The 7 Best Network Mapping Tools in 2019

Since an image is worth a thousand words, images are often one of the best ways to document complex systems. This is particularly true of networks that are best described using network maps. However, creating network maps using traditional drawing tools can be a tedious process. Even when using advanced tools such as Microsoft Office Visio or dedicated network drawing tools like LanFlow, it is still a lot of work. The maps that you create are also static and must be redone each time the network changes. This is why network mapping tools were created and today, we’re going to have a look at a few of the best ones.

Best network mapping tools reviewed

We’ll start off by discussing the concept of network mapping in general, what it is and why it is so useful. As you’ll see, it’s not only a great way to document networks, it is also an excellent troubleshooting tool. We’ll then briefly describe network mapping tools in deeper details before we get to the core of the matter: reviewing some of the best network mapping tools.

About Network Mapping

Everyone has his own reason for needing network maps of any kind. There are, however, some that are more common than others. The most important and most common reason is rooted in the fact that any system is just as good as its documentation. And when said system is a computer network, a network map is most likely one of the best possible types of documentation as they often include a ton of relevant information. They will typically tell you what each piece of equipment is, how everything is interconnected, and they will also often include extra details such as IP addresses or other configuration parameters or even the whole devices’ configurations.

A network map diagram is also an invaluable troubleshooting tool. If—or more likely, when—something goes wrong on the network, you’ll be glad you have one. For instance, let’s pretend there’s a report of poor performance between a specific workstation and a server. A network map would quickly allow one to figure out what devices are located on the path, providing an excellent starting point for troubleshooting.

Some will argue that network maps are not needed. After all, nothing beats that live, real-time mental image an administrator has of his network. But while this might hold some truth, it’s also a risky prospect. As time goes by, we can forget the smaller details. There’s a Chinese proverb that says that “the palest ink is better than the best memory.” Although you may still have a pretty good mental picture of how that five-year-old network works, you may not remember all the minute details. And to make matters worse, other administrators may have performed some changes that you are not aware of.

Documentation is really the very best way to keep track of everything and, when it comes to networks, a network map is certainly the best type of documentation you can have. But networks, like most other things in life, do evolve and additions and changes are regularly—if not constantly—done. Devices are added, circuits are upgraded, configurations are modified. All of these changes need to be documented. Like the network it depicts, the network map must be a constant work in progress and great care must be taken to keep it up to date. Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to debug network issues with outdated network maps.

Introducing Network Mapping Tools

Network mapping tools typically do much more than just help you draw network maps. Some can use SNMP and/or other protocols such as the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) to poll your devices and discover their interconnections. They will use that information to automatically build a graphical representation of your network, a network topology map.

While these tools can save you a tremendous amount of time, they tend to be far from perfect and the maps they create will often need some degree of manual editing. For example, perhaps you want to overlay your network map on a floor plan of the office. For that purpose, many of the topology mapping tools include some editing facilities. Others will let you export the generated diagrams and edit them using a more conventional drawing tool of your choice.

The more advanced network mapping tools can be so advanced that they end up resembling management systems more than documentation systems. You can, for instance, use them to monitor devices status and performance. In some cases, they can even allow you to manage devices right from within the mapping tool.

The Best Network Mapping Tools

We’ve done our best to include a good variety of tools on our list. We have dedicated mapping tools but also network monitoring platforms with a network mapping feature. As you read about all the products we’re reviewing, you’ll see that the line between network monitoring and network mapping tools is not always very clear anyways.

1. SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (Free Trial)

SolarWinds has acquired a solid reputation in the field of network administration tools. In the past 20 years, the company has made quite a few excellent network administration tools. The company is also famous for its free tools. They are smaller tools which typically address one specific need of network administrators. Examples of these free tools include the Advanced Subnet Calculator or the Kiwi Syslog Server.

The SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (NTM) is an evolution of LanSurveyor, a well-known mapping tool that was acquired by SolarWinds a little while ago. This tool can automatically discover your LAN, your WAN or both and generate comprehensive, easy-to-view, and easy-to-comprehend network topology diagrams. These diagrams typically integrate Layer 2 and Layer 3 information. The NTM uses an innovative concept called topology databases. The network scanning process does populate these databases which are, in turn, used to create the topology diagrams. This is great as it does allow many different maps to be built from a single scan of the network, thereby saving time and resources.

SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper Screenshot

Another great feature of the SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper is that it can automatically keep diagrams up to date. It regularly re-scans the network looking for changes in topology and for new devices, adding the new information to existing diagrams. The product can also help with network security. It can, for instance, detect rogue devices that have been connected to the network.

Even better, this tool can assist with PCI/DSS and other regulatory compliance requirements. And it can be used as a networking equipment inventory management system. And if you want to share the tool’s topology diagrams with the rest of the world, you’ll be able to export them in Microsoft Visio format, a standard in business diagrams.

