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Best WhatsUp Gold Alternatives: 7 Top Network Administration Tools

WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch is one of the all-around best known and oldest network monitoring tools. It is old enough that many organizations have been using it for a while without questioning their choice and are only now asking themselves whether or not there’s something better out there. While the absolute value of any type of network administration tool has more to do with its relevance to your needs, we thought we’d give you a hand by posting this list of the best WhatsUp Gold alternatives for monitoring networks and systems. Our goal is to offer you reviews of some of the best tools that can be used to replace WhatsUp Gold, no matter what your reasons are for replacing it.

We’ll begin our journey by having a detailed look at WhatsUp Gold. After all, if we want to know what features to look for in replacements, we need to know what features are included in the tool. We’ll then discuss SNMP as it is the most used monitoring technology. We’ll try to explain what it is and how it works without going overly technical. Knowing how monitoring works will help you better appreciate our product reviews. With all this background behind us, we’ll tackle the core of the matter, reviewing the best network Monitoring tools we could find.

A Look At WhatsUp Gold

When WhatsUp Gold was first released, some twenty-something years ago, it was basically an up-or-down type of monitoring tool. It was based on ping and could tell you whether any host was up or down. It could also alert administrators whenever a host stopped responding. In fact, alerting was one of the tool’s best features; and it still is. Since then, the tool has since has evolved—a lot—into a full management tool with proactive monitoring of network traffic, applications, virtual environments, and device configurations. Today, WhatsUp Gold has almost everything anyone could expect from an enterprise-grade monitoring tool, all available via an intuitive GUI.

WhatsUp Gold features an auto-discovery engine that will find your devices and add them to the monitoring console. In addition to your networking equipment, it will also physical servers, virtual servers, cloud servers, and applications. The tool even has a map view which is clickable for more information on each device.

WhatsUp Gold Screenshot

Like it always had, WhatsUp Gold boasts some excellent alerting capabilities to keep you aware of problems before users notice them. Through the tool’s Alert Center, you can opt to use some of the predefined thresholds or to set them according to your precise needs. The alerting system also allows you to create action policies that define what happens whenever a monitored parameter changes state. Back to alerts, they can be transmitted by email, SMS, Slack, or IFTTT posts. The system can also launch scripts to restart services and trigger web alarms.

WhatsUp Gold’s advanced functions will let you monitor and map everything from the edge to the cloud including devices, wireless controllers, servers, virtual machines, applications, traffic flows and configurations across Windows, LAMP and Java environments. It will let you manage networks, traffic, physical servers, virtual machines, and applications with easy-to-use and customizable maps, dashboards and alerts. Clicking on any device gives you immediate access to a wealth of related network monitoring settings and reports.

WhatsUp Gold doesn’t stop at servers, it will also monitor Windows, Linux, Apache, Java and custom applications. Its network traffic analysis capabilities help assure the performance of critical apps and services by giving you visibility into network bandwidth utilization. The software also helps with configuration management and has built-in support for HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, and PCI DSS compliance requirement as well as other regulations.

A free edition of WhatsUp Gold is available—as it always was—but 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.

SNMP Monitoring In A Nutshell

Despite the “S” in its name which stands for simple, SNMP, or the Simple Network Management Protocol, is actually quite complex. At its core, SNMP is a communication protocol which defines how an SNMP management system car read and write operational parameters on remote devices. The parameters are referred to as OIDs, an acronym for Object Identifiers. In the context of monitoring networking devices, two OIDs are of particular interest, the bytes out and the bytes in counters. These counters are automatically incremented by networking equipment as bytes are output or input. There is one such pair of counter per network interface.

The SNMP protocol dates back to a time when IT security was not an issue. As such, it only has minimal security. An SNMP manager connecting to an SNMP-enabled device will transmit a so-called community string with its request. If the string matches that configured in the equipment, the request will be carried out. Devices typically have two community strings, one for read-only OIDs and one for modifiable ones.

Here’s how a monitoring system such as WhatsUp Gold uses SNMP to monitor bandwidth utilization. The system periodically reads the bytes in and out counters of the networking device’s interfaces at know intervals. Typically, devices are polled every five minutes. The monitoring system stores the fetched values in some sort of database or disk file.

