Some tools are best fit purely for troubleshooting, but in the case of monitoring your LAN, a little bit of awareness can go a long way towards preventing problems before they happen. There's a variety of software for monitoring your Local Area Network, both in terms of the devices attached to it as well as the traffic traversing it! It's invaluable when trouble stirs to quickly discover the root of the cause, but there's more to it than just that – software with predictive alerts and monitoring can help you spend less time actively monitoring and more time focusing on other technical problems without sacrificing precious up-time
On a broad scale, LAN Monitoring software is great for keeping track of all the physical aspects of your network – the various devices connected to it, the servers that rely on it, the routing equipment that makes it function, and the systems that utilize it all. Knowing a machine or server suddenly dropped offline as soon as, or even having it predicted slightly before, it happens is invaluable. The happiest users are those who almost never realize anything is wrong because you're using the right software to predict and prevent problems as much as possible.
On smaller scale LAN monitoring also lets you keep a close eye on just what is going through your network in terms of traffic. We all like to assume that our users are doing what they should be doing and give them the benefit of the doubt, but we still need to be able to check in on things if the situation calls for it. Having at least a casual eye on traffic, and making sure it's coming and going to places it should, is imperative in keeping your network running smoothly and, most importantly, safely. Access to the bandwidth usage and site URLs of your users is one of the best ways to achieve this – hijacked connections stand out like a sore thumb with proper monitoring!
Top LAN Monitor Software – Free & Paid Alternatives
Here's a list of four of the best programs for Monitoring your LAN and Local Network Traffic inside of your Perimeter. We've really focused on software packages that have management and monitoring capabilities dedicated to a LAN.
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor
The Network Performance Monitor by SolarWinds is an excellent overall tool for keeping a close eye on the health of your network. It boasts a strong variety of monitoring tools and a very robust alert system – which means you have to spend less time actively watching your network and can depend on the software to clue you in when something is amiss! The software even lets you customize your own alerts so that you can tailor your awareness to the specific needs of your network's use.
This software is all about helping you predict and, ideally, prevent network downtime. It also offers some ability to monitor the actual traffic on your network but focuses heavily on up-time and device management. It also has some handy tools for deploying and monitoring wireless network, and some ability to examine packets for discerning issues which are application based versus network based, which can save a great deal of time.
Worthy of particular mention in this instance, though, is the visual aspect of SolarWinds. Most software that deals with network monitoring has some form of graphical representation for traffic, usage, etc., but the Network Performance Monitor really hits it home on this front.
The graphing is plentiful and intuitive and mostly automatic! There's not even a need to fine tune many of the settings, the software is designed well enough to really weave the information together in a useful way right from the get go. Even the program's main screen is covered with a great deal of data, yet represented so succinctly and cleverly that you can absorb it at a moment's glance. The power of having a great deal of data both available, and intelligently sorted and prioritized right up front, is hard to overstate.
Compatibility: Windows environments, most any from XP and up
Cost: 30-day Free Trial
Information & Download link: http://www.solarwinds.com/topics/lan-monitor.aspx
PRTG Network Monitor
Compatibility: Primarily windows, site recommends Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2
Cost: Free trial; free 100-sensor license for private use; licenses vary by number of sensors and start at $1,600 for basic license for 12 months. Discounted for purchasing 24 or 36 months up front. (i.e. 12 months of the basic 500 sensor license is $1,600, but 24 months is $1,960 if purchased up front.)
Information & Download link: https://www.paessler.com/prtg
Microsoft Network Monitor 3.4
The Microsoft Network Monitor is an old favorite of many techs. Microsoft has released many tools over the years that are stellar, but eventually quits development on them, and this is one. It's a lot less robust than some of the other options here, and has relatively little to offer in the realm of monitoring networking devices and up-time Where it really stands out, though, is in its ability to pick apart the traffic on a system with incredible depth with regards to protocol messaging.
It's primarily geared towards troubleshooting as opposed to overall long term monitoring from a server-side basis, but can still pull its weight as a useful tool for the Windows environment.
Compatibility: Windows environments, most any from XP and up
Information & Download link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=4865
Nagios is a beast when it comes to open source software. One of the biggest downsides may also be one of its strengths – it has a staggering amount of flexibility and power. The downside is that it can be a bit difficult to setup and configure just right to begin with, but ultimately it is an incredibly powerful piece of software – we've also put together an article about alternatives to nagios here.
You begin by using the Nagios Core, which is the basic monitoring engine, to get it running on the network, and from there you can add a variety of plugins for specific uses or needs, fully customize the visual front-end of the software to better show what is important for your network, and even expand the functionality of the core software. Being open-source means there's a huge already a huge amount of community-driven add-ons and functionality that's been added and there will be more to come!
There's really almost nothing Nagios can't do when configured right when it comes to Network Monitoring, but be prepared for a little bit of a learning curve.
Compatibility: Numerous, almost universal, even has numerous web-based interfaces
Cost: Free, Open-source
Information & Download link: https://www.nagios.org/downloads/
One of the most useful aspects of LAN monitoring is that it scales beautifully. Whether a junior admin or an expert, whether a small network or multinational, monitoring is invaluable. Few tools will give you the same power to predict and prevent outages and problems as quickly and easily as solid monitoring.
And when a problem does happen, these same tools will give you the information you need to hone right in on it and troubleshoot it as quickly as possible! Whether the issue ends up being traffic, protocol, access point, server, application, or client you can depend on LAN Monitoring to point you where you need to look.