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More and more companies are becoming aware that a network monitoring software would be an important investment in their networking infrastructure.

Network monitoring refers to a system, or in our case a software that constantly monitors a network infrastructure for failing or slow components with the posibility of notifying the system administrator via sms, email or other ways if an outage occurs. The network monitoring is related to network management in terms of functions.

A network monitoring software will check for issues that might occur in a network in terms of overloading or crashing of various servers, network links or other components. An example could be the status of a webserver: in order to check its state, the software will send from time to time a HTTP response to grab a page; for an email server the monitoring software could send a test message through SMTP and retrieve it via POP3 or IMAP protocol.

Network monitoring software

The metrics used for such a system are availability, response time and uptime. Lately two more metrics are gaining some popularity: reliability and consistency. Most network monitoring software are registering some inconsistencies caused by the WAN optimization gadgets because they are limiting the round trip visibility thus resulting an incorrect end-to-end response time.

There are various actions that a network monitoring software can take if triggered by events like status request failure, documents or messages that cannot be retrieved. Most common actions are sending alerts (via SMS, email, other) to the system administrator, switching to backup equipments in order to allow technicians to evaluate and repair the damaged ones.

A website monitoring software will check various ports like https, snmp, fpt, pop3, imap, smtp, telnet, ssh, dns, ssl, sip, udp, tcp, icmp, media streaming and more. These checks are performed at regular intervals, varying from every few hours to every minute.

A network monitoring solution will usually connect to several servers from around the world (America, Asia, Europe, Australia, etc.) thus revealing a bigger pictures in terms of network availability. It can, for example, report if a website is available for users on certain continents.

For our system administrator readers, that need to know all the time the status of their system in order to optimize it and get rid of potential problems. Nowadays there are a lot of tools that will help you accomplish your goals. Some of the network monitoring software are pretty costly, but of course there are some free ones too. And in some cases the free software do as much as the other ones, and even more. You’ve heard it good, even more.

Below we have listed 5 network monitoring software that you’ll be amazed to discover. One or more from the tools below will definitely help you in your daily routine tasks.

#1 Spiceworks

Spiceworks is making its way to the top in the industry of free network and system monitoring tools. The only inconvenient is that you’ll just have to deal with some advertisments (but let’s not forget it is a free software!). The user interface is a web-based interface that is just stunning. The software will monitor and autodiscover your systems and it will send your alerts if anything goes wrong. It also brings some great topographical tools and most interesting feature is the Spiceworks social community where you can interact with other sys admins and discuss common matters on the built in hub.

#2 Observium

Another free network monitoring software worth mentioning is Observium, an autofinder MySQL/PHP/SNMP-based tool. It’s main focus is based on Juniper, HP, UNIX, CISCO, Linux, Foundry, Brocade and many others. With the aid of this software you’ll be able to monitor a large amount of processes and systems, you’ll get lots of detailed graphics and an user friendly interface. What this software lacks is the alerts feature but there is always a workaround so you can set up Observium to work together with Nagios tool for example that is used for alerts.

#3 Zabbix

This network monitoring software, called Zabbix, is a powerful tool, allowing agent-less monitoring and gathering almost any kind of data that you want to filter and also availability and SLA reporting. It has different user-generated views, mapping and zooming from the web-based console and lets you monitor as much as 10.000 devices. What’s different is that you can actually receive commercial support for this open source software. Another unique feature of Zabbix are the audible alerts that go on when something goes wrong (play your favorite Terminator .mp3 soundfile for example).

#4 Ganglia

Ganglia is one of the scalable distributed network monitoring tools with emphasis on clusters and grids. This software got ported on lots of platforms so today it is used on thousands of clusters everywhere on the globe. It offers a fast and easy to understand overview of the entire system. Any system administrator that uses server clusters could use the Ganglia monitoring software as it is capable to handle clusters with up to 2.000 nodes.

#5 Nagios

The last one our list is Nagios, a tool considered by a lot of specialists to be the king of open source network monitoring software. It is certainly not the easiest one to configure as you must do it manually, but it is a true powerful tool. Maybe for some system administrators only the idea of manually editing the config file could be a turnoff, but the setup process still makes Nagios one of the most flexible software available out there. As a conclusion, the high number of features this network monitoring software has to offer is really unmatchable. You can set it up to receive alerts on your smartphone, SMS and even printed paper !