Network monitoring tools are becoming an increasingly complex decision for network administrators.

With the global network monitoring market projected to grow from $3.34 billion in 2023 to $6.97 billion by 2030, new solutions are emerging faster than ever. All these new options make it difficult to cut through the noise and identify which tool offers the right blend of features, scalability, and affordability.

In this article, we’ll help simplify the selection process by comparing 10 top network monitoring tools. We’ll provide an overview of network monitoring, discuss key capabilities to evaluate, and offer actionable insights to help you pick the ideal solution tailored to your needs. 

Whether you want to reduce downtime, create network maps, integrate monitoring data with existing platforms, or gain greater visibility into network traffic, this guide will help cut through the complexity so you can find monitoring software well-suited to your requirements.

💡Pro tip: TLDR? Jump to our network monitoring tools comparison chart.

What is network monitoring?

Modern notebook computer with future technology media symbols

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 give administrators 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.

  • 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 NetFlowsFlow, 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 network monitoring protocols

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).

Network monitoring vs network management

It’s important to know that network monitoring and network management work hand-in-hand to ensure networks run smoothly, but they serve different primary purposes.

Network monitoring focuses on gathering performance data, visualizing the real-time status of network components, and immediately detecting issues. Monitoring tools track key metrics over time, like throughput rates, device uptime, and bandwidth utilization. When predefined thresholds are exceeded, or problems emerge, monitoring software alerts teams so they can quickly address network problems. The main goal of network monitoring is to provide continuous oversight and visibility into network health.

Network management encompasses a much broader range of functions aimed at ensuring that a network is operating effectively and efficiently, one of which is monitoring network performance. Network management involves taking direct actions to control, secure, optimize, and plan capacity for the network infrastructure itself. Activities like adding/removing devices, configuring equipment, managing policies and access controls, updating firmware, and performing maintenance all fall under the umbrella of network management.

While network monitoring simply detects and diagnoses issues, network management maintains the critical backbone of the network. And, just like monitoring, some of the best network management tools assist IT staff in achieving efficient and cost-effective network management

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. NMS (network monitoring/management system) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) are two of the most popular.

4 key functions of network monitoring

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).

5 must-have features for network monitoring tools in 2024

In our 2024 IT Trends report, we saw an 11% increase in ITs experiencing configuration management challenges over last year. That’s likely due to the fact that modern networks are only getting more complex. In the face of this complexity, having strong monitoring to maintain visibility and health is critical for the modern network.

Without full visibility, achieving efficient and effective management is beyond challenging. As you evaluate options, look for solutions that offer these five must-have features:

1. Custom dashboard views

Custom dashboard views in Auvik

User-friendly dashboards give you at-a-glance insights into how the network is running and where problems may be arising. Choose tools that make it easy to customize views with graphs, charts, and layouts that work for different teams or locations. Avoiding info overload is key—keep it simple but still comprehensive.

2. Smart alerting based on thresholds

network alerts in Auvik

You need alerts when performance metrics cross certain thresholds indicating bigger issues. The best tools simplify setting alert rules for bandwidth, latency spikes, error rates increases and more. Make sure you can tailor alert sensitivity to avoid unnecessary noise while still being notified about the meaningful events.

3. Adaptability as networks scale up

credentials in Auvik

It’s a given that networks change constantly—new gear gets added as capacity ramps up. Your monitoring solution should auto-detect when new hardware comes online and seamlessly fold it into the system. Rapid adaptability means no complex reconfiguring or holes in visibility when things get added or upgraded.

network reports in Auvik that show trends

Robust reporting equips you to spot trends around network traffic patterns, protocol performance, and more, so you can make data-based decisions around capacity growth and other investments. Compliance audit prep also gets far easier when detailed historical reporting is at your fingertips.

5. Tracking configuration changes

tracking configuration changes in Auvik

In bigger networks, changes often create problems that disrupt availability. Choose systems that learn new device settings following changes and baseline ideal configurations. This way, you can easily pinpoint when a recent tweak may have caused issues. Maintaining an audit trail of modifications also speeds up security forensics.

