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Top 10 open-source network monitoring tools

NetworkTigers list of open-source network monitoring tools.

Network monitoring tools are a foundational component of network management and operation. They allow you to build superior networks with low latency and better performance and give you a bird’s eye view of your network’s behavior. 

Network monitoring tools allow you to:

  • Identify over and under-utilized parts of your network 
  • Observe connected devices, servers and the traffic between them
  • Conduct real-time investigations into the performance and bandwidth usage of your network
  • Fix minor issues before they create widespread problems
  • Respond quickly to anomalous behavior that could indicate a cybersecurity threat

Why use open-source network monitoring tolls?

  • Better customization. While closed-source networking monitoring tools typically don’t allow users deep customization options, open-source software often lets network administrators tailor its functionality to their liking.
  • Lower cost. Open-source network monitoring tools are much easier to afford than branded options, and many offer free versions.
  • Community-driven.  Tools created by major brands are subject to corporate whims, leading to inconveniences or even outright cancellations of products resulting from a buyout or change in direction. Open-source tools are kept alive by a community of developers, meaning that they will endure for as long as a demand exists.
  • Security may be better. An open-source tool can be taken apart and examined by hundreds of private developers for a myriad of real-world uses, meaning that bugs can be quickly identified and fixed.

Open-source software cons

  • A lack of support. Major brands devote resources to maintaining a reliable support department that is obligated to assist you. When it comes to open-source solutions, you need to tap into the community if you experience an issue. Your ability to fix a problem depends on the community’s approachability and commitment to assistance. 
  • It may be orphaned. If a community or developer loses interest in a piece of open-source software, it may become orphaned and no longer receive support. This results in both security and compatibility issues as time goes on.
  • Not as user-friendly. A branded tool is designed to be user-friendly to appeal to the public. Open-source products, however, don’t need to tick that box before becoming available. Friendly UIs and instantly intuitive workflows may be hard to come by.
  • Security may be worse. Since open-source tools are collaborative, you rely on creators to work on the project in good faith. There is no guarantee that someone with malicious intent won’t have a hand in the coding or support of an open-source solution.

1. Zabbix

Zabbix remains a popular open-source network monitoring tool thanks to its SNMP-based monitoring, cloud monitoring features and robust user base. It features templatized integrations for major manufacturers such as Netgear, Dell, Cisco, and more. Those who are in need of integrations off the beaten path can dip into the Zabbix community to see if someone else has created a template they can use.

Zabbix has an interface that is not as byzantine as other solutions and can be customized using widget-based apps.

Zabbix also has a support system that alerts the developers to any bugs or security problems so that they can swiftly remediate them. 

2. Nagios Core

Nagios Core is a free version of the developer’s Nagios XI platform, but it provides all the needed network monitoring features through a handy web interface. Users who enjoy Core can upgrade to a more immersive paid platform if needed. 

For those who want more from their network monitoring than just the essentials, a wide range of plugins are available. Further integrations can be found in the Nagios Exchange, where users create and offer their own customizations. Nagios has one of the largest open-source communities on the web, so free support isn’t hard to find. Paid support is also available.

3. Icinga

Icinga is an open-source platform with an on-premises network and cloud monitoring that integrates seamlessly into your existing infrastructure. It receives regular updates and is reliable enough to have been used by companies including Siemens, T-Mobile and Adobe.

Icinga is great for new users, as it eases them into its workflow by starting small and allows them to build it to their specifications. Other tools tend to throw everything at you all at once, forcing you to work backward and trim things back to suit your needs. Templates are available and the platform supports hundreds of vendors.

Icinga has an active community that uses everything from GitHub to in-person events to promote the platform and share insight, so both official and community-based support is exceptionally strong.

4. Prometheus

Prometheus stands out from the pack thanks to its detailed visualizations that let you easily generate legible reports and even display real-time metrics. Its user interface is well-designed and can be easily customized. Those who prefer not to dive under the hood, however, will find several pre-configured layouts to select from. 

Due to its complexity, Prometheus’ full network monitoring strengths is best unleashed by skilled system administrators. However, it does have a strong community, as well as paid training and support avenues through third parties, that can be tapped into for assistance. 

5. Cacti

Cacti offers visualization and graphing capabilities that can come in handy for reference. It monitors networks using SNMP, ICMP and TCP/UDP protocols, among others. Cacti can be minutely customized, which is great for tinkerers but may be overwhelming for users who may find themselves stuck in the weeds at times. Despite its complexity, graphic templates are available that make it easier for new users to familiarize themselves with the platform.

Cacti has an active user base, but its community support is not quite as strong as other options listed. It mainly relies on a support forum and written documentation in lieu of live support options like Discord or Slack.

6. Graphite

Graphite makes network management easy by tracking network performance data and presenting it on a user-friendly dashboard. This fast, simple monitoring makes it a breeze to spot issues almost immediately.

Graphite has its limitations in that data can’t be loaded to an external database and insights can’t be viewed as teams. However, its reliability and effectiveness are still compelling enough to see it used by companies such as Lyft, Booking, Reddit and Etsy.

7. OpenNMS

OpenNMS, like Prometheus, has a notably strong user interface. It includes a convenient Minion Virtual Appliance feature, which is a virtual device that can be used to distribute monitoring and data collection. 

OpenNMS is available as a free option, OpenNMS Horizon, that receives updates as suggested by the community. It is also available as OpenNMS Meridian, a paid version that promises more stable operation.

8. LibreNMS

LibreNMS is a web-based auto-discovering PHP and MySQL-based tool that you can use via iOS or Android. This lets you check out your networks no matter where you are. It can be used to monitor devices from Cisco, Brocade, Juniper, HP, Foundry and more. It discovers your network automatically and uses SNMP to access devices, making it highly compatible with both legacy and new components. 

It can send alerts to SMS, email, Slack, or almost any other avenue you prefer, so you’ll never miss a notification.

9. Checkmk

Checkmk is a great network monitoring tool for users who appreciate automation or want a system that can help them manage everything from servers and applications to Internet of Things devices. It can auto-detect and configure a huge range of network components and also employs an auto-discovery feature that can provide you with data critical to the needs of your specific organization.  

Checkmk is available as a free option called Checkmk Raw or as the paid Checkmk Enterprise Edition, which allows for more advanced automation that can be applied to growing or changing organizations. 

10. Observium

Observium offers users three options to choose from, with a free Community version being the best for small businesses or home labs, a top-tier Enterprise version for large companies and a Business option between the two. 

From Yahoo! To Twitch, Observium provides high-level companies and small organizations alike with a platform that can collect and present data in an easy-to-read, consistent manner. It is highly customizable, and the Observium team works with vendors directly to continually test the tool’s support across new devices.

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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Top 10 open-source network monitoring tools