Small businesses use expensive security cameras and intruder alarms to protect their office assets, but they often overlook protection of their IT networks. That’s because IT managers presume—incorrectly—that anti-virus software is enough.

Symantec notes that hackers are no longer solely reliant on traditional attack tools such as malware. They’re increasingly using operating-system features and cloud services to compromise networks.

Small businesses that do not install additional safeguards such as network monitoring tools to protect their IT environment perimeters will lose revenue and customer trust as a result of inevitable network downtime.

Downtime can result from internal factors, such as configuration errors or failures, or from external threats, such as DDoS attacks.

Network monitoring solutions improve network performance, reduce downtime by 55 percent, and help businesses avoid recovery costs of more than $100,000 per hour.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to improve network performance and security with network monitoring solutions. We’re listing the important software features you need and comparing five of the most popular tools that offer these features.

Monitoring tools provide a holistic view of network health

Network monitoring tools track and analyze networks on various performance metrics such as latency, bandwidth usage, and responsiveness. They also examine network applications and devices in real time and notify network admins about any anomalies through text and voice alerts.

Monitoring the network helps protect the perimeters of your IT environment by detecting intruders and unusual spikes in traffic and by monitoring server performance.

How network monitoring software works

  • Tracks the availability of network devices and bandwidth usage to detect any potential bottlenecks.
  • Monitors your servers’ uptime, including that of the DNS server, SQL server, mail server, FTP server, and virtual servers.
  • Monitors your website’s availability and checks for broken links.
  • Filters web content and monitors web surfing activities.
  • Identifies the root cause of downtime and network performance issues.

Benefits of deploying network monitoring software

  • Improves network security by providing valuable insights into the source and nature of your network traffic.
  • Reduces downtime by identifying bottlenecks in the network as well as the availability of different systems, devices, and applications within the network.
  • Helps document your network to speed-up troubleshooting and train new recruits on the network layout.
  • Lets you monitor the performance of your IT assets remotely from your mobile devices. It also lets you collaborate with your team to rectify issues by sharing system controls with authorized team members.

Understand the core network monitoring software features

Network monitoring software capabilities allow you to detect the number of devices in your network, monitor performance metrics, and generate status reports. These features form the core of network monitoring software.

Network monitoring software features

AUTODISCOVERY

AUTODISCOVERY:
Find devices or hosts within your network automatically, configure and add them to your network map, and monitor their performance.
 

Alerts and notifications

ALERTS AND NOTIFICATIONS:
Notifies you when different parameters such as CPU usage, network connectivity, or traffic load differ from their normal or expected ranges. You can choose to receive these alerts as emails or text messages.
 

Performance dashboard

PERFORMANCE DASHBOARD:
Provides a centralized view of the performance of different systems, servers, and data centers with the help of graphs and visual process maps. Users can also control and manage the networks and systems from the dashboard.
 

Reporting and analytics

REPORTING AND ANALYTICS:
Understand the source of your traffic and how it moves through your networks with the help of network analysis. Also, get automatic reports on usage trends, network performance, and summary reports.
 

Network mapping

NETWORK MAPPING:
Use the visual interactive representation of your network to locate new devices, identify troubleshooting areas within your network, and train employees on the network layout.
 

Performance monitoring

PERFORMANCE MONITORING:
Monitor your network in real time for its functionality. Track metrics such as the CPU load, bandwidth, network traffic, and virtual machine performance.
 
 
Network automation

NETWORK AUTOMATION:
Automate the repetitive tasks involved in configuring, managing, testing, deploying, and operating different physical and virtual devices.
 

Compare 5 popular solutions for small businesses

It’s common practice to seek the opinions of other customers before purchasing a product. In today’s thriving internet economy, you can browse crowdsourced user review sites, including GetApp, to read users’ opinion and learn about their experiences using different software products.

Here, we’ve highlighted the five products from our network monitoring software directory that have the highest volume of customer reviews (as of Aug. 3, 2018). We’ve compared each one to help you make the right purchase decision.

The products are listed here in alphabetical order. To read reviews of these software products and many others, visit GetApp’s reviews page for network monitoring software.

1. Atera: Remote monitoring & management tool for MSPs

Server performance monitoring showing CPU and memory usage in Atera

Server performance monitoring showing CPU and memory usage in Atera (Source)

Atera is a remote monitoring and management tool for managed service providers (MSPs) and supports real-time monitoring and control over multiple networks. It is a software suite that also offers reporting, remote support, help desk, and billing features.

 KEY FEATURES 

  • Alerts and notifications: Use the customizable email alert options to decide which parameter values—CPU load, RAM usage, hard drive, etc.—you want to be alerted about.
  • Patch management: Automate patch management and install software updates remotely to all networks and devices in your business.
  • Reporting: Schedule reports that can be automatically sent via email to keep you updated on the status of your IT environment, inventory, and ticket summaries.
  • Integrations: Integrate the solution with online backup software, billing tools (such as QuickBooks, Xero, and Freshdesk), and endpoint security solutions (such as Webroot).

 PRICING AND CONFIGURATION 

Mobile app: Not available.

Pricing: Starts at $89 per month per technician for its PRO version. The more advanced versions offer additional capabilities at $129 per month per technician (i.e., the GROWTH plan) and $169 per month per technician (the POWER plan).

Free trial: Available for 30 days.

Best suited for: Managed service providers (MSPs).