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, spanning both paid and open-source solutions.

1. Auvik

Auvik network monitoring

Auvik is a feature-rich, cloud-based network monitoring and management platform designed for both internal IT teams and managed service providers (MSPs). It supports automated network discovery and monitoring across over 15,000 devices from 700+ vendors using standard protocols like SNMP, NetFlow, sFlow, and more.

A key capability is Auvik TrafficInsights, which leverages machine learning to provide intelligent traffic analysis beyond just NetFlow data. This enables deep application visibility even across encrypted traffic.

A SaaS platform, Auvik simplifies deployment with a lightweight collector that can be installed on-premises or in the cloud. Once connected, it automatically discovers network devices and starts mapping topology and documenting inventory. Customizable alerts and monitoring profiles keep admins informed proactively.

Auvik also facilitates several time-saving workflows around network change tracking, automated documentation, and configuration backup/recovery. Remote network access tools like an integrated terminal and tunneling client enable secure troubleshooting without truck rolls.

Integrations with IT service desks like ServiceNow allow bidirectional workflow between alerts and tickets. The API enables custom integration into other management tools. Support for SSO, 2FA, and granular access controls aid security and compliance.


  • Fast automated network discovery and documentation
  • Application-layer visibility into encrypted traffic
  • Tools to reduce MTTR for issue resolution
  • Cloud delivery simplifies deployment
  • Broad monitoring coverage across multi-vendor environments
  • Scalable for distributed networks and MSPs
  • Robust access controls and audit logging


  • Lacks on-premises deployment option
  • No free tier for small businesses

Top Features:

  • Automated network topology mapping
  • Traffic analysis with machine learning
  • Configuration change tracking
  • Integrated remote access tools
  • Backup and versioning for device configs
  • REST API for custom integration
  • Support for SSO and 2FA
  • Flexible, role-based access control

2. LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor network monitoring

LogicMonitor is a cloud-based network monitoring platform designed for enterprises with complex and dynamic network environments. It combines infrastructure and network monitoring, log analysis, and AIOps capabilities into a unified solution.

LogicMonitor simplifies deployment through auto-discovery of devices, auto-configuration of monitoring, and out-of-the-box support for 2000+ technologies. Agentless data collectors install on-premises to feed performance metrics back to the cloud platform.

Unified dashboards correlate events, topology, metrics, and logs for faster root cause analysis. Advanced analytics like anomaly detection and forecasting enable more intelligent alerting thresholds and capacity planning. Integrations with IT workflows facilitate efficient collaboration and issue resolution.

LogicMonitor readily adapts monitoring for new environments like SD-WAN, SASE, and multi-cloud. Automated network documentation aids insight and planning as networks scale and transform. Role-based access controls and audit logging boost security and compliance.


  • Fast automated discovery and monitoring setup
  • Holistic visibility for dynamic, hybrid networks
  • Predictive capabilities improve planning
  • Tools to reduce MTTR for problems
  • Adapts monitoring for new technologies


  • Potentially high data ingestion costs
  • Advanced analytics requires learning curve
  • Audit logging requires separate module
  • Initial setup and deployment can be time consuming for large environments

Top Features:

  • Automated device discovery
  • Unified dashboards with topology visualization
  • Anomaly detection for intelligent alerting
  • Log analysis for security and troubleshooting
  • AIOps enhancements like forecasting
  • APIs and workflow integrations
  • Cross-platform configuration management
  • Customizable monitoring and reporting

3. Nagios

Nagios network monitoring

Nagios is an open-source network monitoring platform popular for its flexibility and extensibility. It combines infrastructure and application monitoring with a vast library of community-built plug-ins.

Nagios uses an agentless architecture, with a core scheduler daemon installed on-premises to coordinate monitoring tasks. The platform auto-discovers devices and applies basic monitoring out-of-the-box. Users can easily extend monitoring by installing plug-ins that leverage standard protocols like SNMP.

