7 Best Tools for IP Addressses Scanning and How to Do It

If you want to know what IP addresses are actually in use on a network, your best option—if not your only one—is to scan them all. This is typically something you’d do using the ping command. Ping has been around for ages and it is one of the best ways to test for connectivity to a given IP address. But when it comes to scanning an entire network, in all be the smallest of them with only a handful of IP addresses, this could be a tedious process. This is when you start looking for a tool which automates the scanning of IP addresses. This is what we’ve done for you and we’re glad to review some of the best tools we could find to scan IP addresses.

Today, we’ll start off by discussing IP address scanning. In particular, we’ll describe the different reasons for scanning IP addresses because, as much as it’s nice to know which IP addresses are in use, there has to be a point to doing it. We will then have a deeper look at the ping utility. Although ping is not a scanning tool, it is at the base of many IP address scanning tools. Knowing what it can do and how it works could then prove to be valuable as we look at the different tools. Finally, we’ll hit the core of the matter and not only list but also briefly review some of the best tools to scan IP addresses. We’ll explore the major feature of each tool, insisting on what makes each one unique.

Scanning IP Addresses – What For

Other than the pure fun of knowing what IP addresses are in use, there are several reasons one might want to scan IP addresses. The first reason is security. Scanning IP addresses on a network will quickly discover unauthorized devices. These could be devices connected by malicious users to spy on your organization.

But even well-intentioned users can sometimes wreak havoc by connecting their personal devices. I recall that user who prevented many of his colleagues from accessing the corporate network when he connected his home Internet router to it. He just needed a couple extra ports to connect an additional test computer and thought he could use the switch built into his router. The problem is that the router started issuing IP addresses from its built-in DHCP server.

Other than for security reasons, scanning IP addresses is also the first step of many IP address management processes. Although most IP address management (IPAM) tools will include some form of IP address scanning, Many people do their IP address management manually. This is where IP address scanning tools can come in handy.

For those who don’t have an IP address management process in place, scanning IP addresses is possibly even more important. It will often be the only way to ensure that there are no IP address conflicts and it can be seen as a rather crude way of pseudo-managing IP addresses.

Enter Ping

No matter why you want to scan IP addresses, most tools are based on Ping so let’s have a look at this antique utility. Ping was created out of necessity back in 1983. Its developer needed a tool to help in debugging an abnormal network behaviour he was observing. The origin of the name is simple, it refers to the sound of sonar echoes as heard in submarines. Although it is present on almost every operating system, its implementation varies somewhat between platforms. Some versions are offering multiple command-line options which can include parameters such as the size of each request’s payload, the total test count, the network hops limit, or the interval between requests. Some systems have a companion Ping6 utility that serves the exact same purpose for IPv6 addresses.

Here’s a typical use of the ping command:

$ ping -c 5 www.example.com
PING www.example.com (93.184.216.34): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 93.184.216.34: icmp_seq=0 ttl=56 time=11.632 ms
64 bytes from 93.184.216.34: icmp_seq=1 ttl=56 time=11.726 ms
64 bytes from 93.184.216.34: icmp_seq=2 ttl=56 time=10.683 ms
64 bytes from 93.184.216.34: icmp_seq=3 ttl=56 time=9.674 ms
64 bytes from 93.184.216.34: icmp_seq=4 ttl=56 time=11.127 ms

--- www.example.com ping statistics ---
5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 9.674/10.968/11.726/0.748 ms

The “-c 5” option in the above example tells Ping to repeat five times.

How Ping Works

Ping is a pretty simple utility. It simply sends an ICMP echo request packet to the target and waits for it to send back an ICMP echo reply packet. It repeats the process a certain number of times—five by default under windows and until it is manually stopped by default under most Unix/Linux implementations—and it then compiles responses statistics. It calculates the average delay between the requests and their respective replies and displays it in its results. On most *nix variants, it will also display the value of the replies’ TTL field, giving an indication of the number of hops between source and destination.

For ping to work, the pinged host must follow RFC 1122 which specifies that any host must process ICMP echo requests and issue echo replies in return. Most hosts do reply but some disable that functionality for security reasons. Firewalls often block ICMP traffic too. Pinging a host which does not respond to ICMP echo requests will provide no feedback, exactly like pinging a non-existent IP address. To circumvent this, many IP address scanning tools use a different type of packet to check if an IP address is responding.

The Best Tools To Scan IP Addresses

Our selection of IP address scanning tools includes a bit of everything. We have commercial software but we also have free and open-source tools. We have GUI-based tools but also some command-line utilities. Some are rather complex tools while others are mere extensions of the ping command to include some way of scanning a range of IP addresses without having to issue multiple commands. They all have one thing in common, they at least return a list of all the IP addresses that are responding.

1. SolarWinds Ping Sweep (FREE TRIAL)

First on our list is a tool from SolarWinds, maker some of the best network administration tools. The company is also known for its free tools. The SolarWinds Ping Sweep tool is simply one of the best IP address scanning tools. It is part of the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset, a bundle of more than 60 useful, Windows-based network management utilities, including Ping Sweep.

Using the SolarWinds Ping Sweep is super-easy. The tool has a graphical user interface where you enter the IP address range you want to scan. The range can be as big or as small as you want. You can even scan a discontinuous list of IP addresses from a text file. For instance, you could extract a list of assigned IP addresses from your DHCP server and use it as the tool’s input to see which ones are actually used.

SolarWinds Ping Sweep Screenshot

The Ping Sweep tool will ping all the specified IP addresses and list those that responded. This could hardly be simpler. The results can be exported to several file types such as CSV, XML, or even a web page. That way, you can analyze the results using your own favourite tool. As for the results, they don’t only include the IP addresses of the responding hosts. The tool also shows you each address’ response time and it does a reverse DNS lookup to find and display their hostnames.

Prices for the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset–including Ping Sweep–start at $1 495. This is a per named user price and you’ll need one license for each named user. Considering all the other tools that are part for bundle this is well worth the investment – and don’t forget there’s a 30-day trial which you could take advantage of.

Other Tools In The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset

The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset includes many more dedicated troubleshooting tools. Tools like DNS Analyzer and TraceRoute can be used to perform network diagnostics and help resolve complex network issues quickly. For security-oriented administrators, some of the tools can be used to simulate attacks and help identify vulnerabilities.

SolarWinds Engineers Toolset Desktop Console

The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset also features some excellent monitoring and alerting capabilities. It includes several tools to monitor your devices and raise alerts for availability or health issues. And finally, you can use some of the included tools for configuration management and log consolidation.

Official download link: https://www.solarwinds.com/engineers-toolset

Here’s a list of some of the other tools you’ll find in the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset:

  • Port Scanner
  • Switch Port Mapper
  • SNMP sweep
  • IP Network Browser
  • MAC Address Discovery
  • Response Time Monitor
  • CPU Monitor
  • Memory Monitor
  • Interface Monitor
  • TraceRoute
  • WAN Killer Network Traffic Generator
  • Router Password Decryption
  • SNMP Brute Force Attack
  • SNMP Dictionary Attack
  • Config Compare, Downloader, Uploader, and Editor
  • SNMP trap editor and SNMP trap receiver
  • Subnet Calculator
  • DHCP Scope Monitor
  • DNS Structure Analyzer
  • DNS Audit
  • IP Address Management

2. Angry IP Scanner

Despite being deceptively simple Angry IP Scanner makes extensive use of multithreading, making it one of the fastest tools of its kind. It is a free multi-platform tool which is available for Windows, OS X, or Linux. Since the tool is written in Java, you’ll need to have the Java runtime module installed to use it. This is pretty much the tool’s only drawback. This tool will not only ping IP addresses, but it will also optionally run a port scan on discovered hosts. It can also resolve IP addresses to hostnames and MAC addresses to vendor names. Furthermore, this tool will provide NetBIOS information about each responding host.

