For those struggling to meet levels of service with an increasingly dwindling budget, the idea of open-source network monitoring tools can be an attractive one. Especially with open source technology becoming more advanced than ever before while costing far less than conventional tools. So when it comes to those that are in a pinch and looking to cut costs, are free network monitoring tools the way to go? We look at some of the pros and cons of going open source, and whether it’s the best move for your specific requirements – or if it’s better trying to reduce costs elsewhere.

Why you absolutely should monitor your network, can be found here. >

The pros

1. Initial Cost

There are several advantages to switching to open source software, but as you can imagine, the first is the reduction in cost. For businesses that don’t have the budget for sophisticated monitoring systems, but still want to manage performance and gain insights effectively, then open source is the ideal middle ground. It costs far less, though in return there may be some undesirable features you wouldn’t entirely accept in a paid system. But if you’re willing to overlook those hitches, the no-cost price of open source can be a very appealing option to bring down the budget.

2. The tools are getting easier to use

Another benefit of open-source network monitoring software is that it’s far more regulated and user-friendly than it once was. Where, previously, expert knowledge was a must to set up an open-source system, these days wizards and websites with interfaces are included as standard, prompting more people to make the switch. This ease of use even extends to the software itself, with more significant help and support available, albeit from less official and regulated sources. For practically any open-source software, there’s a guide on Reddit or somewhere similar to help get you started. Open source is no longer leaping into the unknown.

3. Much customization possible

The final advantage to open source software is the possibility for customization. Unlike commercial options, there’s more opportunity to tailor your system to purpose. What this does mean, however, is that software tends to be more general instead of niche. If you don’t have the skills and know-how to tailor your system, you likely aren’t getting the most out of it. Especially with systems like Nagios, where hours of configuration can be necessary. But with that knowledge, creating a perfectly fitting monitoring environment through scripts and plugins is far more plausible – for those who like that kind of thing.

The Cons

1. Security concerns

While there are certainly advantages to an open-source system, there are also some drawbacks to consider. Primarily, one major concern of open source network monitoring systems is the safety and security of that system as a whole. While generally nothing highly damaging will be used in a system, sensitive information may be used for reporting. Using a lesser-known open-source system that could be hacked or breached can lead to some serious issues down the line, both ethically and in the business sense. With a commercial product, you have the assurance of safety, and often updates and tools to provide optimum care to their customers. Open source tends to offer nothing of this, which can quickly leave tools out-of-date if not manually managed.

2. Lack of support

Another drawback to going open source is the lack of support. While informal tutorials and guidance may be available online, it’s unlikely that you’ll have access to a customer service and support team to get yourself set up correctly, which can easily lead to frustration or incorrectly working systems down the line. Realistically, for businesses who don’t have a specialist in network monitoring, this can make open-source an unsuitable option.

3. Spent time may outweigh the cost benefits

The following drawback that is often overlooked, is the most important in our opinion. The time and effort put into open source systems can outweigh the cost benefits of opting for something that requires manual installation and configuration. Many open-source systems will require large amounts of coding or commands to be suited for purpose, and even then they may not have all the necessary functionality for highly precise reporting. For businesses in need of specific reports, especially those that may need different ones over time, this can be a lengthy process.

Is open source viable for your business?

While open-source options may seem like an excellent choice for your business, many companies find that a paid commercial system like PRTG is far more robust and appropriate in the long-term. With less time required for set-up and intuitive user design, a commercial system is built for purpose – and doesn’t require extra time, workforce or knowledge to get full use out of it. If you can find something else to cut in the budget, it’s more than worth investing in quality network monitoring software that will be just as effective in the longer-term.

Find a detailed comparison of various network monitoring solutions here >

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