While the interface is dated, Nagios offers rich visualization and reporting capabilities through add-ons and plug-ins. Advanced features like forecast capacity planning and configuration management require additional modules. Role-based access controls are available in the paid XI version.

As an open platform, Nagios relies on its community to expand device support and functionality. The plug-in architecture enables monitoring virtually any metric from any system with custom scripting. Integrations connect the platform to other IT tools.


  • Highly flexible and extensible
  • Thousands of plug-ins for broad monitoring
  • Easy to add custom checks
  • Scales monitoring to very large networks
  • Free open source core


  • Steep learning curve
  • Add-ons can be complex
  • No native support for the latest technologies
  • Limited without customization

Top Features:

  • Auto-discovery for automated monitoring setup
  • Agentless architecture needs only the core server
  • Plugin framework for endless extensibility
  • Customizable dashboards and reporting
  • APIs and SDK for integration
  • Role-based access control (in XI paid version)

4. Cacti

Cacti network monitoring

Cacti is an open source network monitoring tool focused specifically on graphing performance data from network devices. It works by storing time series metrics in a round robin database and rendering visualizations using RRDtool.

Cacti uses an agentless model, leveraging SNMP to poll device data at configurable intervals. The platform auto-discovers devices and applies basic monitoring profiles. Users can create custom scripts to capture metrics from additional sources.

The focus of Cacti is visualizing network traffic, utilization, and faults. It provides real-time visibility through custom dashboards but has limited alerting capabilities and basic reporting. While extendable via plug-ins, Cacti lacks the broader infrastructure monitoring scope of commercial tools.

As open-source software, Cacti relies on community contributions to expand functionality over time. Integrations are available to connect Cacti with other management platforms. Role-based access controls allow administrative delegation.


  • Specialized for network graphing
  • Scales to monitor thousands of devices
  • Easy to add custom data sources
  • Free and open source software
  • Flexible visualization options


  • Limited alerting capabilities
  • No native support for latest network gear
  • Lacks many common monitoring features
  • Challenging installation process
  • Dependence on plug-ins for extras

Top Features:

  • Auto-discovery for SNMP devices
  • Custom data collection via scripts
  • Real-time and historical graphing
  • Customizable dashboards
  • Fault visualization using device status
  • Role-based access control
  • APIs for external integration

5. Zabbix

Zabbix network monitoring

Zabbix is an open source network monitoring platform designed for large-scale and high-performance environments. It offers extensive monitoring capabilities across infrastructure, applications, logs, and business services.

Zabbix uses an agent-based architecture, with lightweight collectors installed on devices and servers. The central server coordinates monitoring tasks and data aggregation. Integrated auto-discovery streamlines the setup of monitoring. Users can extend functionality with a vast array of community plugins.

While the interface remains dated, Zabbix provides advanced visualization like topological maps and custom dashboards. Machine learning powers intelligent alerting thresholds and anomaly detection. Additional enterprise capabilities like high availability and access controls facilitate complex deployments.

As an open platform, new protocols and technologies are added to Zabbix based on evolving community contributions. Native APIs allow custom integration, while plugin sharing enables rapid expansion of monitoring coverage.


  • Highly scalable distributed monitoring
  • Broad native monitoring capabilities
  • Predictive analytics via machine learning
  • Tools to reduce MTTR for problems
  • Free and open source core


  • Challenging installation/upgrade process
  • Steep learning curve for customization
  • Dependence on community for latest features
  • Weak multi-tenancy separation

Top Features:

  • High performance metric collection
  • Auto-discovery for easy onboarding
  • Anomaly detection for smarter alerting
  • Business service monitoring
  • Map and dashboard visualization
  • Remote monitoring via proxies
  • REST APIs for custom integration
  • Role-based access control


PRTG network monitoring

PRTG is a Windows-based network monitoring tool from Paessler, available as on-premises and cloud SaaS solutions. It combines infrastructure, network, application, and website monitoring capabilities into a unified platform.

