7 Top Picks for the Best Network Monitoring Software in 2021

Network deficiencies cost organizations $700 billion a year. And about 40% of those deficiencies trace back to equipment failure.

So if you can instantly identify your equipment problems, it could lead to enormous savings in network downtime. Not to mention, it can save you the headache of a surly mob of users clamoring to get access back to your servers.

To do that, you need the right monitoring solutions for your network. Below, you’ll find a list of the best network monitoring software available right now. You’re probably short on time, so let’s start with an overview of the options.

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Top 7 Network Monitoring Software Solutions for 2021

1. Paessler PRTG Review

The top choice for a lot of good reasons. Paessler’s product has been setting network monitoring benchmarks for years. It’s only stumbling block is an unusual licensing model. Full Review

  • Highly customizable dashboards
  • Solid customer support
  • Suitable for any network size

The top choice for a lot of good reasons. Paessler’s product has been setting network monitoring benchmarks for years. It’s only stumbling block is an unusual licensing model. Full Review

2. Datadog Review

Datadog is an excellent monitor with a slew of out-of-the-box features and integrations. It also features a workable and attractive interface that makes setup easy. Full Review

  • Tracks virtually any metrics
  • A highly customizable alert system
  • AI issue detection without setup

Datadog is an excellent monitor with a slew of out-of-the-box features and integrations. It also features a workable and attractive interface that makes setup easy. Full Review

3. Nagios XI Review

Built on an open-source engine, Nagios XI is a user-friendly network monitoring software with intuitive dashboards to get the work done easily. Full Review

  • Thousands of plugins and add-ons
  • Detailed dashboards
  • Straightforward device setup

Built on an open-source engine, Nagios XI is a user-friendly network monitoring software with intuitive dashboards to get the work done easily. Full Review

4. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor Review

A versatile and powerful network monitor. It has some of the best network monitor tools among all the options on this list. However, you’ll need a separate database server. Full Review

  • Custom threshold alerting
  • Easy-to-use network map editor
  • Highly detailed node analysis

A versatile and powerful network monitor. It has some of the best network monitor tools among all the options on this list. However, you’ll need a separate database server. Full Review

5. ManageEngine OpManager Review

OpManager has some highly attractive pricing plans for such a strong product. And its free version is the best family network monitoring software you’re likely to find. Full Review

  • Effortless device setup
  • 3D visualization
  • Great mobile apps

OpManager has some highly attractive pricing plans for such a strong product. And its free version is the best family network monitoring software you’re likely to find. Full Review

6. Atera Review

Atera is a powerful network manager aimed at IT support companies. It may have some features you don’t need, but it’s well worth it for many users. Full Review

  • macOS supported
  • Constantly rolls out upgrades
  • Great visualization options

Atera is a powerful network manager aimed at IT support companies. It may have some features you don’t need, but it’s well worth it for many users. Full Review

7. Nagios Core Review

The only thing holding Nagios Core back is also its biggest strength. As an open-source tool, you can shape and mold it however you like. But you need to be willing to put in the time and effort to do so. Full Review

  • Free and open-source
  • Huge plugin exchange
  • Endlessly customizable

The only thing holding Nagios Core back is also its biggest strength. As an open-source tool, you can shape and mold it however you like. But you need to be willing to put in the time and effort to do so. Full Review

Network Monitoring Software Reviews

Paessler

Paessler Review

Paessler

BEST FOR

Large networks

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  • Rating: 10
  • Auto-discovery: Yes
  • Custom dashboards: Yes
  • Free trial: 30 days

Germany-based Paessler produces top network monitoring tools. It’s also one of the longest-lived brands in the industry. The thing that will immediately jump out at you about the PRTG software is the licensing scheme. Paessler’s system works with what they call sensors. Each sensor is responsible for a single metric on a device. 

For instance, an “FTP sensor” appropriately detects file servers using FTP and FTPS. Every sensor monitors a single metric on a single device. The lowest-tier license gives you access to 500 sensors. It’s actually a lot simpler than it seems, earning it a reputation for the best network monitoring software in 2020

However, it can get quite expensive when you start paying for each metric you want to monitor. And if you include a paid support plan, monitoring costs can get hefty with PRTG. If you’re trying to find the best home network monitoring tools, Paessler makes a pared-down version of its software. You can get it completely free with 100 sensors.

Unfortunately, PRTG is an agentless platform. You’ll need to install it on Windows Server physically attached to your network, and it doesn’t offer cloud-based deployment. 

PRTG’s interface is mostly functional and sterile. Moreover, their network maps are superbly executed and easy to read. Building one is a chore, but Paessler offers courses on its software to help with that. 

Adding devices is the PRTG’s key quality-of-life feature and makes it the most popular network monitoring software. Once you set up your credentials, adding devices is a piece of cake, whether you choose to do so manually or through auto-discovery. 