Angry IP Scanner Windows - IP Range

The Angry IP Scanner can not only scan complete networks and subnets but also an IP addresses range or a list of IP addresses from a text file. Although this is a GUI-based tool, it also comes with a command-line version that you can use if, for instance, you want to include the tool’s functionality in your scripts. As for the scan results, they are by default displayed on the screen in table format but they can easily be exported to several file formats such as CSV or XML.

3. Advanced IP Scanner

Advanced IP Scanner may seem like just another free IP address scanning tool but it has an interesting twist. The tool, which runs on Windows, is totally geared towards that operating system and it features several Windows-related advanced functionalities. More about that in a moment. The tool’s publisher claims this free software is used by over 30 million users worldwide. It is a portable tool that requires no installation.

Advanced IP Scanner

As for the tool’s functionality, it takes an IP address range as input but you can also supply a text file with a list of IP addresses. The results you get from this tool are impressive. You get, of course, the list of IP addresses that responded but you also get their corresponding hostname, MAC address and network interface vendor. For each responding Windows host, you also get a live list of its network shares. By live, I mean that you can click any share to open it on your computer—provided that you have the proper access rights. You can also start a remote control session with any discovered Windows host using either RDP or Radmin or even remotely turn a computer off.

4. Network Pinger

Network Pinger is another free Windows tool. Its interface is one of the most intuitive you can find. The tool’s performance is one of the best you can find. It was clearly optimized for the best possible performance. This tool can send 1000 pings in just 35 ms. This is fast; very fast. Network Pinger features several built-in tools. There’s automated mass ping, traceroute, port scanning, WMI, DNS and Whois queries, an IP calculator and converter, and many more.

Network Pinger Mass Ping

Network Pinger makes great use of its graphical user interface and is loaded with visual features. For example, it can build live charts as it performs a ping sweep displaying a visual rendition of the important statistics such as a pie chart depicting the responding vs non-responding hosts or a graph showing average response times.

5. Fping

Fping was created as an improvement over ping, then the only network troubleshooting tool. It is a similar command-line tool yet it is quite different. Like ping, Fping uses ICMP echo requests to determine if the target hosts are responding but this is where the similarity ends. While ping only accepts a single IP address as a parameter, Fping can be called with many target IP addresses. The targets can be specified as a space-delimited list of IP addresses. The utility can also be provided with the name of a text file containing a list of addresses. Finally, an IP address range can be specified or a subnet can be entered in CIDR notation such as 192.168.0.0/24.

Fping does not wait for a response before sending the next echo request, thereby not losing time waiting for unresponsive IP addresses. Fping also has lots of command-line options that you can use. Since this is a command-line tool, you can pipe its output to another command for further processing.

6. Hping

Hping is another free command-line tool derived from ping. It is available on most Unix-like operating systems as well as OS X and Windows. Although it is no longer in active development, it is still in widespread use. The tool closely resembles ping but it is quite different. For instance, Hping won’t only send ICMP echo requests. It can also send TCP, UDP or RAW-IP packets. It’s also got a traceroute mode and has the ability to send files.

Hping can be used as an IP address scanning tool but it can do more than that. The tool has some advanced ports scanning features. Thanks to its use of multiple protocols, it can be used for some basic network testing. Hping also has some advanced traceroute capabilities using any of the available protocols. This can be useful as some devices treat ICMP traffic differently from other traffic. By mimicking other protocols, this tool can give you a better evaluation of your network’s true, real-life performance.

7. NetScan Tools

There are two different versions of NetScan Tools, a paid one called NetScan Tools Pro Edition and a free, ad-supported one called NetScan Tools Basic Edition with a reduced feature set. Both are toolsets which include multiple utilities and both include an IP address scanning tool called Ping Scan.

NetScan Tools Basic - Ping Scanner

NetScan Tools’ Ping Scan takes an IP address range as input, like most other IP address scanning tools. It scans the provided IP addresses and returns a list of all the scanned IP addresses with their hostname (when resolvable), average response time and a status in text form. Other useful tools in NetScan Tools include DNS tools, Ping, Graphical Ping, Traceroute, and Whois. If all you need is the IP address scanning functionality, go with the free Basic Edition.

8. MiTeC Network Scanner

Last on our list is a free tool called the MiTeC Network Scanner. This is another multi-use tool. It boasts a powerful IP address scanning function which can find any responding host in the specified range. The software will list each found device’s MAC address, hostname, and response time. In addition to just pinging each host, this tool can also poll SNMP-enabled devices and list their interfaces. It can also identify Windows computers and let you see their shares, remotely shut them down, perform remote execution, and more.

MiTeC Network Scanner Screenshot

But back to IP address scanning, the results show up as a table on the software’s dashboard. They can then be exported to a CSV file to be used with another tool. The tool will run on most modern versions of Windows—either workstation or server—since Windows 7. As for the tool’s other advanced features, there are simply too many to mention them all. It includes, for instance, a Whois function and a DNS resolution function.

Read 7 Best Tools for IP Addressses Scanning and How to Do It by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

7 Best Mobile Tools For Network Administration

Everyone is on the go these days. And although it’s hard to tell if the development of mobile devices prompted this mobility or if it was the opposite, the truth is that we are used to our mobile devices and the freedom of movement they allow. Just like we’re using mobile apps for email and social media, just like we have a weather app and a news app, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have our network administration tools on our mobile device as well? Well, it is more possible than ever. Between task-specific applications and integrated remote monitoring and management platforms with mobile clients, a ton of options are available. We’ve scoured the net to bring you this list of the best mobile tools for network administrators.

Before we get to the interesting part, we’ll first discuss network administration tools, what they are and why they are used. Then, we’ll explore the need for mobility in the context of network administration. We all know that it’s nice not to be confined to our computer and to have the possibility to perform our duties from anywhere but is there more to it than that? Finally, we’ll review the best mobile tools for network administrators.

About Network Administration Tools

Network administration is a broad field of information technology which is comprised of very different concepts. We could be talking about setting up, connecting, and configuring networking equipment. It can also refer to the management of security infrastructure components such as firewalls or proxy servers. Some people even refer to the management of servers as network administration.

But no matter what network administration means to you, you most probably accomplish most of your daily tasks using specialized administration tools. There are countless types of network administration tools. One of the most popular is called a network bandwidth monitoring tool. It is used to measure and log bandwidth usage at specific points on a network. It is a basic troubleshooting and capacity planning tool. While this is the type of tools that need to be constantly running, it doesn’t lend itself to being installed on a mobile device, some of the best tools, have either a mobile client app or a mobile-friendly web interface.

Another type of tool is the network scanner. In fact, there are several types of network scanners. Some will scan a given subnet, a range or a list of IP addresses for responding hosts. It can be used to confirm which IP addresses are actually in use and to detect unauthorized devices attached to the network. Other network scanners go further and will scan hosts for open IP ports. They are very useful in establishing the vulnerability footprint of devices and for testing that unused ports are correctly closed or blocked. Contrary to the previous type of tool, this is often used on an as-needed basis and consequently, it is the perfect type of tool for mobile devices, allowing network administrators to bring the tool on location.

Yet another common type of tool is the IP address management tool. This one is closely related to the previous tool although it usually provides much more functionality than just IP address scanning. In the mobile world, there are several tools that go beyond scanning and offer different IP addressing and DNS tools. The functionality of such tools varies widely as everyone has is own idea of what should and shouldn’t be included in those tools. While this variety makes for a better selection of tools, it makes picking the right one as much harder.