PRTG uses an agentless architecture, with a core server component installed on-premises that coordinates monitoring tasks. The platform auto-discovers devices and configures sensors using predefined profiles. PRTG pricing is based on the number of sensors, where each sensor monitors one data point.

Customizable dashboards correlated with topology mapping connect monitoring data to visualize network health. Alerting and reporting features facilitate monitoring workflows. While PRTG covers standard monitoring needs out-of-the-box, published APIs allow developers to build custom sensors and integrations where required.

Designed to be easy to use, PRTG enables general IT administrators to leverage monitoring data. Role-based access controls secure administrative permissions while audit logging aids troubleshooting.


  • Broad out-of-the-box monitoring coverage
  • Easy and quick deployment
  • Intuitive visualization for monitoring data
  • Flexible licensing model
  • APIs enable custom data collection


Top Features:

  • Auto-discovery for automated monitoring setup
  • Drag-and-drop dashboard editing
  • Customizable reporting and alerting
  • Support for a wide array of monitoring protocols
  • Cloud and on-premises options
  • Published APIs for custom integration
  • Role-based access control

7. SolarWinds NPM

Solarwinds network monitoring

SolarWinds NPM (Network Performance Monitor) is a Windows-based network monitoring platform combining fault, performance, traffic analysis, and configuration management. It auto-discovers infrastructure and applies custom profiles for monitoring devices, interfaces, and services.

NPM uses an agentless architecture, with a core polling engine installed on-premises that coordinates monitoring tasks across the environment. The engine scales horizontally, processing and correlating monitoring data from SNMP, WMI, syslog, and other protocols.

Drag-and-drop dashboards provide unified visibility while helping to pinpoint the root cause of problems faster. Advanced analytics like capacity forecasting facilitates infrastructure planning. Integrations with IT workflows and configuration management systems enable automated issue resolution.

While the on-premises model requires Windows server management, it does provide security and data ownership. Role-based access controls and granular permissions aid regulatory compliance requirements.


  • Broad monitoring for multi-vendor networks
  • Intuitive visualization and analysis
  • Advanced troubleshooting tools
  • Scales to large environments
  • Ownership over monitoring data


  • Complex Windows infrastructure
  • Lesser known SWQL for custom queries
  • Potential security risks
  • Many advanced features require additional paid add-ons

Top Features:

  • Auto-discovery and profiling
  • Customizable health dashboards
  • Intelligent performance alerting
  • Real-time and historical reporting
  • Application dependency mapping
  • Configuration change tracking
  • REST APIs and workflow integrations
  • Role-based access control

8. Datadog

Datadog network monitoring

Datadog is a cloud-based monitoring and analytics platform designed for full-stack observability across infrastructure, applications, logs, and user experience. Its SaaS model aggregates monitoring data from over 450 integrations to provide unified visibility and alerting.

While covering servers, networks and infrastructure, Datadog specializes in monitoring modern distributed applications and cloud environments. Key capabilities like APM, log analysis, synthetic monitoring, and real user monitoring provide code-level insights even across complex microservices architectures.

Customizable dashboards correlated with topology visualization connect monitoring data to business KPIs for smarter decision making. Anomaly detection and global collaboration features boost uptime. Open APIs enable custom instrumentation and integrations where needed. Granular access controls aid security and compliance.


  • Deep visibility into distributed applications
  • Correlates infrastructure and app monitoring
  • Predictive capabilities with anomaly detection
  • Tools to reduce MTTR for cloud services
  • Easy to deploy agent-based model


  • Potentially high data ingestion costs
  • Advanced features require learning curve
  • No network traffic analysis

Top Features:

  • Application performance monitoring
  • Infrastructure and container monitoring
  • Synthetic and real user monitoring
  • Unified logs with analytics
  • Customizable alerting and reporting
  • Anomaly detection using ML
  • Collaboration tools for faster triage
  • Open API for custom integrations
  • Audit log for tracking actions

9. Netcrunch

Netcrunch network monitoring

Netcrunch is a Windows-based network monitoring platform combining performance, fault, and traffic analysis capabilities. It auto-discovers infrastructure and customizes monitoring based on predefined profiles tailored to different device types.

