There are plenty of options for network monitoring tools today, and that can make it hard to pick the right one for you. Here, we’ll help you sort through your options by taking a look at the 10 best network monitoring tools available today, provide a crash course on network monitoring, and explain what you should look for in a network monitoring tool.

What is network monitoring?

Network monitoring is the process of monitoring devices—often referred to as nodes—within a network to determine their health and availability. The purpose of network monitoring is to enable administrators to gain real-time insights and visibility about the condition of their network, identify trends, and rapidly detect or prevent issues and outages. Servers, switches, routers, firewalls, cloud infrastructure, and IoT (Internet of Things) devices are examples of commonly monitored network nodes.

Network monitoring protocols

The network discovery and real-time monitoring that occurs as part of the network monitoring process is implemented using a wide variety of protocols. Each protocol comes with its own pros and cons, and most popular network monitoring tools will use multiple protocols. Here are some of the most popular network monitoring protocols:

  • SNMP: The Simple Network Management Protocol, a.k.a. SNMP, is one of the most common network monitoring protocols. SNMP can be used for polling (a monitoring station queries a network device) and notifications (a device sends an SNMP TRAP or INFORM to a monitoring station).
  • ICMP (ping): The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is the protocol that the popular ping and traceroute/tracert commands use. Because ping is a great way to determine if a device is up or down and the latency and jitter of network connections, ICMP is often used in network monitoring.
  • IPMI: Intelligent Platform Management Interface or IPMI allows for monitoring and management of servers independent of the operating system. Network monitoring tools use IMPI to collect data such as CPU and memory utilization from monitored servers.
  • Flow protocols: The term “flow protocols” actually refers to a number of different protocols that provide data on the flow of network traffic. Flow protocols can be a great way to gain deep insights into how data flows between devices in your network. Popular flow protocols include NetFlow, sFlow, and jFlow.
  • Syslog: Centralized logging makes network monitoring and incident response much more efficient than analyzing log files on each individual device. The syslog protocol provides a standard for network devices to send logs to a monitoring station. Because syslog messages indicate severity, it becomes easy for administrators to filter and act on the right events.
  • HTTP(S): Hypertext Transfer Protocol a.k.a. HTTP and its encrypted counterpart HTTPS (the S is for secure) is effectively the language of the web. This makes HTTP(S) a common protocol for monitoring web servers and applications that expose an API (application programming interface) via HTTP(S).

Enterprise-grade network monitoring software will offer even more protocols—like SSH (secure shell), WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol), and CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol)—and other tools to further expand your network visibility. For example, port scanning, packet captures, and agents (data collectors installed on network endpoints) are other common tools used in network monitoring.

Which protocols you should use will vary depending upon your network devices and the level of visibility and reporting you want to achieve. For example, for simple uptime monitoring, ICMP using a continuous ping may be enough. Alternatively, for complete network visibility and network mapping, you may use a combination of agents, pollers (e.g., SNMP and HTTP GETs), flow protocols, and inbound notifications (e.g., SNMP TRAPs and syslog messages).

Importance of network monitoring tools

Network monitoring tools are important because they provide a way for admins to effectively and efficiently use network monitoring to improve network performance and uptime. They can also enable managed service providers (MSPs) to provide their clients with better service and streamline reporting and billing workflows. For example, with the right network monitoring solutions, admins and MSPs can:

  • Reduce downtime
  • Enable automated responses when outages occur
  • Gain insights into network performance and data flows
  • More efficiently utilize resources
  • Proactively identify when and where new infrastructure is needed
  • Rapidly detect abnormal or malicious network traffic

Software that combines multiple network monitoring tools goes by a few different names with NMS (network monitoring/management system) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) being two of the most popular. Regardless of the name, these network monitoring solutions provide four key functions to enable effective network monitoring:

  • Network discovery: To begin the monitoring process, network monitoring tools need to identify what devices to monitor. Some tools automate the discovery process, while others require manual configuration. Ultimately, the goal is to find any device on your network.
  • Real-time monitoring: Once devices are discovered, continuous monitoring of their uptime and condition occurs using one or more network monitoring protocols or tools. Based on statistics gathered from real-time monitoring, network monitoring tools can generate alerts and reports for administrators. In many cases, the data captured during discovery and monitoring is used to create interactive network maps to help improve network visualization.
  • Alerting: Alerts, such as text messages, emails, Slack messages, and warnings in a management interface, notify IT teams when something goes wrong—for example, a router interface going down or a database server running low on space.
  • PRO TIP Setting up good alert thresholds for notifications is a key aspect of effective network monitoring. You don’t want to miss important events, but too many unimportant alerts and admins get alarm fatigue.

