Best Network Monitoring Software Shortlist
Here are my top 12 tools to optimize your network performance:
- Wireshark - Best for packet analysis
- PRTG Network Monitor - Best for real-time network monitoring
- Prometheus - Best free network monitoring tool
- Nagios XI - Best for enterprises
- Zenoss - Best for hybrid IT infrastructure monitoring
- ManageEngine OpManager - Best for multi-vendor network monitoring
- WhatsUp Gold - Best for comprehensive network monitoring
- LogicMonitor - Best for cloud-based network monitoring
- New Relic - Best for advanced and power users
- Dynatrace - Best for network monitoring in complex environments
- Datadog - Best for small businesses
- Zabbix - Best open-source option
I’ve seen first-hand the headaches of not having a network monitoring tool — difficulty identifying bottlenecks, not receiving timely alerts, reduced productivity, etc. Identifying the root cause of network issues and resolving them also took a long time.
Network monitoring tools helped me overcome these problems because they have features to monitor network traffic, detect and troubleshoot issues, and analyze network performance data.
Within this article, you’ll find an in-depth evaluation of the 12 leading network monitoring tools. I have thoroughly analyzed the features and pricing of each tool. You’ll also see screenshots for additional context.
What Is Network Monitoring Software?
Network monitoring software provides real-time insights into network health, allowing you to identify and resolve network problems proactively. It also helps in capacity planning and optimizing network performance. By monitoring network devices, servers, and applications, you can enhance the security of your network by identifying and addressing potential threats.
Overviews of the 12 Best Network Monitoring Software
Here you’ll find my choices for the best network monitoring software and tools:
1. Wireshark - Best for packet analysis
Wireshark is a powerful network protocol analyzer that lets you capture and analyze network traffic in real time.
Why I picked Wireshark: I picked Wireshark because it can decode packets and display detailed information about each protocol layer. It uses color highlighting to identify packet types and anomalies. Users can create custom display filters to focus on specific protocol fields.
Wireshark Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I liked about Wireshark are that it offers deep inspections of over 3,000 protocols ( more are continually being added). Along with live capture, it can also analyze pre-recorded capture files. It includes an expert system that can detect common network problems and provide suggestions for troubleshooting.
Integrations are available natively for tcpdump, Tshark, WinPcap, AirPcap, and Dumpcap. APIs are also available.
Trial: Free plan available
- Can analyze network flows and provide insights into traffic patterns
- Can generate statistical reports and graphs to visualize network traffic patterns
- Can decrypt SSL/TLS encrypted traffic, allowing for deeper analysis
- Requires a good understanding of network protocols and packet analysis
- May consume a significant amount of system resources
2. PRTG Network Monitor - Best for real-time network monitoring
PRTG Network Monitor is a comprehensive network monitoring tool specifically designed for Windows.
Why I picked PRTG: I chose PRTG for its powerful real-time monitoring and alerting system through which you can get instant alerts via email or push notifications about any unusual network behavior. I also used their fine-tuned warning thresholds which could identify issues proactively. I could also set priorities for alerts and schedule alarms for high-priority ones.
PRTG Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I found useful about PRTG are that it lets you monitor IT, operational technology (OT), and IoT infrastructure without vendor lock-in. When setting up the initial monitoring, it can automatically detect networks, and you can create your custom dashboards with its drag-and-drop editor. If you work in distributed locations, you can look at the performance of all networks in one central place.
Integrations are pre-built and include Acronis, Check Point, Crosser, EgoSecure, Fujitsu, IP Fabric, NetApp, Moxa, ServiceNow, and ScriptRunner. APIs are available too.
Pricing: From $1,899 per server license, which can accommodate up to 50 devices
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free plan available
- Installation takes just a few minutes
- On-premise option available
- Can create high-level or in-depth reports
- Resource intensive
- Limited compatibility with operating systems other than Windows
3. Prometheus - Best free network monitoring tool
Prometheus is an open-source monitoring and alerting system. SoundCloud developed it, and it’s now a part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
Why I picked Prometheus: Prometheus is a free, general-purpose monitoring and alerting system that can monitor various aspects of your networks, systems, and applications. It specializes in time-series data collection and provides querying capabilities for analyzing and visualizing metrics. I selected Prometheus because it provides a flexible platform for collecting, storing, and analyzing time-series data related to network metrics.
Prometheus Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I liked, especially for network monitoring, are that you can track network bandwidth usage, packet loss, latency, and other network performance indicators. Prometheus supports a federation feature, which allows you to aggregate data from multiple Prometheus instances into a single federated view. This is useful for monitoring large-scale distributed networks or multi-cluster environments.