The SolarWinds Network Technology Mapper sells for $1 495, not much considering all it can do for you. And if you’d rather try the product before purchasing it, a free 14-day evaluation is available.

2. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (Free Trial)

Our next entry is another excellent product from SolarWinds called the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, or NPM. It is a very complete network monitoring solution with integrated network mapping features. It features a user-friendly graphical user interface that administrators can use to monitor devices and to configure the tool.

Adding a new device to the Network Performance Monitor is as simple as specifying its IP address or hostname and SNMP connection parameters. The system then queries the device and lists all the available metrics. All you have to do is pick those you want to monitor. And talking about adding devices, this tool’s scalability is another one of its best features. It will suit the smallest of networks and scale up to large networks with thousands of devices spread over multiple sites.

SolarWinds NPM Enterprise Dashboard

The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor’s network mapping feature is called NetPath. It maps your network and then provides you with information on its performance, the traffic levels, and device configurations along an entire network path. The tool can display performance metrics with hop-by-hop data between your data center and remote offices. The tool also features a number of network visualization graphs and charts. Insights from the product’s network mapping features can easily be viewed alongside other performance tools to provide troubleshooting assistance of your entire network.

The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor’s alerting system is another place where the product shines. It is highly customizable when needed but it can also be used out-of-the-box with minimal configurations. The alerting engine is smart enough not to send notifications for “unimportant” events in the middle of the night or to send hundreds of notifications for as many unresponsive servers when the main issue is a down router or network switch.

Prices for the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor start at just under $3 000 and goes up according to the number of devices to monitor and the selected optional components. The pricing structure is quite complex and you should contact the SolarWinds sales team for a detailed quote. If you prefer to try the product before purchasing it, a free 30-day trial version is available for download from the SolarWinds website.

3. Intermapper

Intermapper from Help Systems is another excellent tool which is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. This tool, like most good ones, will auto-discover all of your physical and virtual equipment and place it on a detailed map depicting all their interconnections. All you have left to do is simply edit the maps to better illustrate your real-life network. You can, for example, change the layout, customize the icons or change the background images.

Intermapper Screenshot

But Intermapper is not just a topology mapping tool, it is also a rather good monitoring solution. And while it might not rival with some of the better, dedicated network monitoring tools, it has some unique features. For instance, it’s got live colour-coding and animation which highlights the status of your devices. For example, the colour of device icons will go from green (all good) to yellow (warning) to orange (alert) to red (down). Likewise, animated traffic indicators will alert you of any segment where traffic exceeds a predefined threshold. This s really a clever combination of a network map ad a monitoring tool.

Intermapper is available in a free version which is limited to 10 devices. For larger installations, you can choose between annual subscriptions or permanent licenses. Prices do vary according to the number of discovered, mapped, and monitored devices and a free 30-day trial is available.

4. NetProbe

Like the previous entry, NetProbe offers quite a bit more than just plain network mapping. In fact, its publisher calls it “a real-time device monitoring tool” and this is really what it is. This tool will monitor any network-attached device in real-time. It has a rich graphical user interface which is available as a stand-alone application or via a web interface.

NetProbe Screenshot

Since it’s included in this list, you won’t be surprised that NetProbe’s graphical layout includes much more than just the devices. Alarms and trackers are also integrated. And all drawing elements have been kept as simple as possible making for a simple, quick, and neat representation of the monitored environments. The automatic detection of devices is another excellent feature of this tool. And although it will scan your network to detect devices and add them to its maps, this is not all it will do. It will also automatically add alarms and performance graphs that are pertinent to each device.

NetProbe is available in four license tiers which range from the free Standard license which only allows for eight devices to the Enterprise license which is good for up to 400 devices.

5. Network Notepad

We hesitated before including the Network Notepad on this list. After all, it is, in essence, more of a drawing tool than a mapping tool. However, several useful add-ons are available that will give the product features that are somewhat like other tools in this list. First things first, as a drawing tool, this one has all the features you would normally expect from a drawing tool such as multi-page diagrams, custom shapes, grouping and locking—allowing you to combine existing shapes to create new ones, auto-alignment, and of course, templates.

Network Notepad Screenshot

But as we said, and this is why it ended up on this select list, Network Notepad gets the bulk of its power when you start using its add-ons. One of the most interesting ones is undoubtedly the CDP Neighbor Tool, a sort of auto-discovery utility. This add-on uses the Cisco Discovery Protocol—hence its name—to automatically identify and document devices interconnections. All you need to do is right-click any device in your diagram, select “Discover Neighbors“, and the add-on will use the SNMP protocol to fetch connections data from the device’s CDP table. It will get a list of all devices connected to the selected one and their interconnection interfaces. Subsequently, clicking the “Paste” button will add any missing connected objects to your diagram.

The Network Notepad is available in a feature-limited freeware version or in a full-featured Professional version which you can purchase for only 18 British Pounds once the 30-day trial period expires. At that price, it is a pretty good deal, considering its features.

