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Network Discovery Tools & Software for Automatically Scanning & Discovering Network Devices

network discovery tools and software

Marc Wilson

Modern networks are continually changing with the popularity of Wireless environments and Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) infrastructures becoming more dominant . With these evolving network types comes the challenges for network admins to keep track of their entire networks and devices within those networks.

On top of that, the variety of network-devices has also changed. Now, it is not only a desktop computer or server, but Virtual servers, Wireless APs, VoIP boxes, mobiles, switches, and even smartwatches.

Creating Inventories and documenting these types of environments can be overwhelming for any network admin. But as the network grows, the administrator will have to audit the entire network continually to stay on top of new devices and components into their networks.

Keeping track of all these devices is the key to capacity planning, troubleshooting, and security — this is where a Network Discovery Tool and Software comes in handy.

Here is our list of the fifteen best network discovery tools and software for automatically scanning and discovering network devices:

  1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor – FREE TRIAL An excellent network monitoring system that uses SNMP to identify and map network devices and their connections. Both the device inventory and network topology map are automatically updated. Installs on Windows Server.
  2. Atera – FREE TRIAL A remote monitoring and management system that on-boards new clients by searching for devices and logging them in an inventory.
  3. Syxsense Manage – FREE TRIAL An endpoint management system that supports devices running Windows, macOS, and Linux and includes an autodiscovery feature. This is a cloud-based service.
  4. SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper – FREE TRIAL A specialized network discovery and mapping tool that forms the basis for network monitoring. Installs on Windows Server.
  5. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor A collection of IT resource monitors that includes network discovery and automatic topology mapping feature. Installs on Windows Server.
  6. InterMapper A device discovery tool that is very strong on topology mapping and can even overlay a network topology over a real-world map.
  7. NetBrain A network automation platform for large businesses that includes autodiscovery of devices connected to a network.
  8. ManageEngine OpManager This network monitor offers a range of topology maps that are based on a constantly updated device inventory. Installs on Windows Server and Linux.
  9. WhatsUp Gold A network monitor with autodiscovery and network topology mapping features. Installs on Windows Server.
  10. Nagios XI A Linux-based resource monitoring suite that can be extended by a large library of plugins and includes network discovery and topology mapping features. Installs on Linux.
  11. Cacti A free network data interpreter that includes a library of templates for network topology mapping. Installs on Windows and Linux.
  12. OpsView Monitor A system monitoring tool that can be extended by Nagios plugins and includes an autodiscovery feature. Installs on Windows Server and Linux.
  13. NetProbe A simple network monitoring tool for Windows that is based on an autodiscovery process that produces a network layout plan.
  14. Zenmap A free graphical interface that interprets network data sourced through Nmap and creates a network map from autodiscovery data.
  15. Spiceworks A free, ad-supported online website monitoring tool that traces devices across the internet.

What is Network Discovery?

Network Discovery is the process, either automatically or manually, to find new devices and their interfaces.

A Network discovery tool can help find everything that is connected to a network, create topology maps, and generate reports.

These type of software scans the entire network, identify its components, and creates an inventory.

With this information, the software can create visualizations of the physical and virtual network connectivity. These tools can consolidate two essential functions, scanning a network, and mapping it automatically.

What should you look for in Network Discovery tools?

We reviewed the market for systems that offer scanning and discovery of network devices and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:

  • An automated service that can scan an entire network continuously
  • A system that will compile a hardware inventory including all discovered network devices
  • A system that is able to spot when devices are added, moved, or removed
  • An easy-to-use system that shows live device statuses in the dashboard
  • A network topology mapping service
  • A free trial or a system that is free to use
  • A free tool or a paid system that offers value for money

With these selection criteria in mind, we have found several network scanners that can discover and log all connected network devices. We have included packages that will install on Windows and Linux and also cloud-based platforms.

Here's a List of the Best Network Discovery Tools of 2021:

1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor “NPM” is more than just a network discovery tool. It is a comprehensive multi-vendor network monitoring software, designed for medium to large-scale businesses.

NPM scans the network with its devices, end-points, and links (whether physical or logical).

The auto-discovery process creates an intelligent network map that helps you visualize graphical and contextual representations. If the network changes, such as new devices are added, moved, or removed, the maps will update automatically.

