11 Best Network Monitoring Tools and Software Reviews in 2020 | Our Top Picks

Network monitoring tools and network monitoring software are essential to running a successful business with any kind of online presence. Whether it’s maintaining the security and integrity of your customer’s data, or protecting your website or database from malware attacks and hackers, an effective and reliable collection of networking tools is an absolute must.

Every tool comes with its own suite of features, all of which have some part to play in keeping your network secure, and numerous options are offered each year as industry needs shift and change. We’ve reviewed the best network monitoring tools available on the market today.

Best Network Monitoring Tools and Software

Network monitoring is a key element of network management, which involves careful monitoring of your computer or website network for any slowness or failures. This is essential to maintaining data security, network uptime, and early warning on any problems that arise.
This is only one aspect of proper network management, which includes maintaining the hardware and equipment connected to the system, upgrading and updating the software, managing the data itself, user access, and much more.

Key Factors to Consider in Network Monitoring Software

There are several key factors to consider when selecting the best network monitoring tools for your organization. All of them could be considered equally important, as a failure or weakness in even one aspect leaves your network open to downtime or attacks.

A network traffic monitor maintains constant vigilance over the equipment, software, and databases connected to your network. It also prevents intrusions from outside sources that could harm or degrade your network.

Here are some factors to consider when selecting and implementing the best network monitoring software for your organization.

Scope

The scope of your network tools will typically remain the same from product to product. First, the performance of all hardware devices connected to your network are monitored, including routers, switches, gateways, and proxies. Then the links and connections between your devices are also monitored.

“Mission critical” servers are those that directly apply to your system, such as web servers, email servers, application and FTP servers, and other storage systems and drives. Other external service providers (such as web hosting, cloud or SaaS services, and messaging systems) may also be monitored.

Connectivity and Scalability

Keeping your network connected and monitoring for any failures or broken linkages is vital for a network monitoring tool. If one element of your network becomes disconnected, it could have a cascading effect on other elements of the system. Installing a quality network monitoring tool can alert you to system outages before they become catastrophic.

Scalability is another concern: one network tool may be effective for a smaller network, but once it grows you may need to upgrade or change systems completely. Be sure to select a product that can grow with your system.

Deployment: On-Premise, Off-Premise, or in the Cloud?

Where your network tools are hosted is another factor that can affect their performance and cost. An on-premise tool is hosted at the site of your organization, whereas an off-premise tool still have a physical host site but will be remote from your home office.

Many providers are now offering cloud solutions. This is an attractive feature, since many providers will push upgrades automatically and include them in the purchase package. This is a primary draw for products that fall under the SaaS (software as a service) model.

Automatic Discovery

In the past, devices and network locations had to be added manually every time a new device was connected to the network; it is still best practice to maintain an active inventory of all devices connected to your network for security purposes.

However, automatic discovery is an increasingly popular feature for modern network monitoring tools. They will automatically detect, configure, and monitor any device that is connected to your network. Consider scalability features and automatic discovery if you anticipate frequent changes.

Topology Mapping

Mapping is a useful tool when exploring the devices connected to your network. It provides a graphical interface that displays the network as it stands at any given moment.

There are also different types of topologies that display data differently. For example, a bus topology projects the network as a single access line with all devices connected at various points. A tree topology shows the hierarchy of the system, while a star topology has central nodes that radiate out to other access points.
All models can be useful, but that depends on the design of your network.

Alerting

Alerts are essential to an effective network monitoring tool. The whole point of purchasing and implementing this kind of software is to provide instant alerts for any issues. Alerts may be sent via text, email, other messenger platforms, or even an automated phone call.

Best Network Monitoring Tools and Software Reviews

1. Datadog

Datadog offers a full suite of network monitoring tools purpose-built for a hybrid cloud environment (mixture of on-premise and off-premise cloud services and elements). It can be used by businesses of any size, from small to large, and even by freelancers.
The pricing structure is also budget-friendly, with free basic packages ranging up to higher-priced packages that include several add-ons and extra features. Add-ons may improve network performance, provide additional monitoring points, offer scalability, and retain data for longer periods of time.

It is also a great product to grow with your organization. It is compatible with many APIs, and Datadog maintains an extensive documentation database for technical support with outside products.