6. PRTG Network Monitor

The PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler AG is a full-featured network monitoring system with some excellent mapping capabilities, somewhat like the SolarWinds NPM reviewed above. One of the product’s best qualities is its speed and ease of installation. Paessler claims that the PRTG Network Monitor can be set up in a couple of minutes and although our experience shows that it can take a bit more than that, it is still amazingly easy and fast, thanks in part to its auto-discovery feature that will scan your network, find devices, and automatically add them. The tool uses a combination of Ping, SNMP, WMI, NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, but can also communicate via DICOM or the RESTful API.

When it comes to network mapping, the PRTG Network Monitor allows you to create maps that display your devices and their connections, as well as live status information for your network. This lets you detect problems at a glance and provides for efficient troubleshooting using maps as a primary source of information. Network maps can be customized using HTML, and they can also be shared with anyone you want, even external resources. The main drawback of this functionality is that although the maps are extremely useful, they must be created manually using the drag-and-drop map editor which can be time-consuming. On the other hand, this approach makes for highly customized maps.

PRTG Network Map

One of the strengths of the PRTG Network Monitor is its sensor-based architecture. You can think of sensors as add-ons to the product except that they are already included and don’t need to be purchased separately. There are add-ons for virtually anything. For example, there are HTTP, SMTP/POP3 (e-mail) application sensors. There are also hardware-specific sensors for switches, routers, and servers. In all, there are over 200 different predefined sensors that retrieve statistics such as response time, processor, memory, database information, temperature or system status from the monitored devices.

The PRTG Network Monitor offers a selection of user interfaces. The primary one is an Ajax-based web interface which allows it to be administered from any device with an Ajax-compatible browser, although the server only runs on Windows. There’s also a Windows enterprise console as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS. One nice feature of the mobile apps is that they can use push notification of any alerts triggered from PRTG. Standard SMS or email notifications are also available.

The PRTG Network Monitor is offered in two versions. There’s a free version which is full-featured but will limit your monitoring ability to 100 sensors. Note that each monitored parameter counts as one sensor and, for example, monitor 24 interfaces on a network switch will use up 24 sensors. If you need more than 100 sensors, you must purchase a license. Their prices start at $1 600 for 500 sensors. You can also get a free, sensor-unlimited and full-featured 30-day trial version.

7. Spiceworks Network Mapper

Spiceworks was originally started back in 2006 in Austin, Texas to build IT management software. It has evolved into a vibrant online community allowing users to collaborate with one another and also participate in a marketplace to purchase IT services and products. The Spiceworks community is estimated to be used by more than six million IT professionals and three thousand technology vendors.

As a software developer and publisher, Spiceworks offers three main products. First, there’s a help desk management platform aptly called Spiceworks Help Desk. There’s also an IT asset inventory management tool called Spiceworks Inventory. And finally, there’s a network monitoring platform called Spiceworks Network Monitor. While these tools are not open-source, they are available for free to anyone.

Of course, Spiceworks also proposes a network mapping tool that goes by the name of Spiceworks Network Mapper. This is a manual network mapping tool which lets you view an interactive diagram of your network. It visually displays how your devices interconnect, work together and relate to each other. The tool lets you modify maps by adding, editing, moving and resizing devices and customize them to the exact way you want to show how your network is structured. You can also use filters and views to display a subset of only the most important or relevant data. Device interconnections are depicted as lines on the maps whose width indicates how much

Spiceworks Network Mapper

One of the main drawbacks of the tool is that it is manual. This means that you not only have to create each map, you also have to keep them up to date. You’ll need to redo your network maps every time your network changes. On the other hand, the Spiceworks Network Mapper is available for free. That makes it an ideal choice for an organization that would rather invest time in creating and maintaining maps than investing money on a fully automated tool. This could be the case, for instance, with smaller businesses that have less complex networks.

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

6 Best Network Analysis Tools (Review 2019)

Network analysis, or the process of “looking” at network traffic and trying to understand it, is a complex endeavour. It is, however, a very useful process as it can provide precious assistance when troubleshooting various networking issues. It is also one of the best tools for capacity planning. But let’s face it, it is something that is best left to computers to handle. This is why we’re about to review some of the best network analysis tools. Our hope is that our reviews of the top product can help you compare what is available and select the product—or products—that best matches your specific needs.

Best network analysis tools - reviews

We’ll begin our journey by having a deeper look at network analysis, exploring what it is and how it’s done. Then, we’ll explain the differences between the two main types of analysis, quantitative (i.e. bandwidth analysis) and qualitative (i.e. flow analysis). Our next order of business will be a short explanation of the Simple Network Management Protocol as it is the most-used technology for bandwidth analysis followed by a similar exploration of the NetFlow technology, the most common flow analysis method. We’ll finish with the best, our brief reviews of the best bandwidth analysis and the best flow analysis tools.