This map shows all relationships between devices which include, routers, interfaces, WAN links to remote sites, cloud-based services, wireless systems, firewalls, and a lot more.

The following screenshot shows an automated intelligent mapping, displaying many running links towards a Cisco router and a link down (colored in red).

The map shows topology connections which are the lines showing interface bandwidth, outbound traffic, and utilization in percentage.

solarwinds net discovery

What are some features related to network discovery and mapping?

  • Wireless Heat Maps: With WiFi Monitor, an integrated tool in NPM, you can create Wireless Heat Maps that helps you visualize the signal strength and the location of clients. You can also optimize your Wifi network by troubleshooting signal overlaps and dead zone areas.
  • Color-Coded Maps: The maps use different colors to help visualization. An overloaded connection is red, up and running connection is green, and warning links in yellow.
  • Visualize Traffic, Performance and Configuration: NPM with the help of SolarWinds NetPath can show you a hop-by-hop traffic analysis of on-premises, cloud, or hybrid environments. NetPath can also measure performance characteristics of each node and its links.
  • Correlate Network Data Across the Entire IT stack: With the integrated tool, PerfStack you can troubleshoot much faster. With PerfStack you compare different data types side-by-side in one dashboard and see data on the same timeline.
  • Visualize and Monitor SDNs:NPM, with the help of Cisco ACI, lets you monitor your Software Defined Networks “SDNs.” You can keep track of your logical network, including APICs, tenants, spins, leaves, endpoint groups, etc.

Network Performance Analyzer is only supported by Windows Server 2016 and 2019.

 

 

system-requirements

Pros:

  • Supports auto-discovery that builds network topology maps and inventory lists in real-time based on devices that enter the network
  • Has some of the best alerting features that balance effectiveness with ease of use
  • Supports both SNMP monitoring as well as packet analysis, giving you more control over monitoring than similar tools
  • Uses drag and drop widgets to customize the look and feel of the dashboard
  • Tons of preconfigured templates, reports, and dashboard views

Cons:

  • Is a feature-rich tool that will require a time investment to properly learn

Price: 30 Day Free Trial Download!

Download: free fully functional trial of Network Performance Monitor from SolarWinds for 30 days.

Download Free!

2. Atera

Atera Dashboard

Atera is a cloud-based infrastructure management suite that is aimed at managed service providers (MSPs). When the MSP takes on a new client, it can run the system’s autodiscovery function to get all of the new network’s connected devices logged.

As a system created for MSPs, the Atera network monitoring system is designed to connect to any network anywhere, although the remote network needs an agent program installed on it to gather data and communicated with the cloud-based system server. The package is also able to work with several networks with different ownership simultaneously.

The system dashboard doesn’t require any software to be installed because Atera is run from the cloud and users access the console through any standard browser.

During ongoing operations, the network monitoring service will keep track of device statuses while also noticing any changes to the device inventory. Any additions or removals will cause the network inventory to be automatically updated.

The Atera package includes system management tools as well as monitoring utilities. MSP technicians can use the dashboard to access remote devices and fix problems. Other management tools in the service include a patch manager and a software license management system.

Atera is a subscription service with a rate levied per technician per month. There is no requirement for a deposit and no minimum service period, which makes the service very flexible. Seats can be added and removed from an account very easily. There are three editions available: Pro, Growth, and Power. All of these versions include the autodiscovery feature.

Pros:

  • Lightweight cloud-based tool
  • Built with MSPs in mind, and includes RMM and PSA tools built-in
  • Dashboard access from any browser makes Atera extremely flexible
  • Can scale and support multiple networks in an organized manner

Cons:

  • Users who aren’t looking for RMM capabilities might not need all of Atera’s features

Price:

  • Pro: $79 per technician per month
  • Growth: $119 per technician per month
  • Power: $149 per technician per month

Download: There is no download needed to use Atera. You can access a 30-day free trial.

Start Trial!

3. Syxsense Manage

syxsense Manage

Syxsense Manage is an endpoint management system that is delivered from the Cloud. Although the console for the service is cloud-based and accessed through a browser, there does need to be some software installed on each monitored device. This is an agent program and it is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

The system will include devices into the monitoring system no matter where they are, so endpoints do not all have to be on the same network. It can include devices on different sites and also cloud resources. The process of enrolling devices is made easier by an autodiscovery procedure.