Pros Cons
Great enterprise plans Licensing model unfit for small networks
Fast and easy auto-discovery Bare-bones GUI
Extensive device compatibility
Paid support is outstanding
Datadog

Datadog Review

Datadog

BEST FOR

Commercial application

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  • Rating: 10
  • Auto-discovery: No
  • Custom Dashboards: Yes
  • Free trial: 14 days

In the main, Datadog is a straightforward, cloud-based monitoring solution. In fact, its most complicated aspect is the pricing structure. It’s among the best network monitoring software for commercial use and serves the likes of Samsung and Activision. 

The price point with the broadest appeal will be the Serverless plan. It allows for basic monitoring and error resolution. 

Then there’s a slew of other options, including APM, Infrastructure, Synthetic Monitoring, etc. Each plan has a different target market, which is excellent if you know exactly what you need. 

Aside from the pricing, setup up is the other small speed bump. 

Datadog is an agent-based system and among the best remote network monitoring software options. However, this also makes it lack certain accessibility features, such as auto-discovery. 

The saving grace is that you can install agents on your devices in a few minutes. Agents with console-based processes will take a little longer and require more expertise.

Datadog’s interface puts a lot of emphasis on user experience, an oft-forgotten element when in monitoring tools. 

You’ll do a fair amount of setup before you can hit cruise control, but the Datadog team created a handy Quick Start Guide. Follow the guide, and you should be able to get things going rather quickly. 

Datadog is the best cloud-based remote network monitoring software that lets you visualize data in a grid of indicators called screen boards or a dashboard for uptime visualization, called time boards. The time boards chart can have much the same data as screen boards with an over-time component. 

Datadog also has a great network monitoring app, making it easy to keep up to speed from your mobile device. And it has an impressive list of integrations to notify your team. 

Pros Cons
SaaS monitoring model Complicated pricing model
In-depth dashboard customization Not beginner-friendly
Comprehensive uptime metrics
Broad integration options for notifications
Nagios XI

Nagios XI Review

Nagios XI

BEST FOR

Enterprise clients

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  • Rating: 9.9
  • Auto-discovery: Yes
  • Custom Dashboards: Yes
  • Free trial: Limited

Nagios XI is one part of the broader Nagios network performance monitor family. And it’s the option tailored to enterprise clients. 

Aside from a dated interface, Nagios XI has a lot to offer. You’ll find there’s little it can’t do, but we’ll get into that a little further down, as well as explain why many consider it the best enterprise network monitoring software today. 

To install Nagios XI, you’ll need to deploy a virtual machine in a Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware’s ESXi hypervisor environment. Once that’s done, installation is a cinch, and you can start adding devices immediately.

Nagios XI is built around plugins. And there are a lot of plugins out there. If there’s something you want to monitor, there’s a good chance someone already wrote a plugin for it. However, there are practical limits to this. If you want to monitor metrics that aren’t typically offered, you’ll eventually run into performance issues. 

Ultimately, this versatility makes Nagios XI highly attractive to experienced IT professionals. But less so for people just entering the network monitoring game. It’s undoubtedly the best network monitor software in terms of flexibility and adaptability. 

As far as adding devices goes, Nagios XI is relatively painless. You can provide a range of IP addresses and let it run its auto-discovery protocol. There are also quite a few additional parameters you can set, like setting up a schedule. 

Adding devices on a case-by-case basis is also simple. Nagios XI has a broad array of setup wizards for most application stacks. Overall, its utilitarian interface and versatility make Nagios Xi the top enterprise network monitoring software. But if you’re looking for something that’s also aesthetically pleasing, it falls short. 

Pros  Cons
Create monitors directly in the GUI Requires expert knowledge
Wide range of apps
The user interface is simplistic but effective
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor Review

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

BEST FOR

Experienced users

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  • Rating: 9.3
  • Auto-discovery: Yes
  • Custom Dashboards: Yes
  • Free trial: 30 days

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is the flagship product of SolarWinds and is one of the best network monitoring tools for experienced users. It can monitor everything from network equipment to printers.

Like other products from SolarWinds, the NPM is built on its Orion platform. If you’re in the market for other infrastructure management tools, you may consider setting up a management system using this platform for seamless integration. 

SolarWinds NPM offers a lot of pricing options, most of them quite pricey. It’s fair to place it in the enterprise category for network monitoring tools comparison

If you choose to install Solarwinds as an agent-based monitoring tool, it’s a bit of a chore. You’ll need to make sure you meet the product requirements for the Orion platform. Chances are you do, but going through the checklist will take a while. 

Moreover, you’ll probably have to install Solarwinds on a production server. 

You’ll need at least a quad-core CPU, six gigabytes of RAM, and 20 GB of HDD space. And you’ll need a separate database server.

