Nagios scripts, you can port them over with relative ease.
Icinga was created in 2009 by the same group of devs that made Nagios, so they knew their stuff. Since then, the developers have made great strides in terms of expanding both functionality and usability since then. As the Nagios pedigree might imply, its primary focus is monitoring infrastructure and services.
Spiceworks offers many free IT management tools, including inventory management, help desk workflow, and even cloud monitoring, in addition to the network monitoring solution I’m focusing on here. Built on agentless techniques like WMI (for Windows machines) and SNMP (for network and *nix systems), this free tool can provide insights into many network performance issues. You can also set up customizable notifications and restart services from within the app.
Note that Spiceworks is free because most of its revenue comes from the sale of ad displays in its network. It’s a small price to pay for a free solution, but it’s something to think about before you install.
Observium follows the “freemium” model that is now espoused by most of the open-source community—a core set of features for free, with additional options if you pay for them. While the “Community” (i.e., free) version supports an unlimited number of devices, Observium is still careful to say that it’s meant for home lab use. This is bolstered by the fact that the free version cannot scale past a single server. Run this on your corporate network at your own risk!
The free version also enjoys a 6-month patch and update cycle. If you want fixes any faster than twice a year, you’ll have to pay for them. One of the most painful features held back from the free version is the lack of alerting capabilities. Those caveats aside, you get a full auto-discovery of your devices and metrics (using SNMP and standard protocols, as usual).
Related Top Tools for Network Monitoring
There are a few tools that aren’t monitoring solutions per-se but are so incredibly useful to the monitoring professional that we didn’t feel right leaving them out.
Wireshark® is an open-source packet analyzer that uses libpcap (*nix) or winpcap (Windows) to capture packets and display them on its graphical front-end, while also providing good filtering, grouping, and analysis capabilities. It lets users capture traffic at wire speed or read from packet dumps and analyze details at microscopic levels. Wireshark supports almost every protocol, and has functionalities that filter based on packet type, source, destination, etc. It can analyze VoIP calls, plot IO graphs for all traffic from an interface, decrypt many protocols, export the output, and lots more.
Wireshark provides unlimited opportunities to study packets, which makes it a solid go-to for network, system, and security admins.
Nmap uses a discovery feature to find hosts in the network that can be used to create a network map. Network admins value it for its ability to gather information from the host about the Operating System, services, or ports that are running or are open, MAC address info, reverse DNS name, and more.
Scalability is the other big reason why network admins love Nmap. It can scan a single host or an entire network with “hundreds of thousands” of machines.
When you need to quickly map the hosts in your network, Nmap is your tool.
Free Network Monitoring Tools
Most of the tools we’ve focused on in this post have been of the “freemium” variety—a limited set of features (or support) for free, with additional features, support, or offerings available for a cost.
But there is a whole other class of tools which are just free-free. They do a particular task very well, and there is no cost (with the exception of the odd pop-up ad during installation). We wanted to take a moment to dig into a few of the tools that are in “network_utilities” directories on our systems and frequently use.
Also, we want to be clear that the list below isn’t meant to be (or even appear) exhaustive. There are many, MANY useful free network monitoring tools out there, and which ones an IT pro uses is often up to personal preference or the specifics of their work environment. We’re listing out the ones we’ve found in our travels and use often.
Ping is great. Traceroute is better. But both fall short in modern networks (and especially with internet-based targets because the internet is intrinsically multi-path). A packet has multiple ways to get to a target at any moment. You don’t need to know how a SINGLE packet got to the destination; you need to know how ALL the packets are moving through the network across time. Traceroute NG does that and avoids the single biggest roadblock to ping and traceroute accuracy—ICMP suppression—at the same time.
If you are doing simple monitoring, the first question you’re going to want to know is, “is it up?” Following closely on the heels of that is, “how much bandwidth is it using?” Yes, it’s a simplistic question and an answer that may not really point to a problem (because let’s be honest, a circuit that’s 98% utilized most of the time is called “correctly provisioned” in our book), but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to know. This tool gets that information quickly, simply, and displays the results clearly.
Response Time Viewer for Wireshark
We mentioned Wireshark over in the non-monitoring monitoring tools section because of its flexibility, utility, and ubiquity. But the “-ity” that was left out was “simplicity.” That sucker can be HARD to learn to use, especially for new network engineers fresh on the job. This utility will take Wireshark data and parse it out to show some important statistics simply and clearly. Specifically, it collects, compares, and displays the time for a three-way-handshake versus the time-to-first-byte between two systems. Effectively, it shows you whether a perceived slowdown is due to the network (three-way handshake) or application response (time to first byte). This can be an effective way to narrow down your troubleshooting work and focus on solving the right problem faster.