The rest of the process is just mathematics. The monitoring system subtracts the previous counter value from the current one to get the number of bytes transmitted or received in five minutes. It can then multiply that number by eight to get the number of bits and divide it by 300–the number of second in five minutes–to get the number of bits per second. This information is typically plotted on a graph showing its evolution in time and stored in a database.

One important thing to keep in mind is that what you get out of this process is average utilization in bits per second over a five-minute time span. Imagine a 100 Mbps interface. In the five minutes between samples, the actual traffic level could have been at 100 Mbps for 150 seconds and at 0 for 150 seconds and it would display an average bandwidth utilization of 50 Mbps although the interface was maxed out for half of the five minutes. This is a shortcoming of every SNMP monitoring system. It won’t give you instantaneous, live utilization figures. Some tools can use other means to get real-time traffic figures but they are not common. Five-minute averages are usually sufficient for most administrator’s needs.

Our Top WhatsUp Gold Alternatives

Let’s have a look at the best five WhatsUp Gold alternatives available. Some of our top tools are paid ones while others are free tools. All of our picks are excellent products and choosing one over the other will largely be a matter of personal preference. Most paid products offer a free trial, giving you a chance to see first-hand if they meet your needs.

1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds rarely requires introduction amongst network administrators. If you don’t know it, the company is famous for its excellent network administration tools, including an excellent help desk management software or one of the best switch port monitoring software. SolarWinds is also famous for its free tools that address specific needs. They have, for instance, an excellent subnet calculator and a very good TFTP server.

SolarWinds’ flagship product is called Network Performance Monitor, or NPM. It is a full-featured network monitoring solution with great functionality. The SolarWinds NPM polls WAN routers using the SNMP protocol to reads their interface counters. It stores the results in an SQL database and uses the polled data to build graphs showing each WAN circuit’s usage.

SolarWinds NPM Enterprise Dashboard

The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor boasts a user-friendly GUI and adding a device is as simple as specifying its IP address or hostname and SNMP community string. It then queries the device, lists all the SNMP parameters that are available, and allows you to pick those you want to monitor and display on your graphs. For WAN monitoring, you’ll be specifically interested in the WAN interface traffic counters but you could also include error counters as well as CPU and memory utilization counters.

Prices for the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor start at just under $2,995 and vary according to the number of devices to monitor. A detailed quote can be obtained by contacting the SolarWinds sales team. And if you’d want to try the product before you buy, a free 30-day trial is available, as it is for most paid SolarWinds products.

2. PRTG Network Monitor

The PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler AG is another one of the besbest-knownl-in-one monitoring tools. It is a feature-packed system which is among the fastest and easiest to set up and configure. According to Paessler, it can be set up in a couple of minutes. Our experience shows that while this might be a slight overstatement, it’s still very easy and quick to set up, thanks in part to its auto-discovery feature that will scan your network to find devices and automatically add them to the tool. Once the auto-discovery completes, further information on the detected devices can be retrieved using various protocols. The system uses a combination of Ping, SNMP, WMI, NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, and it can also communicate via DICOM or the RESTful API.

The PRTG Network Monitor can monitor pretty much anything. It is based on sensors—which can be thought of as add-on that are built right into the product—that each have a specific purpose. For example, there are HTTP, SMTP/POP3 (e-mail) application sensors. There are also hardware-specific sensors for switches, routers, and servers. In all, the tool has over 200 different predefined sensors that can retrieve various staistics.

PRTG Enterprise Console

The PRTG Network Monitor offers a selection of user interfaces. You have the choice of an Ajax-based web interface or a Windows enterprise console as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS. A nice feature of the mobile apps is that they can get alerts through push notification. Standard SMS or email notifications are also available.

The PRTG Network Monitor is offered in two versions. There’s a free version which is full-featured but will limit your monitoring ability 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. For more than 100 sensors, you need to purchase a license. They start at $1 600 for 500 sensors. You can also get a free, sensor-unlimited and full-featured 30-day trial version.

3. ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine is another well-known and respected name in the field. And the ManageEngine OpManager is a top-of-the-line product. It can run on either Windows or Linux and it is loaded with great features, It’s got, for example, an auto-discovery function that can map your network and display it on its dashboard.

ManageEngine OpManager Monitoring

As for the product’s dashboard, it is super easy to use and navigate and it has drill-down functionality. If you prefer them, there are also apps for tablets and smartphones that will let you access the system from anywhere. Overall the ManageEngine OpManager is a very polished and professional product.

A free version of the ManageEngine OpManager is available. However, it is limited and will let you monitor no more than ten devices. There are also paid versions available under either the Essential or the Enterprise plans. The first will let you monitor up to a thousand nodes while the other is good for up to ten thousand.

4. Nagios XI

Nagios XI is an enterprise-grade server and network monitoring software which provides comprehensive application, service, and network monitoring. It is a direct descendant of Nagios Core, a related free and open-source product. In fact, both use the same base engine. The tool lets you monitor all mission-critical infrastructure components such as applications, services, operating systems, network protocols, systems metrics, and network infrastructure. Nagios XI’s powerful dashboards provide easy access to powerful monitoring data. Various views provide users with quick access to the information they find most useful. The tool’s GUI is highly customizable and its layout, design, and preferences can be modified on a per-user basis, giving your team members the flexibility they want.

Nagios XI Dashboard Screenshot

Nagios XI’s integrated web-based configuration interface lets administrators manage monitoring configuration, system settings, and more. Configuration wizards are also available to guide users through the process of monitoring devices, services, and applications without having to understand complex monitoring concepts. Other interesting features of Nagios XI include trending as well as capacity planning graphs which allow organizations to plan for infrastructure upgrades. Alerts can be sent to IT staff members, business stakeholders, and even end-users via email or mobile text messages.

Nagios XI is available in a Standard Edition and an Enterprise Edition. The Enterprise Edition offers additional functionality and includes features designed to aid in large-scale configuration, forecasting, and scheduled reporting. Each license includes twelve months of maintenance and upgrades as well as email support. Licensing is based on the number of monitored hosts and starts at $1 995 for the Standard Edition and $3 495 for the Enterprise Edition. If you’d like to give the product a test run, a free 60-day trial version is available.

5. Cacti

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. Cacti also features user access control built right into the product. The product boasts an easy to use albeit antique-looking web-based user interface. Cacti scales very well from the smallest single device installations up to complex networks with many different WAN sites.

Cacti Screenshot

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.

6. Observium

Observium is a low-maintenance monitoring platform with auto-discovery. It supports a wide range of device types, platforms and operating systems including, among others, Cisco, Windows, Linux, HP, Juniper, Dell, FreeBSD, Brocade, Netscaler, NetApp. I doubt that you can find a WAN router that’s not supported. Observium’s primary focus is providing a beautiful, intuitive, and simple yet powerful user interface showing the health and status of your network.

Observium Screenshot

The product is available in two versions. There’s the Observium Community is which available for free to everyone. This version receives updates and new features twice a year. There’s also Observium Professional which has additional features and comes with daily updates. Both versions only run on Linux.

Observium has more than just bandwidth monitoring. For instance, there’s an accounting system that will measure total monthly bandwidth usage in the 95th percentile or in total transferred bytes. It also has an alerting function with user-defined thresholds. Furthermore, Observium integrates with other systems and can pull their information and display it within its interface.

Observium users love how easy it is to set up and how it almost configures itself. Although there doesn’t appear to be a download section on Observium’s website, there are detailed installation instructions for several Linux distributions that do include the links to get the right package for each distribution. The instructions are very detailed and installing the software should be easy.

7. Zabbix

Zabbix is another free and open-source product which has a highly professional look and feel, much like you’d expect from a commercial product. But the good looks of its user interface is not its only asset. The product also boasts an impressive feature set. Zabbix will monitor most network-attached devices in addition to networking equipment. It would be a good option if you want to monitor servers in addition to your WAN circuit’s bandwidth.

Zabbix Dashboard

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. As you can see, it does way more than simple WAN monitoring. 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.

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