Overall, Solarwinds is not a product for novice IT professionals. You’ll have a hard time navigating all the functions and processes without substantial network monitoring experience. 

The tradeoff for this complexity is a lot of functionality. You can set up in-depth monitoring for WiFi networks, network analysis, deep packet inspection, and much more with patience. 

Pros Cons
Customized alerts Installation and upgrades are complex
Real-time monitoring and dashboard reports Many unintuitive processes
Simple auto-discovery
In-depth node analysis
ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine OpManager Review

ManageEngine OpManager

BEST FOR

Linux

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  • Rating: 9.7
  • Auto-discovery: Yes
  • Custom Dashboards: Yes
  • Free trial: Free version (up to three devices)

Although OpManager is chiefly an infrastructure management tool, it has a decent set of network monitoring features built-in. And it’s arguably the best network monitoring software for Linux users. 

If you want to monitor a small local network, you’re in luck. OpManager has an extremely accessible price point of $295. However, it limits you to only ten devices. 

And while you can pay for more devices on a per-device basis, you’ll still be limited to local network monitoring. 

But there is also a free version for up to three devices. Free forever, it’s ideal home network software for small-scale monitoring. 

No matter what the scenario, you’ll still need a decent hardware allotment to run OpManager. That’s on part with other agentless options, so it’s not a significant drawback, but it’s worth keeping in mind. 

Installation isn’t particularly complicated, but you’ll be well-served by the accompanying documentation. 

The marquee feature, however, is that OpManager is Java-based. As such, it’s the best software for network monitoring for Linux-based systems on this list. 

Aside from those features, it has a well-designed browser-based interface. The only small annoyance is how cluttered it looks. It will take a while to figure out where everything is, but it’s smooth sailing once you do. 

Pros Cons
Intuitive device setup The price goes up fast for multiple devices
Excellent customer support The interface is unintuitive and cluttered
Rapid deployment and installation
3D visualization tools
Atera

Atera Review

Atera

BEST FOR

IT support providers

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  • Rating: 9.7
  • Auto-discovery: Yes
  • Custom Dashboards: Yes
  • Free trial: Up to three devices

Atera’s remote management software is the ideal choice for managed service and IT support providers. In addition to network monitoring tools, it provides top-notch network management in the same package. 

It has accurate real-time monitoring, making it an excellent, if not the best remote network monitoring software for IT support companies. You can solve problems even before they have a chance to make a significant impact on your clients. 

Another relatively minor but surprisingly useful benefit is Atera’s straightforward password manager

For the most part, Atera generates clear and concise reports on all the environments it monitors. It also has a full and detailed activity log so team members can work seamlessly on the same projects. 

Atera’s also the best network monitoring software for Mac on this list. All you need to do is install it on the MacOS environment you’re monitoring. 

The one big drawback of Atera is that the management and monitoring tools come in a bundle. That means you may end up paying for many features you might not need. 

But if you appreciate the extra focus on management tools, this is the ideal choice for you. 

Pros  Cons
Highly customizable Primarily a network management tool
Easy to set up and use Auto-discovery not included in the base price
Good mobile apps
macOS supported
Nagios Core

Nagios Core Review

Nagios Core

BEST FOR

Those looking for an open-source solution

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  • Rating: 9.5
  • Auto-discovery: Yes
  • Custom Dashboards: Yes
  • Free trial: N/A

Nagios Core is the engine behind the Nagios XI monitoring tool. Notably, it’s open-source, so you can use it for free. It easily makes any top 10 list of network monitoring software if you ask IT veterans.

Theoretically, that means you can do all the same things with Nagios XI. In practice, you’ll need to reconstruct Nagios Core from the ground up to do so. Nagios Core has an extremely utilitarian interface; only the bare essentials are present. You’ll need a much higher understanding of the technical aspects of monitoring to use it effectively. Still, it’s probably the best open-source network monitoring software on the market. 

If you’re a seasoned network administrator, that may even be an advantage since you can purpose-build your solution. But newcomers will likely be lost without guidance. Nevertheless, Nagios Core can be the best free network monitoring software in the right hands. 

Millions of people have contributed their knowledge to the Nagios project over the years. That means there are hundreds of add-ons and plugins to choose from. And you can find them all on the Nagios exchange. 

Auto-discovery, distributed monitoring, uptime tracking, performance graphing—it’s all there. But you’ll need to invest quite a bit of time and resources in putting it together. If you’re dead set on finding excellent network monitoring software for free, you can stop looking. But get ready to put in the elbow grease to make it work for you. 

Pros Cons
Free and open-source Stunted UI
SNMP protocols Steep learning curve
Rich plugin and add-on exchange
Precise customization

How to Choose the Best Network Monitoring Software For Your Needs

Network monitoring may seem utterly straightforward at first glance. You install a tracking script; the script notifies you when metrics change. The whole thing is just a basic chain of conditional statements, right? Not quite. 