IP SLA Monitor
IP SLA is one of the most often-overlooked techniques in a monitoring specialist’s arsenal. Relegated to being “that protocol for VoIP,” the reality is that IP SLA operations can tell you much more than jitter, packet loss, and MOS. You can test a remote DHCP server to see if it has addresses to hand out, check the response of DNS from anywhere within your company, verify that essential services like FTP and HTTP are running, and more.
So, this free tool is something of a secret weapon for engineers who need to get miraculous tasks done on the cheap.
What have we learned?
This year, monitoring professionals have almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to free and open-source solutions to help us do our jobs. While none of these free tools are exactly push-button simple to install, maintain, or use, if your budget for tools is close to non-existing and you have the time to invest, they may fit the bill. Otherwise, we’d recommend using a tool like SolarWinds NPM, which is easy to install and supports motioning and reporting right out of the box.
How can I monitor my network for free? ›
- SolarWinds ipMonitor Free Edition (FREE TOOL) At the number one spot on this list, we have SolarWinds ipMonitor Free Edition. ...
- Paessler PRTG Network Monitor (FREE EDITION) ...
- Site24x7 Server Monitoring (FREE EDITION) ...
- ManageEngine OpManager (FREE TRIAL) ...
- Domotz (FREE TRIAL) ...
- Zabbix. ...
- Nagios Core. ...
- Icinga 2.
- 1) ManageEngine OpManager.
- 2) Sematext.
- 3) Auvik.
- 4) System monitoring.
- 5) PRTG Network Monitor.
- 6) Network Bandwidth Analyzer.
- 7) Nagios.
- 8) Amazon CloudWatch.
Networking monitoring tool features
The interface should include a Dashboard with easy-to-read graphs and tables that provide different views of network status; it should also have a network topology map -- or the ability to generate one -- as well as commands for modifying network settings and troubleshooting issues.
The ICMP ping tool is a basic network troubleshooting tool that lets you assess if a device is reachable on the network. It reports on errors such as packet loss, round-trip-time, etc.Is Nagios free to use? ›
Nagios Core /ˈnɑːɡiːoʊs/, formerly known as Nagios, is a free and open-source computer-software application that monitors systems, networks and infrastructure.How do I monitor real time bandwidth? ›
- SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer – FREE TRIAL. ...
- PRTG Bandwidth Monitor – FREE TRIAL. ...
- ManageEngine Netflow Analyzer – FREE TRIAL. ...
- BitMeter OS. ...
- SoftPerfect NetWorx.
There are three basic categories of monitoring; technical monitoring, functional monitoring and business process monitoring.What are the 5 different types of network management? ›
These operational areas are fault management, configuration management, accounting management, performance management and security management, also known as FCAPS.What is the seven monitoring tools? ›
Recognizing the need is easy, but choosing which monitoring tool or set of tools to use can be difficult. The seven tools I wrote about here – Datadog, Ruxit, OverOps, Rollbar, Sensu, ELK Stack, and Graphite – are worthwhile tools to check out.What are the types of network monitoring? ›
- Availability monitoring. Availability monitoring is the simplest way for network teams to know if a device is up and operational. ...
- Configuration monitoring. ...
- Performance monitoring. ...
- Cloud infrastructure monitoring.
What kind of data is gathered by network monitoring tools? ›
- Uptime. The amount of time that a network device successfully sends and receives data.
- CPU utilization. ...
- Bandwidth usage. ...
- Throughput. ...
- Interface errors/discards. ...
- IP metrics.
- Traceability. When a problem occurs, not only the tool should send an alert, but it should also show why the issue occurred and where. ...
- Performance Metrics. Check if the toolis able togive metricson:
- Automated Updates. ...
- Data Granularity. ...
- Author: Raghunath Reddy.
Of all the tools, Gephi, is considered the most recommended tool which can help one visualise over 100,000 nodes easily.What are network tools? ›
Network tools may be used to balance incoming requests, to provide security or to backup system data. In computing, networking is generally a sophisticated activity that requires technical knowledge and the right network tools. The use of network tools are generally useful for many individuals and businesses.What are network testing tools? ›
Network testing tools are a collection of tools that aid in measuring the performance of various aspects of a network. These tools range from ping, SNMP ping, traceroute to WMI query tool and more. Network testing tools help network admins make quick and informed decisions.Which is better Nagios vs zabbix? ›
The Zabbix tool's performance is good compared to Nagios, and the tool is fast compared to the Nagios tool. The Nagios tool is a bit slow compared to the Zabbix tool, and there is always an issue in the Nagios tool's performance.Is zabbix free to use? ›
Zabbix is released under the GPL license, thus is free for commercial and non-commercial use. There are no limitations on the number of monitored devices, you can use Zabbix to monitor many thousands of devices absolutely free.