About Network Analysis

Network traffic is often compared to road traffic where network circuits can be thought of as highways and the data packets they transport are compared to the vehicles travelling along them. But while automobile traffic is visible and any problem or congestion is readily observable, seeing what’s going on within a network can be a bit more complex. Network traffic is hidden within networking devices, copper cables or glass fibres and it travels at the speed of light; way too fast for anyone to see it.

To effectively analyze network traffic, specialized tools must be used. Some can poll devices to get their interfaces’ traffic figures and to show you how much data travels through them. Other tools, as we’re about to find out, use a different approach to get details about individual data flows and build reports that not only show how much data goes by but also what that data is, where it’s coming from and where it’s going to.

Quantitative vs Qualitative Analysis

Network bandwidth analysis is the most basic type of network analysis. Specialized analysis tools can measure how much data is transported on each router interface. They typically rely on the Simple Network Management Protocol or SNMP to poll routers, read their interface counters and compute the amount of traffic going through their interfaces. They can use the computed data to build graphs depicting the evolution of the monitored parameters over time. They will often let you zoom in into a shorter time span where graph resolution is high and can, for instance, display 5-minute average traffic or zoom out to a longer time span–a month or even a year–where it displays daily or weekly averages.

Another type of network analysis is called flow analysis. It can give you much more details about the data passing through your network. Flow analysis tools don’t just tell you how much traffic is going by, they give you qualitative information about that traffic. They rely on software that’s built right into your networking devices to send them detailed usage data. Using these tools will provide details such as the top talkers and listeners, the network usage by source or destination address, the network usage by protocol or by application and several other useful information about what is going on.

A few flow analysis technologies exist but Cisco’s NetFlow is the most common of them. It is, of course, present on most Cisco devices and it is also present—sometimes under a different name—on equipment from other vendors, such as J-flow on Juniper devices or NetStream on HP and Huawei equipment. There’s even an IETF standard protocol called IPFIX which is based on the latest version of NetFlow. Typical flow analysis tools support several—if not all—flow analysis technologies.

IN-DEPTH READ: 6 Best Open-Source NetFlow Software

SNMP In A Nutshell

The Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is the most widely used network bandwidth analysis technology. SNMP-enabled network devices “publish” a certain number of parameters. Some are configuration parameters that can be modified while others are read-only counters and gauges, used primarily for analysis purposes. There are, for example, CPU and memory usage gauges as well as interface traffic and error counters available via SNMP.

For bandwidth analysis, the process is a tad more complex than remotely reading gauges. Two counters called bytes in and bytes out (each interface has them) are read by the monitoring tool at precisely timed intervals. Every 5 minutes is a typical interval. The monitoring tool then subtracts the previous value of the counter from the current one to get the number of bytes transferred in five minutes. It multiplies that number by 8 to get the number of bits in five minutes. Finally, it just divides the last result by 300 (the number of seconds in five minutes) to get the average 5-minute bandwidth in bits per second.

RELATED READING: Top 5 Open-Source SNMP Monitoring Tools

Explaining NetFlow

Originally created solely to simplify the creation of router access control lists, Cisco’s engineers quickly realized that NetFlow data could be put to better use by exporting it to a device with the ability analyze that information. NetFlow analysis was born.

NetFlow uses a three-component architecture. The exporter runs on the monitored device, aggregates packets into flows, and exports flow records to a flow collector. The flow collector handles the reception, storage and pre-processing of the flow data. Finally, the flow analyzer is used to analyze the flow data. Today, most systems combine the collector and analyzer in one device.

The Best Network Bandwidth Analysis Tools

Let’s first have a look at some of the very best network bandwidth analysis tool. There are many more tools available than the three we’ve listed here but we felt that those are the best you can find in terms of their feature set and overall quality. They are all from top-notch makers of network administrations tools.

1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (Free Trial)

The SolarWinds name is well-known to many network administrators. The company makes some of the best network and system administration tools an many of them have received rave reviews and are considered among the very best in their respective fields. The company is also famous for its free tools, smaller tools which each address a specific need of network administrators. Two good examples of those free tools are the Advanced Subnet Calculator and the Kiwi Syslog Server.

For network bandwidth analysis, SolarWinds offers its Network Performance Monitor (NPM). This tool is mainly an SNMP bandwidth monitoring tool. It also offers comprehensive fault monitoring and performance management and it is compatible with most SNMP-enabled device. It also comes with many advanced features such as its NetPath feature lets you view the critical network path between any two monitored points on your network or its ability to automatically generate intelligent network maps.

SolarWinds NPM Enterprise Dashboard

The tool’s Network Insights functionality allows for complex device monitoring. It can monitor Software Defined Networks (SDN) and also has built-in Cisco ACI support as well the ability to monitor wireless networks and to generate network performance baselines. Other interesting features of the NPM include advanced alerting and its PerfStack performance analysis dashboard. The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is a highly scalable tool that can be used on any network from the smallest to the largest.

