This is why you need a network monitoring tool. These, when configured correctly will give you the low down on what is on your network, what state it is in and, where possible, alert you to problems before they become major issues.
Now, you should not confuse monitoring tools with management tools. Management tools are a whole different beast and they allow you to perform a variety of management tasks directly on computers and hardware as well as providing some, or in the case of more costly commercial products quite a bit, of monitoring functionality. Monitoring tools do just what they say. They keep an eye on your network for you and tell you when things aren’t right.
There are some things you should note however, if you currently do not have any such software installed:
- They can often require (more than) a bit of technical knowledge to setup and configure.
- You may need a server/virtual server of a specific operating system type to host the system on.
- They are often time consuming to get configured and working correctly (offset by the amount of time and work it may actually save you in the future!).
- You will often have to configure your network equipment (from desktop PC’s, laptops, switches etc.) to work correctly with the monitoring system when configuring SNMP on local devices or install a dedicated client directly on to the operating system to provide more in-depth reporting.
To ensure I picked the right programs to cover I set up the following criteria:
- The program must be able to detect and report on any network attached equipment and read SNMP traps as required.
- Server monitoring tools will not be listed as they are mainly focussed on reporting services/web/network usage and will not give information on external devices such as printers etc.
- They must be free and not trial/nag-ware or have restricted functionality. All packages listed are ‘full’ in that no features are restricted.
You should also note that these are not authoritative or in depth reviews. I’m not going to dig into every nook and cranny of each package, and given the size and complexity of many of these apps it would take an age to do so and generate many, many hundreds of words that will largely go ignored and if I have missed a feature or not performed a task correctly and reported that something is at fault then the fault is all mine, so please feel free to correct me later, but what we hope to achieve is to produce a list of apps that you can investigate further so as to better find out what it is you wish to achieve, and what you find most usable. So without further ado let’s dig in.
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