System Monitoring is without question one of the most important tasks for IT admins, because it helps them guarantee that all servers are working at top performance. While Windows’s own monitoring tool “Task Manager” is very useful for casual resource monitoring, it lacks added features that other tools have, like alerting, notification, reporting, etc.
Using the right monitoring tool will help you keep all infrastructures’ health information in control and alert you about any unplanned downtime.
The tools that monitor the infrastructure should be designed to add the least performance impact on the system that is being monitored. In other words, these tools need to be as unobtrusive as possible to avoid any added burden on the production services.
Here is our list of the best system monitoring tools:
- SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor – EDITOR'S CHOICE A package of monitoring tools that watch over software and server activities, including cloud resources and web application monitoring. Runs on Windows Server. Start a 30-day free trial.
- Datadog Infrastructure Monitoring – FREE TRIAL This plan is delivered from the cloud and offers server monitoring plus the tracing of all service and application activity on each server. Offered for Linux servers as well as those running Windows.
- Paessler PRTG – FREE TRIAL A bundle of monitoring systems that supervise the performance of networks, servers, and applications. Runs on Windows Server.
- Site24x7 Windows Monitoring – FREE TRIAL A monitoring service for networks, servers, and applications. The cloud-based service can monitor servers running Windows Server and Linux.
- ManageEngine OpManager – FREE TRIAL A bundle on network and server monitoring systems that includes monitoring for hypervisors. Available for Linux and Windows Server.
- Nagios XI and Core A free (Nagios Core) and a paid (Nagios XI) package of system monitoring tools that is written for Linux but can run on windows over a virtual machine.
- WhatsUp Gold An SNMP-based network performance monitor that can be expanded by add-on modules to monitor servers and applications. Installs on Windows Server.
- Zabbix A free system monitoring tool that covers networks, servers, and applications. Written for Linux, macOS, and Unix but can run on a Windows server over a VM.
A monitoring tool should also add flexibility to the maintenance of the network. In a medium to large network, a central monitoring server will help offload the added impact on the systems being monitored.
Basically the central server collects monitoring data from all agents installed in the servers. An agent is low-impact software that collects information of the server that is hosting it and sends it to the central server in order to process it.
When looking for a system monitoring software package there are many things to consider. Apart from the basic monitoring functionalities such as processes and system performance, it is essential that the tool allows the following features
- Customizable alerts and notifications.
- Auto-discovery of systems.
- Easy graphical user interface.
- Automatic update measurements.
- Easy Installation and operation.
What should you look for in Windows system monitoring tools?
We reviewed the market for system monitors for Windows and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:
- A package that is able to track the activity of the operating system and services
- A monitor for network interfaces as well as on-device activity
- A monitor for applications resident on Windows
- Performance tracking for software packages
- A self-installing, easy-to-use service
- A risk-free assessment opportunity with a free trial or a demo service
- Good value for money in a paid tool or a free tool that is worth operating
With these selection criteria in mind, we have identified some very strong system monitors for Windows.
Here's a List of the Best System Monitoring Tools and Software:
Windows users deal with a large variety of options when it comes to systems monitoring tools. The following list details 7 tools and software on the market that will help you keep a close eye on your infrastructure if your primarily a Windows Server (2012, 2008, 2003, etc).
The nice part about these tools is that most of them have agentless monitoring systems (utiltizing services such as HTTP, PING, SSH, etc) to monitor devices that are not Windows based, such as Linux, Unix, Mac OSX and others.
SolarWinds, has been a long-time leader for IT enterprise infrastructure management software. They developed the Server & Application Monitor “SAM”, a software very easy to install and use. The tool has a simple dashboard which is intuitive for any experienced IT admin.
SAM is perfect for monitoring services and performance counters. It can be used to monitor a large variety of applications (+200) from a single dashboard. The dashboard comes preconfigured so that you can easily start the software out-of-the-box with little or no tweaking.
SAM is a great tool for Real-time Monitoring and Management but is also amazing for collecting and reporting data from different agents from a central server.
- Supports auto-discovery that builds network topology maps and inventory lists in real-time based on devices that enter the network
- Multiple integrations for alerting and scripted remediation
- Can monitor multiple services and applications including DNS
- Uses drag and drop widgets to customize the look and feel of the dashboard
- Tons of pre-configured templates, reports, and dashboard views
- This is a feature-rich enterprise tool designed for sysadmin, non-technical users may some features overwhelming
Official website: http://www.solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor
Download 30 Day Trial FREE: http://www.solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor/register/
SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is our top pick for a system monitoring tool because it delivers visibility and performance tracking for all of the important infrastructure that binds running software through to its supporting resources. The service includes an alerting mechanism that triggers warnings when performance thresholds that are placed on the statistics pipeline are crossed. These alerts can be forwarded to technicians by email or SMS notifications and that gives them time to fix problems before users notice.
