Networking

Five apps to help with network discovery

A good discovery tool can be a net admin's best friend. The tools on this list are designed to help with discovery/inventory, monitoring, and reporting.

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 View

Network 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.

Figure A

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 Discovery

Another 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.

Figure B

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 Gold

WhatsUp 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.

Figure C

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: LogInventory

LogInventory (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.

Figure D

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.

5: NetSurveyor

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.

Figure E

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.

About

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.

26 comments
lester.izmore
lester.izmore

My needs are more on the network device side (rather than gong deep on PCs and servers) and for that I use NetCure Discovery because it discovers layer-2.

brocksamson2011
brocksamson2011

for the WiFi side of things, I am suprised you didnt mention inSSIDer

SimonHobson
SimonHobson

I found out one of our helpdesk bods was running Spiceworks when I saw some failed logins on my Linux servers - followed by a request for the root passwords. Needless to say, he could not give me any idea what commands it might want to run as root, or what information it might send anywhere else - and it was all being run on an insecure PC under his desk. I use Nagios for monitoring - and that has a system for monitoring remote machines that doesn't require the monitoring station to have the "God" login for everything it monitors. Nagios is a great tool, but it does take more work to set up. As for any monitoring tool like Spiceworks, there is no way I'll allow it on my network. Having one machine with a database of the root/Admin logins for everything we have has to be one of the worst security ideas around. Still it was a good prompt to review security - up till then I hadn't disabled root logins via SSH.

whardy
whardy

Is anyone working with any imaging software that is free or lost-cost? We currently image and manually update all users. Thanks

desforde
desforde

I use inSSIDer 2.0, a great utility and free!

njcsamuels
njcsamuels

this software has itil fundementals builtin. we plan to try this to replace our current install of spiceworks. spiceworks produces too many scan errors for us. manageengine com

jfuller05
jfuller05

I downloaded and have been using it for a day and a half now. I really like the simplicity of the application and the depth of auditing. It's very nice.

mike
mike

Have been using TheDude for years - add to that Net Tools 5.x and netstumbler is like net surveyor and has been around longer than I can remeber. Used it many times for propogation

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

I've not used it - but I've used SolarWinds NPM from the same company for years and that works very well. LanSurveyor isn't cheap - $2k - but it will create a map of your entire network and spit it out as a Visio for you if you like. The downside is that it's also a Windows-only product.

mark1408
mark1408

I use Spiceworks - a free, Windows-based tool that does discovery, audit, etc. Not perfect but the price is right and it has other helpful features. I like the sound of NetSurveyor for picking up rogue WiFi.

DaveWoodman
DaveWoodman

Free (available on sourceforge) device and topology discovery - SNMP, CDP, DNS, NetBIOS are all used as source data. Great tool (Linux based) with a demo version in a VM.

bryangb
bryangb

I really don't want to have to boot up a Windows VM just to run LAN discovery!

fawoodward
fawoodward

I'm a fan of TNI2, which seems to do everything the ones in the article do, plus more. It costs $140/25 node license. It detects windows/linux/mac devices. I've used network view and prefer TNI2.

Elison2012
Elison2012

@whardy  

we use lanstate (http://www.10-strike.com/lanstate/)

what I like in this tool is that it can discovery the network topology and then monitor a lot of processes on the network. so you kill 2 birds in one bullet. The network is in front of your eyes, monitored and thus more stable and reliable.

ihowever it's not free.

ppope6363
ppope6363

I use Clonezilla for small imaging jobs. It is not an enterprise solution but it works and is free.

fawoodward
fawoodward

I've used spiceworks before but it doesn't provide nearly the information many other programs do. I did not care for this at all, even with a free pricetag, it just lacked data.

whardy
whardy

Mark1408 we were considering using spiceworks. However, we have to be very cautious with what kind of data is transmitted out to third party sources due to the nature of our business. Can you advise what kind of information is being transmitted to spiceworks or any other third party when using this software?

bryangb
bryangb

It's just a shame the article author was so stuck on Windows.

bmithen
bmithen

We use MDT for deploying Windows machines and installing all of our applications with a lite touch interface. Completely free and fully supported. Took our imaging time down from about 90 minutes to 30 with a fully functional and patched OS.

We're a VMware shop so for Linux servers we simply use the built in templates to quickly spin up new servers.

whardy
whardy

Do have any other recommendations besides don't use Spiceworks? Like what are using?

mark1408
mark1408

...and what did you choose instead? I guess we've invested quite a lot of time in Spiceworks and would have to have a strong business case for moving, esp. to a paid product.

mark1408
mark1408

Your network data & login passwords are never sent outside your network - that all lives in the database on your internal Spiceworks server. Obviously if you have an account on the Community (discussions & product reviews) that wil be held externally. I think there's an option to have system alert emails sent via an external Spiceworks mail server, but that's only if your own internal system can't do it - we don't use that. So although Spiceworks is funded by 3rd-party advertising I'm not aware of any system or personal data that would be sent outside, other than mentioned above. Oh, and if you ever need Spiceworks to fix your database they will ask you to send them your data. They use a secure system for up/downloads and destroy your data after use.

fotuo
fotuo

Thanks for your constructive comment to the author. You've provided some windows alternatives... oh wait, no you didn't. what an ass

fawoodward
fawoodward

This retrieves so much more useful data and is much easier to manage. It really is low cost when I look at other options. It discovers a wide range of linux/mac/pc/misc devices and allows you to customize reports completely. It has a 30 day trial period to test it out.

whardy
whardy

What kind of data or security issue was sent to you to see of others? Thanks for the comment...you have peaked our curiosity.

ping_the_one
ping_the_one

I am working as an IT-Consultant at an company that has approximately 300 employees. We have had two incidents were we have recived other compants data with that said I wouldn't put any sensitive data in the hands of Spiceworks.