There are so many different types of network administration tools, we could dedicate an entire post to them. This is not what we’re trying to do today. All we wanted is to give you a general idea of the variety of tools there are.

The Need For Mobility

Mobility is a relatively new thing yet it seems like everyone wants a part of it. Although it is certainly cool to carry some of your tools on your mobile devices, coolness it rarely a convincing factor for deploying mobile tools. There has to be some other compelling advantage to it. So, let’s have a look at why someone would need mobile network administration tools.

The main advantage of using mobile tools has to do with availability. Many organizations are operating 24 hours a day and need to have on-call administrators at all times. I used to be on-call years ago and it meant that I had to be ready to go back home on a moment’s notice to connect to the office and take care of whatever incident that came up. Being on-call severely limited administrators freedom. Today, network administrators have easy access to several management and troubleshooting tools right from their smartphone and many issues can be solved in minutes from wherever one may be.

Another advantage of mobile tools is their portability. They can be used wherever you are. For large organizations with multiple sites, this can be a major benefit. Imagine that an administrator is dispatched to a remote branch to try to troubleshoot some networking issue. With mobile network administration tools, they could have all the troubleshooting tools they need in the palm of their hand.

The Best Mobile Tools

Now that we’ve explained what they are and got you convinced (hopefully) of their usefulness, it is time to have a look at some of the best tools available. Our list has a bit of everything. We’re starting off with bigger tools which typically install on a server but are meant to be primarily used using a mobile device. Next, we’ll explore a few smaller, more task-specific portable tools that install on mobile devices. Some tools are only available on Android platforms while others are only of iOS. And of course, some are available for both.

1. SolarWinds Mobile Admin (Free Trial)

Our first entry is a great product from SolarWinds, one of the best-known makers of network administration tools. The company’s product portfolio is as huge as it is impressive. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is considered by many as one of the best bandwidth monitoring tool available. But that’s not all, SolarWinds also makes many free tools, each addressing a specific task of network administrators.

For on-the-go administrators, SolarWinds has a great product called Mobile Admin. The tool’s client can run on any iOS, Android or Blackberry device to monitor and help troubleshoot IT issues on the fly. It provides secure mobile access to monitor over 40 applications, including Windows, AD, Exchange, VMware, SQL Server, and the SolarWinds Orion platform. The tool is not just for mobile devices, though. You can access its intuitive web interface from any computer, laptop, or smartphone with an internet connection.

SolarWinds Mobile Admin Screenshot

Mobile Admin lets you manage node details, interfaces, and events from products in the Orion platform such as the Network Performance Monitor or the Server and Application Monitor. It can also be used for Active Directory management, virtualization management, email server management, backup management, remote access, Windows administration, network administration, service desk management, and database administration.

Mobile Admin is licensed by the number of people using it. A single user account can access the server from an unlimited number of mobile devices. Prices start at a modest $695 per user. There is also an unlimited user option which can be advantageous if you have more than four users. If you’d like to see for yourself what this excellent tool could do in your environment, a free 14-day trial is available from SolarWinds.

2. ITmanager.net

Itmanager.net is a full-fledged remote monitoring and management platform. But contrary to the previous entry, this one is a cloud-hosted Software as a Service offering. As such, you won’t have to install a local server on your network. The idea behind this product is to let you manage and monitor your network and servers from anywhere. ITmanager.net is supported on all desktops, tablets, iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices and even on the Apple Watch.

ITmanager.net RMM - devices

When it comes to features and supported systems, this is where Itmanager.net shines. The platform will let you remotely manage almost anything. You can use the service to manage Windows servers, Active Directory, Exchange, and Microsoft Office. It also has built-in support for VMware and Hyper-V as well as XenServer and XenApp. Furthermore, it can be used to manage anything that has a web-based user interface. This includes routers, switches, network-attached storage devices, and printers, for example. And if your devices don’t have a web-based interface, it has built-in telnet and SSH connectivity so you can manage virtually any device through the service. It also supports remote control connections using either VNC, RDP or ARD.

Itmanager.net is priced per administrator. There are four subscription levels, each allowing an increasing number of monitors and boasting more features. The Lite plan is just $5/month but it is limited to one administrator and two monitors. It is also limited in what can be managed. It only supports SSH, telnet, VNC, RDP, and ARD connections. At the top end of the spectrum, the Enterprise plan supports virtually any type of monitoring and management, has priority support and come with professional, services from the Vendor. Its cost is $99/month. There are also two intermediate plans with increasing levels of functionality and capacity. If you want to give the service a test run, a 7-day trial is available.

3. Pulseway RMM

Our third entry is another product of the same type as the previous two. Pulseway RMM claims to be the easiest way to remotely monitor and control IT systems from any device. It allows administrators to fix issues on-the-go and be more productive.

Pulseway RMM - Monitor And Control

This tool will allow you to monitor virtually every component of your IT infrastructure. It will handle Windows, Linux and Mac systems as well as any application running on these platforms by using the monitoring API. You can use this tool to get real-time status, system resources, logged-in users, network performance, control Windows updates, manage IIS, SQL Server, Exchange, Active Directory, VMware, Hyper-V, SNMP -enabled devices, and many more.

Feature-wise, what Pulseway RMM has to offer is nothing short of impressive. It has automated network discovery so you don’t have to add every system manually. Once set up, it gives you complete visibility over every component. Need to connect to a system for deeper troubleshooting? Remote desktop is built right into this tool. The system will also handle operating system patch management. And if you have virtual infrastructures, the product is also compatible with both VMware and Hyper-V. All that functionality can be easily accessed right from the mobile device of your choice.

Pulseway RMM is a cloud-based Software as a Service and its monthly cost is based on the options you select and the number of servers and workstations you need to manage. Prices start as low as $47/month. There’s also a free account that will let you monitor 2 personal computers. Other than that a free trial of an undisclosed duration is available.

4. Network Toolbox

The Network Toolbox from Marcus Roskosch is a multi-functional app for Apple devices. It offers 43 different tools which are meant to be used by IT professionals. Some of the included tools, for instance, will let you analyze local and public networks to identify security issues or wrong configurations. The Network Toolbox has several built-in scanners and comes with various scanning options for devices, ports, DNS, WiFi, HTTP, and security protocols and status.

Network Toolbox Main Screen

The features of the Network Toolbox are as numerous as they are impressive. let’s see what some of the best and most useful ones are. Several DNS and domain tools are included to perform DNS queries or whois lookups. This product also includes a very potent WiFi scanner which can discover all devices on your wireless network with details including IP, MAC, Vendor, Network Name.

More elementary tools include a ping utility which can ping both IP addresses or domains and will graphically display its results which include errors and round-trip time (RTT). Another similar tool is the visual traceroute which will let you analyze how packets get to their destination. There’s also a socket analysis and terminal tool with predefined protocols for Telnet, FTP, HTTP, POP3 and IMAP. It will let you inspect server responses and send arbitrary data to a server.

The Network Toolbox has way too many features to describe them all in details. It’s got FTP and SFTP clients for file transfers. It has an SSH client to connect to remote systems. The toolbox also includes an IP address calculator, an HTTP browser, and a web crawler. It will inspect SSL certificates and scan and discover Bonjour or UPnP services. It has a complete help system with detailed instructions for each tool as well as written and video tutorials available. And the best part is that all this can be yours for a mere $6.99. The Network Toolbox is available from the iTunes App Store.