The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor’s pricing structure is quite simple. Licensing is based on the number of monitored elements. Five licensing tiers are available for 100, 250, 500, 2000, and unlimited elements at prices ranging from $2 955 to $32 525, including the first year of maintenance. If you’d rather give the tool a test run before committing to a purchase, a free 30-day trial version can be obtained.

2. PRTG Network Monitor

The PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler AG is another great product. It is, at its base, an SNMP network analysis tool. However, thanks to a concept called sensors—a type of functionality plug-ins that are already built into the product—additional metrics can be monitored. There are about two hundred sensors available with the product to monitor virtually any network parameter. Installation speed is another strength of the product. According to Paessler, it can be set up in a couple of minutes. While it may not be that fast, it is indeed faster than most competitor’s thanks in part to the tool’s auto-discovery engine.

PRTG Dashboard - Datacenter Monitoring

The PRTG Network Monitor is a feature-rich product that it even offers a choice of user interfaces. You can choose between a native Windows enterprise console, an Ajax-based web interface and mobile apps for Android and iOS. Alerting and reporting are excellent and the product boasts a wide range of reports that can be viewed as HTML or PDF or exported to CSV or XML to be processed externally.

The PRTG Network Monitor is available in a free version which is limited to monitoring no more than 100 sensors. Each parameter you want to monitor counts as one sensor. For example, monitoring bandwidth on each interface of a 4-port router will use up 4 sensors and monitoring the CPU and memory on that same router will use up 2 more. Each additional sensor you install also counts. For more than 100 sensors—which you will most likely need—you’ll need a license. Their prices start at $1 600 for up to 500 sensors, including the first year of maintenance. A free 30-day trial version is also available.

3. ManageEngine OpManager

The ManageEngine OpManager is a complete management solution that addresses most—if not all—network analysis needs. The tool, which can run on either Windows or Linux, is loaded with great features. For instance, its auto-discovery feature doesn’t just add devices to the tool, it can graphically map your network, giving you a uniquely customized dashboard.

And talking about the dashboard, it is one of the tool’s best assets. It is super easy to use and navigate and has drill-down functionality. And If you’re into mobile apps, they are available for tablets and smartphones and will give you access from anywhere.

ManageEngine OpManager Dashboard

Alerting in OpManager is another of the product’s strengths. It’s got a full complement of threshold-based alerts that can help detect, identify, and troubleshoot networking issues. Furthermore, multiple thresholds each with their own notifications can be set for every performance metric.

If you want to try the ManageEngine OpManager, you can get a free version. It is not a time-limited trial version. It is, instead, feature-limited. It won’t, for instance, let you monitor more than ten devices. While this might be sufficient for testing purposes, it will only suit the smallest networks. For more devices, you can choose between the Essential or the Enterprise plans. The first will let you monitor up to 1 000 nodes while the other goes up to 10 000. Pricing information is available by contacting ManageEngine’s sales.

The Best Flow Analysis Tools

Just like with bandwidth analysis tools, there are countless flow analysis tools available. But again, we’ve limited ourselves to reviewing what we consider to be the best three. Like the preceding list, we’ve included the tools that offered the most in terms of features, reliability, and ease of use.

1. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (Free Trial)

The SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer can analyze network traffic by application, protocol, and IP address group. It will monitor NetFlow devices but also J-Flow, sFlow, NetStream, and IPFIX. The tool collects flow data, arranges it into a usable and meaningful format and present it to users in a web-based interface. It can be used to identify which applications and categories consume the most bandwidth.

Among its best features, the SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer can monitor bandwidth usage by application, protocol, and IP address group. It can also monitor Cisco NetFlow, Juniper J-Flow, sFlow, Huawei NetStream, and IPFIX flow data to identify which applications and protocols are the top bandwidth consumers. The tool will collect traffic data, correlate it into a usable format, and present it to the user in a web-based interface for monitoring network traffic. It also identifies which applications and categories consume the most bandwidth for better network traffic visibility.

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer Dashboard

The SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer is an add-on to the Network Performance Monitor, SolarWinds’ flagship product described earlier. You can save by acquiring both at the same time as the SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack. Prices for the bundle start at $4 910 for monitoring up to 100 elements and vary according to the number of monitored devices. While this may seem a bit expensive, keep in mind that you’re getting not one but two of the best monitoring tools available. If you’d prefer to try the product before purchasing it, a free 30-day trial can be downloaded from SolarWinds.

2. Scrutinizer

Scrutinizer from Plixer is another great NetFlow analyzer. In fact, it’s even more than that and it can easily be considered a full-fledged incident response system. With its ability to monitor different flow types such as NetFlow, J-flow, NetStream, and IPFIX, you’re not limited to monitoring only Cisco devices.

