It has been five years since TechRepublic published a list of free network monitoring tools. Here's an update for 2017—with a twist.
When we talked about free network diagramming tools in 2012 we shared five that had to be installed locally. In the years since that article was published the world of computing has taken a decidedly virtualized turn, so this revisiting of our five network diagramming tools is all about the cloud.
There's no reason you need an expensive Visio license or have to choose between an install on macOS or Windows with these five: They all live completely on the web while still delivering all the features you need to get the job done.
All of the tools featured here offer a free option, or at the very least a free trial, that will let you diagram one or more networks, save it online, collaborate live, or export it as a PDF or image file.
Draw.io packs the most features in its free mode that I was able to find. You can save files to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and locally with ease, there are plenty of templates to choose from, and it can export in a variety of formats that other apps won't do without a few bucks thrown at them.
Creately offers tons of features as well: Exporting easily, collaborating, and publishing to the web are all there and free to use. You'll only be able to publish three diagrams to the web with the free version, though, so if your plan is to have them available online you'll have to pick and choose what gets priority.
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Creately also offers a Chrome extension, downloadable version, and extensions for JIRA, Confluence, and Fogbugz. Everything except the web version costs money, though.
Lucidchart is another great free option that goes to show sometimes the difference is really all in the interface. Lucidchart looks really good, but that's not all it offers. It has AWS network mapping built in, you can have three active documents (and each can have multiple pages), you can easily attach spreadsheet data, and it can export as a PNG, JPG, PDF, or SVG without a subscription.
Lucidchart's document menu for navigating between files is very robust too: It's easily the best of all five featured here.
Cacoo's free version has a couple restrictions I wasn't fond of: You can only save documents online and only export them as PNG files. Despite that it's an easy-to-use platform that offers formatting and layout options the others don't.
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Collaboration is also dead simple: You can create shared folders and invite people by email address in a similar way to Google Drive.
It's currently only in a demo version, but yEd Live is free and doesn't require a signup. Granted, you can't store anything online, but you can export as an image file or PDF once you're done. You can also download your diagram as a .graphml file so you can work on it later.
If you want additional features that aren't present you'll have to wait until they're added with a subscription later in the year, but if you want an app that works great without a signup requirement or unneeded bells and whistles yEd Live is it.
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