There are plenty of network monitoring tools and utilities out there, which includes commercial products and open source solutions alike. On the one hand, this is good news for administrators as there is a strong demand for software which monitors bandwidth, performance, network devices, cloud services, and keep track of all the network traffic. On the other hand, the wide array of network monitoring tools makes it difficult to choose the perfect solution for their own infrastructure.

We have compared the best network monitoring software in the market and looked at all the features, which might be important for choosing the right solution.

Below you will find an updated list of the network monitoring tools we consider best.

1. PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler

PRTG Network Monitor is a comprehensive tool for monitoring network devices, traffic, performance, and applications. PRTG uses protocols like SNMP, NetFlow, WMI, or SSH for monitoring.

One of the strengths of PRTG Network Monitor is the excellent usability. Like most professional tools, PRTG has an auto-discovery feature which scans the network and adds elements to the monitoring automatically.

Another advantage of PRTG: All of its features are included in the main tool. The price only depends on the number of required sensors (= measured values). With a price ranging from 1,600 $ for max. 500 sensors to 16,900 $ for 10,000 sensors, PRTG is comparatively affordable.

Once the monitoring is set-up, the tool is also accessible via mobile apps.

In comparison to other tools, PRTG does not natively support monitoring Azure cloud services. According to Paessler, this drawback can be overcome by combining the ITOps software Savision iQ with PRTG Network Monitor.

2. WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch

WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch is a tool that combines infrastructure management, application performance management and network monitoring. In the 2018 version, the software now allows the monitoring of Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud services. WhatsUp Gold is best suited for medium to large networks.

As a lot of users complained about the poor usability of previous builts of WhatsUp Gold, the latest one has an improved interface, which makes it an easier to use monitoring tool.

WhatsUp Gold creates individual maps for end-users to simplify monitoring. Another strength of WUG is the report function, which lets you generate automatic reports about the network performance to your boss or your coworkers.

A major drawback of WhatsUp Gold is the lack of a transparent licensing policy. Each version is custom-tailored, and you must request a quote and provide details about your network infrastructure. The licensing is based on points (one device, server or VM equals 1 point, one application or flow source equals 10 points for example) Some features like application monitoring or network traffic analysis are only available as an add-on (or automatically included in the Total Plus License). In comparison to similar monitoring tools, WUG is a little bit more expensive.

3. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

SolarWinds offers a bunch of IT management software. One of its key products is the Network Performance Monitor. The tool keeps track of all your network elements like servers, switches, and applications. 

SolarWinds NPM includes a centralized dashboard with visual elements like pie charts, maps, and graphs. Customized alerts notify you when the network performance is alarmingly low, or services are down.

The wide range of functionalities and supported devices/services is one of the main reasons why SolarWinds NPM is very popular with medium-sized and large companies all over the world.

Working out how many elements your network contains and choosing the right license for NPM is not an easy task at all.

4. ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine OpManager is a powerful monitoring platform from Zoho Corporation. The tool focuses on infrastructure management. It provides all the necessary functions for keeping track of various network parameters. OpManager allows you to monitor availability, performance, packet loss, and traffic of devices like servers, routers, and switches as well as virtual machines. Automatic alerts notify you via text message or email in case of breakdowns.

A major benefit of ManageEngine OpManager is the comprehensive feature set. It includes almost anything most sysadmins will need for their daily work. For application performance management there is a great paid APM plug-in. All tools from ManageEngine can be installed on either a Windows or Linux server.

For startups or small companies, OpManager might be a bit pricey. If a company wants to use all the features, the costs rapidly rise into tens of thousands of dollars. Like the products from SolarWinds, the choice of necessary editions and add-ons can be frustrating.

5. Nagios

Nagios is a popular open-source Linux-based network monitoring solution. Nagios Core offers basic functionalities for monitoring and managing IT environments. Because of its open-source model, there are many plug-ins for Nagios and the tool can easily be adapted to your needs. For example, functionalities like push notifications or data graphing can be added to the network monitoring tool.

But, the configuration and set-up need time and special knowledge – often it takes days to customize Nagios.

Furthermore, the user interface is quite old-fashioned and not as intuitive as PRTG or ManageEngine OpManager.

Nagios Core might be free of charge, but you should consider if the time spent on configuration (and bug-fixing) is really less “expensive” than buying a commercial monitoring tool.

For those who don’t want to browse forums or chatting with other Nagios experts, it might be worth considering the commercial Nagios XI, which starts at 1,995 USD.