The device discovery process also requires that an agent is first installed on one endpoint connected to the network. This module then explores the network and identifies all of the other devices. When an endpoint is encountered, the system downloads an agent onto that. The discovery process is constant and it will notice if any new endpoint gets added to the system during its service life.

Once an endpoint agent is active on a device, it searches for software and reports back to the Syxsense server details about the operating system, its type, and version number. It also lists all software packages installed on the endpoint, together with their version numbers. This enables Syxsense Manage to compile a software inventory.

The software inventory provides the basis for a license management service and a patch manager. The patch manager scans software providers for notifications of updates for those packages that it has listed in its inventory. When a patch or an update is available, the Syxsense system copies over the installer package and prepares it for rollout.

The system administrator is able to define suitable times for software updates. It is also possible to specify whether patches should be applied automatically or whether approval is needed. Updates can be applied unattended and all actions are logged. The system administrator can check on the status report to see which installation events completed successfully and which encountered an error.

syxsense Patch Manager Summary

Pros:

  • A simple and intuitive user interface, great use of color to display key metrics
  • Cloud-based service makes desktop management flexible, especially for remote teams
  • Includes patch management alongside remote administration features.
  • Offers configuration profiles that streamline onboarding new devices

Cons:

  • Would benefit from a longer 30-day trial period

Price: Syxsense Manage is a subscription service. There is also a managed version of the package, which is called Syxsense Active Manage. There are no prices advertised on the Syxsense website. You have to contact Syxsense for a quote.

Download: Syxsense Manage is available for a 14-day free trial.

Start Trial!

4. SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper

Network Topology Mapper, developed SolarWinds, is an advanced mapping software capable of creating automatic network maps. In contrast to Network Performance Monitor that does it all, the Topology Mapper focuses only on scanning and mapping networks.

This tool is capable of scanning and finding network devices, virtual hosts, servers, and more. From the scan results, you can build one or multiple maps and export them to Visio. Network Topology Mapper can also detect any changes in the network topology automatically and send alerts.

How to discover a network and create a map with the Network Topology Mapper?

  • Enter SNMP, WMI, and VMWare credentials.
  • Identify the network. You have two options, add a new subnet or a seed device (core or central device). The last option brings up subnets that are important on your network.
  • Exclude certain devices.
  • Schedule the network discovery process to run again anytime.
  • All the nodes found will be listed in an inventory, and an interactive map will be created automatically.

network topology mapper discovery

The map created is interactive. You can add or remove nodes from the map, individually or as groups. The group of nodes can be labeled with roles, such as vendor, machine type, location, subnet VLAN, or unidentified.

All the nodes will be displayed as clickable icons. You can get in-depth information about the status of each node. You can also generate inventory reports with raw network data and export them into CVS.

Pros:

  • Uses auto-discover for automated mapping, great for larger more complex networks
  • Uses multiple protocols to identify network devices, ICMP, SNMP, WMI, and CDP
  • Designed to work in virtual environments and supports both VMWare and Hyper-V hosting
  • Can build static maps and include devices from your network for capacity planning and testing

Cons:

  • Would like to see a longer trial period

Price: The Network Topology Mapper is cheaper than the full NPM. It starts at $1380.00 (USD), for more details on their license get a quote.

Download: Free fully functional trial of Network Topology Mapper from SolarWinds for 14 days.

Start Trial!

5. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

prtg network map

PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler is a comprehensive IT infrastructure monitoring tool. It can keep track of the health and performance of all networking devices, databases, hosts, bandwidth, traffic, applications, and a lot more. It doesn’t matter if your equipment is on the cloud, on premises, or if it’s a hybrid environment, PRTG can monitor almost anything.

Some other elements in the infrastructure that you can monitor are as follows:

  • Cloud services
  • Online app services
  • Internet-of-Things
  • Packet loss
  • Network Traffic
  • NetFlow Analyzer
  • LAN analyzer
  • Physical environment
  • Virtual Server
  • Active Directory

PRTG uses the concept of monitoring sensors, to keep track of all of these metrics from a single platform. The sensors are the essential monitoring elements and measure a single value in the entire network. Sensors are also used as a licensing model in PRTG.