Official Site: solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor/register/
OS: Windows Server
Datadog Infrastructure Monitoring is a cloud-based system that covers servers running Windows and Linux. The server monitoring system identifies all of the key metrics of server performance and displays them live in the Datadog console.
The Data system will consolidate the monitoring of servers from all of your sites and it can also include virtual servers rented in the cloud. The package will unify monitoring for servers of different operating systems.
As well as offering an overview screen of all servers, the system has detailed screen for each server in your system. The package also monitors the performance of the services and applications that run on your servers. This combined view lets you see quickly where the root cause of performance problems lie.
- Application dependency mapping
- Full stack views of severe resources up into user-facing software
- Centralized monitoring of servers on multiple sites plus cloud platforms
- Monitoring of servers running Linux and Windows Server
- Customizable monitoring that allows the creation of performance thresholds to trigger alerts
- The free trial only lasts for 14 days
Official Website: https://www.datadoghq.com/server-monitoring/
Access a 14-day free trial: https://www.datadoghq.com/free-datadog-trial/
PRTG “Paessler Router Traffic Grapher”, focuses strictly in network infrastructure monitoring. PRTG is able to check on systems, appliances and applications. All of the functionalities from PRTG can be installed with a single installer and without needing to download any add-ons.
PRTG runs on Windows and is able to monitor network availability and utilization using SNMP among other protocols. It is also able to automatically discover systems and devices by analyzing different IP networking segments. From this information
PRTG can create network maps that can be published on the web for easy analysis. You can purchase the basic service PRTG 500 for $1,300, which allows monitoring up to 500 sensors (sensors are aspects monitored on a device).
- Uses a combination of packet sniffing, WMI, and SNMP to report network performance as well as discover new devices
- Autodiscovery reflects the latest inventory changes almost instantaneously
- Drag and drop editor makes it easy to build custom views and reports
- Supports a wide range of alert mediums such as SMS, email, and third-party integration
- Supports a freeware version
- Is a very comprehensive platform with many features and moving parts that require time to learn
Official Website: https://www.paessler.com/prtg
PRTG 100 Sensors FREE (no Time limitation, etc): https://www.paessler.com/download/
Site24x7 Infrastructure monitors servers running Windows Server. It can also monitor Linux servers. As well as supervising servers, the system can monitor networks and applications. This tool is part of a cloud-based system monitoring platform.
The server monitoring module tracks more than 60 metrics on performance. Topics covered by the monitor include CPU capacity and usage, memory activity, and disk space and usage. The dashboard for the service is hosted on Site24x7 servers in the Cloud, which is where all processing is performed.
The screens for the server monitor include data visualization that shows live reports on activities. The system also displays network activity statistics.
The server monitor sets performance thresholds on each of the statuses that it monitors. When performance drops below one of those thresholds, the system raises an alert, which can also be forwarded to users via SMS, email, voice call, or instant messaging post.
- One of the most holistic monitoring tools available, supporting networks, infrastructure, and real user monitoring in a single platform
- Uses real-time data to discover devices and build charts, network maps, and inventory reports
- Is one of the most user-friendly network monitoring tools available
- User monitoring can help bridge the gap between technical issues, user behavior, and business metrics
- Supports a freeware version for testing
- Is a very detailed platform that will require time to fully learn all of its features and options
Site24x7 is a subscription service and there are no deposit requirements or the need for a long-term contract with a minimum service period. The Site24x7 Infrastructure service costs $9 per month when paid for annually. IT is available for a 30-day free trial.
Official Website: https://www.site24x7.com/windows-monitoring.html
OpManager is a tool by ManageEngine. OpManager helps an administrator keep a close eye on the infrastructure, network and the Application Performance Management “APM”. It can be used for either Windows or Linux environments.
OpManager is an integrated network management application that allows you to focus on one tool instead of separated networking features. Installing the manager is really easy and once installed it will automatically discover up to 15,000 network interfaces – you can see our full ManageEngine Opmanager review here for more details.
The User Graphical Interface makes it very easy to use and also highly customizable. OpManager best features include Network and Server management, traffic analysis, network configuration management, and fault and performance management.
