Network monitoring systems can—and actually tend to—be rather complex. Some of the more advanced all-in-one systems will keep a permanent watch on every single component of your network, measuring such diverse things as circuit bandwidth utilization or CPU load. While these systems can be useful by putting all the operational data on a single pane of glass, the amount of information they provide can be overwhelming.
For a simple solution, some administrators take an easier route and opt instead for a simple up/down monitoring solution. Those are systems which perform periodical checks to ensure that each monitored device is up and running. They offer administrators the assurance that they’ll be notified if a device goes down while not overloading them with tons of metrics. Unfortunately, strict up/down monitoring systems are not as popular as they once were and most systems will offer more than just simple monitoring. It is up to you to configure them to only provide the essential functionality you need. Today, we’re having a look at some of the best tools one can use for up/down/monitoring.
Before we begin, we’ll briefly digress and discuss up/down monitoring and how it’s typically done. As you’ll see, ping is the preferred method for that type of monitoring. Ping is an old utility that is deceptively simple yet powerful and so reliable that it has not been superseded by anything yet, despite its venerable age. We’ll then get back to our main topic and have a look at some of the best tools one can use for up/down monitoring. While most of the tools on our list can do much more, you can keep their configuration as simple as you need and get them to do nothing but alert you when a device goes down.
About Up/Down Monitoring
Verifying that a given host is up is simple. All you have to do is try to connect to it an see if it responds. The problem with such a simple solution if that opening a connection is different from device to device. A tool that could verify the status of different types of devices could, therefore, turn out to be rather complex. This is where the ping utility can come in handy. Ping is a simple utility originating from the Unix world. It relies on the ICMP protocol to send an echo request to a host which, in turn, responds with an echo reply. Almost every device that uses the TCP/IP network protocol will respond to ICMP echo requests. This makes for rather simple monitoring tools that can use one common method to check the up/down status of most network-attached devices.
The Best Up/Down Monitoring Tools
Let’s have a look at some of the best up/down monitoring tools that are currently available. As you’re about to see, most of them do offer much more than just up or down monitoring. Some are in fact true all-in-one monitoring solutions that can be used as your sole monitoring platform. It is up to you to use as much—or as little—of their functionality as you wish. You can also start small with only up/down monitoring and add more functionality as you go along and familiarize yourself with your tool.
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 twenty-year-old 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 a handful of free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrator. The Advanced Subnet Calculator and the SolarWinds TFTP Server are two examples of those free tools.
SolarWinds ipMonitor is a relatively simple integrated tool which offers essential up/down and performance monitoring for networks, servers, and applications. The tool will quickly discover infrastructure and 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 clear, at-a-glance views of your environment. The tool can send customizable alerts and reports to help ensure you are the first to know about issues such as a down device. In addition to alerts, it also has automated remediation capabilities to minimize downtime.
- FREE TRIAL: SolarWinds ipMonitor
- Official Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/ip-monitor/registration
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. The system includes its own embedded web server and database and it is designed for a simple, integrated installation experience without the need for installing separate components.
The SolarWinds ipMonitor web-based interface offers centralized and customizable summary views. It helps provide visibility into the health of your IT infrastructure. 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—right at your fingertips. ipMonitor’s dashboards make 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 Network Performance Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
Our next entry is another tool from SolarWinds, the Network Performance Monitor. It is probably SolarWinds’ best-known product. This tool specializes in network monitoring. We’re including it to give you an idea of what extended features an individual tool can bring.
The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is a feature-rich professional SNMP monitoring system. It boasts an easy to use web-based dashboard, it is easy to set up and configure and, more importantly, it does a great job. The tool has customizable alerting features that can notify you whenever specific metrics exceed a predefined value.
- FREE TRIAL: SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor
- Official Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/network-performance-monitor/registration
An interesting advanced feature of this tool is how it can build intelligent maps of your network. It will also show you the critical path between any two points, allowing you to quickly troubleshoot issues. There’s also wireless network monitoring and management built right into the software. This software truly has too many features to be able to mention them all here. You might want to take advantage of the 30-day free trial and see for yourself what this great tool can do for you.
Prices for the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor starts at $2 955 and varies according to the number of monitored devices. It is highly scalable and upgrading its capacity in order to add more monitored devices is a simple matter of upgrading the license.
3- WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold is another well-known name in the field of monitoring tools. It used to be just an up-or-down type of monitoring tool but it has evolved into a full management tool with proactive monitoring for network traffic, applications, virtual environments, and device configurations. Today, this tool has almost everything you can expect from an enterprise-grade monitoring tool, and it’s all available via a very intuitive GUI.
WhatsUp Gold features an auto-discovery engine that will find your devices and add them to the monitoring console. It will not only find your networking equipment but also physical servers, virtual servers, cloud servers, and applications. There’s even a map view that’s clickable for more information on each device.