When running PRTG for the first time, these sensors must be defined (or the software will keep defaults). After that, the software can begin a network scanning process, referred to as Auto-discovery to find a wide range of devices and their links. When the network elements are discovered and thoroughly documented, the sensors can start to monitor them.

All updated monitoring status data can be used with a “PRTG map” to create web-page reports. With the help of its customizable layouts, you can design overview pages with in-depth information and publish them.

PRTG maps can show information of all the elements on your network, including:

  • The Status icons on every device.
  • A quick network view for internal NOC or Intranet.
  • A custom view of monitoring sensors, such as Virtualization, WAN links, Wi-Fi, Cloud, VoIP, etc.
  • The map with connection lines and geographical locations.

PRTG on-premises is only compatible on Windows Servers.

prtg sys requirements

Pros:

  • Uses a combination of packet sniffing, WMI, and SNMP to report network performance data
  • Fully customizable dashboard is great for both lone administrators as well as NOC teams
  • Drag and drop editor makes it easy to build custom views and reports
  • Supports a wide range of alert integrations such as SMS, email, and integrations into platforms like Slack
  • Supports a freeware version

Cons:

  • Is a very detailed platform with many features that require time to learn

Price: You can purchase PRTG through different packages based on the number of sensors and server installations. For example, PRTG500 allows 500 sensors and one server installation for $1,360 (USD) on a one-time payment including 12-month maintenance.

Download: Fully functional free trial of Paessler PRTG for 30 days (make sure you are using a Windows PC).

6. InterMapper

intermapper

InterMapper is a network monitoring software developed by HelpSystems. It is capable of capturing network information, creating detailed and dynamic maps, and alert you of potential problems.

This tool offers maps with the highest level of visibility and customization as compared with other tools. InterMapper maps can help you identify which devices are down and what is their location. You can change the layout, icons, image, etc.

You can also integrate Intermapper with Google Earth to see how network devices are spread on a geographical space. You can also upload floor plans or layout images to use as a background for your network map.

Below is a screenshot with Google Earth and geo-location data of network devices. If a device is down, the map will show a real-time alert with the exact location.

InterMapper also provides a robust notification system. It allows you to configure alerts on certain devices based on thresholds, create notification schedules, and select alerts for one or a group of devices.

These alerts are displayed in the central console, but you can also configure InterMapper to send them via email, or SMS.

How does InterMapper perform network discovery and mapping?

InterMapper comes with an auto-discovery feature that finds all devices whether physical, virtual, or hybrid, from your IT infrastructure. This feature creates a visual inventory of all network devices found.

Step-by-step process.

  • Import devices manually, perform an IP sweep, or SNMP.
  • Capture new devices or existing ones.
  • Create an inventory of the network.
  • Place devices on the map.
  • Perform scheduled network discovery again to find new devices.

scheduled discovery scan

InterMapper can keep track of the entire network using SNMP and ping. It also supports traffic monitoring protocols such as NetFlow, sFlow, or J-Flow.

Pros:

  • Offers a free and paid version
  • Is capable of using auto-discovery to find new devices
  • Features SLA compliance reporting, good for MSPs and larger networks
  • Available on Window, Linux, and Mac, making it a flexible option across multiple operating systems

Cons:

  • The interface feels outdated, making it difficult to navigate at times
  • Visual options are limited
  • Maps are generally not visually appealing, not great if used in a presentation

Price: The licensing method is pay-as-you-use. You pay for the number of devices that you want to monitor. There are three plans, Free, Subscription, Device-based, and Unlimited. The price is not on the website, but you can get a quote.

Download: InterMapper is supported by Linux, Windows, and MacOS systems. Start a free 30 days full version Intermapper trial or download the free version that allows unlimited monitoring for up to 10 devices.

7. NetBrain

net brain

NetBrain identifies itself as a Network Automation platform made for large-scale businesses. They aim to help network admins to automate repetitive management tasks such as documentation, troubleshooting, change management, and cyber-security.

NetBrain can automatically discover devices on your network and create inventories. The auto-discovery engine gathers CLI data (ping, traceroute, arp-a, NetBIOS, etc.) or SNMP from all devices.

To scan your network, start by providing an IP address of an authoritative router, such as a core device. Then let NetBrain use its algorithm to figure out the network and provide an overview of the entire topology.
The tool will find not only endpoints but also routers, switches, firewalls, and more. Their new feature allows you to discover data from an SDN (Software Defined Network) through an API and create a map.