5. Fing

Next on our list is Fing, another tool that runs off your mobile device. It is a free tool that’s available for both Android and iOS devices. The tool—or should we say the toolkit—will let you discover which devices are connected to any Wi-Fi network, map devices, detect intruders, assess network security risks, troubleshoot network problems and achieve best network performance. The product includes more than a dozen free network tools such as a Wi-Fi scanner, a port scanner, DNS lookup, ping and service monitoring.

Fing Network Scanner Screenshot

Here’s an overview of what tools are included in Fing.

  • Wi-Fi/LAN scanner to discover all devices connected to any network
  • Advanced analysis of NetBIOS, UPnP and Bonjour names, properties and device types
  • Devices and networks inventory
  • Internet connectivity checker
  • ISP analysis and location
  • Subnet scanner
  • Port scanner that will automatically find open ports and available services
  • Ping and traceroute for network quality measurement
  • WOL to remotely wake up devices
  • DNS Lookup and reverse DNS lookup
  • Network intruder detection
  • Network monitoring

Fing is free to download from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

6. LanDroid

As you’d guess from its name, LanDroid is an Android app. The tool—which is totally free and not ad-supported—provides several all-in one-network analysis features in a single app. It comes with many features such as local net, ping, traceroute, port scan, IP lookup, SSL cache, and is IPv6 compatible.

LanDroid Main Screen

As for the features of LanDroid, they are about as complete and varied as other tools on this list. Here are some of the most significant.

  • DNS Lookup (using a fixed remote server)
  • Whois
  • Ping
  • TraceRoute
  • NetStat – to show active and listening connections
  • ARP & ND Cache
  • IP port scanning
  • IP Network Calculator
  • WakeOnLan
  • SSL Check

The tool features an adjustable font size as well as command auto-completion from history and full IPv6 support. Reviewers in the Google Play Store have indicated that LanDroid is fast and has a straightforward, easy-to-use interface.

7. ezNetScan

Our last tool is called ezNetScan. It is a free app for both Android and iOS and it includes a set of tools that allows network administrators and engineers to scan wireless networks quickly and easily.

Several other options allow you to easily customize your network list, including assigning device specific icon, tag names to devices and add a note or comment to any device. It also has SNMP-based features allowing you to list installed software and/or hardware information about networked devices.

ezNetScan Screenshot

Here’s an overview of some of the multiple tools included in ezNetScan.

  • Ping
  • Service Scan
  • Traceroute
  • Wake on LAN
  • DNS lookup
  • Installed Software & Hardware details (for SNMP enabled devices)

The tool allows you to email scanned device list & command results. Alternatively, you can also view all your scanned network details in offline mode. While ezNetScan is a free tool that you can get from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store, the plus version—which will set you back $1.99—adds configurable network parameters and widgets, as well as with the possibility of exporting data in .csv format, to filter results, and create graphs from your data.

Read 7 Best Mobile Tools For Network Administration by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

7 Best Network Automation Tools and Systems in 2019

Network automation is the science—or is it an art?—of automating different tasks typically handled by network administrators. As vague as this definition may be, it truly is what network automation is. Unfortunately, such a vague definition also means that what constitutes a network automation tool is just as hard to define. In fact, it seems like every vendor has his own idea of what network automation is. Some refer to it as network automation systems while others prefer the term network configuration management systems. One vendor even offers both tools. To help you shed some light on this complicated subject, we’ve compiled a list of the best tools for network automation and we’re glad to offer you a brief review of each of these.

Before we reveal what the best products are, we’ll start off by discussing network automation in general. We’ll try to better define what it is, at least from a software tool standpoint. We’ll also discuss the different types of tools available. As we’ve hinted, some are called automation tools while others are called configuration management tools. Are they different? If so, what are the differences? Once we’re all on the same page as to what network automation is and what the software tools do and how they operate, we’ll be ready for the important stuff, reviewing the best network automation tools we could find.

What Is Network Automation?

As we’ve mentioned in our introduction, network automation is simply the use of tools to automatically perform network administration tasks. This prompt the following question: which tasks? The answer is simply any task. Let’s see what the experts have to say about it. According to Technopedia, “Network automation is the process of automating the configuration, management and operations of a computer network. It is a broad term that includes a number of tools, technologies and methodologies used to automate network processes.” Webopedia’s definition is not much clearer and defines it as a “phrase used to describe the methodologies, processes, and technologies needed to help large organizations and enterprises automate the configuration and management of network devices, including hubs, routers and switches.

One thing seems to be clear from these definitions. As we were initially sating it, network automation is vague at best. Any system or process that automatically executes some form of network administration task can be called network automation. So, instead of trying to provide a precise definition and explain a concept that, in essence, can be pretty much anything, let’s approach the matter by looking at the tools themselves. Let’s have a look at what the different tools that call themselves network automation tools do. And let’s not forget about network configuration management tools because, although they are not always referred to as network automation tools, most of them are.

Different Types Of Tools For Network Automation

Network automation tools have a variety of features. At the very top are fully integrated tools that have all sorts of functions such as performance monitoring, traffic and bandwidth analysis, configuration and change management, switch port and end-user monitoring and tracking, WAN performance monitoring, and IP address management. These tools are often meant to replace most other tools and offer an all-encompassing solution.

At the other end of the spectrum are tools which are much more targeted such as tools for configuration management. While such tools will only handle device configuration, they are still very useful and are often accessory to complying with several regulatory standards. In between are many different tools offering different levels of automation. Generally speaking, tools with more features will tend to be more expensive—although this is not always the case. But don’t be tempted to let the price influence you when assessing the value of a tool. A less expensive tool could very well be a better option based on your specific needs. For instance, if you already have some monitoring tool in place, you probably don’t need an automation tool that includes monitoring functions. After all, you’ve likely spent a lot of time configuring your monitoring tools and don’t want to see your efforts go to waste.

The Best Network Automation Tools

It is now time to look at some of the best tools for network automation. As expected with such an unclear concept, our list includes a variety of tools. We have tools which are all-in-one packages which do (almost) everything and some that are much more task-specific. Some of our top tools call themselves automation tools whereas others are self-described as network management or network configuration management packages. We’ve chosen to ignore the denominations of the tools and focus on their functionality.

1. SolarWinds Network Automation Manager (Free Trial)

SolarWinds is a well-known name in the field of network administration and rare are those who have never heard of it. After all, the company has been making some of the best network administration tools for about twenty years. Some of its tools, such as the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, are considered to be among the best tools in their respective class. To make thing even better, SolarWinds also makes a handful or two of free tools, smaller tools each addressing a specific need of network administrators.

The SolarWinds Network Automation Manager is one of the most complete network automation solution available. It is loaded with great and useful features. Using this tool, you can create custom, web-based network, traffic, WAN, and switch port dashboards, views, and charts. It also features topology- and dependency-aware intelligent alerts which will respond to multiple condition checks, correlated events, network topology, and device dependencies. This product also features real-time configuration change notification and compliance auditing. It will provide details and comparisons of configuration changes to demonstrate compliance with regulatory standards.

SolarWinds Network Automation Manager - Switch Port Screenshot

There are also several IP address management functions built into the SolarWinds Network Automation Manager. It has IP alerting, troubleshooting, and reporting which will let you know about IP address conflicts, depleted subnets and scopes, or mismatched DNS records. DHCP and DNS administration is also included. The tool’s address management features will help you find an open IP address and make the DHCP reservation and DNS entries in one step from a single console. This is exactly what automation is all about.

There are simply too many features to this product to detail them all. A whole article could be dedicated to it. It has capacity planning and forecasting. It has wireless and wired network monitoring and mapping. The tool will monitor switch port usage to identify performance, users, and devices. It will monitor, alert, and report on key device metrics such as temperature, fan speed, and power supply.

