Network management software is a critical component of any IT department, and it’s time to choose the right one. If you’re not using network management software for your networks, you are probably doing all of this work manually, which can be time-consuming and error-prone. Network monitoring tools allow you to monitor all aspects of your network – from switch ports to server logs – in real-time so that you know what’s happening with your system at every moment. With the help of these tools, you’ll also know when there is an issue with your network. Software like Solarwinds Orion NPM comes equipped with alarms that will notify managers if someone has changed a setting on their firewall or if they’ve made changes to their DNS records without the proper permissions.
The most important thing to consider when selecting a network management tool is how it will meet the needs of your organization. This includes factors such as support for specific hardware or software, ease of use, compatibility with existing systems, and more. When choosing an NMS you also want to look at things like scalability, delegation of tasks, monitoring of all devices, not just servers or workstations, and whether or not you require reports.
How to Choose Network Management Software?
The NMS market has plenty to offer. But how do you choose the best one? Here are some things to consider when selecting a network management solution:
1. Support for your platforms – Before choosing an NMS, ensure that it is compatible with the equipment in your network. You don’t want to pay a high price only to find out that it doesn’t work with most of your devices.
2. Ease of use is important – Make sure you choose an NMS program that’s easy for everyone on staff to learn how to use. It might seem like a given, but you don’t want to choose an NMS program that requires extensive training for everyone involved. That’s precious time and money down the drain.
3. Web-based or downloads – You will need to make sure that whatever network management software you choose is available in web-based versions rather than requiring that you download it onto your computers.
4. Customizable dashboards – You will want to be able to access reporting features quickly and efficiently, so make sure that the NMS program you choose has customizable dashboards for particular use cases. For example, you might need a larger view of what’s happening on your network than the average user, so being able to access different dashboards is important.
5. Reports – You will want to have reports for tasks related to network management. For example, you might need a report that lets you see what devices are down at any given time so that you can fix the issues quickly.
6. Monitoring – As mentioned before, monitoring your network is very important so being able to see what’s happening on your network at all times is essential.
7. Security – You will want to be sure that your network management software includes security features so you can monitor the data of every user accessing it.
8. Integration with other systems – You don’t want to have multiple applications or platforms to use for different functions. You might also want to read more about the NMS product on their website.
12 Most Helpful Network Management Software Functions
Let us examine some of the most essential functions a Network Management System may provide for your organization:
1. Inventory & Asset Management – A network management software will let you track all your hardware, software, tools, and other assets. This allows you to ensure that no equipment goes missing or stops working before it needs replacement.
2. Monitoring – The main job of Network Management Software is monitoring the availability, health, and performance of all devices operating on your network.
3. Network Performance – The software will let you monitor the performance of all devices on your network, making sure that nothing slows down or causes issues with productivity.
4. Heartbeat Monitoring – A good NMS system will not need to be frequently visited by administrators to check up on it, as some can function autonomously.
5. Business Context – Network management software lets you view network performance from a business perspective, as well as identify what users or departments are using the most bandwidth and which devices affect productivity the most.
6. Third-Party Integrations – A good network management software will integrate with other tools your business uses, such as HR and security systems.
7. Network Configuration – A good NMS system will let you set specific policies and procedures to be followed when configuring or deploying new equipment, ensuring that all devices operate in the same way.
8. Problem Resolution – A great NMS system will automatically detect problems with your network and resolve them without human intervention.
9. Security & Compliance – Network management software can let you easily view who is using the most bandwidth, which devices are sending or receiving the most data and keep tabs on security policies to ensure they are being followed.
10. User Management – Network management software lets you easily manage users and devices on your network from a central location, simplifying granting permission to access resources and tracking down unauthorized equipment that might be causing issues.
11. Network Automation and Consolidation – A good NMS enables you to take a proactive approach and deploy configuration and security policies to all devices in your network.
12. Single View of Network Traffic – The software lets you consolidate information about the entire network into a single, easy-to-use view, instead of having to click through several files and windows just to find an old report.
Choosing the Right Network Management Software: 9 Essential Tips
If you’re looking into purchasing a network management software for your business, we recommend taking these nine tips into consideration:
1. Make sure it scales with your company – The first thing you should consider about any NMS is whether it will grow with you as your business expands and changes. You don’t want to be locked into one solution.
2. Determine what network monitoring features are a priority for you – Some NMS solutions only let you monitor the performance of devices on a platform-by-platform basis, while others give you access to full network information. It’s important to know what you need when making your choice.