NetBrain’s Network Discovery features?

  • Fast scanning. Discover up to 2k devices per hour.
  • Discover entire L2/L3 network infrastructure. Find route tables, CDP tables, SNMP devices,
  • Scan on demand or scheduled. Set up an automatic network discovery at certain times to find new hosts.

NetBrain is also capable of delivering a graphical representation of your network through dynamic maps, which you can help you identify bottlenecks in traffic. To create a map, enter the source and destination. The application will create a map and path of the network in real-time. NetBrain can map out any environment whether it is physical, virtual, SDN, or hybrid.

netbrain network disovery map

Pros:

  • Simple graphics get the job done without cluttering the dashboard
  • Autodiscovery can automatically identify Cisco ACI and other devices
  • Provides insights through automatic diagnostic scans
  • Great for mapping out complicated environments

Cons:

  • Must contact sales for pricing
  • Would like to see more out of the box features
  • Could use better historical data analysis tools

Price: The price is not published on the website.

Download: NetBrain does not offer free trials, only a demo. Contact them to schedule a personalized demo.

8. ManageEngine OpManager

OpManager from ManageEngine is not only a Network Discovery Tool, but it is also a complete network monitoring and management software. It can keep track of your network performance in real-time and identify faults proactively. OpManager allows full management of network, servers, faults, performance, storage, add-ons, and plugins— all in one platform.

This tool allows high scalability for up to 10k devices while enabling high availability. With OpManager you can monitor all your distributed networks across data centers, remote offices, and the cloud.

OpManager allows automatic network mapping and discovery. It helps you to create and configure maps of the entire network. Once OpManager is installed, the auto-discovery feature starts to scan the network (refer to the screenshot below) for devices and their connections.

opmanager 1

To begin with auto-discovery, you only need to define the IP range. The tool documents everything, creates network maps and continues to scan the network periodically.

How does OpManager discover new components?

  • Starts with an IP Sweep, using the IP range defined in the setup.
  • It uses ICMP, SNMP (v1, v2, and v3), WMI, or Telnet to discover a wide range of network components.
  • The discovery process outputs information such as device type, OS, services, etc.

Once OpManager discovers devices and their information, it can create maps in multiple formats. For example, it can create L2/L3 network infrastructure maps, 3D floor views, rack views, and world view or geographical maps.

opmanager maps layout

Pros:

  • Uses both SNMP and NetFlow for monitoring giving it more coverage options than other tools
  • Can scale easily, Enterprise package supports up to 10,000 endpoints
  • Utilizes automatic network discovery to create live inventories and network maps for administrators to track assets and network size
  • Freeware and paid versions allow for both small and large size networks to effectively use this tool

Cons:

  • OpManager is dense with features, integrations, and settings, and may take time to fully master

OpManager can only run on Linux distributions and Windows environments. The product has a free license that allows you to test it in your network for up to 10 monitoring devices.

Price: There are three different pricing models, Essential, Enterprise, Service Packs, and Free. The price is not on the official site of ManageEngine, but you can request a quote by filling an application.

Download: a 100% free OpManager edition that can monitor up to 10 devices for an unlimited time.

9. WhatsUp Gold

whtatsup gold

WhatsUp Gold is a network availability and performance monitoring software, developed by IPSwitch. It provides an overview of the applications, devices, and servers, whether they are located on premises, or in the cloud.

WhatsUp Gold has a powerful auto-discovery feature that puts the results in a detailed and dynamic map. With this map, you can monitor everything, from wireless, VMs, apps, Traffic flows, cloud environments, etc.

The interactive map allows you to see the health of the entire network, and have access to every single device with rich reports. You can also gain more visibility with the help of its alerting system. Whenever there is an alert, it can notify you via Email.

How does WhatsUp Gold perform network discovery and mapping?

WhatsUp Gold is capable of discovering Layer 2/3 devices, create a map, and an IT inventory of all the assets. If any device is having trouble with connectivity, the tool can help you troubleshoot with a Layer 2/3 trace and a finder.