Integrations are available natively for Asana, Better Uptime, DingTalk, Discord, GitLab, JIRAlert, ServiceNow, xMatters, Grafana, and Squadcast.
- Can set up alerts based on defined rules and thresholds
- Supports various service discovery mechanisms
- Can store historical network metrics
- May experience performance issues with large-scale deployments and high ingestion rates
- Lack of native support for certain data formats and protocols
4. Nagios XI - Best for enterprises
Nagios XI simplifies the process of monitoring, managing, and analyzing your network infrastructure, enabling you to maintain optimal performance and ensure the availability of your critical systems.
Why I picked Nagios XI: I like Nagios XI for enterprises because it provides a centralized dashboard that allows you to monitor the health and performance of your systems, networks, and infrastructure from a single location. You can monitor key metrics like CPU usage, memory utilization, and network traffic. It supports a plugin architecture, which allows you to extend its functionality by adding custom plugins.
Nagios XI Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I feel enterprise teams will find helpful are its robust alerting and notification system that alerts you in real-time via email, SMS, or other methods when issues are detected. Nagios XI also supports distributed monitoring architectures, allowing you to deploy multiple monitoring servers across different locations and networks.
Integrations are native and include Fedora, FreeBSD, MongoDB, Selenium, ServiceNow, VMWare, and openSUSE. APIs are available.
Pricing: From $1,995
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free plan available up to 7 nodes
- Can customize your dashboards and reports with widgets and charts
- Monitor and analyze log entries to identify errors and anomalies
- Can automate tasks like configuring checks, generating reports, and performing system maintenance
- Steep learning curve
- Mobile app has limited features
5. Zenoss - Best for hybrid IT infrastructure monitoring
Zenoss unifies the monitoring of physical and virtual network elements in a centralized platform.
Why I picked Zenoss: What appealed to me about Zenoss is that IT teams can manage and track all their on-prem and cloud environments from one platform. Its star feature is its ability to monitor communications platforms like Cisco UC Manager and Avaya Voice Portal, where it can identify Voice over IP (VoIP) and video quality problems, check for call path issues, and visualize all unified communications (UC) problems in real-time.
Zenoss Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that stood out to me are its ability to correlate, consolidate, and deduplicate network events in relation to other component events and devices in your IT network infrastructure. It also lets you access the IP address inventory for any monitored devices with its network topology map.
Integrations are available natively for ServiceNow, PagerDuty, Slack, Nutanix, Splunk, LayerX, Sumo Logic, BMC, CA Technologies, and Juniper.
Pricing: Pricing upon request
Trial: 14-day free trial + Free demo
- Can create a visual representation of the relationships between different components to understand dependencies
- Log analysis
- Can automate routine tasks and enables the orchestration of complex workflows
- No free plan available
- Can be complex to set up and configure, especially for users with limited technical knowledge
6. ManageEngine OpManager - Best for multi-vendor network monitoring
With advanced features like fault management, performance monitoring, and bandwidth analysis, OpManager helps you proactively manage and optimize your network infrastructure.
Why I picked ManageEngine OpManager: If you’re looking for a multi-vendor network monitoring solution, then I think ManageEngine OpManager is the perfect choice. It supports popular hardware vendors like HP, D-Link, Juniper, Dell, 3Com, Cisco, Force10, NETGEAR, Fortinet, and NetScreen. You can also choose a vendor of your choice as it provides 245 built-in customizable device templates. These templates save the configuration commands for all vendors, so you don’t have to remember all configurations manually.
ManageEngine OpManager Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I appreciate are that you can monitor various servers like Hyper-V, Citrix, Nutanix HCI, and VMware. In addition, you can also monitor access points, switches, WiFi systems, wireless routers, WAN links, storage devices like storage arrays and tape libraries, and distributed networks in multiple locations.
Integrations are natively built for ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus, ServiceNow, Jira Service Management, Slack, and Microsoft Teams. APIs are available.
Pricing: From $245 (for 10 devices)
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free plan available for 3 devices and 2 users
- 2,000+ performance metrics for network monitoring
- Mapping and visualization of performance degradation and network outages
- Router performance metrics like temperature, voltage, and buffer statistics
- Limited customization options for dashboards and reports
- Complex setup and configuration process
7. WhatsUp Gold - Best for comprehensive network monitoring
WhatsUp Gold is a comprehensive IT monitoring and management solution that provides real-time insights and alerts to ensure optimal performance and availability of IT systems.
Why I picked WhatsUp Gold: WhatsUp Gold has common capabilities like infrastructure network monitoring, automatic network discovery, and notifications about network issues. What stands out to me is you can gain insights into network traffic patterns, helping to optimize bandwidth utilization. You can also monitor device performance metrics, such as CPU usage, memory utilization, and disk space.