Datadog analyzes the network itself, as well as any application or services connected to the network. This wide scope ensures that one centralized tool can maintain alert status over your entire network at once.

Customized reporting is also available, which can be useful when considering monitoring for a range of data points, gateways, devices, and more. Charting and graphing tools allow you to create topology mapping for any use case. You can create real-time dashboards that show data usage and network activity at any given time, as well as archived reporting.

These monitoring points are also updated dynamically and automatically depending on the metrics you set, taking full advantage of the machine-learning constructs built into the system.

The number of users allowed into the system will change depending on your purchase package, but enterprise-level subscribers will receive access for an unlimited number of system administrators. This is useful if you have a large technical support team.
Setup is relatively quick and easy, with support for several different operating systems. 

PROS

CONS

  • Automatic agent installation
  • Very steep learning curve – may require an expert developer to configure and run
  • Advanced functionality with graphs
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  • Extremely easy to customize
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  • API and over 200 built in integrations
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2. Zabbix

Zabbix is unique in that it is an open-source monitoring tool. This provides the added benefit of a network of users who are constantly improving the product, providing real-time and real-life feedback on any changes to the system.

Another benefit of the open-source network is that the ability to change the system is available to any user. This means that fixes are not held back by strict production schedules. The documentation offered for this product is also top-notch, and the user community on open-source projects is typically very knowledgeable and can provide practical solutions upon request.

Of course, the chief benefit of any open-source system is the cost: Zabbix is free to every user, which makes this a very attractive package for businesses most concerned about the bottom line.

This product is created for monitoring and trending functionality, frequently used to keep track of servers and network hardware. It can predict trends in your network traffic, which can be useful for website monitoring and resource allocation. As with many other solutions, it can be reconfigured with custom settings to suit your system’s needs.

One drawback is that the service runs slower on systems that have over 1,000 nodes. As a result, it may not be the best solution for larger enterprise systems, making it a better choice for smaller organizations.

It does provide great customization for reporting and metric measurement, as well as several options for notifications, ensuring that your system can always contact you in case of an emergency. It will also auto-detect any additional nodes or hardware added to your system, providing you with an up-to-date picture of your network at all times.

PROS

CONS

  • Offers ablity to customize dashboards
  • Tends to hog a lot of system resources
  • Tons of preconfigured templates that are easy to adapt
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  • Comprehensive web service and infrastructure tool set
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  • Very quick discovery
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3. Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is consistently rated highly among the available products on the market. It boasts easy setup and launch capabilities, and a high degree of customization. There are also a wide variety of features included as part of the system, all of which can be monitored from a single dashboard if desired.

The Network Performance Monitor is only one of the many network monitoring tools available from SolarWinds. It features products built for network, database, and systems management, IT security, and application management. This comprehensive suite of products would be ideal for an enterprise-level organization that wants a single source for their network security needs.

The price is also quite high for this kind of system, making SolarWinds far more expensive than other solutions. However, a strong infrastructure and a powerful product may be worth the additional cost if you have a larger business that needs a tool built for a large-scale operation.

Topology can be tailored completely to your organization, providing a quick glance at your network in seconds. It is also scalable, which is an added bonus when frequently adding new devices.

Key features like antivirus, email protection, patch management, and integrated backup are also included, which are all elements of a robust network monitoring suite.
It is offers drag-and-drop customization, which is perfect for security professionals that may not have extensive programming knowledge or simply want to avoid long downtimes coding new customizations.

This product is a powerful and all-inclusive product that offers industry-leading service at an admittedly high cost, while still providing excellent service and support for IT security professionals.
Pros:
Very active community and forums answer any questions and share success and discovery
All the pieces of NPM work together automatically
SNMP has a flawless design for monitoring – user-friendly and simple

Cons:
Requires you to configure the Universal Device Poller in templates from web GUI
Tech support and assistance largely through user community, not documentation and customer service

PROS

CONS

  • Very active community and forums answer any questions and share success and discovery
  • Requires you to configure the Universal Device Poller in templates from web GUI
  • All the pieces of NPM work together automatically
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  • SNMP has a flawless design for monitoring – user-friendly and simple
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  • API and over 200 built in integrations
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4. PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler

The PRTG Network Monitor is designed for advanced infrastructure management, diving deep into all aspects of network monitoring and management. It utilizes a wide range of technologies and systems to provide top-tier analysis and response for your network.
One noteworthy element is its usability: it is accessible for those with low programming knowledge or little experience in network monitoring. All of the key metrics are visible from the main dashboard, making for easier tracking of network access, storage, bandwidth, and other information.