2. Pulseway: Real-time monitoring for server machines, networks

List of all devices on a network in pulseway

List of all devices on a network in Pulseway (Source)

Pulseway is a real-time monitoring and management software tool that allows you to control your Windows, Linux, and Mac servers and workstations.

It helps you discover all the IT systems in your network and set policies on your endpoint devices. It also lets you control virtual machines as well as monitor and back up your server machines.

 KEY FEATURES 

  • Alerts and notifications: Receive alerts on the desktop or mobile app when there’s a deviation in run-time parameters, errors, or any other anomalies.
  • Collaboration: Create multiple user accounts and share system management responsibilities with your team. Also, offer real-time visibility to your clients and regulatory bodies to let them monitor your network performance.
  • Dashboard: Get an overview of the real-time system performance. You can also access any system remotely from the dashboard and carry out troubleshooting of issues.
  • Patch management: Schedule scans, installations, and updates of all your Windows operating systems from the software to keep your network up to date and secure.
  • Reports: Generate custom and default reports to keep track of the health and status of your IT environment.

 PRICING AND CONFIGURATION 

Mobile app: Available for iOS, Android, and Windows platforms.

Pricing: Free for personal use to monitor up to two systems; its paid plan costs $1.85 per month per workstation and $3.95 per server per month.

Free trial: Available for 14 days.

Best suited for: MSPs, IT departments in businesses of all sizes, and educational institutes.


3. Spiceworks: Free network monitoring software for small businesses

Server and network performance dashboard in spiceworks

Server and network performance dashboard in Spiceworks (Source)

Spiceworks is a free network monitoring software tool that provides real-time updates and alerts on the status of your IT devices. It lets you track CPU usage to identify overloaded resources and any suspicious activity. The software currently supports only Windows servers and is best suited for businesses that need to monitor fewer than 25 devices.

 KEY FEATURES 

  • Dashboard: Add devices to the dashboard, get their performance data in real time, and track bandwidth usage.
  • Network analysis: Get real-time network insights to spot slow-performing systems, heavy network traffic, and other device/network errors.
  • Alerts and notifications: Set customizable notifications that alert you about abnormal activities and errors in the network.
  • Support community: Spiceworks has a very active tech community where users post their questions and experiences and discuss various issues.

 PRICING AND CONFIGURATION 

Mobile app: Available for Android and iOS platforms.

Pricing: Free, including customer support.

Free trial: Not available.

Best suited for: Small and midsize businesses (SMBs).


4. Webroot: Network security with granular controls & filters

Endpoint protection in webroot

Endpoint protection in Webroot (Source)

Webroot is security software for networks and endpoint devices. Its network security features help secure your DNS connection, gain visibility into web usage, and create web-use policies.

 KEY FEATURES 

  • Reporting: Generate drill-down reports on activity, network productivity, threats, and more to get a complete picture of your DNS security, web usage, and risks.
  • Granular controls and network filters: Design your internet-use policies, block websites, and filter traffic to prevent the entry of botnets or malware.
  • Threat intelligence: Use the predictive threat intelligence feature to scan URLs. Machine learning helps you categorize threats according to the level of risk it poses to your business.

 PRICING AND CONFIGURATION 

Mobile app: Available for Android and iOS platforms.

Pricing: Pricing information is not publicly available. Contact the vendor for details.

Free trial: Available for 14 days.

Best suited for: MSPs, individuals, and businesses of all sizes.


5. WebTitan: Internet monitoring & web content filtering tool

Create web content filtering rules in webtitan

Create web content filtering rules in WebTitan (Source)

WebTitan is internet content filtering software that lets you filter website URLs into predefined categories such as social media, news, and entertainment. It also lets you monitor, control, and protect your business from online threats.

Unlike other solutions on this list that provide server and network performance monitoring features, WebTitan is a niche software tool that focuses only on monitoring and filtering your web traffic.

 KEY FEATURES 

  • Reporting: Use the comprehensive reporting feature to check your company’s internet activity in real time and get reports on the complete browsing history. You can customize the reports or choose from the many predefined report formats.
  • Whitelist/blacklist websites: Create security policies that allow you to block employee access to certain URLs.
  • Cloud Keys: Set up Cloud Keys for single or multiple users to let them bypass a policy rule so that they can access certain blocked webpages that are critical for certain job roles but nonessential for others. Cloud Keys are exceptions to your general internet policy.
  • Notifications: Get email notifications that alert you about new reports, unscheduled web activity, or any other security issues.

 PRICING AND CONFIGURATION 

Mobile app: Not available.

Pricing: Basic plan starts at $1,550 for 100 users for a one-year subscription. A two-year subscription costs $2,790, and a three-year subscription is priced at $3,720.

Free trial: Available for 30 days.

Most suited for: Midsize to large enterprises and MSPs.


Next steps for choosing the right software

Network monitoring requires at least some level of technical expertise and knowledge. Include your IT administrator or operator in the process when you’re choosing network monitoring software to address your business requirements.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when purchasing networking monitoring software:

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If you don’t have a dedicated IT professional on your team, consider outsourcing the function to a network monitoring service provider. You should also connect with your managed service provider to find out the exact network monitoring capabilities they provide.

Here are few other network security tools that you must consider in order to keep your IT environment secure and in operation.

If you use any other tools to keep your networks secure, add them in the comments section below.
 

Other recommended resources:

To learn more about network and IT security, visit GetApp’s security lab for insights. You may also want to read these related guides:

Visit GetApp’s networking monitoring software directory for a list of all network monitoring tools. To learn more about IT security software options, visit our IT security directory page.