WhatsUp Gold Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I appreciate are that it can track bandwidth usage and monitor the performance of your database servers and even applications. It also lets you monitor your virtualized environments and wireless network infrastructure. You can monitor SNMP-enabled devices, collecting data for performance analysis.
Integrations are natively available for Active Directory, ServiceNow, VMware, Microsoft Azure, and Cisco. You can also do custom integrations via REST APIs.
Pricing: Pricing upon request
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free edition (unavailable in the US, Canada, Japan, Taiwan)
- User-friendly interface
- Customizable dashboards and reports
- Extensive support for different protocols and vendors
- Occasional bugs or stability issues
- Complex deployment and configuration process
8. LogicMonitor - Best for cloud-based network monitoring
LogicMonitor is an observability platform but comes with powerful features to manage the health and performance of your network ecosystem.
Why I picked LogicMonitor: I chose LogicMonitor because of its ability to support monitoring for SD-WAN and cloud-based networks. You can use LogicMonitor to get insights into the workings of switches, wireless devices, load balancers, routers, and firewalls. It also comes with network topology mapping that helps you understand how devices are interconnected and how data flows within the network.
LogicMonitor Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I specifically want to call out are that you can easily enable network traffic monitoring in complex environments to get information on bandwidth allocation, packet loss, and more. It also offers log-based anomaly detection and forecasts issues that may crop up.
Integrations include more than 2,000+ native options like ServiceNow, PagerDuty, VMWare, BigPanda, Fortinet, Redis, ConnectWise, Juniper, and Twilio. APIs are available.
Pricing: Available on request
Trial: 14-day free trial
- Easy setup process
- Portal functionality and uptime are great
- Auto-discovery abilities are fast
- No free version
- Fewer customization options for user interfaces
9. New Relic - Best for advanced and power users
New Relic’s network optimization software provides proactive alerting, deep diagnostics, and customizable dashboards for efficient network troubleshooting and optimization.
Why I picked New Relic: I liked New Relic during my evaluation because its ability to monitor your whole IT infrastructure network is quite extensive.
It has application monitoring (APM) capabilities and synthetic monitoring, where you can simulate user interactions and test the responsiveness and availability of your applications from different locations. With distributed tracing, you can visualize and trace requests as they travel across other services and components, helping you identify bottlenecks.
New Relic Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I want to recommend for advanced users are its API monitoring capabilities, allowing you to track API performance and availability, identify slow or failed requests, and generate API usage reports.
Beyond this, it can also monitor databases, serverless functions, containers, and transaction tracing (where you can trace the performance of individual transactions within your applications, identifying slow database queries).
Integrations are available natively for 600+ options, including Ruby, Elixir, Cassandra, CentOS, Couchbase, Debian, Nagios, and OpenAI Observability. APIs are available.
Pricing: From $49/user/month
Trial: 14- or 30-day free trial depending on the product you choose + Free plan available
- Generates visual service maps that show how different services in your application architecture are related
- Can centralize and manage your application logs
- Customizable dashboards where you can visualize and analyze your data
- May take time for users to become proficient in navigating and utilizing all the features
- High license costs
10. Dynatrace - Best for network monitoring in complex environments
Dynatrace provides real-time visibility into your network, allowing you to monitor and analyze traffic patterns, latency, and performance metrics.
Why I picked Dynatrace: The reason I suggest Dynatrace for complex environments is it enables smooth performance for all types of network connections, like virtualized clouds and data centers, by installing agents on each host. This lets you gain insight into which processes need troubleshooting. For each process, it can track network bandwidth and connection issues.
Dynatrace Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I like are that you can get a big picture of your entire virtualized network infrastructure. Plus, it can automatically monitor new networks that are added. You also get to see other health metrics for CPU, memory, and disk, as well as for applications, so that you understand the impact of these issues on end-users.
Integrations are pre-built for Active Directory, Adobe Analytics, Akka, Amazon DynamoDB, Ansible Tower, and Azure Virtual Machines and native for Google Analytics, Gremlin, LaunchDarkly, and Zenduty.
Pricing: Depends on the service you choose
Trial: 15-day free trial + Custom demo available
- Can analyze network latency and packet loss
- Capacity planning and forecasting for network resources
- Alerting and notification for network outages
- No free plan
- Pricing structure is complex
11. Datadog - Best for small businesses
With Datadog, you can manage on-prem, cloud, and hybrid networks. You can also track the performances of application layers and even the health of bare-metal appliances.
