• An EduGeek Roundup of Free Network Monitoring Tools

    Keeping a constant eye on large networks is hard work, and it is often the case that you never get to find out about problems until after they have struck, which can sometimes make you look a bit foolish, especially when it is an obscure piece of networking equipment or long ignored device that decides to go ‘pop’ at a critical time.
    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:

    1. They can often require (more than) a bit of technical knowledge to setup and configure.
    2. You may need a server/virtual server of a specific operating system type to host the system on.
    3. 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!).
    4. 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:

    1. The program must be able to detect and report on any network attached equipment and read SNMP traps as required.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

    (To go to the next page click the drop down to the right below here or at the top right of the article)
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. pete's Avatar
      pete -
      ....at the risk of the comments thread turning into a "Oi, what about......?"

      You missed out OSSIM: (Snort, Ntop, OpenVAS, P0f, Pads, Arpwatch, OSSEC, Osiris, Nagios and OCS rolled into one).

      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM
      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM

      Which, if you're thinking of an all-in-one setup, is pretty handy because it handles intrusion detection and auditing too.
    1. mattx's Avatar
      mattx -
      Spooky........ I was just re-configuring The Dude on an old laptop.....
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
      ....at the risk of the comments thread turning into a "Oi, what about......?"

      You missed out OSSIM: (Snort, Ntop, OpenVAS, P0f, Pads, Arpwatch, OSSEC, Osiris, Nagios and OCS rolled into one).

      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM
      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM

      Which, if you're thinking of an all-in-one setup, is pretty handy because it handles intrusion detection and auditing too.
      I'm sure you will be the first of many to suggest tools I have missed out, but OSSIM is promoted primarily as a security tool rather than a monitoring tool. I shall keep it in mind though as a network security tools article could be interesting.
    1. glennda's Avatar
      glennda -
      For Free tools Zabbix is brilliant. For paid software's I have used GFI Max and more recently N-Able's NCentral but this is more geared towards MSP's market.
    1. pete's Avatar
      pete -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
      I'm sure you will be the first of many to suggest tools I have missed out, but OSSIM is promoted primarily as a security tool rather than a monitoring tool. I shall keep it in mind though as a network security tools article could be interesting.
      If you want a review of Ossec, we've been using it for a few years now.
    1. DMcCoy's Avatar
      DMcCoy -
      Bonus points for any that can report status back to a server via http proxy....
    1. glennda's Avatar
      glennda -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMcCoy View Post
      Bonus points for any that can report status back to a server via http proxy....
      N-central can I presume Zabbix can as I believe it uses the linux system proxy but don't use it anymore.

      EDIT: N-Central isnt free
    1. Jamo's Avatar
      Jamo -
      For completeness have you had a look at cacti?

      For long term network monitoring and base-lining I don't think it can be beat! Its also much kinder on resources than the larger solutions like spiceworks which really hammer the server its running on!
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      Do not run the monitor solution on your virtual platform. How will it be able to alert you to a problem with the virtual infrastructure if it's running on it!
    1. localzuk's Avatar
      localzuk -
      One thing I'd say - if you want to use Nagios, take a look at NConf. Web based setup for it, makes life very easy!
    1. browolf's Avatar
      browolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
      ....at the risk of the comments thread turning into a "Oi, what about......?"

      You missed out
      I also vote
      Cacti - Cacti® - The Complete RRDTool-based Graphing Solution
      kind of like nagios but a 1000 times easier.
    1. soapyfish's Avatar
      soapyfish -
      I am torn between MRTG and Cacti for monitoring network traffic per port on my switches. I prefer to use Nagios3 for everything else, when combined with NRPE. so I can monitor internal systems processes on windows servers as well as external services. I get alerts when things are down and warnings in advance of failure for most things. I am also able to monitor printers and get advance warnings of low toner and drum problems so I can ensure that I have parts in stock. Nagios is abit tricky to configure but its easily worth it. I have used the historical record it provides to illustrate to SLT that there is a need to replace hardware. There is also alot of free plugins for nagios. I especially like the "Check_Procurve_loop" plugin so that I can quickly and easily locate network loops when the students decide to swap network cables around... The other bit of software not mentioned so far is "Smokeping" which gives really nice latency graphs between the server and any other device. I use this to monitor the quality of the schools internet connection as well as the performance of the internal LAN.
    1. oalcock's Avatar
      oalcock -
      I apologise in advance if this is very thick of me, but I am struggling to find the download link??? Can anybody assist? Thanks.
    1. oalcock's Avatar
      oalcock -
      I apologise in advance if this is very thick of me, but I am struggling to find the download link??? Can anybody assist? Thanks.
      This was very thick of me, just read the title of this feed again and realised this isn't anything specific, I can see download links in other fellow edugeeker's comments.
    1. Steve21's Avatar
      Steve21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by oalcock View Post
      I apologise in advance if this is very thick of me, but I am struggling to find the download link??? Can anybody assist? Thanks.
      For which one?

      Steve
    1. Fazza's Avatar
      Fazza -
      I just installed The Dude the other day on what is now our System Monitoring PC and within a few minutes I was monitoring our 50+ servers! Very quick and easy to install and setup with no messing about.
    1. junaid's Avatar
      junaid -
      Unauthorised advertising.
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