• An EduGeek Roundup of Free Network Monitoring Tools

    Spiceworks
    Spiceworks is another favourite of Edugeek members and it’s easy to see why. The simple setup process installs all of the required files and has you up and logging in to the web based GUI in minutes. Once there it presents you with a ridiculously easy to use interface, and credit where credit’s due, it was the only system I tested where it detected all of the network devices I had running first time.


    The Spiceworks dashboard.

    The work that has clearly gone into Spiceworks is plain to see, and every action or task you need to carry out is intuitive and easy to locate from within the web based GUI and not once did I feel the need to resort to online help or do a search as to how to carry out a task. Spiceworks also includes a very handy, customisable, helpdesk system that, whilst not as thorough as other dedicated helpdesk systems provides just the kind of features that small one and two person support teams on a single site require, although if you want more from a helpdesk system I suggest you look elsewhere.


    Detected devices being monitored.

    Licence management via Spiceworks is also a breeze, although, like many license management systems you do have to spend quite some time configuring it such as telling it not to register Adobe Reader or 7-Zip, and inputting the licences you do wish to keep tables on.
    The overall layout of the Spiceworks working area is a joy to use, really it is, and almost every page is customisable allowing you to add or remove information boxes as required, and the only thing that spoils the overall effect Is the adverts displayed on the right hand side (used to keep the system free of charge, so we can’t really complain there) and the occasional box promoting various aspects of Spiceworks and the Spiceworks community although these too are removable.


    The full screen, complete with adverts.

    The features for device tracking and maintenance are also very good with options for Serial numbers, asset tags, purchase date/price allowing you to build up a good database of the what, where and how much of each device you have which is great, especially if you have a large network and sometimes lose track of warranties and which hardware requires upgrading. Throw in the ability to create custom alerts and you have a system that will fulfil almost your every need.
    There are some shortcomings though. I found the lack of a single display showing all clients + their status makes keeping an easy eye on things a little bit harder than it needs to be. Also when you install Spiceworks or configure a new feature you receive emails from Spiceworks informing you of this, which can get a tad annoying. Using Spiceworks to successfully scan Macs also proved a challenge with the need to create custom scan rules (one per client if each Mac has a different admin login) to accommodate them successfully within Spiceworks. I also encountered a couple of confusing shortcuts that I thought were going to take to feature configuration options but then took me off to the ‘How to’ website. It’s not a big issue, but just something you should be aware of. Finally, Spiceworks also suffers from the lack of a decent method of laying out network maps with no facility to include your own background maps to layout the systems on top of.
    All-in-all though, Spiceworks contains almost everything you need to monitor and manage your network and does it with for more usability and features than the more industrial free packages out there. If you want an easy and quick setup and a feature list to drool over then Spiceworks is the way to go.


    Pros

    • Silly easy to install and get up and running
    • Great workflow and intuitive to use
    • Excellent feature list
    • Built in helpdesk
    • Excellent device detection


    Cons

    • Creating custom maps is still a pain without being able to import a logical background
    • Limited to 1000 clients, after this there is a performance hit (from Spiceworks own website)
    • If you have Macs you will need to do some work to get it to work correctly with them
    • Windows installer only
    • Advert panels (I shouldn’t complain, but they do spoil the look and feel. Still, they keep it free of charge)
    • Emails from Spiceworks


    Operating system: Windows
    Download from: www.spiceworks.com

    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.