Why I picked DataDog: The reason I suggest DataDog for small businesses is because of its affordability and provision of all standard network monitoring offerings. These include visual maps of connected networks, traffic metrics by host, processes, and containers, and DNS performance.
DataDog Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I want to highlight are its ability to track metrics like TCP retransmits, connection churn, and latency. It can also check on the performance of traffic between layers like app, port, IP address, or process ID (PID). You can track DNS server health with response time, error code, and request-volume metrics.
Integrations are natively available for 600+ options, including Active Directory, Airflow, Bitbucket, Bugsnag, Cassandra, Crowdstrike, GitHub, and GitLab.
Pricing: From $5/host/month
Trial: 14-day free trial
- Supports multi-cloud and hybrid environments
- Provides historical data for trend analysis
- Offers scalable monitoring capabilities
- Monitoring for Microsoft Azure tools can be complex
- Data retention periods may be shorter than desired
12. Zabbix - Best open-source option
Zabbix’s open-source tool provides detailed monitoring and analysis capabilities, allowing you to identify and resolve network issues promptly.
Why I picked Zabbix: I selected Zabbix because, although it’s an open-source platform, it has a wide range of network monitoring features. You can track total bandwidth usage, packet loss, error rates, number of TCP connections, link status, and other SNMP metrics. You can even monitor network device performances like device availability, power supply status, fan status, and temperature.
Zabbix Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that Zabbix provides are standard, like alerts for unexpected spikes, ping loss, and anomalous behaviors. A feature that stands out for me is its ability to create an escalation logic based on the severity of network problems. You can escalate alerts across departments and users and define each user’s or channel’s working hours.
Integrations are available natively for various platforms, including Zoho, xMatters, VMware, Twilio, Tomcat, SysAid, Tableau, Splunk, Sophos, and ServiceNow. You can also request a custom integration from the Zabbix support team.
Trial: Free forever
- Can define notification methods (SMS, on-screen, or email) when thresholds exceed
- Active community because of being open-source
- 300+ templates for most popular hardware network vendors
- Needs more documentation resources
- Need more templates for rich monitoring
Other Network Monitoring Software Options
Here are some extra options you can pick from. Even though they did not make it to the best 12 list, they are still worth considering:
- Cisco Meraki - Best for security
- Observium - Best for scalable network monitoring and graphing and ideal for large-scale deployments
- Cacti - Best for graphing and visualizing network data
- Ntop - Best for traffic analysis
- NetCrunch - Best for hybrid IT
- IBM QRadar - Best for security information and event management
- Spiceworks - Best for non-technical users
- Solarwinds - Best for scalability
- Auvik - Best for network security and threat detection
- Nmap - Best for automatic discovery and security audits
Selection Criteria For Network Monitoring Software
If you’re curious about how I picked the best network monitoring tools, here are the evaluation criteria I used to assess these tools:
I checked whether the selected tools enable teams to:
- Detect and address issues promptly, ensuring optimal network performance and minimizing downtime
- Proactively respond to network problems and minimize their impact on operations
- Analyze historical data, identify trends, and make informed decisions to optimize network performance
- Understand the relationships between different devices and components via visual representations of the network infrastructure
To perform these core functionalities, each tool I evaluated had these features:
- Real-time monitoring: Allows you to continuously monitor network devices, servers, and applications in real time. It provides real-time data on network performance, traffic, and availability.
- Alerting and notifications: Allows the network monitoring software to send alerts and notifications to inform teams about critical events or potential issues. Alerts can be customized based on severity levels, triggering notifications through email, SMS, or other communication channels.
- Performance analysis and reporting: Helps you generate reports on network availability, response times, bandwidth utilization, and other key performance indicators (KPIs). These reports help in capacity planning, troubleshooting, and evaluating the effectiveness of network infrastructure changes.
- Network mapping and topology discovery: Helps identify the physical and logical connections within the network, while topology discovery automatically discovers and maps the network devices and their interconnections.
I chose tools that had zero to minimal learning curve. However, considering the comprehensive features of network monitoring tools, users may take some time to navigate through the configuration and interface. That’s why I specifically saw to it that the solutions I picked have adequate support, tutorials, and documentation.
In addition, I also checked for these factors:
- Does the software provide clear and accurate data visualization?
- Can you easily integrate the software with other systems or tools?
- Has the software been reviewed and recommended by other users or experts?
Why is network monitoring important?
How does network monitoring software work?
Which type of networks does a network monitoring software monitor?
With network monitoring, you can detect potential security threats, identify inefficiency, and optimize resource allocation.
Investing in network monitoring software can ensure your networks' health and proactively address issues before they become outages.
Subscribe to The CTO Club newsletter to receive more valuable tips, strategies, and articles from the world of technology.