  • Reporting: Logs and reports help administrators understand trends that help with everything from identifying potential issues to demonstrating to clients that you’ve met SLAs (service level agreements).

Top 10 network monitoring tools

Now that we’ve covered the basics of network monitoring and network monitoring tools, let’s take a look at the 10 best network monitoring tools available today.

Auvik

best network monitoring tools Auvik

Source: Auvik Networks

Auvik is a cloud-based network monitoring tool designed for both businesses with in-house IT staff and MSPs in mind. Auvik supports a wide variety of network monitoring protocols for network discovery and monitoring. Additionally, their TrafficInsights™ functionality goes beyond NetFlow-levels of traffic analysis by combining the power of machine learning with flow protocols.

Being a cloud-based solution means Auvik abstracts away the difficulty of initial configuration associated with many on-premises network monitoring systems. Auvik makes it easy to get started with network discovery by using a lightweight collector that can be installed on-premises and in cloud environments.

Post-discovery, in addition to customizable and granular network monitoring, Auvik enables network mapping and a variety of automated workflows including the automation of network documentation.

Additionally, Auvik supports a wide variety of integrations with everything from collaboration software such as Microsoft Teams and Slack, to IT service management platforms such as ServiceNow and FreshDesk. Their robust API adds additional extensibility and makes possible additional integrations beyond what’s already built-in.

Pros

  • Simple and fast initial configuration
  • Vendor neutral with support for 15,000+ devices
  • Wide variety of integrations
  • Cloud-based interface enables secure access from anywhere with internet connectivity
  • Enables deep network visibility and intelligent troubleshooting

Cons

  • No on-premises option
  • No free-forever tier

Top features

  • Network mapping
  • Automation of network documentation
  • TrafficInsights™ enables intelligent network traffic analysis
  • 2FA (two-factor authentication)
  • Granular access controls
  • SSO (single sign-on) support with integrations for Okta, Azure Active Directory, Google, and more
  • Inventory management with firmware and lifecycle data
  • Configuration backup and recovery
  • Robust API

LogicMonitor

network monitoring tools LM

Source: LogicMonitor


LogicMonitor is a full-stack cloud-based network monitoring platform used by managed service providers and enterprise customers around the globe. LogicMonitor combines network, server, and cloud infrastructure monitoring into a single platform and supports a diverse set of protocols for monitoring.

Documenting over 2,000 integrations, LogicMonitor has a diverse set of network devices, virtualization platforms, cloud, and on-premises applications and databases. Through a discovery process, it detects devices to monitor and applies monitors based on pre-configured best practices, streamlining deployment compared to many open-source alternatives.

Pros

  • Cloud-based interface enables secure access from anywhere with internet connectivity
  • Extensible platform with multiple monitoring modules available
  • Single dashboard for monitoring, device logs, and configuration management
  • Single platform that can be used across multiple teams

Cons

  • No on-premises option
  • No free-forever tier
  • Configuration management and device logs are additional licences
  • Data retention is limited to 1 or 2 years, depending on tier, and limited to 10,000 alerts

Top features

  • AIOps Early Warning System and Anomaly detection
  • LMLogs for syslog monitoring
  • Modules developed by LogicMonitor and the user community to monitor a wide range of devices

DataDog

network monitoring tools DD

Source: DataDog


DataDog is another cloud-based network monitoring tool known for its strong support for cloud infrastructure and DevOps workflows. To get started with monitoring, DataDog users install an agent that enables network discovery and monitoring. DataDog can monitor on-premises devices and supports most of the standard networking monitoring features such as network mapping, resource utilization monitoring, alerting, and log management.

However, where DataDog shines is cloud application monitoring and DevOps workflows. Not only does DataDog support a wide variety of integrations with platforms like AWS, Azure, Google, and GitHub, it can also integrate into DevOps workflows. For example, with DataDog, automated browser tests that check if a web application is working as expected can be integrated into CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery) pipelines.

Pros

  • Advanced cloud infrastructure monitoring
  • Wide variety of integrations
  • Integrates well with DevOps workflows
  • Cloud-based interface enables secure access from anywhere with internet connectivity

Cons

  • No on-premises option
  • Expensive
  • Support for traditional on-premises hardware could be better

Top features

  • In-depth APM (application performance monitoring)
  • User experience (UX) monitoring for web apps
  • Robust API

Nagios

network monitoring tools NG

Source: Nagios


Nagios Core is a popular open source (released under GPLv2) platform that a variety of network monitoring and log management tools are built upon. There are a number of different tools that use Nagios, including the popular enterprise network monitoring tool Nagios X.