The hierarchical design of Scrutinizer offers streamlined and efficient data collection and allows anyone to start small and easily scale way up to many million flows per second. The network is often first blamed whenever something goes wrong. Using The product’s advanced analysis, you can quickly find the real cause of many network issues. For even greater flexibility, the product works in both physical and virtual environments and it comes with advanced reporting features.

Scrutinizer NetFlow Analyzer Screenshot

Scrutinizer is available in four license tiers that go from the basic free version to the full-fledged SCR level which can scale up to over 10 million flows per second. The free version is limited to 10 thousand flows per second and it will only keep raw flow data for 5 hours but it should be more than enough to troubleshoot network issues. You can also try any license tier for 30 days after which it will revert to the free version.

3. ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer

Next on our list is another tool from ManageEngine simply called the ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer. It’s got a web-based user interface that offers several different views of your network. You’ll be able to view traffic by application, by conversation, by protocol, and many more options. The tool will also let you set alerts. You could, for example, set a traffic threshold on a specific router interface and be alerted whenever traffic exceeds it.

ManageEngine Netflow Analyzer

The ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer’s dashboard includes several pie charts displaying top applications, top protocols or top conversations. It can also display a map with the status of the monitored interfaces. Dashboards and reports can be customized at will to include all the information that you need. The tool’s dashboard is also where alerts are displayed in the form of pop-ups. A smartphone client app will let you access the dashboard and reports from anywhere.

The ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer supports most flow technologies including NetFlow, IPFIX, J-flow, NetStream and a few others. It is available in two versions. The free version is identical to the paid one for the first 30 days but it then reverts to monitoring only two interfaces or flows. For the paid version, licenses are available in several sizes from 100 to 2 500 interfaces or flows.

Read 6 Best Network Analysis Tools (Review 2019) by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

The 9 Best Ping Tools Available Today (2019)

Ping is a basic network testing tool that is about as old as IP networks. Actually, it’s not quite that old but, at more than 35 years of age, it is a very old tool. But despite its age, the tool is still in widespread usage throughout the internet. There’s a simple reason for that: the tool is THAT good. So good that it is used as a base for several more advanced tools that we’re about to discover. But as good as it is, some developers have managed to create even better versions of the tool. Some of their creations will also be reviewed herein. So, read on as we review some of the best ping tools available.

Best Ping Tools Available

In order to ensure we are all on the same page as far as our knowledge of the operation of the ping command goes, we’ll begin by briefly discussing the utility and explaining how it works. We’ll then jump right in ad review the very best ping tools we could find. Our list has a variety of tools of different types, as you’re about to discover.

Ping In A Nutshell

Back in 1983, a developer was observing some abnormal behaviour on his network. Since he didn’t have the right tool to properly debug the issue, he created one and ping was born. It gets its name from the sound of sonar echoes as heard in a submarine. Flash forward many years and today, there are countless variants of pings which vary widely in their implementations with some offering multiple command-line options that can include, for example, the size of each test’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 but uses IPv6 addresses.

$ 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 simply sends an ICMP echo request packet to the target and waits for it to send back an ICMP echo reply packet. This process is repeated a certain number of times—5 by default under windows and until it is stopped by default under most Unix/Linux implementations. Ping calculates the delay between each request and the corresponding reply and displays it in its results. On Unix variants, it will also display the value of the reply’s TTL field, indicating the number of hops between the source and the destination. Once the tests are completed some statistics are compiled and displayed.

Pings works under the assumption that the pinged host conforms to RFC 1122 which prescribes that any host must process ICMP echo requests and issue echo replies in return. Most hosts do but some disable that functionality for security reasons. Pinging a host which does not respond to ICMP echo requests will provide no feedback, exactly like pinging a non-existent IP address.

The Top Ping Tools

In a way, ping is one of the most boring, albeit very useful, command and you might find it hard to believe that we’ve actually compiled this list if ping tools. Well, the truth is that, although some of these tools are just enhanced versions of the original ping command, others are more complex tools based on ping which can, for instance, successively ping a range of IP addresses, allowing one to discover which ones are in use. We’ve tried to include a bit of both variety of tools.

1. SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset (Free Trial)

SolarWinds is probably one of the best-known names in the field of network and system administration tools. It’s been around for some twenty years or so and has brought us some of the best tools on the market. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor has received rave reviews as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tool. The company is also famous for its free tools, smaller utilities that address a specific need of network administrators. The Network Device Monitor and Traceroute NG are two great examples of those free tools.

We felt that the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset deserved a spot on this list for a few good reasons. First and foremost, it includes a very good Ping Monitor tool. But as its name implies, this is a set of tools. Over sixty of them, to be precise. You can use the Engineer’s Toolset to continuously monitor servers, routers, workstations, or other devices to show response time in real-time and display response rates in graphical charts. The toolset also includes a Simple Ping tool which is an alternative to the ping that comes with your operating system and can be used to measure a host’s response time and packet loss.

