Every business needs to increase productivity and security of their networks, all without adding to an already full workload. That’s where network monitoring software comes in.

Thankfully, there are several free options that are chock-full of features designed to save you time and protect your business. Find out what network monitoring software can do for you, what to look for before downloading, and our top six free picks.

Why You Need It

Why do you need network monitoring tools? The answer is that we all want to decrease effort whilst increasing output and that’s exactly what you’ll get with NMS.

Here are a few features included in your typical network monitoring software solution:

  • Monitor every device on your network continuously
  • Gather information and metrics on various devices
  • Identify traffic by conversation, application, domain, endpoint, or protocol
  • Perform analysis, draw reports, and make accurate forecasts on future requirements
  • Minimize the threat of security issues
  • Alert if any potential problems arise

When all these tasks are done for you automatically, it leaves you more time to focus on building your network and managing your service offerings.

What to Look For

When deciding on a software package, you should look for, at minimum, the following:

  • Easy implementation and configuration
  • Autodiscovery
  • Node and device inventorying
  • Automatic and configurable alerts and warnings
  • The ability to tie into a centralized management interface
  • Easy-to-read dashboard and graphs
  • A network topology map
  • Commands to modify network settings and troubleshoot

If you want extra features, look for trend data and automatic capacity planning options.

By having the above capabilities, your network monitoring will help your organization achieve higher functionality and generate greater revenue.

Where to Get It

There are two ways to get free network monitoring software, freeware tools and open-source software.

Freeware Tools are distributed free of cost, but the copyright remains with the original writer or publisher. There may be no manuals, warranties, or upgrade options.

Open-Source Software is a program that is free for distribution, is downloadable without charge, includes source codes, allows modifications and derived works, does not discriminate, and does not restrict other software. The downsides to using open-source network monitoring software are that there is no guaranteed support or security, there may be inconsistent updates, and usability of interfaces vary from one program to the next.

So what are our Top 6 Free Network Monitoring Tools available today? Here’s our list:

1- SOLARWINDS

With over 25,000 free downloads, this free tool captures and analyzes up to 60 minutes of NetFlow, JFlow, or sFlow data. It also monitors, analyzes, and displays real time interface bandwidth usage. Installation and configuration is fast and easy by using setup screens.

2- NTOPNG

This open-source, self-contained, multi-level cache has the ability to leverage on PF_RING for monitoring a million packets per second with no drops. Written in C++ with a clean layout and mobile-friendly GUI, it is modern, uncomplicated, and stable.

3- CACTI

This network monitoring tool supports SNMP polling, scripts, and queries. It collects data from routing and switching systems, firewalls, load balancers, and servers. It allows you to store the collected data indefinitely. They have an active community of developers who have created templates for every field and graph. Users can create their own viewer setting preferences.

4- ICINGA

Built on a solid foundation, this tool provides everything you need for monitoring your network. It uses an object-based, rule-driven configuration format that is flexible and high performing. Because of its modular design and granular configuration options, you’re able to select the core server, preferred GUI, and add plugins such as reports and graphing tools.

5- NAGIOS CORE

Built by its large and very active community of developers, this popular tool can do everything. Because of its wide community, users can get support and help on any issue that may come up. Create and use external plugins, shell scripts to monitor and collect metrics, and use the plugins to provide an easy user interface.

6- ZABBIX

Simple, clean, and easy to manage, ZABBIX supports agentless monitoring and a number of different databases. It allows you to customize for your specific needs by using any scripting or programming language.

The bottom line is when your organization uses an NMS that meets your needs and provides scalability for future network expansion, you’ll be in a better position to meet the productivity and security needs that modern business requires.