Nagios is a very mature and popular platform with a large community of contributions on the Nagios Exchange that include a wide variety of integrations and plugins for both on-premises and cloud infrastructure. While it’s possible to deploy Nagios in the cloud, unlike our first two options on the list, it’s not a cloud-based solution. Normally, Nagios will be installed on a dedicated on-premises server (or cluster of servers).

Note: While Nagios Core is open source, Nagios XI interface and framework is NOT.

Pros

  • Wide variety of plugins
  • Free tier for small networks (100 host and service checks)
  • Agentless and agent-based monitoring
  • Large library of plugins
  • Scalable and customizable
  • Advanced reporting features

Cons

  • Can be complex to install
  • No Nagios official cloud-hosted option
  • Interface has a steeper learning curve than other options

Top features

  • Advanced graphing
  • Autodiscovery and auto-decommissioning
  • Configuration wizards for many common network devices
  • Capacity planning

Cacti

network monitoring tools CA

Source: Cacti


Cacti is a free and open source (GPLv2) application that can capture data from network devices through SNMP and custom scripts. Cacti doesn’t attempt to provide all the features commercial network monitoring tools deliver.

Instead, Cacti focuses on capturing and graphing data from network devices, and it does a very good job at that. As a result, Cacti can be a great solution for users in need of a reliable solution for tracking and visualizing metrics like CPU utilization, memory, storage, and network statistics.

Pros

  • Free and open source
  • Large community
  • Focuses on one thing (graphing) and does it well
  • Scalable to thousands of devices

Cons

  • Installation can be complex
  • Lacks many advanced features

Top features

  • Highly customizable graphing
  • Custom scripts for data capturing
  • SNMP support
  • Ability to define granular user permissions

Zabbix

network monitoring tools ZA

Source: Zabbix


Zabbix is another GPLv2 open source network monitoring tool. Zabbix is designed to be an enterprise-grade solution. This means it’s feature-rich, secure, scalable, and performant. It’s capable of monitoring effectively any cloud or on-premises network device. It also means that the installation, configuration, and management of Zabbix can become complex, particularly for smaller teams.

Pros

  • Free and open source (with options for paid commercial support)
  • Scalable and performant
  • Highly flexible and customizable
  • Agent-based and agentless monitoring

Cons

  • Can be complex to install and manage
  • Documentation can be lacking

Top features

  • Network maps
  • Customizable data-rich dashboards
  • Agentless and agent-based monitoring
  • Support for a wide variety of protocols including Modbus and MQTT for IoT
  • Automate responses to problems (e.g. reboot a host)
  • High availability and clustering

PRTG

network monitoring tools PR

Source: Paessler


PRTG is a popular network monitoring tool from Paessler. This network monitoring tool can be deployed on-premises on a Windows server or hosted in the cloud. The monitoring paradigm and pricing structure with PRTG is based on the concept of sensors. A sensor is a single monitored datapoint on a device. For example, if you monitor one router using ping, an SNMP GET for CPU utilization, and an SNMP GET for system uptime, that counts as three sensors.

One major upside of PRTG is how quickly users can go from installation to monitoring devices. For example, even before inputting credentials, PRTG can discover many network nodes and will configure them with default sensors such as a ping sensor.

Pros

  • On-premises and cloud deployment options
  • Free tier (100 sensors)
  • All features are built-in, no need for plugins
  • Autodiscovery and default alert configurations streamline initial configuration

Cons

  • Sensor-based pricing model
  • Some user interface issues (e.g. selecting multiple devices/objects)

Top features

  • Autodiscovery
  • In-depth reporting
  • Network mapping
  • Customizable dashboards
  • Sensor recommendations

SolarWinds NPM

network monitoring tools SW

Source: SolarWinds


Despite recent security concerns as a result of a large-scale code hack, SolarWinds NPM (Network Performance Monitor) is one of the most popular network monitoring tools available today, and for good reason. NPM offers a wide variety of advanced network monitoring, analysis, and reporting features along with an intuitive user interface. For example, during network discovery, NPM will automatically group known devices together by vendor in an easy-to-navigate tree view on the default dashboard.

Pros

  • Intuitive user interface
  • Support for a wide variety of devices
  • Robust reporting features
  • Detailed inventory automatically created after SNMP discovery<
  • Large user community

Cons

  • Maintaining and scaling Windows server infrastructure required for SolarWinds can be complex
  • Using SolarWinds Query Language (SWQL) for reporting has a steep learning curve
  • No free-forever tier

Top features

  • Dynamic network mapping with Network Atlas
  • Performance analysis with PerfStack
  • Advanced alerting
  • Wi-Fi heat maps
  • Customizable alerts

Netcrunch


network monitoring tools NC
Netcrunch is a lesser-known network monitoring tool, but has an intuitive user interface, a number of advanced features, and can scale to monitor over one million parameters on a single server. In addition to the SNMP-based discovery and monitoring you’d expect, Netcrunch supports flow protocols, mapping, scripting, and APIs.