SolarWinds Engineer's Toolset Enhanced Ping Tool

There’s also an Enhanced Ping tool, which provides several graphing options that can help you visualize and more easily identify response-time problems. Together, these ping software tool solutions help ensure you gain the visibility you need to monitor and troubleshoot network connection issues.

Other tools included in the Engineer’s Toolset

Among the 60+ tools that you’ll find in the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset, a few are free tools that are also available individually but most are exclusive tools which can’t be obtained any other way. A centralized dashboard lets you easily access any of the included tools. Among the different tools you’ll find, some can be used to perform network diagnostics and help resolve complex network issues quickly. Security-conscious network administrators will appreciate a few tools that can be used to simulate attacks on your network and help identify vulnerabilities.

SolarWinds Engineer's Toolset - Home Screen

The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset also includes a few more monitoring and alerting tools such as one which will monitor your devices and raise alerts when it detects availability or health issues. This will often give you enough time to react before users even notice the problem. To complete an already feature-rich suite of tools, configuration management and log consolidation tools are also included.

Here’s a brief list of some of the best tools you’ll find in the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset besides its many ping tools.

  • Port Scanner
  • Switch Port Mapper
  • SNMP sweep
  • IP Network Browser
  • MAC Address Discovery
  • Ping Sweep
  • Response Time Monitor
  • CPU Monitor
  • Interface Monitor
  • TraceRoute
  • 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
  • IP Address Management
  • WAN Killer

The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset—including the ping tools sells for $1495 per administrator seat. If you consider that it includes over 60 different tools, this is a very reasonable price. If you want to see for yourself what this toolset can do for you and your organization, a free 14-day trial available from SolarWinds.

2. Fping

Fping was created some 10 years after ping as an improvement over the popular network troubleshooting tool, Although it is a similar tool, it is quite different. Like ping, Fping uses ICMP echo requests to determine if the target hosts are responding but the similarity pretty much ends there. Contrary to ping which only accepts a single IP address as a parameter, the tool can be called with many target IP addresses. There are several different ways that these targets can be specified. It could be a space-delimited list of IP addresses. It could also be the name of a text file containing a discrete list of addresses. An IP address range can also be specified or a subnet can be entered in CIDR notation such as 192.168.0.0/24.

To improve performance, Fping does not wait for a response before sending the next echo request, thereby not losing time waiting for unresponsive IP addresses. It also has a ton of command-line options that you can use. You can also pipe its output to another command to further process the results. Overall, this is an excellent tool, especially for scripting on Linux computers.

3. Network Pinger

Network Pinger is a freeware tool for Windows. Its interface is among the most intuitive you can find. But more important than its user interface is the tool’s performance. This tool was optimized for the best possible performance. It can, for example, send 1000 ping in just 35 ms. Network Pinger has several tools built right into it. Here’s a quick overview of some of them. There’s automated mass pings, traceroutes, port scanning, WMI, DNS and Whois queries, an IP calculator and converter, and many more.

Network Pinger Mass Ping

Network Pinger makes excellent use of its graphical user interface and offers several visual features. It will, for example, built 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 if average response times.

4. Hping

Much like Fping, Hping is another command-line tool inspired by ping. It’s available on most Unix-like operating systems as well as OS X and Windows. The tool is no longer actively developed but it is still in widespread use. In spite of a close resemblance with the original ping command, this tool is quite different. For instance, Hping won’t only send ICMP echo requests. It can also send TCP, UDP or RAW-IP packets. This can be useful on networks where ICMP packets are blocked. It’s also got a traceroute mode and has the ability to send files over a covered channel.

Hping can also be used as a simple ping sweep tool and can do much more than that. For instance, the tool has some advanced ports scanning features. It can be used for network testing thanks to its use of multiple protocols. The product 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.

5. Angry IP Scanner

Angry IP Scanner is a deceptively simple ping scan tool and it is one of the fastest due to its extensive use of multithreading. This is a multi-platform tool that will run on Windows, OS X, or Linux. One small drawback: the tool is written in Java so you’ll need the Java run time module to use it. Functionality-wise, this tool will not only ping a group of IP addresses, but it can also do a port scan on discovered hosts. It will also resolve IP addresses to hostnames and MAC addresses to vendor names. Furthermore, the tool will provide NetBIOS information about the hosts.

Angry IP Scanner Windows - IP Range

The Angry IP Scanner can scan complete networks and subnets but also an IP addresses range or a list of IP addresses in a text file. Another nice feature is that although this is a GUI-based tool, there’s also a command-line version that you can use if you want to include the tool’s functionality in your scripts. As for the results, they are displayed on the screen in a table format but can also be easily exported to several file formats such as CSV or XML.

