• An EduGeek Roundup of Free Network Monitoring Tools

    The Dude
    The Dude from Mikrotik has been a long-time favourite of Windows based network managers for quite some time now, and its benefits far outweigh its shortcomings. Its tiny download size of 3.5MB hides a veritable powerhouse of an application, and its simple installation process that requires no additional files, services, databases or web packages allow you to be up and monitoring your network in minutes with a simple click of the ‘Discover’ button. You can even install The Dude on your desktop PC if you so wish. And once your network clients have had their SNMP settings configured correctly The Dude is capable of displaying a myriad of information and statistics as well as providing email reporting facilities when set criteria are met.


    The Dude's working area.

    The way The Dude displays and gives access to information is a great step as well. As the information is displayed from an application console and not via a web GUI you are freed from having masses of links and pages through which you have to trawl to perform even the simplest tasks. With The Dude it is all in front of you, and its map/icon based visual reporting system is so easy to use that you can see faulting clients and drill down to the information you require in seconds, and its deceptively basic layout hides the real power within.


    Network devices and computers are easy to arrange in a logical order.

    As with most network monitoring tools, it isn’t perfect at detecting every device you have on your network, it somehow overlooked the main office switch on more than one occasion, but adding them manually a breeze. You simply click the ‘Add device’ button, fill out its IP and it will immediately add it to the local map. Further information can be added by double clicking its icon to bring up the settings menu and in here everything from the devices general information, SNMP data, device history and notification settings (audio, visual and email) can be set and configured. You can also manually create custom device types and add new icons. It also has the handy feature of allowing you to install a workstation client so that you can remotely manage The Dude if it is installed on another machine such as a server or other PC.


    Hovering over a device will instantly give you the low-down on monitored services.

    And now to the shortcomings, of which all packages have. The Dude is starting to look old. It still has the easy to get to grips with interface but it is looking tired now, but, seeing as The Dude is a handy and highly effective tool in its current format I don’t suppose the developers feel the need to spoil a design that works so well. Also of note is that it struggled with SNMP information from my Windows 7 and Server 2008 machines, whereas the XP based VM had no problems at all in sending its statistics. This may have been a quirk of my little office network, but it is pretty basic here with just a few devices (I had to add more to flesh out the tests!) going through a single switch.


    Lots of monitoring options are available and easily applied.

    These points aside, The Dude is perfect if you need to see what is on your network NOW, and creating usable live network maps in a very short space of time. It’s also good for when you are helping out on new sites if you take a laptop with it installed you can get a pretty good overview in little time simply by connecting to the network and running a scan.

    Pros

    • Very quick to get setup and running
    • Easy to understand layout and interface
    • No need for additional files or plugins
    • Excellent live mapping facilities


    Cons

    • Does not always detect all network devices
    • It had issues with Windows 7/Server 2008 SNMP info
    • Beginning to look old


    Operating systems: Windows, Linux (requires Wine)
    Download from: http://www.mikrotik.com/thedude.php

    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.