What are Network Monitoring Tools?

Network monitoring tools are software solutions that continuously track and analyze an organization’s computer network for performance, utilization and security issues. With network monitoring software, companies can compare historical and real-time metrics, get alerts for network problems and optimize IT resource allocation.

The average cost of network downtim

The average cost of network downtime is $300,000 per hour.

Source: ITonDemand

Cost of cyberattacks

Cyberattacks cost organizations $45 billion in 2018.

Source: Security Magazine

Common Features of Network Monitoring Tools

Network monitoring tools typically have the following features:

Alerts as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Alerts

Companies can set up custom alerts for network problems, such as traffic slowdown or a server malfunction. Alerts are typically sent to the network administrator via email, SMS messages and mobile push notifications.

Bandwidth as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Bandwidth monitoring

Bandwidth monitoring tracks bandwidth and internet usage by employee, resource and location. Companies can determine application response time and availability.

Dashboards as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Dashboards

The dashboard is a user-friendly interface that lets companies view real-time metrics, see potential issues and get analytical insights.

Device monitoring as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Device monitoring

Device monitoring tracks the physical and virtual devices connected to a network. Devices include servers, firewalls, routers, and tandem and core switches. Companies can monitor device speeds and use.

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Forecasting as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Forecasting

Network forecasts are based on historical data. They can help companies predict when traffic may spike, such as around holidays or other busy periods, and plan for future resource requirements.

Network monitoring  as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Network monitoring

Network monitoring lets companies proactively detect network problems, such as bottlenecks, anomalies or malicious IP addresses. The company’s network administrator can identify the root cause and get troubleshooting recommendations to resolve the issue.

Reporting as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Reporting

Companies can generate premade or customized reports on a range of metrics by time period, location or device. Reports help companies analyze network trends, allocate IT resources and improve network performance.

Simple Network Management Protocol compatibility as a feature of Network Monitoring Tools

Simple Network Management Protocol compatibility

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is a standard for network operations. Network monitoring tools that are SNMP-compatible can communicate with most network devices.

Top Benefits of Network Monitoring Tools

Network monitoring tools have many benefits, such as:

Improved network performance as a benefit of Network Monitoring Tools

Improved network performance

Network monitoring software offers visibility on both the entire network and individual applications, servers and locations. If an application is limiting bandwidth, IT administrators can shut it down quickly. If a location is experiencing a slowdown, traffic can be rerouted to improve speed.

With network monitoring tools, companies can also ensure the network is performing as guaranteed by their Internet Protocol Service Level Agreements (IP SLA), which set specific guidelines for server performance.

Faster troubleshooting as a benefit of Network Monitoring Tools

Faster troubleshooting

When a network experiences slowdown or disruption, finding the source of the issue may be difficult. Network monitoring tools help IT administrators identify the root cause of the problem and offer troubleshooting recommendations to resolve it quickly.

Better network planning as a benefit of Network Monitoring Tools

Better network planning

Network monitoring tools offer dashboard visualizations, forecasts and reports to help companies analyze how IT resources are being deployed and how to budget them more accurately in the future.

More secure network as a benefit of Network Monitoring Tools

More secure network

Data leaks, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and ransomware can negatively impact a company’s operations and reputation. Network monitoring tools analyze network traffic and alert administrators to suspicious events and IP addresses. It also blocks traffic to and from malicious sources, shuts down infected servers and maintains a history of security events.

Higher employee productivity and customer satisfaction

Higher employee productivity and customer satisfaction

Network crashes can stop employees from accessing workplace applications and customers from making purchases on retail websites, which lowers productivity and sales.

With network monitoring tools, companies can diagnose network issues faster and resolve them before any major disruptions occur. Deviations from baseline network performance can be fixed quickly to increase employee productivity and customer satisfaction.

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Network Monitoring Tools Pricing

Network Monitoring Tools Pricing

Network monitoring tools have many pricing options, but vendors usually charge on a subscription basis.

Four common network monitoring pricing models are:

Per device, per month networking tools pricing

Per device, per month

Many network monitoring tools are priced based on device, which includes servers and IoT devices. Vendors will usually list the cost for each device individually. Prices range from 45 cents to $20 per device, per month.

Per user, per month networking tools pricing

Per user, per month

Some network monitoring tools are priced by the number of users that have access to the software. Average rates are $60 per user, per month.