  • Start with a device scan. Choose a single IP or a subnet. You can also include Gateway IP or cloud devices.
  • Give more details. You can expand your scan to your Virtual, Wireless, or Storage infrastructures. You can also exclude specific IPs.
  • Discover the network with one or a combination of the following methods, ARP, SNMP, SSH, PING, and LLDP.
  • Document and create an inventory of the results, including devices and their connectivities.
  • The network map and inventory can help you visualize the entire topology. Each device in the map is clickable and shows in-depth details about the performance and its information.
  • Run more discoveries. You can run Auto-Discovery on a schedule or on-demand.

discovered devices dashboard

WhatsUp Gold is compatible with Windows Server 2008 R2, 2012, 2012 R2, and 2016.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • Modular upgrades might not be a good fit if you intend on utilizing all aspects of a networking monitor

Price: WhatsUp Gold has three different editions, Premium Annual Subscription (device-based), Premium License (device-based), and Total Plus License (point-based). The price is not on the official website, but you can get a quote.

Download: a WhatsUp Gold free trial.

10. Nagios XI

nagios

Nagios is a popular network monitoring and management software. It offers two different editions of the product, Nagios Core and Nagios XI. Nagios Core is the free and open source version that can monitor your infrastructure, networks, and servers, and send alerts when there’s an issue. It includes a variety of frontends (including its CGI), Web Interface, and mobile interfaces developed by the open source community.

Nagios Core requires a longer learning curve. Its implementation and monitoring configuration demand high-level skills on Linux and Scripting. It also lacks advanced reporting, native user interface, configuration management, and maintenance, among many other essential features.

Nagios XI is the pro-version of Nagios Core. It has a proper user interface, is rich in features, and is easy to implement and allows auto-discovery.
Nagios XI helps you monitor bandwidth, SNMP, databases, cloud, virtualization, mobile apps, applications, and a lot more. Nagios has a huge community, where users share information, new plugins, and help each other continuously. The best of all is that this community works for both versions, Core and XI.

How does Nagios XI perform network discovery and mapping?

The tool includes auto-discovery functionality. This feature is capable of mapping the entire network and creating an inventory list. Auto-discovery is based on two components:

  • Auto-Discovery Jobs. This process scans the network to find devices. It uses pings and Nmap commands. To start a discovery job, you have to input scanning parameters such as IP range target, exclude IPs, and schedule it to make it daily, or weekly, etc.
  • Auto-Discovery Configuration Wizard. The Wizards uses the results from the auto-discovery to start monitoring. When the Auto-discovery job finds new devices, the Wizard can import these into the monitoring configuration and assign which services to track.

Nagios XI is supported by some Linux distributions such as Ubuntu or Debian and CentOs or RedHat.

nagios system compatibility

Pros:

  • Open-source transparent tool
  • Simple, yet informative interface
  • Flexible alerting options support SMS and email
  • Robust API backend makes it a great option for developers who want to integrate their own custom applications

Cons:

  • Open-source version lacks quality support found in paid products
  • Installation can be technical and complex

Price: Nagios Core is a free and open source software. The cost for Nagios XI Enterprise Server and Monitoring Software starts at $1,995.

Download: Get a 60 day free trial of Nagios XI or download open source Nagios Core for free.

11. Cacti

Cacti is a free and open source monitoring system created as a front-end for the time-series data manager and graphing tool known as, RDDTool. But Cacti offers more features, such as polling services, advanced graphing templates, user management, and multiple data collection methods.

You can use Cacti to graph metrics like bandwidth, network usage, memory, CPU load, etc. With this information, you can keep track of the essential components of a network. If you want to monitor network traffic, Cacti uses SNMP to poll data from routers or switches.

Cacti comes with a large number of graphing templates that allows full customization. You can create multiple users and assign different permission levels to the interface, including their own graph sets. This tool can be useful in leased service environments, such as web hosting providers, storage services, or SaaS because users can monitor their consumption with the graphs.

cacti

You can also directly configure Cacti for collecting data and avoid manual configuration of the RDDTool. Cacti includes a data input method that allows you to enter data-gathering custom scripts.
How does Cacti discovers a network?

  • It uses SNMP or a script to gather information about devices.
  • It creates a network inventory based on the information gathered.
  • It keeps the inventory updated by sending periodic SNMP polls.
  • It can also use the PHP-based poller to get SNMP data and even execute scripts.