3. Ensure the solution has customizable alerts – A good NMS will offer features that let you define thresholds at which alerts are sent, giving system admins time to take action before their networks grind to a halt.
4. Look for ease of use – It goes without saying that an NMS that’s difficult to use will just get in the way. Look for software that is simple to operate and figure out.
5. Determine if you require third-party integration – Include this as part of your decision process, while also considering whether existing systems can be integrated with the new NMS.
6. Assess the NMS’s problem-solving capabilities – Make sure it can automatically identify and resolve issues across all devices on your network, including servers.
7. Evaluate the NMS’s performance monitoring capabilities – You want to know how well each device performs when communicating with other network components. An effective solution will let you monitor this in real time.
8. Determine whether the solution can improve your security policy – An NMS should offer tools that let you keep track of network activity and ensure compliance with security protocols.
9. Check that it’s affordable for your business – It makes sense to go with a solution that won’t break the bank and offers all the features you need at a price that won’t put a strain on your company’s budget.
Top 10 Vendors of Network Management Software
At Intecca, we believe that network monitoring is most effective when it’s centrally managed and automated. This means that you need an NMS system that will allow you to automatically identify threats, apply security policies and gather data quickly across your entire infrastructure. Let us look into several NMS tools, taking into account the above-mentioned aspects
1. Solarwinds Orion NPM
The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (formerly known as the Orion Network Performance Monitor) is an all-in-one solution for fast deployment and flexible use of network performance monitoring software on physical servers, virtual machines or appliances in your IT environment. It’s a powerful MSP-grade NMS solution that provides complete monitoring coverage, from physical network devices to virtual server resources and everything in between. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is a network monitoring solution that provides centralized visibility into the health of your devices. With it you can monitor layer 2 through layer 4 performance metrics, configure alerts based on thresholds and receive real-time notifications about issues that can disrupt your business.
The software offers numerous dashboards that present the status of various network components in an easy-to-understand way along with access to historical information so you can analyze trends over time. SolarWinds NPM also comes with a wide range of predefined reports to make sure you can monitor the health of your network at all times.
The solution has the ability to integrate with SolarWinds Orion Platform, which provides an extensive ecosystem that lets you monitor third-party systems as well as specific applications used by your organization. This allows SolarWinds NPM to collect information about all your devices whether they are used to run your business or not.
One of the main benefits of this solution is its ability to monitor heterogeneous networks because it collects data from a wide range of operating systems and network devices, including those made by Cisco. Some other key features include real-time troubleshooting capabilities that allow you to solve most problems without having to restart devices and a feature called Network Sonar Discovery, which automatically discovers network-attached devices and their dependencies.
SolarWinds NPM is available as on-premises software or in the cloud and you can deploy it yourself or through an authorized channel partner.
2. WhatsUp Gold
With over 1 million current users worldwide, WhatsUp® Gold is the most widely used IT infrastructure management platform on the market. WhatsUp® Gold’s rich functionality and 24×7 availability in a single-server appliance make it an excellent solution for small and medium businesses who need advanced infrastructure monitoring plus more without the overhead of high maintenance costs or complexity.
One of the greatest features of WhatsUp Gold is its range of customizable solutions. The software provides numerous monitoring and alerting options out of the box, but it also allows you to create custom applications using its powerful API. This enables IT professionals to monitor systems and applications that are not yet supported by WhatsUp Gold or ones used in their organization.
Another useful feature is Premier Visibility, which combines the information collected by WhatsUp Gold into a single console that displays both current and historical data about network devices, servers and applications.
3. ManageEngine OpManager by Zoho Corporation
With millions of downloads worldwide, ManageEngine’s network monitoring software is one of the most popular tools around to monitor your network. One of its most comprehensive features is the ability to monitor DNS servers, VOIP devices, routing protocols, and other applications through a single pane of glass.
ManageEngine OpManager is known for its ability to track metrics from a wide range of devices, including those running on Linux and Windows, as well as those manufactured by Cisco. Similar to other solutions in this niche, it can also monitor VMware servers and applications used by your organization.
Another key benefit of ManageEngine OpManager is its ability to perform VoIP capacity planning. This means you can figure out exactly how many SIP or H.323 devices are required for your business before you buy them.
You can download ManageEngine OpManager as a freeware solution, but there’s also an Enterprise version that comes with advanced features like VoIP capacity planning for larger businesses running VoIP systems, support for load balancers and routers, and the ability to track metrics like CPU, Memory, and Disk I/O.