Per feature, per month networking tools pricing

Per feature, per month

Network monitoring tools have a spectrum of features, and some vendors choose to price their software based on the level of functionality. SMBs may find network monitoring tools with basic functionality for free or a very low cost. Software with more robust features generally costs about $160 per month.

One-time license fee networking tools pricing

One-time license fee

A few vendors offer one-time license fees to access their network monitoring tools. After the initial fee, there may still be extra charges for maintenance and support. Licenses cost between $115 to $5,800, depending on the number of features.

How to Choose a Network Monitoring Tool

Network monitoring tools range in features and pricing, so it’s important to take the time to research your options. We recommend the following steps when choosing a network monitoring tool:

How to Choose a Network Monitoring Tool
1

Identify your company’s needs

The first step in identifying your needs is to understand what network devices your company manages. Will the software monitor virtual environments and IoT devices? Does it need to track servers in multiple locations?

The next step is to get input from IT administrators and network technicians. Do you have a large, knowledgeable IT department or limited network staff? How many employees need access to the software?

You should also consider what features you’d like to implement. Do you need a solution that can map the topology of your network, or do you have more basic tracking needs? Do you want advanced security tools or simple alerts?

It’s a good idea to figure out which key performance indicators (KPIs) will be affected by the network monitoring tools. Will the solution you choose reduce downtime and increase application speed? Can it identify more cybersecurity threats? Collecting this info can help demonstrate a business need for network monitoring tools to get management buy-in.

2

Create a Shortlist

Research vendors that best fit your needs. In addition to current requirements, consider the implementation process and the scalability of the network monitoring solution. The implementation process can vary significantly.

You’ll want to speak with vendors and ask about timelines and fees. Be sure to ask if training is available.

Think about what types of devices you have now and may purchase in the future. If you plan to grow the company, make sure the network monitoring tool is scalable. It should be able to handle various types of devices and users.

Once you’ve researched these issues, you can put together a shortlist of vendors whose software matches your needs.

3

Contact vendors

Begin contacting vendors on your shortlist. You should request a demo of the solution to see how it works. Make sure to test the software with the network administrators, IT pros and managers who’ll use it most often.

As discussed in the Pricing section above, network monitoring software varies in cost. You’ll need to factor in the number of devices and users required. It’s important to fully understand the vendor’s pricing structure.

Some vendors also charge extra for implementation, support and training. Keep this in mind when asking for a quote. You’ll want to compare the total price for different vendors.

Be sure to clearly define the level of functionality you want in a service level agreement.

4

Get customer references

Once you’ve completed a demo of the network monitoring solution and have a better understanding of price and services, it’s time to get references from a vendor’s current or previous clients.

If the vendor has been in business for less than five years, it’s particularly important to get references.

The vendor will give you the names of clients with positive experiences, but make sure to ask for companies that have similar needs to yours (e.g., businesses with servers in multiple locations or that have IoT devices).

When contacting the reference, ask if there have been any issues with the vendor or the solution.

Challenges of Network Monitoring Tools

All software has its advantages and challenges. Companies that use network monitoring tools should be aware of the following challenges:

Challenge of Network Monitoring Tools - Lack of IT expertise

Lack of IT expertise

Network monitoring tools can identify issues and offer troubleshooting recommendations. However, the software requires knowledgeable IT staff. A network administrator that lacks the proper credentials and experience may have difficulty diagnosing and fixing network problems even with the right software.

In addition, as new network monitoring tools arrive on the market, network technicians may have trouble keeping pace with advanced functionality. Companies should ensure that IT staff are part of the purchasing process and that the vendor offers appropriate training.

Challenge of Network Monitoring Tools - Not planning for scale

Not planning for scale

Businesses with limited network monitoring needs may opt for a free solution with basic functionality. But if the company grows larger, it can quickly hit the limit for the number of devices that the software can track.

Companies should consider both their immediate monitoring needs, as well as the possibility of network expansion when purchasing a solution. Software that has multiple tiers of functionality can be a good option for businesses that want to scale in the future.

Challenge of Network Monitoring Tools - Not planning for scale

Unclear KPIs

Network monitoring tools can help businesses improve their networks in many ways. However, companies need to identify and measure the proper KPIs to understand if the improvement is worth the cost of the software.

Companies should evaluate application speed for employees and website performance for customers, as well as the number of cybersecurity threats that are blocked. These metrics can help management determine if the network monitoring tool is effective.