Another key selling point for Paessler’s PRTG platform is a mobile app that lets you track each network device individually. Every piece of physical hardware is given a custom QR code attached to the device. Simply scan the QR code, and the app will take you directly to network monitoring data directly relevant to that piece of hardware, including a device summary and any problems. This is ideal for diagnosing the root cause of a problem, or troubleshooting a faulty piece of equipment.

This is coupled with the robust dashboard system that displays many kinds of network information at your fingertips. Common metrics include traffic, usage, and network component availability.

The pricing scale goes from relatively inexpensive to highly expensive, but that pricing does allow for scalability within the product itself. The license size will depend upon the number of sensor points within the system, so naturally more sensors will require a larger system subscription.

It is used by many Fortune 100 companies, yet it is accessible enough for small or medium businesses. For those who are looking to increase their network monitoring capabilities and be able to utilize all features right out of the box, this system could be the right solution.

PROS

CONS

  • Alerts and summaries provided at every level thanks to hierarchical device view
  • Enterprise Console occasionally redirects to the web console
  • Allows you to print QR codes for specific devices and attach to hardware
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  • Easy to install and configure
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  • Alerts can be monitored by geographical location
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5. ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine OpManager is a versatile tool that comes with many features preloaded. It focuses heavily on infrastructure management and network monitoring, with an available plug-in for Application Performance Management (APM).

You can monitor all aspects of a system from the dashboards, including network performance, bandwidth, configuration management, firewall, storage, IP addresses, and switch ports. You can also easily map outages through automatic mapping.

One potential drawback to this system is that it must be installed on-premises. This can be a disadvantage for those that want to keep all their systems and software in the cloud, and requires that your hardware and other resources can handle the requirements of this system. However, for most this should not be a major issue.

It provides an intuitive graphic user interface (GUI) with little customization required, offering maximum usability and presentation of key metrics. This is useful for novice users but could be a drawback for those with programming experience or who want to customize their dashboards.

This could come in handy, however, with the device templates that are built into the system. ManageEngine has predefined monitoring parameters for a variety of device types, which can make adding or modifying a device on the system much easier when a quick turnaround is required.

Furthermore, the cost is an added benefit to this system. The “essential” version of this software is relatively inexpensive for a limited number of devices. If your network is small, this could be an excellent value for the services you receive.

PROS

CONS

  • User interface is visually stunning
  • Requires on-premises installation
  • Easy to customize for specific needs
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  • Tons of support options – very compatible with multiple systems
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6. Nagios XI

Nagios XI is a mixed bag when it comes to its usability as a network monitoring tool.
On the downside, it does not come with the capability to automatically detect devices added to the system. This means that each device must be added manually with a separate configuration file for each, which can take a significant amount of time depending on the size of your network. The amount of direct work required for this solution may turn away some buyers.

Another mark against this system is that it only runs on Linux or UNIX servers. This may not be a major deal-breaker, but for those that are not as versatile with their operating systems it could present a problem.

That being said, installation is very quick and easy, and the product itself is aimed at a wide audience, between marketed to freelancers, small businesses, and larger corporations. It also focuses strictly on monitoring, and is tailor-made to monitor networks, infrastructure, and databases.

Each monitored node and device on the system is monitored constantly, with real-time data displayed for their respective uptime, availability, and response time. This provides an accurate snapshot at any given moment as to the health and overall effectiveness of your system.

Its dashboard is also very intuitive, and its Complete Insights feature provides in-depth information on network traffic, bandwidth, and overall network health.

In addition, Nagios has advanced user profiles that allow different levels of access and customized dashboards for each team member. This can allow for the efficient delegation of work tasks and distribute the workload across the entire team; this is a major benefit for a support department with IT technicians at different locations.