4. Clusiv Technologies Cloudview
The latest version of Clusiv Technologies Cloudview is one of the top solutions on the market when it comes to monitoring heterogeneous cloud-based networks. It provides an extremely user-friendly interface that makes it easy to monitor cloud services and devices, while its powerful vulnerability scanner can quickly assess your network’s risk level.
This solution is ideal for IT professionals who want to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their servers and applications without having to switch between different tools and consoles. This way, you can focus more on network security and optimization instead of having to manually monitor each device and server.
Clusiv Cloudview is available as both on-premises software and cloud solution. The on-premises version can be used by any organization regardless of size, but the cloud option offers additional features that are restricted to medium-sized businesses with more than 100 employees.
For example, the cloud version can help you monitor thousands of devices and appliances installed throughout your organization’s network. It also provides access to a centralized console that displays all up-to-date data in real time instead of having to login and open each device one by one.
BigPanda combines traditional IT monitoring with machine learning and analytics to deliver a comprehensive, adaptable solution for creating intelligent alerts. It uses data from different sources in order to provide insight into your organization’s performance and quickly react when devices or services don’t operate as expected.
Once you’ve defined all the metrics you want BigPanda to monitor, it will immediately start sending alerts to IT teams when problems arise. It uses machine learning algorithms to learn how your organization works over time and adapts better to changing requirements every day.
BigPanda is unique because it can help IT teams fix problems without having to look into their code manually. Instead, it uses a new coding language called BMC Atrium Orchestrator to automatically fix bugs and problems through a series of API queries.
Because of this, BigPanda takes care of the most time-consuming tasks associated with managing heterogeneous networks while offering a more comprehensive view about your entire IT infrastructure.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can try the software for free, but larger businesses with more than 1000 devices should opt for a paid plan instead. In addition to using BigPanda without any limitations, it also offers additional features that can help you get started even faster and have experts review your entire IT infrastructure within minutes.
MSPComplete is one of the most powerful yet user-friendly solutions on the market for managing large networks with thousands of devices. It’s also a comprehensive solution, which means you can use it to manage servers in your data center while also utilizing its advanced capabilities for remote monitoring and management.
The software features an intuitive dashboard that provides a centralized location for accessing all of your IT infrastructure information. It also comes with a powerful ticketing system that can be used to create new tickets, add notes and track the progress of ongoing events in real time.
In addition, this solution features a unique database that combines data from different sources into a single pane of glass. This way, you have a complete overview of all your servers, applications and network devices regardless of where they’re installed on the market.
Lastly, MSPComplete provides a complete platform for managing customers from different locations while also supporting third-party integrations from industry leaders such as Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and Dell. This way, you can easily automate complex tasks using external APIs.
For example, you can automatically configure new devices by using scripts generated within the platform while also using SSH or PowerShell to perform advanced tasks on remote servers. MSPComplete is an affordable solution for small and medium-sized businesses that features a free version with basic capabilities for up to 10 network devices.
Observium is an open-source network management solution that provides access to a comprehensive database of information about your entire IT infrastructure and third-party devices. It features an intuitive web-based console that allows you to quickly identify problems and start troubleshooting them in real time.
The software can automatically detect new devices and add them to its database in real time. It supports a wide range of operating systems and features an intuitive web-based console that provides access to all the information you need about your IT infrastructure.
Observium also comes with built-in support for SNMP, WMI, NTP, ICMP and DNS monitoring among other protocols. It’s also worth mentioning that this solution can automatically configure new devices and add them to its database, which makes it a perfect choice for small-sized businesses with limited resources.
N-central is one of the most powerful yet user-friendly solutions on the market for managing large networks with thousands of devices. It’s a complete solution that comes packed with a wide range of features and includes everything you need to quickly keep your network up and running at all times.
N-central features an intuitive dashboard that provides a centralized location for managing all of your IT infrastructure components from a single pane of glass. The solution also comes with advanced automation capabilities, which means you can use it to automate several advanced tasks in just a few clicks.
N-central also comes with a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for beginners to set up and use right out of the box. The solution also features flexible provisioning options, which means you can easily deploy it to multiple locations in just a few minutes.
9. PRTG Network Monitor
PRTG is an affordable network monitoring solution that provides access to billions of data points related to your entire IT infrastructure. It comes with a powerful web-based console that displays information in real time and allows you to view metrics for different locations from a single pane of glass.
The software comes with built-in support for several protocols and features an intuitive web-based dashboard that allows you to quickly view information about your entire infrastructure in real time. It also comes with automatic network discovery capabilities, which means you can easily set it up on a new installation within minutes.