With so many included features, you can expect the SolarWinds Network Automation Manager to be expensive but well worth the investment. Detailed pricing is available by contacting SolarWinds’s sales. If you want to try the software before buying it, a fully-functional 30-day trial is available from SolarWinds.

2. SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager (Free Trial)

SolarWinds also makes the Network Configuration Manager or NCM. This is a tool of many uses. For starters, it can help you ensure that all equipment configurations are standardized. It is also a tool you can use to push bulk configuration changes to thousands of network devices. From a security standpoint, the tool will detect unauthorized changes. They could be the tell-tale sign of malicious configuration tampering. This product also has some interesting vulnerability assessment features and its integration with the National Vulnerability Database lets it use to the most current Common Vulnerability Exposures to find vulnerabilities in your devices’ configuration.

SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager Screenshot

The SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager takes care of equipment configuration backups and can be used to quickly recover from failures by restoring previous configurations. Its change management features can be used to quickly pinpoint and highlight changes within a configuration file by comparing it to a previous version. Another use for this tool is to help you demonstrate compliance and pass regulatory audits thanks to its built-in, industry-standard reports.

Prices for the SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager start at $2 895 for up to fifty nodes and go up with the number of managed nodes. Like with most products from SolarWinds, a free fully-functional, node-unlimited 30-day trial is available.

3. ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager

The ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager is a comprehensive package that can help ensure the integrity of your network. It is from ManageEngine, another well-known name in its field and the maker of numerous excellent network administration tools. This is a powerful package which can be used to manage the configuration of most networking equipment, regardless of the vendor. The product is compliant with the NCCCM (Network Change, Configuration, and Compliance Management) standards.

ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager Screenshot

The ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager can automatically handle the backups of your devices’ configurations on a regular basis. But it doesn’t stop there. It will compare each backup to the previous one, spot configuration changes and alert you of unauthorized or suspicious ones. You also have the possibility to generate reports on configuration discrepancies between similar devices. Pretty useful if you care about standardizing your configurations

There is also a logging function. It will register every change made as well as which user made it. Accounts from users performing unauthorized changes can be automatically suspended. The system can also alert you when it suspects that a user account has been compromised. So, in addition to automating the configuration of your device, it also handles security.

The ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager installs on Windows or Linux and it’s available as a free version which is limited to two devices. For larger installations, prices start at $595 for up to 10 managed devices and vary based on the number of managed devices. A free 30-day trial is available on paid licenses.

4. TrueSight Network Automation

Perhaps you already know TrueSight Network Automation from BMC software. It used to be known as BladeLogic Network Automation. BMC didn’t only change the product’s name, though, it also upgraded the software and turned it into a pretty good configuration management system. Great attention was particularly paid in the standards compliance features of the product.
A concept called policies is as the core of the product’s compliance auditing. The system comes with several predefined policies for such regulatory requirements as HIST, HIPAA, PCI/DSS, DIS, SOX or SCAP. Based on the contents of the policies, the TrueSight Network Automation system verifies device configurations for compliance. Configurations are not the only thing the tool will check. it can also be used to enforce standards, automatically modifying configurations as required.

TrueSight Network Automation Dashboard

The first thing the tool does after installation is to perform an initial scan of the network to find all devices, check them for compliance and, if needed, tweak their configurations. It then backs up their configurations and uses them as a baseline comparison point to detect future unauthorized configuration changes.

With TrueSight Network Automation you can create users and groups and you can authorize different user groups to access different sections of the user interface. A feature like that lets you have different dashboards for different users. Another powerful feature of the product is the possibility to do bulk configuration changes or firmware updates. The system also has patch management capabilities. In all, there are quite a few tasks that can be automated using this tool.

TrueSight Network Automation can be installed on Windows Server, RedHat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu. Pricing information can be obtained by contacting the BMC Software sales department. Unfortunately, a free trial does not appear to be available.

5. Net LineDancer

Don’t let the weird name of our next product put you off. Despite that, Net LineDancer, from LogicVein, is an excellent tool and it has all the features that anyone could expect from any network configuration manager. This tool can be used to manage thousands of devices through an automated process. It all starts by finding all devices and taking a snapshot of their configurations. This establishes a baseline. This baseline will then be used to identify changes to each device’s configuration. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because most tools use a similar technique.

Net LineDancer Screenshot

Net LineDancer is different from many similar software tools. In addition to providing a backup of the configurations, the stored files can also be used to configure equipment in batches. This can be done either by device type or individually. Reporting is another strength of the product. It can—and this is only one example—report on what user made what configuration change. Such a feature is great for auditing changes and change management process.

Net LineDancer can run on Windows servers or on CentOS and RedHat Enterprise Linux. It is also available as a virtual appliance for VMware ESX or as a cloud service. Pricing information can be obtained by contacting LogicVein’s sales and a 30-day trial is available.

6. LAN-Secure Configuration Center

Perhaps not as famous as some other products, the LAN-Secure Configuration Center is another excellent network configuration management tool which truly deserves its spot on our list. It has all the essential features you may want and then some. Like many similar tools, it initially scans your network to discover network devices and performs a backup of their configurations. The tool will then let you have a look at the configurations and decide on the correct policies for your organization’s needs and regulatory or contractual obligations.

LAN-secure Configuration Center

The Lan-Secure Configuration Center is a super flexible tool which can be used to update configurations or modify settings of all devices, specific device types, or individual devices. It can also automatically run periodical checks of device configurations against the original backups, looking for unauthorized changes. When such changes are detected, an alert can be triggered. You can also elect to have the tool automatically roll those changes back to their initial state. You can use this tools to manage remote sites from a centralized location and it uses SSH to securely communicate with remote sites, even over unsecured circuits.

The Lan-Secure Configuration Center is available in several editions. At the base, there’s a Workgroup version which can be purchased for $99. It is, however, limited to managing up to ten devices. For more devices, there is an Enterprise version which is available at prices varying according to the number of managed devices. A free 30-day trial of either version is available.

7. rConfig

We’re including rConfig on our list of the top network automation tools mainly because we thought it wouldn’t be complete without at least one free and open-source option but also because rConfig is a very interesting product. By virtue of being open-source, you are free to modify and adapt the product to your specific needs. And when the time comes to get support, the product has a robust community. This is very important when considering open-source options.

rConfig Screenshot

rConfig compares very well to commercial alternatives. It has customizable scripting and automation, compliance management that’s fully customizable, bulk settings distribution, single-click options for quickly downloading configurations, reporting, backups, a range of system support and much more.

Provided that this product’s features meet your needs, rConfig is certainly an option to consider. Being open-source also means that as long as the community thrives so too will the product. This is a free product so there is no trial version but if you want to see the product at work before spending hours configuring it to your need, there’s a demo version running directly on their website that you can try. That demo is even connected to an actual living network.

Read 7 Best Network Automation Tools and Systems in 2019 by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

6 Best Wireshark Alternatives For Packet Sniffing

Wireshark, which was previously known as Ethereal, has been around for 20 years. If not the best, it is certainly the most popular network sniffing tool. Whenever a need for packet analysis arises, this is often the go-to tool of most administrators. However, as good as Wireshark can be, there are many alternatives available out there. Some of you may be wondering what’s wrong with Wireshark that would justify replacing it. To be totally honest, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Wireshark and if you’re already a happy user, I see no reason why you’d need to change. On the other hand, if you’re new to the scene, it might be a good idea to look at what’s available before choosing a solution. To help you, we’ve assembled this list of some of the best Wireshark alternatives.