PROS

CONS

  • Complete monitoring of servers, web activity, and networks
  • Limited capacity for schedule reports
  • Configuration wizards during installation for easy set up and use
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  • Provides notifications and SMS
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  • Allows auditing for detailed modification and monitoring
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7. NetCrunch

A product of AdRem Software, NetCrunch is a robust system that runs the full suite of network monitoring tasks.

The major benefit to this product is agentless monitoring. Typically, when a network monitoring platform is installed on your network and servers, “agent software” must be installed on those servers in order to provide the necessary data for tracking and reporting. This software must be maintained and updated in order to maximize its effectiveness, which can be an additional drain on resources and incur an added cost.

However, agentless monitoring does not require the installation of this kind of software. This is easier from the perspective of cost and required resources from the servers and network devices.

Despite not having to install software directly on the network components, the monitoring provided by NetCrunch is still comprehensive, with automatic identification of network devices and automatic mapping of nodes upon installation. It boasts a versatility of application with servers, printers, temperature sensors, and cameras.

You can also intuitively discover all aspects of your network with over 350 monitoring packs, services, and sensors that are available with this system. Nine core modules comprise the system, and it can be modified to suit your business needs.

Pricing is scaled based on the size of the network being monitored, the number of devices in the network, and the extra features required by the system. The website also features an extensive documentation center and user knowledge base, with clear indications of what is included on each patch and upgrade.

Other key features include flexible visualization with customizable dashboards and topology mapping, alert functionality, and policy-based configuration, which can be helpful when detecting and adding new devices to the network.

PROS

CONS

  • Intuitive and user friendly
  • Set up process is very intense
  • Extensive alerts and monitoring
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  • Great value for the price
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  • Highly customizable 
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8. ConnectWise Automate

ConnectWise Automate was previously known as LabTech, and originated as a remote monitoring and management solution. It has since been enhanced and rolled into the single ConnectWise Automate platform to provide a single seamless product that suits all of your network monitoring needs.

It is a cloud-based manager, which means that all users will access it from a single centralized location. There is also no need to maintain extensive equipment onsite to host this solution. Some may find this off-putting if they are used to direct control of their system, but the added benefits of cloud-based software will far outweigh the drawbacks.
Two unique features set ConnectWise Automate apart from the competition. One is the automatic discovery of network devices and locations, which is admittedly a common feature of this kind of system.

However, this comes in handy when problems are identified. The software interprets the problems present in the system, then initiates an automated, pre-defined action that triggers key steps and notifications directly related to the issue. This may take some additional work upfront in order to define those problem cases, but this can save lots of time down the road by creating an easy and automated diagnosis for common problems.
Another interesting feature is called “Patch Management,” which automatically protects all systems from a centralized manager. This is further enhanced by the ability to use Windows-based patch management, or by using third-party software.

It also boasts a remote control function, which allows ConnectWise technicians to quickly resolve issues through remote support, remote access, and even remote meetings. This can be helpful for smaller teams who need immediate action to resolve problems with the network.

Receiving pricing information requires a full quote, but it ensures that you are getting accurate pricing information based solely on the needs of your unique system.
The easy setup of this system and the versatility of its features make it ideal for any IT security practitioner, whether you have extensive experience in the field or are working solo as a contractor.
Pros:
Multiple vendors can integrate with ConnectWise Automate
Offers self service options to users
Automated installation capability for agents
Manages deployment for system and vendor patches

Cons:
Requires on-premises installation
Some functions require plug-ins and URL changes

PROS

CONS

  • Multiple vendors can integrate with ConnectWise Automate
  • Requires on-premises installation
  • Offers self service options to users 
Cell
  • Automated installation capability for agents
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  • Manages deployment for system and vendor patches
Cell

9. Logic Monitor

Logic Monitor is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of different ways. There are very few limitations to the types of systems that can be monitored using this service.
Logic Monitor is a SaaS (software as a service) solution, which carries all the benefits of a subscription service, including automatic updates and upgrades.

It can also be hosted anywhere. Rather than being limited to a single hosting schema, Logic Monitor can be hosted on-premises (which allows for more direct control), in the cloud (which can provide greater security and easier service), and a hybrid setup (which provides an even more customized solution). All of these methods are preconfigured into the software, which means that it can be easily installed on any system at any time.