PRTG also comes packed with a user-friendly dashboard that provides access to all the information you need about your entire IT infrastructure in real time.
Opsview is an enterprise-grade network monitoring solution that comes packed with a wide range of features and includes everything you need to quickly monitor your entire IT infrastructure. The solution provides access to over 600+ network performance metrics, which are grouped into eight major categories including applications, devices, cloud, network usage and custom metrics.
Opsview also comes with flexible alerting options, which means you can use it to set up alerts for different conditions that may affect the performance of your network. It’s worth mentioning this software was acquired by NetIQ in 2015 and is now one of its key products on the market.
Cisco Network Management Software
Cisco is an entire networking Universe on its own. They have the ability to provide a wide range of network management software for both Cisco and non-Cisco devices.
Whether you are dealing with Cisco routing, switching, security or wireless networking, there is no doubt that for all Cisco networking technologies you can find relevant tools from Cisco.
Cisco Prime Network Analysis Module (NAM) delivers essential visibility and performance management across wired and wireless networks to quickly
Device and application management is a problem faced by all network administrators, and to resolve it Cisco manufactures several products like Cisco Prime Network Analysis Module (NAM) and Cisco Prime Infrastructure (PI).
Cisco NAM is a great way to monitor the status of your network devices worldwide. It delivers information about device performance metrics, top talkers (users or devices that are consuming the most bandwidth), top message senders (sources of broadcast, multicast or unicast messages) and unreachable endpoints (devices that cannot be contacted).
It also carries out network discovery which is recommended practice in any organization with more than 10 users. With it you can locate unknown devices in your network, find out what they are and establish a connection to them.
Cisco NAM is available as a virtual or physical appliance that you can deploy on-premises. It uses SNMP to monitor devices and allows you to view their status via an intuitive web interface. The software also supports SSH so you can access the device from a command line.
Cisco offers several training courses to help you get started with NAM and make the most of it.
Cisco Prime Infrastructure is a network planning, provisioning and monitoring solution that simplifies management of your Cisco-powered devices. It lets you manage wired or wireless access points as well as switches and routers from a single central console.
Cisco Prime Infrastructure’s deep level of integration with Cisco’s IOS and NX-OS lets you manage wired or wireless access points as well as switches and routers from a single central console. It also helps to resolve common support issues, such as device misconfiguration, before they impact your users. One of the most important features of this product is Cisco Prime Network Service Engine, which delivers Cisco-validated configurations to your devices.
Cisco PI also provides powerful tools for troubleshooting network issues. It comes with a large library of device-specific diagnostic guides that can be accessed from an application on the console itself or via the web browser.
The company also offers several customizable dashboards and role-based access permissions to help you tailor the product to meet your organization’s needs.
Cisco Prime Network Control System (NCS) is a software-based solution that helps manage hundreds of different models of Cisco devices from a single pane of glass. It provides complete control over your network with zero touch deployment, automated provisioning and configuration changes that take seconds to perform instead of minutes. This helps you reduce the time it takes to resolve problems and focus on other tasks that can help improve your business.
Cisco Prime NCS offers real-time monitoring of critical events, accurate network inventory information and detailed configuration reports to help you take the right action when required. One of its key features is the ability to easily visualize your entire network in three dimensions by using device groups, which are collections of devices that share similar issues or characteristics.
Other benefits include built-in support for Cisco Network Service Orchestrator – a solution that provides automation and orchestration capabilities – as well as compatibility with third-party network management solutions.
Cisco Prime NCS is available as on-premises software or in the cloud and you can deploy it yourself or through an authorized channel partner.
HP Network Management Software
HP Network Automation is a software product that can automate complex tasks across your heterogeneous IT environment. It has the ability to integrate with third-party systems and exchange data with them as well as create network provisioning templates for new devices.
HP Network Automation uses a model-based approach to workflows, which means users can implement changes to the network by creating “models” of existing configurations. This makes it easy to automate changes without disrupting other managed devices or users.
The product is available as a virtual appliance for both on-premises and cloud deployments. It provides 24x7x365 access to its self-help portal called MyAutomation, which allows you to resolve most issues remotely.
HP Network Automation is a great choice for network administrators as it can quickly solve their day-to-day challenges and reduce the time spent on routine tasks by up to 80 percent.
In addition, you can attend free online courses that cover technical topics such as how to set up alerts from SNMP traps in HP Network Automation.
For more information, you can read our articles on how to automate your network provisioning with HP Network Automation and how to use the software to solve common network management challenges.