We’ll begin our exploration by having a look at Wireshark. After all, if we want to suggest alternatives, we might as well get to know the product at least a little. We’ll then briefly discuss what packet sniffers—or network analyzers, as they are often called—are. Since packet sniffers can be relatively complex, we’ll then spend some time discussing how to use them. This is by no means a complete tutorial but it should give you enough background information to better appreciate the upcoming product reviews. Talking about product reviews, this is what we’ll have next. We’ve identified several products of widely different types which could be a good alternative to Wireshark and we’ll introduce the best features of each.

About Wireshark

Before Wireshark, the market had essentially one packet sniffer which was aptly called Sniffer. It was an excellent product that suffered from one major drawback, its price. Back in the late 90’s the product was about $1500 which was more than many could afford. This prompted the development of Ethereal as a free and open-source packet sniffer by a UMKC graduate named Gerald Combs who is still the primary maintainer of Wireshark twenty years later. Talk about serious commitment.

Wireshark Screenshot

Today, Wireshark has become THE reference in packet sniffers. It is the de-facto standard and most other tools tend to emulate it. Wireshark essentially does two things. First, it captures all traffic it sees on its interface. But it doesn’t stop there, the product also has quite powerful analysis capabilities. The tool’s analysis capabilities are so good that it’s not uncommon for users to use other tools for packet capture and do the analysis using Wireshark. This is such a common way of using Wireshark that, upon startup, you’re prompted to either open an existing capture file or start capturing traffic. Another strength of Wireshark is all the filters it incorporates which allow you to zero in on precisely the data you’re interested in.

About Network Analysis Tools

Although the matter has been open for debate for a while, for the sake of this article, we’ll assume that the terms “packet sniffer” and “network analyzer” are one and the same. Some will argue that they are two different concepts and, although they may be right, we’ll look at them together, if only for the sake of simplicity. After all, even though they may operate differently—but do they really?—they serve a similar purpose.

Packet Sniffers essentially do three things. First, they capture all data packets as they enter or exit a network interface. Secondly, they optionally apply filters to ignore some of the packets and save others to disk. They then perform some form of analysis of the captured data. It is in that last function that most of the differences between products are.

Most packet sniffers rely on an external module for the actual capture of the data packets. The most common are libpcap on Unix/Linux systems and Winpcap on Windows. You typically won’t have to install these tools, though, as they are usually installed by the packet sniffer’s installers.

Another important thing to know is that as good and useful as they are, Packet Sniffers won’t do everything for you. They are just tools. You can think of them as a hammer which simply won’t drive a nail by itself. You need to make sure you learn how to best use each tool. The packet sniffer will let you analyze the traffic it captures but it is up to you ensure it captures the right data and to use it to your advantage. There have been whole books written on using packet capture tools. I once took a three-day course on the subject.

Using a Packet Sniffer

As we’ve just stated, a packet sniffer will capture and analyze traffic. Therefore, if you’re trying to troubleshoot a specific issue—a typical use for such a tool, the first thing you need to do is make sure that the traffic your capturing is the right traffic. Imagine a case where every single user of a given application are complaining that it is slow. In such a situation, your best bet would probably be to capture traffic at the application server’s network interface since every user seems to be affected. You might then realize that requests arrive at the server normally but that the server takes a long time to send out responses. That would indicate a delay on the server rather than a networking issue.

On the other hand, if you see the server responding to requests in a timely manner, it could mean that the issue is somewhere on the network between the client and the server. You would then move your packet sniffer one hop closer to the client and see if responses are delayed. If not, you would move more hop closer to the client, and so on and so forth. You’ll eventually get to the spot where delays occur. And once you’ve identified the location of the problem, you are one big step closer to solving it.

Let’s see how we can manage to capture packets at a specific point of a network. One simple way of accomplishing that is to take advantage of a feature of most network switches called port mirroring or replication. This configuration option will replicate all traffic in and out of a specific switch port to another port on the same switch. For example, if your server is connected to port 15 of a switch and port 23 of that same switch is available. You connect your packet sniffer to port 23 and configure the switch to replicate all traffic to and from port 15 to port 23.

The Best Wireshark Alternatives

Now that you better understand what Wireshark and other packet sniffers and network analyzers are, let’s see what alternative products there are. Our list includes a mix of command-line and GUI tools as well as tools running on various operating systems.

1. SolarWinds Deep Packet Inspection and Analysis tool (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds is well-known for its state-of-the-art network management tools. The company has been around for about 20 years and has brought us several great tools. Its flagship product called the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is recognized by most as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tools. SolarWinds is also famous for making a handful of excellent free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrators. Two examples of those tools are the SolarWinds TFTP Server and the Advanced Subnet Calculator.

As a potential alternative to Wireshark—and perhaps as the best alternative since it’s such a different tool—SolarWinds proposes the Deep Packet Inspection and Analysis Tool. It comes as a component of the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor. Its operation is quite different from more “traditional” packet sniffers although it serves a similar purpose.

SolarWinds Deep Packet Inspection and Analysis

The Deep Packet Inspection and Analysis Tool is neither a packet sniffer nor a network analyzer yet it will help you find and resolve the cause of network latencies, identify impacted applications, and determine if slowness is caused by the network or an application. Since it serves a similar purpose as Wireshark, we felt it deserved to be on this list. The tool will use deep packet inspection techniques to calculate response time for over twelve hundred applications. It will also classify network traffic by category (eg. business vs. social) and risk level. This can help identify non-business traffic that might benefit from being filtered or somehow controlled or eliminated.

The Deep Packet Inspection and Analysis Tool is an integral component of the Network Performace Monitor or NPM as it is often called, which is in itself an impressive piece of software with so many components that a whole article could be written about it. It is a complete network monitoring solution that combines some of the best technologies like SNMP and deep packet inspection to provide as much information about the state of your network as possible.

Prices for the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor which includes the Deep Packet Inspection and Analysis Tool start at $2 955 for up to 100 monitored elements and goes up according to the number of monitored elements. The tool has a 30-day free trial available so you can make sure it really fits your needs before committing to purchasing it.

2. tcpdump

Tcpdump is probably THE original packet sniffer. It was created back in 1987. That is over ten years before Wireshark and even before Sniffer. Since its initial release, the tool has been maintained and improved but it remains essentially unchanged. The way the tool is used has not changed much through its evolution. It is available to install on virtually every Unix-like operating system and has become the de-facto standard for a quick tool to capture packets. Like most similar products on *nix platforms, tcpdump uses the libpcap library for the actual packet capture.

Tcpdump screenshot

The default operation of tcpdump is relatively simple. It captures all traffic on the specified interface and “dumps” it—hence its name—on the screen. Being a standard *nix tool, you can pipe the output to a capture file to be analyzed later using the analysis tool of your choice. In fact, it’s not uncommon for users to capture traffic with tcpdump for later analysis in Wireshark. One of the keys to tcpdump’s strength and usefulness is the possibility to apply filters and/or to pipe its output to grep—another common *nix command-line utility—for further filtering. Someone mastering tcpdump, grep and the command shell can get it to capture precisely the right traffic for any debugging task.

3. Windump

In a nutshell, Windump is a port of tcpdump to the Windows platform. As such, it behaves in much the same way. What this means is that it brings much of the tcpdump functionality to Windows-based computers. Windump may be a Windows application but don’t expect a fancy GUI. It really is tcpdump on Windows and as such, it is a command-line only utility.

Windump Help

Using Windump is basically the same as using its *nix counterpart. The command-line options are just about the same and the results are also almost identical. Just like tcpdump, the output from Windump can also be saved to a file for later analysis with a third-party tool. However, grep is not usually available on Windows computer, thereby limiting the filtering abilities of the tool.

