Network discovery applications are useful even to those administrators who already know what is on their network. Such applications can detect rogue hardware and software license violations and may even be able to detect outages or performance problems.
Here are five network discovery applications that can come in handy. I chose them with diversity in mind. Some are designed for small networks, while others are for large networks. Some are free, while others cost thousands of dollars.
1: Network ViewNetwork View (Figure A) is a Windows-based network discovery tool. It has two main functions. First, you can use it to create a map of your network. Network View uses TCP/IP for node detection but gathers extra information using things like DNS, WMI, SNMP, and NetBIOS. The latest version (3.62) can even identify tablets that are connected to your network.
In addition to its network discovery capabilities, Network View can also serve as a low-end monitoring tool. You can configure Network View to send you an email alert if certain network nodes become unreachable.
You can download a 30-day trial of Network View; the full version sells for $79.00.
2: Alloy DiscoveryAnother handy tool for network discovery is Alloy Discovery (Figure B). Unlike Network View, which focuses primarily on discovery, this tool's main focus is hardware and software auditing. Designed for small and midsize businesses, Alloy Discovery can perform full hardware and software audits without the need for agents. However, agents can be used in organizations that need to audit external networks or stand-alone computers.
Alloy Discovery is designed to run on Windows, but it's capable of discovering/auditing computers running Windows, Mac OS, and even Linux. You can download a free 30-day trial of Alloy Discovery. It sells for $495.
3: WhatsUp GoldWhatsUp Gold (Figure C) is a higher end network discovery and monitoring application. Like Network View, WhatsUp Gold performs network discovery and SNMP and WMI monitoring. What sets it apart (besides the price) is the degree to which networks can be monitored and the fact that the software is capable of producing more than 200 types of reports.
WhatsUp Gold is designed for Windows, but it also supports agentless monitoring of Linux and UNIX systems. The software is also virtualization aware. WhatsUp Gold is available as a free 30-day trial. It sells for $2,695.
4: LogInventoryLogInventory (Figure D)is a decent tool for network discovery/inventory. It's designed for use by small businesses, large enterprises, and anything in between. In fact, LogInventory seems to have all the basics covered. It is designed to run on Windows but supports detection on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux machines. It also detects hardware devices, such as network printers.
You can download a free trial of LogInventory; the trial supports the discovery of up to 20 assets. The full version costs $6.40 per license.
NetSurveyor is a network discovery tool whose sole emphasis is on WiFi. It's designed to collect information about any nearby wireless access points. Not only can you use this tool to detect rogue wireless access points, but you can also use it to fine tune or diagnose problems with your wireless hardware.
NetSurveyor is a completely free utility.
Other good options?
What network discovery apps have worked the best for you? Share your recommendations with other TechRepublic members.
Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.