Printers

Review: Zenmap network monitor

Zenmap network monitor and mapping tool gets the Jack Wallen seal of approval for being easy to use and easy on the IT budget.

Network monitors are a dime a dozen. You can find a network monitor to fit just about every need and every taste. Because of the abundance of monitors available, it's a real needle-in-a-haystack adventure to find the one that fits your bill. And since not all of these tools are free -- unless the tool you're looking at has a demo -- you could be out some cash until you find the right one.

That's why when you find a tool that has many of the features you need at a cost that is appealing to your budget, it's time to install it and use it. One such monitor is Zenmap. Zenmap is the official cross-platform, GUI front-end for the Nmap security scanner. But does Zenmap fit your needs? Is it the perfect tool at the perfect price? Let's dig in and find out.

Specs

  • Supported Operating systems: Windows, Mac, Linux, BSD
  • Cost: Free
  • Requirements: Nmap

Who's it for?

Zenmap is for any network or security administrator who needs to keep a constant check on their network topology. With it's next-to-zero learning curve, just about any network administrator can have all of the information they need quickly. Zenmap will work for any size company or even a single-user consultancy, where a quick scan of a network topology can make the difference between spotting a security issue and finding a resolution or, well...not.

What problem does it solve?

There are two very key issues Zenmap solves. One is making the more-challenging Nmap scanner useable for the average administrator. Nmap is a console-only tool and the majority of administrators do not want to spend their day at the console (with a nod to the old-school Linux and UNIX admins who would much rather spend their day at the command line than in a GUI tool). Zenmap also gives the administrator a topology mapping tool where they can actually see an interactive, animated visualization of the hosts on your network.

Key features

  • Free
  • Easy-to-use GUI
  • Quickly saves scans
  • Uses traceroute and ping
  • Saves profiles for frequent run tests
  • Topology mapping
  • Compares scan results of different scans
  • Runs multiple scans and views them as one big scan
  • Plenty of default scan profiles to choose from
  • Searches scan results

The interactive Topology mapping allows you to add/remove hosts/features, drag and resize the map, zoom in and out of the map, and much more.

What's wrong

There is very little wrong with Zenmap. But if I were to really dig deep, I would have to say the interactive Topology Map takes a bit of trial and error to get used to. And the lack of any discernible legend for colors or symbols makes it necessary to consult documentation to help read the topology map.

Bottom line for business

With Nmap being one of the standards by which other scanners are judged, having an easy-to-use GUI front end for this tool makes perfect sense for any network administrator. If you are looking for an user-friendly, flexible network scanner and do not want to spend any of your precious IT budget on said scanner, Zenmap is the tool for you.

Competitive products

User rating

Have you taken advantage of the power of Zenmap? If so, what was your experience? Would you recommend this network security scanning solution to your fellow administrators? Share your experience/thoughts with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

6 comments
pgit
pgit

EDIT: I tried a scan with the entire subnet address and it worked! I see the topology now. It just dawned on me to try that. I put 192.168.7.0/24 in the 'target' and in about 10 seconds I had all 22 hosts with host names resolved. I'd never gotten far with any manuals, the nmap.org sites almost always time out as not available, and man nmap (or zenmap) doesn't really contain any user information, I'm sure there's too much complexity to be able to list even half of it in a standard man page. Anyway please ignore my original post: ---original--- It would have been nice if Jack would have shown how to get the topology map running. I use zenmap a lot (port scans) but have never gotten the topology going. I agree with the other posts, this isn't really a "monitor" per se. Wireshark and etherape are a couple of basic watchers. I use etherape whenever a non-tech type wants to see what's going on on their network. Great tool to open up discussions about security, bandwidth etc.

FAST!!!
FAST!!!

I wouldn't call Zenmap a "network monitor". It is a great port scanning tool. Much nicer than fooling with the nmap command line. I don't get the network monitor???

darkstate
darkstate

I've used it on and off for a few years now and it does exactly what i need it too, like scanning ports on my websites across the pond in the us, I'm in the uk, and the admins are telling me all is fine this side in the u.s and i open up zenmap and do a scan and It spits back the ports that are open and closed on there server,the os they are using and loads of other relevant info. If you want to check out what ports are open on your system it will do the same. This is only the tip of the iceberg what it can do as you can also script it to run. Great free program with a very good help forum and its always being updated and winning awards on the way. Its even in the film The matrix :P http://nmap.org/movies.html#matrix

mford66215
mford66215

I love zenmap, but it's not a network monitor.

n95cc
n95cc

Nationwide statistics on the destruction of

darkstate
darkstate

Its not a network monitor but can help you in the network monitoring of your ports and network topology.