Another important difference between tcpdump and Windump is that is as readily available from the operating system’s package repository. You’ll have to download the software from the Windump website. It is delivered as an executable file and requires no installation. As such, it is a portable tool which could be launched from a USB key. However, just like tcpdump uses the libpcap library, Windump uses Winpcap which needs to be separately downloaded and installed.

4. Tshark

You can think of Tshark as a cross between tcpdump and Wireshark but in reality, it is, more or less, the command-line version of Wireshark. It is from the same developer as Wireshark. Tshark bears resemblance to tcpdump in that it is a command-line only tool. But it is also like Wireshark in that it won’t just capture traffic. It also has the same powerful analysis capabilities as Wireshark and uses the same type of filtering. It can, therefore, quickly isolate the exact traffic you need to analyze.

Tshark Results

Tshark raises one question, though. Why would anyone want a command-line version of Wireshark? Why not just use Wireshark? Most administrators—in fact, most people—would agree that generally speaking, tools with graphical user interfaces are often easier to use and to learn and more intuitive and user-friendly. After all, isn’t that why graphical operating systems became so popular? The main reason why anyone would choose Tshark over Wireshark is when they just want to do a quick capture directly on a server for troubleshooting purposes. And if you suspect a performance issue with the server, you might want to prefer using a non-GUI tool as it can be less taxing on resources.

5. Network Miner

Network Miner is more of a forensic tool than a packet sniffer or network analyzer. This tool will follow a TCP stream and can reconstruct an entire conversation. It is a really powerful tool for in-depth analysis of traffic albeit one that can be hard to master. The tool can work in an offline mode where one would import a capture file—perhaps created using one of the other tools reviewed—and let Network Miner work its magic. Considering that the software runs only on Windows, the possibility to work from capture files is certainly a plus. You could, for instance, use tcpdump on Linux to capture some traffic and Network Miner on Windows to analyze it.

NetworkMiner Screenshot

Network Miner is available in a free version but, for the more advanced features such as IP address-based geolocation and scripting, you’ll need to purchase a Professional license which will cost you $900. Another advanced function of the professional version is the possibility to decode and playback VoIP calls.

6. Fiddler

Some of our readers—specifically the more knowledgeable ones—will be tempted to argue that Fiddler, our last entry, is neither a packet sniffer nor a network analyzer. To be honest, they may very well be right but still, we felt we should include this tool on our list as it can be very useful in several different situations.

Fiddler Debugging Screenshot

First and foremost, let’s set things straight, Fiddler will actually capture traffic. It won’t capture just any traffic, though. It will only work with HTTP traffic. Despite this limitation, when you consider that so many applications today are web-based or use the HTTP protocol in the background, it’s easy to see how valuable such as tool can be. And since the tool will capture not only browser traffic but just about any HTTP, it’s can very useful in troubleshooting different types of application.

The main advantage of a tool like Fiddler over a “true” packet sniffer like Wireshark, is that it was built to “understand” HTTP traffic. It will, for instance, discover cookies and certificates. It will also find actual data coming from HTTP-based applications. Fiddler is free and it’s available for Windows only. However, beta builds for OS X and Linux (using the Mono framework) can be downloaded.

Read 6 Best Wireshark Alternatives For Packet Sniffing by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Optimize Application Performance: Best APM Monitoring Tools

Don’t we all wish our applications performed flawlessly? Unfortunately, applications have become so complex that ensuring they are running smoothly is more complicated than ever. Modern applications have several tiers. There’s the front-end which takes care of user interactions. There’s also a back-end which does most of the heavy processing. And finally, there’s often a database to keep the application’s data. All these components, which could be running on different machines—and often are, must talk to each other. Not only that, but they also need to respond to each other’s requests promptly. But since the back-end often serves multiple front-ends and the database often serves multiple back-ends, things can get complicated. This is when application performance often starts to degrade. And when that happens, you need to use the proper tool to monitor the situation and optimize the performance. This is the subject of our article and we’re about to review the best tools to optimize application performance.

Before we get to actually review some of the best products, we’ll first talk about application performance. We’ll have a look at what it is and why it is so important. Then, we’ll discuss the optimization of application performance, what it is and what it entails. We’ll also talk about establishing a benchmark as this what will let you measure the degradation—or improvement—of application performance. After that, we’ll explore the tools themselves, what they are and what they do before we finally review some of the best tools to optimize application performance.

The Importance Of Application Performance

Before we begin, it’s important that we’re all on the same page as to what we’re referring to when talking about application performance. It’s not only a matter of how well Microsoft Word or the Chrome or Firefox browsers are running. Yes, those are applications and they too can suffer from performance issues but what we have in mind is the performance of in-house or custom applications. So, what is the importance of application performance? While different people would come up with different answers, generally speaking, it has to do with productivity. These in-house or custom applications serve a purpose and, when their performance is not there, productivity suffers. Plain and simple.

It is likely even more important if you’re in the Software as a Service (SaaS) business as those in-house and custom applications are used to provide services to clients. Then, a performance hit could lead clients to consider using competing services.
There are mainly two places where application performance can be degraded. The first one is the communications between the components. With the various tiers typically running on different computers, the communication is often done through a network and networks, as you are most likely aware, can suffer from all sorts of performance degradation.

The other place where application performance can often be degraded is on the servers themselves. If, for instance, a back-end server is overloaded, it could delay the response to requests from the front-ends, causing a performance issue. The same is true of requests from the back-end server to the databases.

Optimizing Application Performance

Optimizing application performance is not unlike troubleshooting problems. The first step is to pinpoint where the performance hit comes from. Once you know where the problem is coming from, solving it is just a matter of correcting its root cause. This makes finding the root cause the second step of optimizing application performance.

Once the root cause of your application’s performance degradation is known, then all that’s left is fixing it. For instance, if the back-end server is overloaded, perhaps it is time to add a second server or to beef up that one by adding processor cores or memory. Similarly, if the cause of the degradation is the fact that the network between two components is congested, causing delays, it might be time to upgrade the network. This typically happens with WAN connections where an upgrade is often just a phone call to the supplier away.

Establishing A Benchmark For Future Comparison

Most applications start off with acceptable performance. However, things often degrade over time as more and more people use the application or as the amount of data it handles gets larger. Sooner or later—often sooner—one of two things is bound to happen. Users are going to start complaining that the application is not as fast as it once was or the application actually is going to slow down.

Users are not liars, they just tend to have a skewed perception and honestly think the application is slower when it’s actually working fine. This is where benchmarking can be useful. You need to measure beforehand the performance of your application. Then, when users complain, you can simply compare the current measurement with the original one—the benchmark—and see if it has indeed slowed down and by how much or demonstrate that it’s still performing well. Having a benchmark and comparing it to the current performance on a regular basis can also help you discover performance degradations before the users notice it.

About The Tools

There are all sorts of tools that one can use to optimize application performance and they all have one thing in common, they need to somehow measure or monitor it. Most application performance optimization tools are actually application performance monitoring or analysis tools since these are what you’ll use to find performance issues and to measure the results of your optimizations efforts.

Unfortunately, most such tools won’t take care of the actual optimization. They will help you see if and where a performance issue exists. Some will even suggest ways to optimize it but they won’t do the job for you. This makes sense, there are way too many variables and applications are too different from one another to create a universal tool that could fix application issues. Would you want an automated tool to modify your code anyways?

The Best Tool To Optimize Application Performance

Our list contains a variety of tools. Some are application performance monitoring tools. Others will monitor database performance. We even have a bundle which combines these two tools. Contrary to other types of tools—such as bandwidth monitoring tools, for example, which all work pretty much the same way—application performance optimization tools vary greatly in what they do and how to operate. We’ve tried to include a good mix of what available out there.