OpenNMS is the world's first fully open source enterprise-grade network service monitoring platform, and hundreds of enterprises are using it every day without a bit of help from us. It's that easy to work with. And as true open source, it's 100% free.Is Ntop free? ›
ntopng comes in four versions, Community, Professional, Enterprise M, Enterprise L. The Community version is free to use and opensource (code can be found on Github). The Professional and Enterprise offer some extra features that are particularly useful for SMEs or larger organizations.Is there a program to monitor internet connection? ›
Site24x7 Website Monitoring (FREE TRIAL) This package of monitoring systems watches over the performance of internet connections and implements real-user monitoring to check on website performance statistics. Start a 30-day free trial.
How can I tell which IP address is using more bandwidth? ›
Navigate to Dashboard | Real-Time Monitor to check which applications are using the most bandwidth. Also navigate to Dashboard | AppFlow Monitor. Click the Initiators tab and select the check box to the IP address to monitor. Select Filter View to only see results for the IP address selected.What are the types of monitoring tools? ›
The basic types of IT monitoring include availability monitoring, web performance monitoring, web application management and application performance management, API management, real user monitoring, security monitoring and business activity monitoring.What are the four forms of monitoring? ›
Four basic types of monitoring can be readily distinguished by the nature of questions that the particular monitoring effort is designed to address—(1) surveillance monitoring, (2) implementation monitoring, (3) effectiveness monitoring, and (4) ecological effects monitoring (Table 1).How do I manage my network? ›
- Create an inventory of your most important systems. ...
- Develop a change control process. ...
- Be aware of compliance standards. ...
- Have a map with status icons. ...
- Look at dependencies. ...
- Setup alerting. ...
- Decide on standards and security for getting network information.
- Fault Management. Fault management is the process to identify and fix any errors in the system. ...
- Configuration Management. This is the process to monitor and maintain devices and network configurations. ...
- Performance Management. ...
- Security Management. ...
- Accounting Management.
Social media monitoring means tracking hashtags, keywords, and mentions relevant to your brand in order to stay informed about your audience and industry. By monitoring this data, you're doing research that is both quantitative (metrics and analytics) and qualitative (inspiration for posts and strategies).What is a monitor software? ›
Monitoring software is primarily a type of security and surveillance software installed on an individual system or the corporate network. It can be a standalone application, or function as part of firewall software or hardware, anti-virus software, or an information security software suite.Which protocol is used for network monitoring? ›
Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP)
ICMP a network monitoring protocol that's designed specifically for error reporting. Network devices rely on ICMP to transmit error messages. For example, a router might use ICMP in a situation where a host or client cannot be reached, or queried information is unavailable.
The two most widely used monitoring protocols are SNMP and WMI. They provide Network Admins with thousands of monitors to assess the health of their networks and the devices on them.What is IP address monitoring? ›
IP monitoring is a technique that checks the reachability of an IP address or a set of IP addresses and takes an action when the IP address is not reachable.
What is advanced monitoring network? ›
Monitoring agents are specialized software that help keep workstations, servers, and networks up-to-date via continuous, 24/7 scanning. They alert IT support staff to potential problems and help keep malicious software off the monitored systems.What is network logging? ›
Network logging is a process of keeping information and all interactions made in a system or application. Network maintenance is needed to ensure the effectiveness of tools used over time. Study the various implications of network logs and synthesize logs.What should be the first factor to consider when choosing monitoring tools? ›
Ease of implementation is vital, but usability is a much bigger factor in determining a performance monitoring tool's suitability. You will get more value from a solution that's easy to use and which gives real-time, actionable reports.What are performance monitoring tools? ›
Performance monitoring systems are tools used to observe cloud applications, log issues, trace, and alert DevSecOps teams about irregularities or issues with cloud infrastructure. Examples of performance monitoring systems include observability tools, APM, tracing systems, alert and dashboards, and more.Why do we need APM tools? ›
An APM platform monitors a company's application infrastructure, hence helping to optimize app performance, improve end-user experience and even ensure proper SLA compliance. One of the most important ways to ensure the health of an application is application performance monitoring.What is the difference between AppDynamics and Dynatrace? ›
AppDynamics develops application performance management (APM) solutions that deliver problem resolution for highly distributed applications through transaction flow monitoring and deep diagnostics. On the other hand, Dynatrace is detailed as "Monitor, optimize, and scale every app, in any cloud".What are the two methods of network analysis? ›
The two best-known techniques for network analysis are Critical Path Method (CPM) and Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), both of which were developed between 1956-58.What are the two types of network analysis? ›
There are two basic kinds of network analysis, reflecting two basically different kinds of data: ego network analysis, and complete network analysis.How do you analyze a network? ›
- Step 1: Identify Your Data Sources. ...
- Step 2: Determine the Best Way to Collect from Data Sources. ...
- Step 3: Determine Any Collection Restrictions. ...
- Step 4: Start a Small and Diverse Data Collection. ...
- Step 5: Determine the Data Collection Destination.