WhatsUp Gold also has an excellent alerting system to let you know about problems before users notice them. Through the tool’s Alert Center, you can opt to use predefined thresholds or set them as per your specific needs. The alerting system lets you create action policies which define what happens when a monitored parameter changes state. Alerts can be transmitted by email, SMS, Slack, or IFTTT posts. The system can also restart services and trigger web alarms.
While a free edition of WhatsUp Gold is available, it is limited to monitoring a maximum of five devices. For more devices, paid licenses are available in three levels of increasing functionality with a pricing structure based on the number of devices to be monitored. There’s also a free, full-featured trial version that you can use for a limited time.
4- PRTG Network Monitor
The PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler AG is another familiar name to many network administrators although most people know the product only as one of the top SNMP bandwidth monitoring tools. But thanks to several available sensors, PRTG can monitor virtually anything. One of those sensors is the ping sensor. What it does is send ICMP echo requests to monitor the availability of a device. The sensor can show various information such as ping time, minimum and maximum ping times when using more than one ping per monitoring interval, and percentage of packet loss, also when using more than one ping per monitoring interval.
Paessler AG claims that the PRTG Network Monitor is one of the easiest and fastest monitoring tools to set up. According to the company, you could be up and running within minutes. Part of the product’s speed and ease of set up stems from its auto-discovery feature. After installation, the tool scans your network and automatically adds the components it finds. The tool is supplied with several user interfaces, another of the tool’s strong points. You get to choose between a native Windows console, an Ajax-based web interface or mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
The PRTG Network Monitor is available in a free version which is limited to no more than 100 sensors. Each parameter you want to monitor counts as one sensor. For example, monitoring bandwidth on each port of a 48-port switch will require 48 sensors. Each host monitored with the Ping sensor also counts as one. For more than 100 sensors you’ll need a paid license which starts at $1600 for up to 500 sensors, including the first year of maintenance. A free 30-day trial version is also available.
5. ManageEngine OpManager
The ManageEngine OpManager is another all-in-one package that will monitor your servers’ (physical and virtual) vital signs as well as those of your networking equipment and alert you as soon as something is out of its normal operating range. The tool benefits from an intuitive user interface that will let you easily find the information you need. There is also an excellent reporting engine which comes loaded with pre-built reports while still supporting custom ones. The product’s alerting features are also very complete.
The tool runs on either Windows or Linux and is loaded with great features. One worth mentioning is its auto-discovery feature that can map your network, giving you a uniquely customized dashboard. The ManageEngine OpManager dashboard is super easy to use and navigate, thanks to its drill-down functionality. For those of you who are into mobile apps, client apps for tablets and smartphones are available, allowing you to access the tool from anywhere.
The ManageEngine OpManager is available in two versions. The Essential edition is intended for small and medium organizations with up to a thousand devices with prices starting at around $700 for 25 devices. For larger organizations, the Enterprise edition can scale up to ten thousand devices. Its price starts at under $20 000 for 500 devices. If you are interested in giving the tool a try, a free 30-day trial is also available.
Zabbix is known as one of the best free and open-source system monitoring platform. This enterprise-grade system can scale from small to very big networks. Zabbix can monitor networks, both local and cloud-based servers, and the services running on them, making it a truly integrated monitoring platform. Don’t let the fact that it’s free and open-source put you off, though. It would be a mistake as this tool has a lot to offer.
Zabbix uses SNMP as well as the Intelligent Platform Monitoring Interface (IMPI) for monitoring devices. You can use the software to monitor bandwidth, device CPU and memory utilization, general device health as well as configuration changes. The product also features an impressive and completely customizable alerting system. It will not only send email or SMS alerts but also run local scripts which could be used to fix some issues automatically.
Although Zabbix is free, ancillary services can be purchased. For instance, you can purchase support services. Five levels of technical support are available. There is also a complete certification training program that can be purchased. This is totally optional, though, as community support is available for free and it is very good. Finally, Zabbix’s alerting features are up to par with other products on our list and so is its reporting engine.
Zabbix has all you can expect in an enterprise-grade integrated monitoring tool except the high price tag. And the only thing you’ll need to spend to put it through a test run is your time.
Cacti is a free and open-source complete network monitoring tool. Its main components are a fast poller, advanced graph templates, and multiple data acquisition methods. This tool also features user access control built right into the product. The product boasts an easy to use albeit antique-looking web-based user interface. Another advantage of the tool is how it scales very well from the smallest single device installations up to complex networks with many different WAN sites.
Cacti uses SNMP to fetch data and stores it in a SQL database. It is primarily written in PHP and can be modified to suit your needs. One of the product’s strongest features is its use of templates. There are built-in templates, for example, for Cisco routers that already includes most of the elements you might want to monitor on such a device. But there are not only device templates; there are also graph templates. Together, templates make configuring the software much easier. You can also build your own customized templates if suitable ones don’t already exist. Also, many device-specific templates can be downloaded from device vendor’s websites and many community-driven Cacti forums offer them for download.