PRTG Review – A Must-read Guide to Paessler Network Monitor

The Paessler PRTG Network Monitor is one of several options available on the market for network monitoring services. PRTG provides many industry-leading features and expert-level security at a price point that is affordable and technical features that are accessible to users of all knowledge levels. Our PRTG review covers all the major aspects of this product suite, and provides insights on how this product can serve your network monitoring needs.

Read on for our PRTG network monitoring review. We’ve also provided a review of the best network monitoring tools and software to compare with other products.

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.

Paessler’s PRTG Network Monitor is a robust system that covers the full scope of network monitoring needs with advanced functionality and features to suit all use requirements. It is known for its advanced infrastructure management capabilities, but is built to be accessible to those with low experience in network monitoring. This out-of-the-box ease of use is excellent for those looking for a customizable solution that does not require extensive hands-on knowledge.

Pros

  • All of the key metrics are visible from the main dashboard
  •  A mobile app lets you track each network device individually
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • The pricing structure
  • Heavy customization
PRTG software

Paessler PRTG Network Monitor Features

Peassler PRTG requires a Windows operating system for its server, which makes it accessible for those with a default server environment. It provides a full range of monitoring services, including:

  • Large scale monitoring
  • Bandwidth monitoring
  • Cloud monitoring
  • Database monitoring
  • Network monitoring
  • Port monitoring
  • Server monitoring
  • SNMP monitoring

It is capable of automatic discovery of network locations, which will drastically cut down on setup time or repeated updating of network inventory. The reporting dashboards can also be customized to the customer’s needs, allowing for personalized data displays based on individuals’ of team needs.

Monitoring of all network locations can be configured based on a variety of sensor presets, which can monitor every aspect of your connected device. And if any errors occur or issues arise, alerts can be configured based on predefined settings and sent to your team members over different types of channels.

It is easy to set up and use, with full product functionality included as well as full product support and upgrades for the lifetime of your subscription. And the pricing model is straightforward, based on the number of sensor points set up on the system. As your network grows, or your tracked data points expands, you can simply upgrade your subscription and keep all of your customizations intact.

Paessler also provides free network monitoring tools to all subscribers. Some focus on importing certificates or system settings, and other allow you to test your environment or simulate certain expected network conditions. This toolbox provides additional usability for the system.

Autodiscovery

Autodiscovery is a useful feature when setting up your Paessler PRTG Network Monitor.
Some network monitoring programs require you to manually add every network device or location in order to monitor it. This can be time-consuming, since every location must be configured manually, and there is a chance for some devices to be missed or entered incorrectly.

Autodiscovery, on the other hand, allows the system to check every device connected to the network automatically, map it, configure connection and monitoring settings, and create sensor sets. This does require some work in setting up the device settings and configuration schemas, but it can save time and effort in the long run.

The first step in implementing autodiscovery is to scan each segment of the network by pinging all connected devices (devices must be capable of receiving and responding to pings, or they will not be automatically mapped). Then, those devices are assigned a type based on your system definitions. Finally, sensor sets are established for all devices of a given type; these can be system-defined options, or programmed manually.

Autodiscovery can be a one-time process, or set to run at various time intervals. This is another added bonus, since a regular scan may be helpful for system that have frequent changes in the devices present on the network.

Dashboard

The dashboard is where all pertinent data is collected, interpreted, and displayed for the network being monitored.  Unique dashboards can be set up for individuals or work groups to allow for delegation of work or assignment of specific network segments for monitoring and maintenance.

Custom dashboards can be created through a variety of methods.  A certain number of standard dashboards are delivered with the system itself, but they may be customized through a drag-and-drop interface.  This does not require any programming knowledge, but may involve some level of experience with the system in order to maximize their effectiveness.  You can add a wide range of charts, graphs, tables, topology maps, and other display types to easily read and interpret data. HTML can also be used to create highly customized dashboards if desired.

Every map and dashboard has a unique URL that can be shared as needed, and they can be embedded into existing web pages through HTML frames.  You can also set permissions for each dashboard as needed, which can allow dashboards to be shared among team members or to create dashboards specific to team leaders or department supervisors.

PRTG software features

PRTG Review of Network Monitoring (Packet Loss Capabilities)

Data is sent over the network via packets, and an essential aspect of network monitoring is the ability to track and monitor packets as they are sent and received.

By pinging a network location, the system can track the size and count of the data packets being sent.  If there is a discrepancy in the size or count, it will trigger an error message or alert. Typically, only packets headers are monitored by the network sensors.