The following screenshot shows one of the many templates that you can download. This one can do multi-CPU Utilization Graphs using SNMP.

multi cpu

Cacti is compatible with Linux, Unix, and Windows.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable monitor with a focus on data visualization
  • Large dedicated community of over 20,000 members
  • Simple interface
  • Ideal for researchers looking for more flexibility in their data collection

Cons:

  • Has a steeper learning curve than competing products
  • Like most open source products, Cacti lacks a paid support option

Price: Free and open source.

Download: Latest stable version of Cacti from their official website.

12. OpsView Monitor

Opsview Network Discovery

OpsView is a cloud and infrastructure monitoring software. It can discover network devices and automate IT management operations. This software can integrate, out-of-the-box with infrastructure and applications like Jira, VMWare vSphare, AWS, Azure, Cisco, Docker, Office 365, etc., and it is even compatible with the Nagios plugin. If OpsView does not support a specific integration, you can download it from GitHub.

OpView displays real-time information and alerts in its dashboard and through its visual reports. Its auto-discovery feature is capable of finding nodes and creating profiles. With OpsView Auto-discovery feature you can add thousands of devices in a few minutes.

You can also schedule scans on time intervals during a day, to ensure that new devices are also included in the inventory. With this list of devices, you can take a single or a body of hosts and deploy configurations and updates in bulk. You can also add hosts to groups, define host templates, and even include hosts to a hashtag group.

How does OpsView perform network discovery and mapping?

When you are discovery a network with OpsView, start by defining the range of IPs, or scan via DNS hostnames. You will obtain all information on its hardware, software, services, etc.

Pros:

  • Supports J-Flow, NetFlow, and sFlow monitoring.
  • Clean easy to use interface
  • Supports a free and paid version

Cons:

  • Would like to see more in-depth AWS integration features
  • Alert notifications could be easier to configure

Price: OpsView with three different plans, Free, SMB, and Enterprise. Free for up to 25 hosts, SMB for 50 hosts for $95.00 (USD) or 150 hosts for $290.00 (USD), and Enterprise (over 300 hosts), schedule a demo.

opsview

Download: Test up to 25 hosts with Opsview Monitor for unlimited time.

13. NetProbe

NetProbe is a network device monitoring software. It works with a lightweight monitoring agent that needs to be installed in every device. NetProbe is capable of monitoring any device connected to the network in real-time, by using graphs, an alarm system, and GPS tracking.

NetProbe comes with a visual web interface and a dedicated application. The interface integrates the alarms, graphs, and GPS trackers into a single platform so that you can troubleshoot and monitor your network faster.

Key Features

  • Alarm system.
  • Notifications and Actions.
  • GPS Tracking.
  • Real-time graphs.
  • Network tools.

NetProbe allows Network Layout Detection. The tool scans your network and creates a graphical representation that shows all devices and their connections. It can also add alarms and graphs automatically.

net-probe

The NetProbe agent uses plugins to collect local device data and send it to the Netprobe gateway. The plugins determine the type of information that the agents need to collect. The NetProbe needs to be installed in a server that has access to monitoring information, such as an SNMP MIB. Aside from gathering data, the NetProbe agents can also execute commands and scripts, received from the gateway.

Pros:

  • Highly detailed, great of admins who are looking for a detailed lightweight tool
  • Has a free and paid version
  • Can map WAN networks over a physical map
  • Supports autodiscovery for live network mapping

Cons:

  • Only available for Windows
  • Interface is crowded and outdated
  • Can be complicated to use, not the most user-friendly option

Price: The Standard Version is free and allows monitoring for up to 8 Devices. The cost of NetProbe if you want to upgrade to Pro is $40.00 (USD), for Delux is $80.00 (USD), and for Enterprise is $295.00 (USD).

net-probe cost

Download: the standard version of NetProbe for free of charge for unlimited time.

14. Zenmap

Zenmap is the graphical user interface scanner of Nmap, which is a network discovery and security auditing tool. Nmap and Zenmap are both free and open source tools. Zenmap was initially designed to be the easy-to-use version of Nmap while providing the advanced features from Nmap.

Some things that Zenmap provides that Nmap can’t?