- Designed to work right away, features over 200 customizable widgets to build unique dashboards and reports
- Features traffic management options alongside DPI tools
- Uses intelligent alerting to reduce false positives and eliminate alert fatigue across larger networks
- Supports email, SMS, and webhook for numerous alerting channels
- Can set up SLAs based on network, application, or process.
- Is a feature-rich tool that will require a time investment to properly learn
The essential edition, for up to 25 devices can be purchased for $595. We've written up an extensive review of ManageEngine Opmanager for you to get a better understanding of its benefits and features. They Offer a 30-day free trial.
Official Site: https://www.manageengine.com/network-monitoring/
6. Nagios XI and Core
Nagios XI and Nagios Core, are two monitoring tools from Nagios, a leader and standard bearer in IT infrastructure monitoring.
Nagios XI is a network monitoring tool that can be highly customized to turn itself into a powerful monitor for isolated or particular circumstances. Nagios XI is easy to install, but it needs to be tweaked a lot to meet your specific needs (Manual Editing of Configuration files, plugins, etc.).
Since the tool does not automatically discover devices, you need to indicate each device through a configuration file, only then, the tool will start sending alerts. Nagios XI can be purchased starting at $1995 for 100 nodes.
Nagios Core is the free and open-source version. Not to underestimate this freebie, Core is powerful infrastructure monitoring and alerting software. This tool is very easy to download, install and use but of course, it has its limitations, the reporting and user interface are very restricted.
- Is open-source and completely free, with a paid option for enterprises
- Supports autodiscovery for easy device management
- Can monitor devices through an additional agent
- User interface is lacking, could be easier to use and feature more customizable looks
- Network mapping visualizations need improvement
- Not nearly as comprehensive as some of our top choices
- Must pay extra for support
Nagios XI, uses Nagios Core as its engine. Since Core is open source there are many plugins and add-ons in the community that can work with Nagios XI to extend the capabilities.
Official Website: https://www.nagios.com/products/nagios-xi/
7. WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold Network monitoring tool from IPSwitch, comes with advanced visualization features that makes the main dashboard really appealing. Whatsup Gold allows you to monitor networks, servers, applications, VMs, and traffic flows. The interactive network map lets you visualize the complete network and find problems easily.
- Uses simple visualizations to help provide at-a-glance insights
- Supports modular pricing, allowing companies to pay only for features they intend to use
- Can monitor LANs, WANs, and cloud-based applications such as container environments
- Modular upgrades might not be a good fit if you intend on utilizing all aspects of a networking monitor
The installation process is really simple; the add-ons can be included right from the start. The basic version can be purchased with a starting fee of $1755 (a one-time license).
Official Website: https://www.ipswitch.com/application-and-network-monitoring/whatsup-gold
Zabbix is an open-source enterprise and free monitoring tool. It is a great tool for monitoring hosts and services for small to medium networks. But when it comes to large networks, Zabbix can become difficult to scale up, as service discovery becomes complicated.
The tool comes with lightweight agents to install in servers (either Unix or Windows) and can monitor statistics like network utilization, CPU load, memory, etc. The open-source community of Zabbix is really helpful when solving configuration-related issues and customization.
- Open-source transparent tool
- Uses both SNMP and ICMP for a broader monitoring range
- Can detect new devices and configuration changes immediately
- Offers useful templates for quick insights
- Robust notification system supports SMS, email, custom script, and webhook
- The interface isn’t as intuitive as solutions such as DataDog or Site24x7
- Would like to see better-alerting features, specifically related to reducing false positives
Official Website: http://www.zabbix.com
9. Spiceworks Network Monitor
Spiceworks Network Monitor is another free tool great for small to medium sized Windows networks. The tool allows you to monitor servers, services and devices like routers or switches through SNMP protocol.
The tool is very easy to install and use. Its graphical interface is very intuitive for anybody with decent knowledge on networks. The downside of the tool is that it lacks customization to create alerts and notifications. Since the tool doesn’t have granularity at the moment of configuration, it is not suitable for large enterprises.
Official Website: https://www.spiceworks.com
The list above is a careful selection of the top System Monitoring tools that can work in Windows environments. Some tools are perfect for any size network but others are only suitable for small to medium size networks. Some are more expensive than others and some are even free.
It can be overwhelming to choose the right tool, as there are a lot of different IT monitoring vendors and many other options in the market. Before setting to look for a system monitoring tool, is critical to define your current network state, what are the assets that you are trying to keep an eye on? What is the behavior of your network?
Having the right tool for the right type of network could easily help you forecast system failures, keep your servers running smooth and just help save your business’ money.