- Coaxial Cable. This system is rarely used. ...
- Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) Cable. It is mostly used in business installations. ...
- Fibre Optic Cable. It consists of several layers of protective materials that surround a centre glass core. ...
- Unshielded Twisted Pair Cable.
What is an example of a networking software? ›
Some of the more popular examples of networking software include Logic Monitor, Datadog, Vallum Halo Manager and ConnectWise, among others.What are the different types of Internet tools? ›
- Introduction. The Internet is a vast place, and the amount of information potentially available is hard to imagine. ...
- E-mail. The most common method of using the Internet is e-mail. ...
- Mailing Lists (LISTSERV) ...
- Telnet. ...
- Gopher. ...
- FTP. ...
- World Wide Web. ...
- 1) Network Performance Testing.
- 2) Auvik.
- 3) Paessler Security.
- 4) Network Monitor.
- 5) NGENIUSONE.
- 6) Dynatrace.
- 7) Keysight.
- 8) Zabbix.
- To locate your router's IP address, in Windows, open a Command Prompt and run ipconfig. ...
- Using a router, open browser and enter router IP address > Enter > locate Device List > Status, or Bandwidth or Network Monitoring.
- Latency. In a network, latency refers to the measure of time it takes for data to reach its destination across a network. ...
- Jitter. ...
- Packet Loss. ...
- Throughput. ...
- Packet Duplication. ...
- Packet Reordering. ...
- User Quality of Experience. ...
- MOS Score.
- Check Your Router Log.
- Look at the Browser History on Each Device.
- Install an App Directly on Devices.
ntopng comes in four versions, Community, Professional, Enterprise M, Enterprise L. The Community version is free to use and opensource (code can be found on Github). The Professional and Enterprise offer some extra features that are particularly useful for SMEs or larger organizations.Is OpenNMS free? ›
OpenNMS is the world's first fully open source enterprise-grade network service monitoring platform, and hundreds of enterprises are using it every day without a bit of help from us. It's that easy to work with. And as true open source, it's 100% free.What is network monitoring system? ›
Network monitoring is the process of constantly monitoring a computer network for problems such as slow traffic or component failure.Can someone see what I do on my phone through WiFi? ›
Yes. If you use a smartphone to surf the Internet, your WiFi provider or a WiFi owner can see your browsing history. Except for browsing history, they can also see the following information: Apps you were using.
Who is tracking my Internet activity? ›
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can see everything you do online. They can track things like which websites you visit, how long you spend on them, the content you watch, the device you're using, and your geographic location.Can I see all websites visited on my network? ›
Anyone with access to the Wi-Fi router's admin panel can check your browsing history. It doesn't matter if it's at home, school, or public Wi-Fi zones. Most modern routers keep a log of connected devices, event timestamps, bandwidth used, and visited website URLs and/or IP addresses.Is NetFlow free? ›
NetFlow Analyzer is a free NetFlow network traffic analyzer and its customizable dashboard enables you to view widgets grouped by devices, interfaces, interface groups, or IP groups, and can also detect network anomalies at a glance.What is nProbe? ›
nProbe is a software NetFlow v5/v9/IPFIX probe able to collect, analyze and export network traffic reports using the standard Cisco NetFlow v5/v9/IPFIX format. It is available for most of the OSs on the market (Windows, BSD, Linux, MacOSX).What is ElastiFlow? ›
ElastiFlow™ provides deep insights into your network traffic, for increased performance and security. It instantly transforms your open data platform of choice into a powerful network flow analytics solution for Netflow, sFlow and IPFIX. Website http://www.elastiflow.com.Is zenoss free? ›
Zenoss Community Edition was a free and open-source application, server, and network management platform based on the Zope application server. It provided a web interface that allowed system administrators to monitor availability, inventory/configuration, performance, and events.Is Nagios XI free? ›
Nagios XI is free for up to 7 nodes after the trial, so it's a great resource to spin up and explore how easy it can be used to accommodate your enterprise needs.What can OpenNMS monitor? ›
- A Java 1.3+ development environment.
- PostgreSQL database servers.
- Tomcat servlet server.
- JBossmq Java server.
- RRDTool graphing engine.
- Availability monitoring. Availability monitoring is the simplest way for network teams to know if a device is up and operational. ...
- Configuration monitoring. ...
- Performance monitoring. ...
- Cloud infrastructure monitoring.
What are the basic types of IT monitoring? The basic types of IT monitoring include availability monitoring, web performance monitoring, web application management and application performance management, API management, real user monitoring, security monitoring and business activity monitoring.
Which one is a type of network monitoring? ›
Network Monitoring Systems poll network devices and servers for performance data using standard protocols such as: SNMP, Simple Network Management Protocol. WMI, Windows Management Instrumentation. And SSH, Secure Shell for Unix and Linux server.