As a network increases in size and importance, so does the need to ensure the network runs (and keeps running) effectively. To achieve this, it is necessary not only to know what devices make up the IT infrastructure (inventory) but also to keep an eye on those devices in terms of availability, health status and performance.
While it is possible to manually monitor IT infrastructure, especially on a small network, it can become quite time consuming and even outrightly impossible in most cases. Because of this, several tools are available to help with IT infrastructure monitoring and these tools will include features like:
- A way to add devices/services to be monitored (e.g. text-based, CLI, GUI)
- Availability, performance monitoring, and/or health status
- Alerting to notify the appropriate persons when something goes wrong (or is about to go wrong) – SMS, Email, Etc.
- Reporting to provide details about what has happened/is happening
Here's the Best IT Infrastructure Monitoring Tools & Software of 2020:
1. Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)
Solarwinds is a company that provides a lot of tools for different things. Relevant to this article is the Orion suite of tools available from Solarwinds. This suite includes tools for performance monitoring, configuration management, server and application monitoring, and so on. While this makes their solution robust, it can be quite confusing to know which tools to use and which modules you will need to install to use a particular feature. This also means that the total cost of a complete solution can quickly add up.
Solarwinds Orion is Windows-based even though it can monitor a whole lot of devices. Configuration is also done from a full-fledged Orion web interface that can provide a wealth of information about the devices being monitored (depending on the specific tools installed). Alerting and Reporting are also available in the Orion suite.
We will consider two tools from the Solarwinds Orion suite: Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and Solarwinds Server and Application Monitor (SAM)
When you think of general infrastructure monitoring, Solarwinds NPM is the tool that fulfils that role in the Solarwinds Orion suite of tools. It provides information such as availability, health status (temperature, power supply, etc.), and performance indicators (e.g. interface utilization). It can report this information on a variety of devices including Cisco, HP, and F5.
Official Site and Downloads:
Solarwinds NPM is freely available to Try for 30 days.
2. Solarwinds Server and Application Monitor (SAM)
Solarwinds SAM provides deep insight into servers (e.g. IBM and Dell servers) and applications (e.g. Microsoft Exchange, IIS and Java). The tool comes with monitoring templates to help you get setup quickly. The templates can also be customized to monitor custom applications.
Solarwinds SAM is also available for a free 30-day trial, after which, licenses start at $2,995 for 150 monitors.
Download 30 Day Trial FREE:
3. PRTG Network Monitor
This is probably one of the best monitoring tools available on the market when you consider how simple it is to setup and how easy it is to use. PRTG covers the whole monitoring spectrum in an all-in-one solution including:
- Network monitoring
- Bandwidth monitoring
- Server and application monitoring
- Monitoring of virtual machines
- Alerting (SMS, Email, Push notifications through mobile apps, etc.)
- Robust Reporting
- Intuitive web interface
Even though PRTG provides an agent that can be installed on the devices to be monitored, it mostly relies on agentless monitoring by using a variety of protocols including SNMP, WMI, SSH, NetFlow and so on. PRTG can only be installed on Windows OS but can then be used to monitor several types of devices including Linux, Windows, Cisco, HP, VMware and so on.
PRTG is Absolutely Free for up to 100 sensors. If you to monitor more than 100 sensors, PRTG offers a 30-day unlimited trial and after that, the price starts at $1,600 for a 500-sensor license. For more information about the pricing, see the price list on their site.
Note: PRTG works with “sensors”. A device is not a sensor because you can enable multiple sensors on a single device. Even with this, PRTG is generally less expensive than other paid monitoring solutions.
PRTG 100 Sensors FREE (no Time limitation, etc):
4. WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold used to have a lot of following and widespread development in the past. For example, about 10 years ago, almost all financial institutions (banks) in Nigeria had a screen up for monitoring their different branches and they mostly used Whatsup Gold. Interest for this tool has waned in recent times although they recently revamped the product (version 16 and 17).
Looking beyond the history, WhatsUp Gold is an easy-to-use tool that provides several features including:
- Configuration Management
- Alerting (SMS, Email, etc)
- Monitoring of Virtual environments.
Some of these features are only available in certain editions, of which WhatsUp Gold provides four (4) different editions: Basic, Pro, Total and Total Plus. It is also worth noting that WhatsUp Gold can only be installed on Windows OS and may not be as customizable as other Linux-based monitoring tools.
While there is no specific pricing information on the WhatsUp Gold site, you can request a quote from their sales and also download a 30-day free trial. WhatsUp Gold also uses a device-based pricing model (a device can have several elements) versus element-based which means that it may be cheaper than some alternative (e.g. Solarwinds or PRTG).
5. Nagios XI
Nagios is probably the most popular network monitoring tool partly because it is also the oldest (among monitoring tools still in use today). It is a Linux-based solution that is very flexible and powerful because the core can be extended with plugins of which they are a lot.
