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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.

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