If you’re new to monitoring, you’ll soon learn that various components need to be coaxed into playing nice together, and nothing ever works right from the start. This list of network monitoring tools has a lot of options, but here’s what you need to look out for when comparing them:

Ease of Use

Network monitoring has a simple objective, which is to reduce the time between a problem and its intervention. This way, network administrators have more time for essential tasks. Anything that ultimately detracts from that objective should be considered a drawback. If a solution needs a lot of work after installation, or requires more resources than it provides, scrap it. 

Be fair with yourself about the capabilities of your team. Some solutions are much more complicated to use than others. The best network monitoring systems balance simple implementation and the most useful features.

Agent-Based or Agentless

Network monitoring tools break down into two broad categories. Network monitoring on an agentless platform needs to be installed on a server physically linked to the network it monitors. 

The advantage of this type of software is that you typically don’t need to install it on every device you want to monitor. On the other hand, that means one of your workstations or servers ends up dedicated to running the monitoring software. 

Agent systems are web-based. This type of tool tends to have more hardware access and can provide in-depth data. Plus, you free up a server you’d otherwise use for the software. 

The main disadvantage is having to install the software on every device. Agent-based systems are more appealing to startups and other users who need small network monitoring. 

Before diving into a thorough network monitoring software review or two, figure out if your system can support an agentless solution.  

Device Adding

You want to choose software that makes it simple and easy to add devices. In a perfect world, your software can automatically discover and add devices with a few simple parameters. 

In the real world, that kind of convenience never works out. But auto-discovery is a highly useful feature. If you’re relatively new to monitoring, it will make your job a lot easier. 

All top network monitoring software providers work to make this process quick and easy.  If you do end up choosing a system without auto-discovery, at least make sure it has a device-adding wizard. 

Notifications and Alerts

It should be clear that the point of monitoring software is not just to monitor. It also needs to report what it finds. So what happens if something happens?

Generally speaking, you want to have as much freedom as possible to receive notifications. Email and SMS are the bare necessities, but things like launching third-party applications are also welcome. 

You need to think about who needs to know when a problem occurs and the best way to let them know. In our network monitoring tools comparison, we included popular notification integrations for each item. 

What Do You Need to Know About Your Network?

Ultimately, your monitoring software is only as good as the data it collects. Consider what you need to know about your network and the potential problems you need to detect. Do you need uptime charts and data? How about real-time monitoring?

Also, consider individual metrics you need to track, such as the performance of a Microsoft SQL server. Choose a software whose monitoring capacity aligns with the information you need. Even the best network monitors don’t measure absolutely everything. 

Conclusion

A network monitoring tool can be an excellent way to save both time and money if you get it right. This list of top-rated network monitoring tools likely has the right choice for you. Start by asking yourself the right questions:

  • What devices and events do you need to monitor?
  • What is your capacity to support monitoring software?
  • How do you need to receive alerts?
  • How do I need the data presented?

From there, you’ll be ready to start evaluating options.  

FAQ

What are tools for network monitoring?

A network monitoring tool tracks data about a network’s state and changes in that state. It then passes on that information to administrators, whose job is to ensure the network operates as intended. 

Some of the most popular network monitoring tools include Paessler’s PRTG Network Monitor, Datadog, and SolarWinds.

How do I create a network monitoring software?

Start by identifying what you need to monitor. Usually, this means devices critical to your network. 

Then, develop a broad set of monitoring policies, such as what information you need to collect, who gets access to the monitoring data, etc. 

From there, define baselines for your network. In other words, determine what normal means for you in terms of connectivity, CPU usage, and so forth. 

When you’re ready, select the right monitoring tool and install it. Use our network monitoring software review to choose from the top options. Lastly, configure your software to match what you determined previously.

Which are the three basic tools for monitoring?

Distributed systems monitoring falls into one of three categories—business process monitoring, functional monitoring, and technical monitoring. 

Business process monitoring tracks business activities implemented in a computer system, functional monitoring tracks a system’s performance through a use-case scenario, and technical monitoring tracks individual pieces of a system’s performance and state. 

Network monitoring mainly takes the form of functional monitoring but can include elements of all three.

What is the best software for network monitoring?

Our overall top choice is Paessler’s PRTG Network Monitor. Its feature set is unsurpassed, and barring a wonky licensing model, it’s easily the best network monitoring tool available. 

A close second is Datadog, if you’re willing to sacrifice a little versatility for an agent-based option. And if you’re looking for the best free network monitoring solution, try Nagios Core. 

But ultimately, the best network monitoring software is the one that best conforms to your individual needs. So check out the options on this list to find the perfect one for you.