Nagios comes in two flavors: Nagios Core which is free and open source and Nagios XI, which is the paid enterprise edition. Out of the box, Nagios Core is not great – poor reporting, text-based configuration, no support for graphs. However, Nagios XI builds on this powerful Nagios Core and then goes a step ahead by simplifying and making available (by default) many of the things lacking in Nagios Core. Some of the features available on Nagios XI include:
- A much better web interface (the default web interface on Nagios Core is quite bad)
- Alerting (SMS, Email)
- Configuration wizards
While many of these features are available in Nagios Core with the use of plugins, they are available by default in Nagios XI which means the complexity of deployment is reduced.
Nagios XI is available in two editions: Standard edition and Enterprise edition. Licenses for each edition come in three (3) levels: 100 Node, 200 Node or Unlimited Node. The least expensive of Nagios XI (Standard 100 Node editions) costs $1,995. You can view the price list here.
There is also an online demo of Nagios XI to try before purchasing.
6. ManageEngine OpManager
ManageEngine OpManager is a comprehensive IT infrastructure monitoring solution with an easy-to-use responsive web interface as seen in our review of OpManager here. It can be installed on either Windows or Linux OS and offers several features like:
- Server Monitoring
- Network Mapping
- Monitoring templates
- Alerting (SMS, Email)
- Network Configuration Management
- Network Traffic Analysis
While most of these features come included in the base installation (or as a free add-on), some of them require you to purchase a separate license. For example, the Network Configuration Management module is free for up to two (2) devices after which it requires a separate license. The Network Traffic Analysis module also requires a license after two (2) free interfaces.
ManageEngine OpManager has three license types (apart from a free 30-day trial): Essential, OpManager Plus and Enterprise. The Essential license starts at $595 for 25 devices. You can view more information about the license types here and also visit the store for the different prices.
Note: There is also a free edition for monitoring 10 devices but with limited functionality.
You can view an online demo of ManageEngine OpManager here.
Official Site and Download:
7. OP5 Monitor
OP5 Monitor is a network monitoring tool based on a fork of Nagios (Naemon). It packs a couple of nice features including:
- Customizable/Personalized dashboards
- Performance Monitoring
- Web-based configuration (unlike the default Nagios Core)
OP5 Monitor is also built to scale – they have a license (Ent+) that can monitor over 100,000 devices! Other licenses available for OP5 Monitor include the free license which allows you monitor up to 20 devices, and the Pro license which allows you monitor up to 500 devices.
There is also an online demo available to try out the product before buying/downloading.
Zabbix is a free open source all-in-one network monitoring solution. It uses a client-server model where the Zabbix server gets monitoring information from the Zabbix agent (although agentless monitoring is also supported). Some of the features provided by Zabbix are:
- Web-based configuration
- Performance Monitoring
- Application Monitoring
- Monitoring templates for quick and easy setup
Zabbix is completely free – it does not have a paid enterprise edition. However, the company behind Zabbix offers paid support services including 5 tiers of technical support, integration service and consulting services.
Icinga is an open-source network monitoring tool that comes in two versions: Icinga 1 and Icinga 2. Icinga provides many features including:
- Performance Monitoring
- Extensibility through plugins
Icinga 1 is a fork of Nagios Core with added functionality like support for more databases, better web interface and easier plugin integration. Even though it is a fork, Icinga 1 is still compatible with Nagios plugins.
Icinga 2 is a complete rewrite of the Core and features a web interface that is smooth and responsive. Configuration is still done through text files but Icinga 2 reduces configuration complexity. Icinga 2 was designed to be scalable; therefore, it supports distributed monitoring.
LibreNMS is a free open-source network monitoring tool and a fork of Observium. It provides features such as:
- Great graphs
- Configuration can be done through web interface or command line interface.
- Auto network discovery
- Alerting (SMS, Email, Slack, etc.)
LibreNMS is completely free and does not even have any option for paid support. Support is available through several channels like community forums, IRC, GitHub and Twitter. You can try LibreNMS by using the online demo.
In this article, we have discussed the need for monitoring IT infrastructure and went on to highlight some of the tools that can be used for this purpose including WhatsUp Gold, LibreNMS, Solarwinds NPM, and Nagios XI.
As a final note, it is important to consider your own requirements before choosing a tool as there is no one-size-fits-all. If you are looking for simplicity, ease of use and an inexpensive solution, then consider PRTG Network Monitor.
If you want a robust solution with a nice web interface, many modules and are not too concerned about cost, look at the Solarwinds Orion suite. All of these tools will help keep your datacenter, business and network thriving by keeping tabs on every aspect and device you wish. Our recommendation would be to grab a Free download/Trial and see for yourself.
Our top picks?
Notice: All images used in this article are copyright of the respective tools.