  • It displays results graphically. It summarizes details and draws a topology of the networks discovered. All the graphics are interactive.
  • Compare two different scans. Scan comparison allows you correlate scans based in dates or hosts. Comparing scans allows easy management and tracking of new and old hosts.
  • Use scan profiles. With Zenmap you can scan a network and create profiles to run the same scans multiple times.

zenmap

Although Znmap does not offer auto-discovery, it is a fantastic network discovery tool. Its back-end version, Nmap, has countless scanning options. Some of the scanning profiles that come with Zenmap make it easier to scan a network. To scan, select a profile (or if you know Nmap, craft a command), then input a target and click “scan.”

You can also choose among the following profiles:

  • Intense scan
  • Intense scan plus UDP
  • Intense scan, all TCP ports
  • Intense scan, no ping
  • Ping Scan
  • Quick Scan
  • Quick scan plus
  • Quick traceroute
  • Regular Scan
  • Slow comprehensive scan

The output can display details of the Nmap command, ports/hosts information, their features, and can even create a customizable graphical topology, like the one on the following screenshot.

topology

Pros:

  • Doubles as a security tool, allowing administrators to discover open ports, and applications communicating over ports that are suspicious
  • Massive open-source community, is one of the most popular free security tools available
  • Offers a CLI version, Nmap for a more lightweight syntax-based version of the product
  • Syntax is straightforward and not difficult to learn for most users

Cons:

  • Lacks preconfigured reports and templates
  • Other products offer better network discovery visualization
  • More of a security/auditing tool

Price: Zenmap is a free and open source software.

Download: Zenmap from Nmap’s official website.

15. Spiceworks

Spiceworks is more than a monitoring tool — it is an online platform built for and by IT professionals. In this platform, users help each other in almost any IT related issue and also compare IT products and services. Spiceworks also develops a free and ad-supported suite of network monitoring tools for small to medium-sized businesses. The software can scan and monitor networks, take inventories, and create reports.

One of the products that allow Network Discovery and Mapping is Spiceworks Inventory. This tool scans your network and creates an inventory of all the connected devices, including software, user information, and even cloud services.

How does Spiceworks perform network discovery:

Spiceworks scans the network through either a ping sweep or a Nmap command. You can configure the software with different scanning time intervals so that it can find new devices connected in the network, schedule scans, customize scan speeds, and Wake-On-LAN scans.

Spiceworks Inventory main features:

  • Scan automation.
  • Create custom groups.
  • Customizable reports.
  • Import inventories.
  • AD and Email settings.

While Spiceworks Inventory provides comprehensive lists of devices, you can use Spiceworks Network Mapper to create graphical representations of the network. The Mapper will take the information from the Inventory and create complete and customizable maps of the network.

The maps are highly interactive. You can click on a device on the diagram, and it will give you all the information obtained in the Inventory, such as IP, hardware, bandwidth usage, etc.

spiceworks map

Spiceworks is compatible with Ubuntu Linux, Debian Unix-like, Windows, and MacOS.

Pros:

  • Completely free tool
  • Web-based dashboard allows access from virtually anywhere
  • Integrates well into other Spiceworks tools like Spiceworks Inventory and Cloud Desk
  • Alerts are configured by default, allowing users to get actionable insights right away

Cons:

  • User interface could be less crowded, specifically around the home dashboard
  • Would like to see more alerting features
  • Lacks integrations into other solutions outside of the Spiceworks ecosystem

Price: Spiceworks is a free software supported by ads. It comes with four different plans Individual, Team, Enterprise, and Custom, all for free.

Download: Spiceworks Inventory from free.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Some of the tools we included above for Network Discovery are appropriate for Small-to-Medium businesses, and some others are powerful enough to discover and monitor enterprise-level organizations.

At the most basic level, a Network Discovery Tool and software should be able to scan and create inventories. A basic ping sweeper with an organized list of results could be considered a network discovery tool. But features such as auto-discovery, dynamic mapping, and the availability of multiple scanning methods, make a Network Discovery Tool more powerful.

How to choose the right tool?

The basis for making a decision should always be related to your resources. What is your budget? Your existing infrastructure? The size of your network? Answering questions like these will help you decide where to start.

And the best thing…

Is that all the tools mentioned above have Free Downloadable trials (or at least product demos). Testing a product gives you confidence that the product will match your needs.

Have you already tested any of the tools mentioned above? If not, is there another tool that you would recommend? Please, comment below.