Netcrunch follows an agentless architecture, with a core server component installed on-premises coordinating data collection. The platform ingests metrics via SNMP, WMI, syslog, and other standard protocols and can be extended via scripts.

Dashboards with geographical and topological visualization provide unified visibility for tracking issues and planning capacity. Advanced analytics like traffic analysis and threshold forecasting facilitate infrastructure optimization. While accessible via web UI, full administrative functionality requires a Windows client.

As locally installed software, Netcrunch gives complete ownership over monitoring data but adds overhead to Windows server management. Role concepts allow access delegation while suite-level security aids compliance.


  • Broad monitoring for mixed-vendor networks
  • Intuitive visualization for actionable insights
  • Advanced troubleshooting and capacity planning
  • Scales to large environments
  • Ownership over monitoring data


  • Full admin functions need Windows client
  • Complex on-premises infrastructure
  • GUI improvements still happening

Top Features:

  • Auto-discovery of devices
  • Customizable health dashboards
  • Intelligent performance alerting
  • Integrated traffic flow analysis
  • Real-time and scheduled reporting
  • Config change tracking for devices
  • Task automation for issue resolution
  • Role-based access control

10. Observium

Observium network monitoring

Observium is an open source network monitoring platform focused on SNMP-based discovery and visualization. It auto-detects devices using multiple protocols and renders network topology and performance metrics on intuitive dashboards.

Observium follows an agentless architecture, with a core server component that uses SNMP, WMI and other protocols to poll monitored devices. While Observium Community is free, paid versions add advanced capabilities like alerts, API access, and enterprise support.

Out-of-the-box support for over 450 platforms facilitates rapid time-to-value while custom checks and scripts extend monitoring coverage. Role-based access controls and syslog integration aid troubleshooting workflows. As open-source software, feature expansion relies on community contributions.


  • Auto-discovers topology and dependencies
  • Easy to deploy and configure dashboards
  • Excellent visualization for network stats
  • Free Community edition available
  • Extendable via custom checks


  • Limited alerting capabilities
  • Dated web interface
  • Need paid versions for full features
  • Missing enterprise capabilities

Top Features:

  • Auto-discovery of SNMP devices
  • Network topology visualization
  • Performance dashboard customization
  • Data collection via SNMP/WMI
  • Monitoring for 400+ platforms
  • REST API (in paid versions)
  • Basic role-based access control

Compare network monitoring tools

Need an easy way to compare software options for network monitoring?

Check out our comparison table below.

Final thoughts: Choose the right network monitoring tool

With networks becoming more complex and dynamic, having robust monitoring is critical for ensuring performance and uptime. This guide covered 10 leading options for modern network visibility and analysis.

When evaluating solutions, key criteria include auto-discovery capabilities, flexibility of supported protocols, advanced analytics, customizable dashboards, intelligent alerting, troubleshooting tools, depth of reporting, access controls, and scalability. Carefully assess both your current infrastructure needs and future expansion plans when determining the best fit.

Leading platforms like Auvik, LogicMonitor, and SolarWinds NPM provide extensive out-of-the-box coverage plus advanced features to handle evolving network environments. MSP-friendly solutions like Auvik also facilitate efficient managed services delivery.

Open-source tools like Zabbix, Nagios, and Observium offer free options for basic monitoring functionality but have some limitations in capabilities. However, their extensibility allows technically adept users to customize and extend monitoring in advanced ways.As network infrastructure and challenges continue advancing rapidly, it’s important to choose monitoring systems that can adapt without major overhead. Prioritize solutions that deliver unified visibility and intuitive data analysis to support rapid troubleshooting.

Learn how switching to Auvik can increase your efficiency through boosted uptime, better optimization, and simplified scalability.

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