There's no question of the critical role network monitoring plays in a company's security plans. However, with so many options available today at all price ranges, IT decision makers may not know the best fit for their business. Let's review some of the current network monitoring software offerings and compare their price points and capabilities.
Free Network Monitoring Tools
A system that comes without a price tag can be helpful for small companies, as it allows users to monitor network traffic even without a dedicated software budget. They're often web-based and require a high level of customization. Some free network monitoring software solutions include Zabbix, Icinga, and Spiceworks Network Monitor.
Free tools may provide the ability to capture, view, and analyze network traffic packets, troubleshoot problems, and manage network applications. However, free tools do not typically offer the same robust features included in other paid systems, such as automated mapping or customized alerts. Support is typically not included, so if you encounter difficulties with configuration or monitoring, it may require outside resources to help you fix them. And some open-source tools will require development skills for any custom work, which means time and cost to your business.
Software as a Service
Consultants or smaller companies who want easy multi-location monitoring or an easy-to-use solution with a lower price point may use software-as-a-service (SaaS). Cloud-based network monitoring software like LogicMonitor, Monitis, Kaseya Traverse, and others falls into this category. The benefit of a cloud-based solution is that you can get started quickly, because you don't have to worry about setup and configuration.
One of the biggest concerns with SaaS network monitoring solutions is the security of data. Relying on a hosting provider also gives you less control over your network monitoring capabilities. Before exploring cloud-based options, make sure you're comfortable being at the mercy of a service provider if your network goes down.
Network Management Software
Some administrators go straight for the costliest solutions in the market because they assume that a system's price tag is proportionate to the amount of protection and capabilities it will provide. If you're a large organization with a sizeable budget, you may be interested in software with multiple modules and a longer feature list to ensure all your bases are covered. Network management software, such as SolarWinds, usually provides network mapping, monitoring, and alerting, plus extra management features that appeal to large organizations.
Although more expensive systems may include more features than others, they are not necessarily the best option. Do you really need all the bells and whistles? Will you use extra modules? Often, companies find that they can benefit from similarly structured software for a price that better fits their budget. If you're looking for network monitoring, it may be best to go with a tool that specializes in monitoring, rather than a one-size-fits-all management tool.
Network Monitoring Software
For effective network monitoring, companies of all sizes, consultants, and managed service providers can often get just what they need from a more targeted, niche tool. Network monitoring software solutions like PRTG, Nagios, and Intermapper provide automated mapping, real-time montioring, and live alerting. Tools like these typically have more focused feature sets, are often installed on-premise, and give network administrators control over exactly how they want to monitor their networks.
Network monitoring software offers a tight, rich feature set and tends to be less expensive than network management products. Support usually comes as part of the package, along with access to regular product updates. These tools are often very easy to learn and use, contrasted with the high learning curve of more complex network management solutions. At the same time, they offer sophisticated functionality that network professionals need and free tools lack.