You may also want to consider attending one of the many free online seminars that cover topics such as virtualizing Cisco devices with HP Network Automation, best practices for Cisco ASA firewall provisioning and how to use HP Network Automation to solve common network challenges.
Technologies and Protocols Used by Software for Network Management
- SNMP or Simple Network Management Protocol is designed to help with the configuration, monitoring and control of devices on a TCP/IP network.
- Syslog is a computer application that acts as a logger. It can be used to detect, analyze and report on system or software problems.
- NetFlow is a network traffic-flow collection technology used in networking. NetFlow is typically deployed in routers or switches to monitor, measure, and record information about IP data packets that are being communicated on the network.
- IPFIX is a protocol that provides for the transmission of IP flow information. This protocol provides for the transmission of data in intervals. The IPFIX protocol is an outcome of an initiative by the IETF. It is a standardization method used to exchange information to measure performance, diagnose or solve problems along with other related network issues.
- Ping is a command that sends an ICMP echo request to the specified host and waits for an ICMP echo reply.
- Traceroute is a tool that will print the route packets take to reach a remote machine, showing how many hops they pass through.
- IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) is a security system, mostly hardware-based, that has the capability of detecting intrusion attempts. They are able to inspect traffic for malicious attempts and stop them before they take place, hence the name “intrusion prevention”.
- Shell Scripting is a programming language that is used to create a shell or a command-line interface that allows you to control a computer from the user interface. The other type of script language uses a graphical user interface which enables you to control your device.
- Virtual Machine Monitors (VMM) is the layer of software on the system which controls and monitors virtual machines.
- Firewall Management Systems are responsible for managing, maintaining and supplying updates to an organization’s firewall.
Free Network Management Software
If you need to monitor your network but don’t have the budget to purchase a full-scale NMS solution, several free options on the market will provide you with basic monitoring capabilities.
Before choosing a free network management software one need to keep in mind that free solutions often have limitations at the same time. Limitations can be related to usage or functionalities, but sometimes it may so happen that a free solution will stop being supported in a way it was earlier. When choosing a free network management software one should also keep in mind license terms and changes in licensing policy of a particular vendor.
One of the most popular free network management software tools on the market is a free version of ManageEngine’s OpManager. It is easy to install and use, provides basic reporting features, delivers alerts when problems are detected, and allows you to configure policies for your devices. Although ManageEngine does offer paid solutions if you need more features, OpManager will be enough for many organizations.
ManageEngine’s products are available for both on-premises and cloud deployments. The company also provides an extensive library of free training videos to help you get the most out of their products.
Keep Your Network Management Software Current
No matter which free or commercial NMS you choose, it is important to make sure that all patches are installed and the software is up to date. This will not only keep your network monitoring tool performing well but also protect it from malware attacks.
Be observant when checking for updates because some vendors can have multiple updates a month. It is best to check updates at least once a week or on a scheduled basis. You can also subscribe to your vendor’s blog and be notified when they release patches and update information.
Make sure you do not disable automatic updating in case you need to set up an update exclusion list to avoid disruptive downtime. Many network management software vendors now offer 24×7 support to assist you with issues related to updates.
The best way to avoid update issues is to write down the steps required for patching, always perform testing on a copy of your production environment, and take advantage of training courses or free online seminars that will show you how to install patches correctly.
NMS Implementation Considerations
When you are ready to choose a network management software solution or determine whether your current NMS configuration needs updating, make sure to consider the following factors.
First of all, ensure that your NMS can monitor your entire network and is not just designed for specific parts of it. You will also need to consider the number of devices you have, the type of network traffic data you need to collect, and where you will be deploying your NMS.
Make sure that you understand all licensing requirements before purchasing software or using a free solution. You should also define what features are most important to you to help narrow down your selection. Since many NMS tools allow for remote device control, you will also need to determine if this feature is a requirement or something you want to avoid.
Most Network Management Software deployments consist of a single user interface that others can use to create reports and manage alerts. But what happens when your team grows, or when someone leaves the organization? Make sure that an NMS allows you to delegate administrative tasks. You should also find out if your solution will support multiple administrators, and what you need to do if the primary administrator leaves.
NMS tools use different data-collection methods which can impact your network performance over time. Vendors typically provide documentation on how their products work with specific hardware or software solutions, but you will need to test the tools in the same way you plan to use them after deployment.
Finally, check if your NMS supports increased log retention periods for compliance purposes or device failure scenarios. If your tool doesn’t automatically archive data, you should consider purchasing a solution that provides this functionality.