Networking

Five free network monitoring tools

Among the wide array of network and system monitors, you'll find several that do what the pricier tools do -- for free.

If you're a system or network administrator, you need monitoring tools. You have to know, at all times, the status of your systems so you can optimize performance and head off potential problems. Thankfully, plenty of tools are available to help you stay in the know about your systems. Some of these products are costly and do quite a lot. But others are free and do just as much — and in some cases, more. That's right. More.

I want to introduce you to five system and/or network monitors that do more than you'd think they could do. From this list of products you will certainly find one or more tools that will serve your needs.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Observium

Observium (Figure A) is "an autodiscovering PHP/MySQL/SNMP-based network monitoring [tool]." It focuses on Linux, UNIX, Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, Foundry, HP, and more. With Observium, you'll find detailed graphs and an incredibly easy-to-use interface. It can monitor a huge number of processes and systems. The only downside is a lack of auto alerts. But to make up for that, you can set Observium up alongside a tool like Nagios for up/down alerts.

Figure A

Observium

2: Ganglia

Ganglia (Figure B) is a "scalable distributed monitoring system" focused on clusters and grids. It gives you a quick and easy-to-read overview of your entire clustered system. This monitor has been ported to many platforms and is used on thousands of clusters around the world. Anyone who employs server clusters should have Ganglia monitoring that system. Ganglia can scale to handle clusters with up to 2,000 nodes.

Figure B

Ganglia

3: Spiceworks

Spiceworks (Figure C) is becoming one of the industry standard free network/system monitoring tools. Although you have to put up with some ads, the features and Web-based interface can't be beat. Spiceworks monitors (and autodiscovers) your systems, alerts you if something is down, and offers outstanding topographical tools. It also allows you to get social with fellow IT pros via the Spiceworks community, which is built right in.

Figure C

Spiceworks

4: Nagios

Nagios (Figure D) is considered by many to be the king of open source network monitoring systems. Although not the easiest tool to set up and configure (you have to manually edit configuration files), Nagios is incredibly powerful. And even though the idea of manual configuration might turn some off, that setup actually makes Nagios one of the most flexible network monitors around. In the end, the vast number of features Nagios offers is simply unmatched. You can even set up email, SMS, and printed paper alerts!

Figure D

Nagios

5: Zabbix

Zabbix (Figure E) is as powerful as any other network monitoring tool, and it also offers user-defined views, zooming, and mapping on its Web-based console. Zabbix offers agent-less monitoring, collects nearly ANY kind of data you want to monitor, does availability and SLA reporting, and can monitor up to 10,000 devices. You can even get commercial support for this outstanding open source product. One unique Zabbix feature is the option to set audible alerts. Should something go down, have Zabbix play a sound file (say, a Star Trek red alert klaxon?).

Figure E

Zabbix

Your choice

There are many tools available for the monitoring of systems and networks. The tool you choose could determine your ability to handle your job efficiently. Make sure you take a look at one or more of the applications above. With some unique features on offer, these tools stand out above the rest.

Do you use any of these monitoring tools? What other top contenders would you add to the list?

More on monitoring tools

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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