1. SolarWinds Application Performance Optimization Pack (Free Trial)

Our first entry is not a tool but rather a bundle of tools from SolarWinds, a company which has been making some of the best network administration tools for about 20 years. It is highly regarded by many and its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, consistently receives top reviews as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tool. As if this wasn’t enough, SolarWinds is also famous for its free tools, smaller products each addressing a specific need of network administrators. The SolarWinds Advanced Subnet Calculator and the Kiwi Syslog Server are two good examples of these free tools.

Back to application performance optimization, SolarWinds’ offering is called the Application Performance Optimization Pack. This is a bundle that is comprised of two excellent tools, the Server and Application Monitor and the Database Performance Analyzer. In one sentence, the bundle provides a full-stack application, database, virtualization, and server performance optimization solution.

SolarWinds Application Performance Optimization Pack - Screenshot

Combined together, the two tools offer an unmatched array of useful features. For instance, response time analysis will let you see into the root cause of application response issues. Furthermore, historic analysis and dynamic baselines help you spot tuning problems. The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is based on an agentless architecture to let you keep an eye on hundreds of production instances with minimal load. This is not only for in-house or custom applications. The tool includes over two hundred application templates to help you monitor application performance out-of-the-box. Of course, you also have the ability to create templates for in-house developments. With CPU, memory, and disk capacity planning the bundle lets you troubleshoot efficiently to quickly resolve problems.

You can make use of the fully functional 30-day trial with this link.

Meanwhile, let’s have a deeper look at each of the tools included in the SolarWinds Application Performance Optimization Pack.

1.1 SolarWinds Server And Application Monitor (Free Trial)

The SolarWinds Server And Application Monitor is described by its publisher as “Server monitoring software built to find and resolve application problems”. Concretely, this tool will let you monitor any application, any server, anywhere. You can use it to proactively monitor the performance, capacity, and health of Linux and Windows apps across data centers, remote offices, and in the cloud.

SolarWinds Server and Application Moniitor - Appstack environment

This is a comprehensive server monitoring platform for Microsoft applications, systems, hypervisor, and SaaS products. It is also a great product for monitoring cloud-based infrastructures. You can use it to monitor and alert on Azure and AWS infrastructure metrics. All this is done within the same dashboard as your on-premises applications and systems. Talking about the product’s dashboard, it will let you monitor over 1200 vendor applications, servers, databases, and storage, all from a single, easy-to-use, customizable web interface. The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor server monitoring tool provides automated discovery and mapping of applications and infrastructure. It also has customizable monitoring templates, and pre-built alerts and reports.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor are based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored, starting at $2 995 for 150 monitors. Like most other SolarWinds products, a free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

1.2 SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (Free Trial)

The SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer monitors and analyzes your SQL database instances to help resolve issues and optimize performance. Using a Response Time Analysis method it focuses on the time between a query request and the corresponding response from the database and it analyzes wait types and events, helping to pinpoint bottlenecks in databases.

SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer

This product features an easy to use interface which can assist administrators in finding issues quickly and easily. Its main screen will let you view database instances, wait times, query advice, processor load, memory, disk and sessions. You can display the trend dashboard of a specific database instance which will show you the total wait times for the users over the course of a month in a graphical format. It can also plot your choice of either average or typical day wait times. In this view, each graph colour represents an individual SQL statement. What you get is a visual depiction of which statement takes the longest to run.

Prices for the SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer start at $1 995 and vary according to the number and type of database instances to monitor. Again, a fully functional trial version is available although this one only lasts 14 days. However, when downloading the trial as part of the SolarWinds Application Performance Optimization Pack, you’ll get a full 30-day trial.

2. ManageEngine Applications Manager

While it may not be as well-known as SolarWinds, ManageEngine is still another name that enjoys an excellent reputation among network administrators. As you’d guess from its name, the ManageEngine Application Manager deals with application management. However, this is a somewhat misleading name as it is as much a monitoring platform as it is a management tool.

This tool offers integrated application performance monitoring for all your server and application monitoring needs. It can also do that for the underlying infrastructure components such as application servers, databases, middleware and messaging components, web servers, web services, ERP packages, virtual systems and cloud resources. In a few words, this is an all-encompassing platform.

ManageEngine Application Manager Screenshot

There’s a lot that can be done with this tool. For instance, you can track application response times with code-level information about your application performance monitoring environment. Its transaction tracing feature will let you detect slow transactions. It will monitor database query executions and track background transactions.

The ManageEngine Application Manager is available in several editions. There’s a feature-limited Free edition as well as a Professional and an Enterprise paid versions. Pricing starts at $945 and details can be obtained by contacting ManageEngine. A free 30-day trial version is also available.

3. AppDynamics APM

Appdynamics, which is now a part of Cisco has a great Application Performance Management tool available which is simply called Appdnamics APM. This excellent tool will automatically discover, map, and visualize your critical customer journeys through each application service and infrastructure component. It provides management teams with a single source of information to focus on end-to-end performance in the context of the customer experience, instead of monitoring individual services.

AppDynamics APM Screenshot

This tool uses machine learning to learn what normal performance is, effectively building its own baseline of application performance. It allows the tool to alert you whenever performance is not normal. There is direct integration with ServiceNow, PagerDuty, and Jira so that you can be immediately alerted and fix problems before customers notice them.

Another great feature is the tool’s immediate, automated, code-level diagnostics. Its deep diagnostic capabilities enable you to identify root-cause down to the individual line of code. Your team won’t have to go sifting through log files, saving valuable developer time.

Appdynamics APM is available in several versions. The most basic is called APM Pro. APM Advanced adds server visibility and network visibility features. The top level is called APM Peak and it includes all the features from APM Advanced plus business performance monitoring, transaction analytics, and business journeys. Pricing can be obtained by contacting Appdynamics and a 30-day trial version is available.

4. Dynatrace

Dynatrace is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) which can detect, solve and optimize applications automatically. Discovering and mapping a complex application ecosystem is simply a matter of installing the Dynatrace OneAgent. The tool will give you a high-fidelity view of your entire application stack, from the performance of applications, cloud infrastructure, and user experience. It will help you effortlessly detect problems along with their business impacts and root cause.

Dynatrace Screenshot

Dynatrace claims to have the broadest coverage of any monitoring solution in terms of languages supported, application architectures, cloud, on-premise or hybrid, enterprise apps, SaaS monitoring, and more. The tool automatically discovers and monitors dynamic microservices running inside containers. It shows you how they’re performing, how they communicate with each other and it helps you quickly detect poorly performing microservices.

Pricing for Dynatrace is not readily available and can apparently only be obtained by first signing up for the free 15-day trial. Then, its only a matter of installing the agent on your servers and you could be monitoring within 5 minutes.

5. New Relic APM

Last on our list, New Relic APM is a cloud-based SaaS Software Analytics Platform which offers application performance management and real user monitoring. It works with both cloud and data center-deployed web applications implemented in Ruby, Java, .NET, Python, PHP, and Node.js. The product also offers mobile monitoring solutions for iOS and Android applications.

New Relic APM Screenshot

New Relic APM monitors from the front-end to the infrastructure layer. It supports on-premises, cloud, and hybrid setups. The tool will track every change across all your apps and services with pinpoint clarity and full context. Featuring a curated user interface which gives you a single, comprehensive view of your entire application stack, you won’t have to jump between tools and custom views. Everything is easily found in a single pane.

New Relic APM is available in two versions, Essentials starting at $75/month and Pro starting at $149/month with the latter offering extended features such as longer retention times, service maps, deployment tracking, and SLA reports. A free 14-day trial of either version is available.

Read Optimize Application Performance: Best APM Monitoring Tools by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter