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4 Best Enterprise Monitoring Tools Comparison for 2021

Today, we’re having a look at enterprise monitoring tools. As most of you will certainly agree without much arguing, monitoring is one of the most important tasks of network and system administrators alike. After all, isn’t their primary goal to ensure that whatever they are managing is always running smoothly?

But monitoring requires to keep an eye on everything, something that can be difficult in enterprises with large technological environments. This is why enterprise monitoring tools are often used. They do keep an eye on everything and will notify the right person should anything out of the ordinary happen. They allow administrators the freedom to concentrate on more productive tasks such as improving performance, for instance.

We’ll begin our journey by trying to define what enterprise monitoring is. As you’ll see, there are about as many definitions as there are people defining it. In fact, it is a vague concept at best. But we’ll make sure we tell you what we think it is or should be. With that behind us, we’ll have a look at different types of monitoring tools. It is important because many so-called enterprise monitoring tools actually combine several technologies. Knowing about them will help you better appreciate what’s next. We’ll then review four of the best enterprise monitoring tools we know of. And since this post is about comparing the different tools, this is what we’ll finally do.

What Is Enterprise Monitoring?

Without giving this question too much thought, I’d be tempted to simply answer “it depends on who you ask” because this is true. There does not seem to be, unfortunately, a universal definition of enterprise monitoring. Here’s how I see it. Enterprise monitoring can refer to any technique or technology used to monitor enterprise-grade IT environments. This refers to the types of systems used in an enterprise setting. We could be talking about servers, networking equipment, network circuits. It could refer to any device that is attached to an enterprise network.

Let me try to clarify. Enterprise monitoring tools are integrated systems that will enable the monitoring of several—if not all—of an enterprises IT systems. They are all-in-one or multi-functional tools. As a consequence of enterprise monitoring being such a loosely-defined concept, enterprise monitoring tools vary greatly on their feature set. Since everyone seems to have his own idea of what enterprise monitoring tools are—or should be—it seems like every monitoring tool vendor has his own idea of what enterprise monitoring it. Or do they? In fact, not many vendors advertise their products as enterprise monitoring tools.

Different Types Of Monitoring Tools

Many different monitoring tools exist. In fact, there are about as many types of monitoring tools as there are types of devices and systems to monitor. But generally speaking—and particularly in the context of enterprise monitoring—two major types of monitoring account for 90% of all monitoring tools. Let’s have a more detailed look at each one.

Bandwidth usage monitoring refers to the measurement of the bandwidth utilization of various segments of a network. It is commonly used on bandwidth-limited segments such as WAN link or inter-switch trunks but it can also be used on LAN connections. Bandwidth monitoring tools typically rely on the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to remotely read networking devices’ interface traffic counters. By periodically reading the counters at precisely know intervals, a simple math calculation allow them to figure the average bandwidth utilization during the polling interval. One major shortcoming of this type of monitoring is that it can only give you an average utilization figure. A circuit could be at 100% utilization during half of the interval and unused during the other half and it would show up as 50% used.

Operational Metrics Monitoring is similar to the previous type and it will often use SNMP as well but what it reads are systems’ operational metrics. In addition to the SNMP protocol, several other technologies can be used to remotely read operational parameters. Among the most common are the Web-Based Enterprise Monitoring (WBEM) and the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Microsoft’s own proprietary implementation of WBEM. Other technologies such as telnet or SSH scripts can also be used to remotely read systems’ operational parameters.

As for what parameter can be monitored, it largely depends on what system you are monitoring. On a server, for example, you could be monitoring CPU load, available memory or disk space. Advanced hardware could also provide more monitorable parameters such as CPU temperature or power supply voltage and current. What can be monitored is defined by what each monitored system provides rather than by the monitoring tools as most of them will allow you to monitor all available metrics.

Some Of The Best Enterprise Monitoring Tools

As we indicated earlier, not many tools are advertised as an enterprise monitoring tool. We’ve therefore opted to include in our short list of four of the best enterprise monitoring tools, various tools that offer an all-in-one monitoring solution of multiple types of devices and parameters. Let’s first review them briefly and we can then see how they compare.

1- SolarWinds ipMonitor (FREE Trial)

First on our list is a tool form SolarWinds, a publisher of some of the very best network and system administration tools. The company enjoys a solid reputation and its flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor, consistently scores among the top SNMP monitoring tools. And as if that wasn’t enough, SolarWinds also makes several free tools. Each of them addresses a specific need of network administrators. The Advanced Subnet Calculator and the SolarWinds TFTP Server are two examples of those free tools.

The SolarWinds ipMonitor is a mid-sized yet enterprise-grade monitoring solution. It is a relatively simple integrated tool which offers essential up/down and performance monitoring for networks, servers, and applications. The tool has an auto-discovery feature and it will recommend SmartMonitor settings which are designed to make setup simpler and faster. It also provides an easy-to-use web interface and network maps for a clear, at-a-glance view of your environment. The tool can send customizable alerts and generate customizable reports, ensuring you are the first to know about issues or application failures. The tool also has automated remediation capabilities to minimize downtime.

SolarWinds ipMonitor - Dashboard

On the application monitoring front, the system can simulate end-user experience for web and other applications and it uses standard protocols such as SNMP and WMI for agentless monitoring of applications and systems. It includes its own embedded web server and database and it is designed for a simple installation experience without the need for installing separate components.

The SolarWinds ipMonitor’s web-based interface helps provide visibility into the health of your IT environment. The tool supports drag and drop and is designed to make it easy to add and remove elements from the view and help ensure you have the reports, statistics, and gauges you need. The tool’s dashboard makes it easy to identify problem areas at a glance, letting you resolve issues quickly.

Prices for the SolarWinds ipMonitor start at $1 495 for up to 500 monitors. This one-time cost includes the first year of maintenance. For those who’d prefer to try the tool before purchasing it, a free 14-day trial is available.

2- SolarWinds Systems Management Bundle (FREE Trial)

For those who need more than what the ipMonitor tool can offer, SolarWinds proposes several other tools, each offering a specific type of monitoring. But since this post is about integrated, enterprise-grade tools, let’s have a look at the SolarWinds Systems Management Bundle which comprises four of SolarWinds most popular monitoring tools.

The first component of the bundle is the SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor. This tool can comprehensively monitor the health and status of multi-vendor server hardware and over a thousand of applications out-of-the-box. These include Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange, IIS, Active Directory, Office 365, and more. The tool also allows you to proactively manage your IT hardware and software assets, thanks to its built-in IT asset management capabilities.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

The tool does not only support physical installations. It will monitor the availability, high-level CPU, and memory of both VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V hosts and virtual machines and provide basic statuses. Support for hybrid IT environments with built-in Amazon AWS infrastructure monitoring and the ability to deploy into cloud provider via an agent or an agentless deployment is also included.

For deeper monitoring of virtualized infrastructures, the next component of the bundle, the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager will provide performance monitoring, capacity planning, configuration, VM sprawl detection, VDI, and chargeback for troubleshooting and optimizing a VMware or Hyper-V environment. The tool includes built-in, pre-configured alerts for configuration issues and performance problems across virtual clusters, hosts, and datastores. It uses baseline thresholds to alert on performance discrepancies on clusters, hosts, virtual machines, and datastores. Furthermore, actionable intelligence built into the tool provides recommendations for optimal server performance and placement.

SolarWinds Virtualization Manager - Summary Dashboard

To keep a watchful eye on your storage resources the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor offers real-time storage performance visibility into heterogeneous SAN and NAS arrays. It features storage monitoring capabilities for LUNs, disks, storage pools/RAID groups, storage arrays as well as alerting and reporting capabilities for reporting on configuration and asset information, storage grouping, etc. The tool will support most major storage vendors including EMC, NetApp, Dell, and LSI.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - Storage Home

The last tool of the bundle, the SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor provides monitoring of the user experience and overall performance of websites and web applications. It includes detailed information about website load times, front-end components, user experience for complete transactions, page load speeds by location, heavy page elements, etc.

SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor

The main drawback about the SolarWinds Systems Management Bundle is that it doesn’t really exist. This is not a product you can directly purchase from any vendor. You need to purchase each tool separately. They are all based on the SolarWinds Orion platform and, once installed, they will be integrated but they are four separate products. On the plus side, this means that you can choose not to purchase certain elements of the bundle if you have no need for them.

Price wise, each of the tools starts at $2 995 with the exception of the Web Performance Monitor which starts at $1 995. Your total cost will vary according to the size of your environment and the components you choose to install. IF you want to give any or all of these tools a test run, a free 30-day trial version is offered by SolarWinds.