Traffic is monitored in terms of kbits per second, and can include chat messages, FTP (or file transfer), mail, network infrastructure data, web traffic, remote access and controls, and more. These sensors are called “sniffers,” as they automatically monitor data as it is sent across the network.

Sensor sniffers inherit many characteristics of other sensors, including notification settings, alert options, and ability to be tracked via dashboards.

Alerts and Reports

PRTG Network Monitor has a variety of alert and notification features, all of which provide excellent reporting features for those who want to keep continually informed about the status of their network.

Once the defined alert statuses have been created in the system, PRTG will send a specific notification.  These statuses could refer to changes in sensor status, threshold breaches for speed or volume, or system values.  Alerts could be emails, push notifications, alerts on a messaging system, or other system functions such as adding an entry to an error log, running an executable program, or assigning a case ticket.

You also have the option to deactivate notifications or sensor monitoring for a defined period of time.  This can be useful if you are aware of a continuous error in the system and want to deactivate constant notifications on the issue until it has been resolved, or for planned maintenance schedules that would trigger notifications.


Dependencies within the system can also be created to temporarily pause notifications for secondary systems; for example, a monitoring service could be temporarily deactivated if the firewall has been taken down for maintenance, preventing extraneous messages from being created.  Sensor monitors can be acknowledged in the system to mark issues are currently active; this can also prevent repeat messaging on alerts.

You can also create an API to write custom notifications as needed.

In-depth reporting is a hallmark of this system.  Reports can be run manually, or set to be produced automatically at defined intervals.  They can also be exported and downloaded in a variety of file formats, including PDF, HTML, XML, or CSV.  This is helpful for report distribution across departments, especially when other departments may require a specific file format or may not have the specialized software to run a give file type. 

Cloud Monitoring


PRTG offers a variety of sensors for cloud-based monitoring, which is highly advantageous for online-only services.

HTTP sensors can monitor devices at remote locations around the world, and Ping sensors can check ping times for all network devices regardless of location.  Sensors can also be set to monitor your usage and availability for several third-party systems, including Microsoft OneDrive file storage, DropBox storage, email servers, Amazon Cloud Watch (used for Amazon SWS services), Google Analytics for website traffic data, Google Drive monitoring, or other custom sensors defined by the end user.

There are several types of cloud monitoring available through PRTG.  This is especially useful when considering the types of software and platforms that are provided as a service rather than a product.  For example, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) can refer to web hosting, file sharing, or storage drives; software as a service (SaaS) can be run remotely rather than on a local machine or network location; and a platform as a service (PaaS) provide a development environment for programmers and maintenance technicians.  All of these types of services can be monitored with PRTG.

Adding cloud monitoring can provide robust reporting and dashboard displays for various data points on your system.  By adding additional sensors to your network devices, you can monitor a variety of aspects of each device.

PRTG Network Monitor Pricing Overview

To conclude our PRTG Review, let's take a look at their pricing plans. The pricing for PRTG is based primarily on the number of sensors being monitored, but is also based on the number of servers the software is installed on.

A sensor is defined by the manufacturer as a specific aspect of the device being monitored.  This could be a custom web page URL, the CPU load, the switch port, or network traffic at a given location.  Based on this definition, there could be several sensors installed on a given network device (most devices require at least 10 sensors), and depending on the number of devices and types of devices, this total number could expand quite quickly.

There are also higher price points for larger enterprise systems.

There is a freeware version available for a system with only 100 sensors, but it will likely not be best for most commercial systems or networks.  Pricing increases by certain thresholds of sensor counts and server installations, but all pricing includes maintenance, access to the knowledgebase, upgrades, and all the features of the program.

PRTG does offer a free 30-day trial, and upgrading to add sensor points is easy to do once the system has been purchased.

Pros

  • Usability

    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.
  • A mobile app

    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.
  • Easy to set up

    These features, along with the industry-leading capabilities described above, make this an excellent choice for those setting up network monitoring software for the first time, or those looking for a quality replacement for their existing system.

Cons

  • The pricing structure

    One potential drawback is the pricing structure, which is based on the number of sensors rather than the number of devices.  This can come into play when a given device has a growing number of sensors programmed to it; if many devices have an above-average number of sensors, this can become cost-prohibitive if you are required to upgrade to another pricing level.
  • Heavy customization

    As with any network monitoring system, experience is a major requirement in getting the most out of the system.  While the support is excellent and most features are included with a subscription, it will require heavy customization to monitor and report on all aspects of the network.  Those without advanced programming knowledge may find it difficult to cover every part of the data being monitored, or to maximize the impact of the reporting and dashboard features. 

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