Servers are the backbone of every serious IT infrastructure. Smooth running servers lay the foundation for the high performance of your internal services, applications, and your websites. Server monitoring tools are the best way to ensure that your servers, both physical and virtual, are available and running properly.

There are plenty of server monitoring tools and utilities out there, which includes commercial products and open source solutions alike. This makes it difficult to choose the right tool for your network. We have evaluated a lot of solutions and have compared our favorite tools.

Below you will find an updated list of the best server monitoring tools.

We didnt evaluate Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), one of the most popular data center monitoring solutions, due to the lack of important features such as a central dashboard, its ultra-high complexity, and the narrow focus on monitoring Microsoft-based virtualization applications.

All of the examined server monitoring tools keep track of the following parameters:

  • CPU usage
  • Memory usage
  • Average load
  • Disk space
  • Temperature and fan speed
  • Virtual machines

The feature set of the tools compared in this page is more or less equal. They differ mostly in  soft facts like usability or licensing.

PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler offers all important features for monitoring your server infrastructure. The tool monitors all types of servers such as mail servers, web servers, database servers, and virtual servers even in distributed networks.

Warnings or alerts due to poor server performance or failures can be sent via e-mail, push notifications, or SMS (which is especially useful when the internet connection is down). Individual dashboards offer a clear and concise view of all your network servers.

Big advantages of PRTG are its excellent usability and the intuitive user interface. Setting up and maintaining your monitoring is quite easy and saves both time and your nerves.

PRTG Network Monitor pursues an all-in-one approach, which means that all monitoring features are included in a license. If you need not only server monitoring, but also want to keep track of your local network, websites, applications, and network performance, PRTG is able to do so without the need for purchasing costly extra modules.

The costs for a PRTG license only depend on the number of required sensors (= measured values) and starts at $1,600 for up to 500 sensors. Even if you only consider the server monitoring feature, PRTG is comparatively affordable.

If you want to monitor Azure cloud services, you need to combine PRTG with the ITOps software Martello iQ. According to its statements, Paessler is also working on integrating Azure monitoring into its software.

The PRTG Core Server which you need to set up for monitoring, can only be installed on Windows computers. If your network only consists of Linux computers, you wont be able to use the on-premise version of PRTG. The SaaS alternative PRTG hosted by Paessler would be an alternative if you dont use Windows in your company.

WhatsUp Gold

WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch (since 2019 part of the Progress Software Corporation) is a comprehensive network monitoring tool which includes all necessary features to keep track of the status of all your physical and virtual servers. WhatsUp Gold needs to be installed locally on at least one Windows machine; a SaaS version is not yet available.

The tool provides a good graphical overview of your entire server landscape and your ongoing network usage. While earlier versions of WUG had poor usability, the current version is much easier to use. But we experienced significantly worse performance since the tool was moved to a web interface. If you use the software on a daily basis, this can add up to a lot of wasted time.

What we like about WUG are the customizable reports the tool can automatically send out to your boss or your coworkers.

WhatsUp Gold exists in different versions and can be ordered as an annual subscription or a perpetual license. Its price depends on the number of monitored endpoints. Premium starts at around $2,700 for up to 25 devices. Features like network traffic analysis or application monitoring require a paid upgrade (or are included in the Total Plus License starting at around $12,000). This lack of transparency regarding the licenses and their functionalities is one major drawback of WUG.


SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor

SolarWinds offers different software products for sysadmins which allow for thorough monitoring of your IT environment. For server monitoring, the SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) is the tool of choice. It keeps track of the physical status and performance of your servers and virtual machines. The “applications” monitored by SolarWinds SAM refer to network applications like DHCP, DNS, and Active Directory running on your servers. Also cloud services like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure can be added to your monitoring environment.

Like other SolarWinds products, Server & Application Monitor is very powerful, but sometimes also somewhat complex and the user interface is a bit outdated. We have heard from a lot of SolarWinds users that the configuration is tedious, and the documentation is not really helpful.

SolarWinds SAM starts at $2,995 and is a bit pricey compared to other solutions. If you want to monitor other elements of your network like web applications or network performance, you need to purchase other modules or applications like the Network Performance Monitor or the Web Performance Monitor. Working out which functionalities you need is not an easy task at all.

ManageEngine OpManager / Applications Manager


Much like SolarWinds, ManageEngine sells different network monitoring solutions which are suited to certain subareas of network monitoring. For comprehensive server monitoring, you will need ManageEngine OpManager and ManageEngine Applications Manager. Both solutions keep track of details like CPU and memory utilization and services running on the servers. The Applications Manager focuses more on server “applications” like web servers, mail servers, or application servers while the OpManager monitors the lower layer and individual components of your infrastructure.

The former keeps track of various parameters of the servers themselves like CPU and Memory Utilization, files and folder, and services running on the servers. The Applications Manager monitors “applications” of the servers like web servers, mail servers, and applications servers.

The Server Monitoring Tools from ManageEngine run on Windows and Linux and excel at good usability. Another strength of the ManageEngine tools is the comprehensive feature set. Especially when using both the OpManager and the Applications Manager, you can monitor almost any aspect of your server infrastructure. If you want to use all the features, the license costs rapidly reach prices of $50,000 and more – depending on your network size.

Before the ManageEngine Platform is ready for daily use, a lot of configuration work is needed. We have heard from many ManageEngine customers that they have to deal with bugs and technical problems on a regular basis. In addition to that, customer support is not one of their strengths.

Which vendor of servers can be monitored in depth?

PRTGSolarWindsManageEngineWhatsUp GoldNagios XI
Apache
Azure
Buffalo
Cisco
Dell
Exchange
Fujitsu
HP
IBM
Oracle
Sharepoint
SQL/MySQL
Allnet
PaloAlto
Mongo DB
3Com
VMWare
HyperV
Citrix
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How do the various solutions monitor?

PRTGSolarWindsManageEngineWhatsUp GoldNagios XI
API
Batch Scripting
DLL
Jflow
sFlow
Netflow
IPFIX
Ping
Powershell
Python
Rest/Json/XML
SNMP
SNMP RMON
SNMP Trap
SNMP Syslog
SSH
WMI
SOAP
WBEM
HTTP/HTTPS
IMAP
POP3
SMTP
FTP/FTPS
Dicom
HL7
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What are some additional features the solutions offer?

PRTGSolarWindsManageEngineWhatsUp GoldNagios XI
Agentless
Auto Discovery
Custom Dashboards
Custom Reporting
Multi Platform Agent/Probe
On-Premises
Push Notificiations
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General Information about the tools

PRTGSolarWindsManageEngineWhatsUp GoldNagios XI
"Transparent" Pricing
Clear License Structure
Operating SystemsWindowsWindows, LinuxMac, Windows, LinuxWindowsLinux
Maintenance Support
Subscription Pricing available
Price/Performance Ratio
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