3- PRTG Network Monitor

The PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler AG is an all-in-one infrastructure monitoring tool. It can be used to monitor the usage and performance of network devices, network circuits, servers and much more. The tool uses a clever sensor-based architecture. You can think of sensors as plugins or add-ons except that they are supplied with the tool. In all, there are over 200 sensors available for monitoring various things such as DNS name resolution or Microsoft Exchange email delivery. With that many sensors available, there is not much that can’t be monitored with this tool

PRTG Screenshot

The PRTG Network Monitor installs easily and quickly, thanks in part to its auto-discovery feature which will discover and map all of your infrastructures. This initial scan also creates a baseline against which future measurements can be compared. The tool also has alerts which can be triggered when a monitored metrics out if its normal operating range. You could also be notified whenever new equipment connects to the network.

The PRTG Network Monitor is available in two versions. The free version is full-featured but it is limited to 100 sensors with each monitored parameter counting as one sensor. For example, if you monitor two interfaces on a router, it will count as two sensors. Any extra sensor, as described above counts as well. For more than 100 sensors, you need to purchase a license. Their prices start at $ 600 for 500 sensors. You can also get a free, sensor-unlimited and full-featured 30-day trial version.

4- ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine is another well-known and respected name in the field. Its ManageEngine OpManager solution is a top-of-the-line product. It will run on either Windows or Linux and it is loaded with great features, It’s got, for example, an auto-discovery function that can not only discover devices but also map your network and display the map on its dashboard. This makes for a rather unique view.

ManageEngine OpManager Dashboard

The ManageEngine OpManager’s dashboard is super easy to use and navigate and it has drill-down functionality. But the dashboard is not the only way to interact with this tool. If you prefer them, there are also apps for tablets and smartphones that will let you access the system from anywhere. This product is a true all-in-one solution for managing IT operations—hence its name. It will monitor the usage, performance and health of just about any component commonly found on modern networks, from LAN switches to email servers.

There’s a free version of the ManageEngine OpManager which is available, however, it is limited and it will not let you monitor more than ten devices. As for the paid versions, they come in three editions: Essential, OpManager Plus or Enterprise. They have an increasingly rich feature set. Price wise, the Essential edition starts at only $595 for monitoring 25 devices, The OpManager Plus starts at %995 for 25 devices, and the Enterprise edition starts at $16 495 for 500 devices. The licensing for the various paid editions can be customized to fit your precise needs and each one comes with a 30-day free trial.

How Do They All Compare?

Our goal today is to compare the different tools we’ve just reviewed. Before we start, let’s state that we’ve purposely ignored pricing in our comparison. Most of the tools are in the same general price range anyways and it’s never a good idea to base a product selection on price. So, we’ve instead tried to compare them on their respective feature but, more importantly, on how well-suited they are as an enterprise monitoring solution.

Although it targets smaller organizations, the SolarWinds ipMonitor seems to be a true enterprise monitoring tool when you look at its broad feature set. It does scale up very well and can certainly be used in many mid-size enterprise contexts. It might not be the best tool for very large businesses though. This is partly due to the fact that this is a self-contained platform where all components run on the same server. A product such as the SolarWinds Systems Management Bundle, for instance, uses separate servers for the application and its database.

The SolarWinds Systems Management Bundle is a huge and expensive tool. Its main drawback is that it is, in fact, four different tools and as such, you’ll have to configure four different tools. Some of the configuration is done within the Orion platform and is shared between all tools but still, this product could take considerable efforts to get it to work to your liking. It is possibly the most complete solution reviewed here but there is a price to pay for the broad feature set.

The PRTG Network Monitor is much like the SolarWinds ipMonitor except that it will likely scale better to very large enterprise networks. Its ingenious sensor-based architecture is what sets it apart and it gives the tool unmatched monitoring capabilities at a somewhat reasonable price. The main drawback of PRTG is that it can be overwhelming, especially to more junior administrators. This is the tool to choose if the available sensors match the pool of devices you need to monitor.

While the ManageEngine OpManager may not be able to monitor as many parameters and metrics as PRTG can, this is still a very complete product. It compares favourably to both PRTG and ipMonitor and choosing between those three is harder than it seems. We have three very similar products that do essentially the same thing and all of them do it rather well. Since they all offer free trial versions, perhaps your best bet is to try them and see for yourself which one best meets your needs and which one you’re most comfortable with.

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