The basic platform can also be extended to include additional products and services, including configuration management, cloud monitoring, network monitoring, server monitoring, website monitoring, and more. Coupled with highly customizable dashboards and metric tracking, this provides end-to-end coverage for all aspects of your network, which is highly beneficial for a complex organization.

It automatically discovers all devices connected to the system and monitors them from the get-go, which means immediate coverage upon install. It can also utilize its extensive monitoring suites to predict problems before they arise, display trend analyses of key data points, and help you identify and prevent problems before they happen.

Pricing is also highly customizable depending on your system’s needs. Their pricing model is broken down by the customer type, service level, and number of devices. For example, the basic customer package has a lower price and covers fewer devices than a larger, enterprise-level plan. Service providers can also take advantage of a tailor-made pricing model that suits their unique needs; these pricing models also feature a higher number of covered devices, which allows for greater service.

PROS

CONS

  • Highly customizable dashboards
  • Very steep learning curve
  • In depth troubleshooting and information
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  • Comprehensive secure systems monitoring
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  • Very sophisticated alert systems 
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10. OP5 Monitor

OP5 is an end-to-end IT services company that provides IT management and monitoring solutions. OP5 monitor is their network monitoring platform, which promotes itself as an enterprise-level system.

It is also open-source, which provides all the benefits of a worldwide network of practitioners who are dedicated to the success of the product because they are actual users. Anyone can access the inner workings of the system and make changes as needed to their application, or submit their findings to the platform at large for implementation in subsequent upgrades.

Another added benefit to the open-source model is an integrated wiki that provides full documentation, user case studies, and support information. This can become a valuable resource regardless of your level of expertise in the system.

It is also highly versatile in where it can be hosted. OP5 Monitor can be implemented as an on-premise solution, a cloud solution, or a hybrid system. For those with hardware limitations onsite, or those who desire more direct control over the system, this provides them with several options.

Another benefit is that it is fully compatible with Nagios. For those who may be dissatisfied with their current solution and looking for a new product, OP5 Monitor can easily transition your system from Nagios through a simple migration wizard and access to existing agents and plugins.

OP5 Monitor is free for up to 20 devices, then offers a pricing plan based on your business’ needs. For those who have a very small network or do not require as many advanced features, the free model, open-source nature of the system, and flexible installation options could make this the product of choice.

It provides automated mapping of the system, as well as intuitive dashboards that can be customized to highlight your desired data points. It can also be expanded with API interfaces, and custom reports can deliver important data at your fingertips.

PROS

CONS

  • Easy to incorporate new functions from the open source users
  • Won’t support modern authentication methods out of the box
  • Functionality is highly optimized because it’s a bare minimum
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  • Allows imports from previous Nagios based monitoring tools
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11. WhatsUp Gold

WhatsUp Gold, a product of Ipswitch, is an excellent out-of-the-box solution for network monitoring.  The dashboards and interface are easy to interpret and can be customized depending on your business needs, making for easy access of all pertinent data.

The platform recently went through some major upgrades in 2017.  It now boasts advanced features such as hybrid cloud monitoring, real-time performance monitoring, automatic and manual failover, and extended visibility to distributed networks.  All of these industry-leading features are essential for a modern network monitoring system.

One major drawback, however, is that it is only supported on a Windows OS.  This somewhat limits the applicability of this product to certain systems, and power users may find this limiting if other operating systems are already in place.  Be sure to review your system’s needs before recommending this product.

It does provide users with fully customizable dashboards, which is one of its hallmarks.  And it can automatically map your entire network, which is a benefit to those who want a seamless transition to this platform.  Alerts can also be customized to meet your needs and the channels you use; this can provide you with immediate notifications and access to all system errors as they occur, minimizing downtime or breaches.

The pricing system can be confusing, but it is modular and is broken down by the type of subscription and the monitoring requirements.  This can make it accessible for small and large businesses, and also allows for add-ons to be purchased separately from the main system as needed.

While it does have some drawbacks, WhatsUp Gold can be an excellent introductory system, and can be the ideal solution for any size business looking for a turnkey product for their network monitoring needs.

PROS

CONS

  • Easy to monitor anything you need to across entire systems
  • More expensive than other options
  • User-friendly, clean interface
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  • Includes web traffic reporting
  • Immediate notifications when something breaks down
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