Pros

  • Intuitive interface
  • Simple to install
  • Competitive pricing for the feature set

Cons

  • No cloud-hosted options
  • No free-forever tier

Top features

  • Network maps
  • Port mapping with VLAN support
  • Traffic monitoring
  • Over 8,700 precompiled SNMP MIB (management information base) files included

Observium

network monitoring tools OB

Source: Observium


For SNMP-based network monitoring, Observium can be a great choice. It offers excellent auto-discovery and mapping features and supports a wide-range of devices by default. While there’s no official cloud hosting, the Turnkey Linux version can be deployed on Amazon EC2. Additionally, Observium offers traffic accounting functionality to help service providers simplify customer billing.

The community edition of Observium is free and open source while the professional and enterprise editions require a paid subscription. If you like Observium but have reservations about the licensing, check out LibreNMS which is another popular open source network monitoring tool that started as a fork of the Observium project.

Pros

  • Free community edition
  • Turnkey Linux option
  • Easy to get started
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Support for a wide variety of SNMP-enabled devices

Cons

  • Many advanced features require enterprise edition
  • Different licenses for community vs professional and enterprise edition source code

Top features

  • Network mapping
  • Excellent autodiscovery feature
  • RESTful API
  • QoS (Quality of Service) metric reporting
  • Automatic grouping
  • Traffic accounting

How to know which one is right for you?

It’s one thing to know what network monitoring tools are out there, but it’s also important to understand how to find the right solution for your needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to narrow things down. For example:

How many and what type of devices do you have? Of course, for commercial tools, the number of devices you want to monitor will impact the cost of a solution. However, the type of devices you need to monitor matters as well. IoT sensors will require a different approach to monitoring than routers and firewalls.

  • What’s your budget? Purchasing network monitoring software is a business decision. Even if you go with a free tool, provisioning it and maintaining it requires an investment of IT time.
  • Are your devices deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or both? Where your network infrastructure is deployed matters. The type of devices you need to monitor is important as well. For example, if most of your infrastructure is on-premises, a tool that specializes in cloud monitoring may not be a good fit.
  • What metrics are important to you? Do you just want to know if your web servers are up or down or do you want granular insights as to their performance? Different tools offer different levels of visibility and reporting.
  • Are you a managed service provider? MSPs have a unique set of requirements when it comes to network monitoring. In addition to tracking network performance, being able to automate everything from incident response to billing can have a huge impact on your business.
  • Should you use a cloud-based or on-premises network monitoring tool? Cloud-based monitoring abstracts away the complexities of maintaining and configuring another on-premises server. On the other hand, in some cases, on-premises deployments can have advantages in the form of increased flexibility and control.

After answering those questions, you should narrow down your list of options to the best network monitoring tools for you. From there, sign up for a few trials or check out some online demos to get a feel for how the tools on your shortlist work.

Important features to consider

As you’re going through your short-list of network monitoring tools, be sure to consider these features:

  • Network monitoring protocols supported: The more protocols a network monitoring tool supports, the more data points and insights you can potentially capture. However, if all you have is a network full of SNMP devices, you may only need one.
    Visualization features: Dashboards, maps, graphs, and charts help visualize the health and layout of your network. Be sure to consider what visualization features are important to you.
  • Reporting: Some monitoring tools offer limited reporting while others can provide granular billing-grade details. Be sure to consider what type of reporting features you need, and keep that in mind as you evaluate your network monitoring software options.
  • Alerting: Effective alerting is vital to effective network monitoring. After all, if you don’t know when an anomaly occurs, you can’t respond to it. Be sure that your network monitoring tool can offer the threshold customization and alert notification methods you need.
  • Security: Will the network monitoring tool use encrypted protocols (such as HTTPS and SNMP v3) for network discovery and polling? Is there a method to proactively detect and respond to potentially malicious traffic? How is data at rest stored? Can 2FA be enforced? The answers to these questions can have a significant impact on your network security and compliance.
  • Ease of use: Some network monitoring solutions are feature-rich but have a steep learning curve. Be sure to find the right balance between complexity and ease of use.
  • Integrations: Consider what other platforms you may need to integrate with. For example, do you use a ticketing system? Can your network monitoring tool automatically generate a service ticket for outages?
  • Scalability: For cloud-based network monitoring tools, the scalability problem is solved by the vendor. For on-premises solutions, you’ll need to have a plan to grow with your network.
  • Fault tolerance: If you’re deploying an on-premises solution and require fault tolerance, does the network monitoring software support it? Alternatively, for cloud-based solutions, what SLAs does the vendor offer?