6. Advanced IP Scanner

The Advanced IP Scanner is another excellent ping sweep tool with an interesting twist. This tool, which runs exclusively on Windows is totally geared towards that operating system and several of its advanced functions are Windows-related. Its 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

Functionality-wise, the Advanced IP Scanner takes an IP address range as input. Alternatively, you can also supply a text file with a list of IP addresses. And when the results come in, they’re impressive. Not only do you get the list of IP addresses that responded but you also get the corresponding hostname, MAC address and network interface vendor. But there’s more. For each Windows host, you have a list of its network shares. And it’s a live list. You can click any share to open it on your computer–provided, of course, 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 remotely turn a computer off.

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 a ping sweep tool called Ping Scan. Let’s have a deeper look at the Basic Edition.

NetScan Tools Basic - Ping Scanner

NetScan ToolsPing Scan takes an IP address range as input, like most other ping sweep tools. This is a simple tool that will return a list of all the scanned IP addresses with their hostname (when resolvable), average response time and status in text form. Other useful tools in both editions of the NetScan Tools include an enhanced Ping command, a Graphical Ping, Traceroute, Whois as well as some DNS tools.

8. Pinkie

Pinkie is another pretty useful toolset which includes several utilities beyond some ping tools. Doing a Ping sweep is as simple as specifying a starting IP address and subnet mask and host count. The tool will then ping every successive IP address starting at the specified address until it reaches the host count or the subnet limit. As an option, you can choose to only include live hosts in its results. And if you do, the pinged host count will only include those that respond.

Pinkie - Ping Sweep Screenshot

Results are displayed in a table with IP address, hostname if resolvable and response time which is the Ping average round-trip delay. There is no save or export function for the result but they can be copied to the clipboard and pasted in another application such as a text editor or a spreadsheet. Other tools bundled in the Pinkie toolset include a standard Ping which is very similar to the original utility, a traceroute, a port scanner, a subnet calculator, and even a TFTP server.

9. MiTeC Network Scanner

The MiTeC Network Scanner is another multi-use tool. At its core is a very powerful ping sweep function that can find any responding host in the specified IP address range. The software will list each found device’s MAC address, hostname, and response time. But it can do much more than just ping them. It will, for instance, list interfaces of SNMP-enabled devices. It will also identify Windows computers and let you see their shares, remotely shut them down, perform remote execution, and more.

MiTeC Network Scanner Screenshot

The sweep’s results show up as a table on the tool’s dashboard that can be exported to a CSV file to be used with another tool. This tool can run on most modern versions of Windows–either workstation or server–since Windows 7. As for the tool’s other advanced features, you’ll find a Whois module and a DNS resolution module, among others.

Read The 9 Best Ping Tools Available Today (2019) by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

What Are Network Throughput and Bandwidth? Performance-affecting Factors

Network throughput and bandwidth are two of the most important metrics of networks, yet they are often misunderstood and confused. Our objective today is to try to shed some light on the matter and give you a better understanding of what they are—and what they are not, what factors are affecting these important metrics and what tools can be used to actually measure them. We’ll try to keep our discussion as non-technical as possible while providing as much useful information as possible.

What Are Network Throughput and Bandwidth

We’ll begin by trying to define what bandwidth and throughput are and, more importantly, how they differ as there seems to be quite a bit of confusion between the two terms. Next, we’ll explore the various factors that can affect throughput and network performance in general. We’ll have a look at delay and latency, jitter, and packet loss as they are the most common performance-affecting factors. And once we’re done with the theory, we’ll review some of the best tools one can use to monitor or measure network throughput.

About Bandwidth and Throughput

Bandwidth and throughput are somewhat different concepts despite a lot of confusion between them. Let’s try to sort it out, starting with bandwidth. Network bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data that can be transferred per second on a network. It is, in other words, the data-carrying capacity of the network and although circuits can be upgraded, this is a complex endeavour and as such, bandwidth is not considered to be something we can easily control “on the fly”.

As for throughput, it refers to the actual amount of data carried on a network. Throughput often differs from bandwidth for several reasons. For instance, there might not be enough data to carry to use up all the available bandwidth. There could also be various factors slowing down the traffic as we’ll see shortly.

Another concept that seems to do nothing but add some confusion the all of this is speed. Speed often refers to how much data can be downloaded or uploaded through a specific connection such as a DSL or cable modem Internet service. In a nutshell, it is a non-technical, marketing term used by service providers to advertise their services. It is, however, roughly equivalent to bandwidth.

Factors Affecting Throughput

So, if throughput is the maximum carrying capacity of a circuit, it shouldn’t vary, right? Well, it actually does… a lot, actually. In fact, it is important to distinguish between maximum throughput and actual throughput. Let’s explain. Let’s consider, for example, the throughput of a data path between a server in one data center and another server in another data center. It would seem to be a reasonable assumption that the path’s throughput will be that of the segment with the lowest throughput. But while it is true that it will never be higher than that, it could, however, be lower. Let’s have a look at some of the main factors which could be affecting throughput.

Delay and Latency

Delay and latency are two of the main factors affecting perceived network performance. And much like bandwidth and throughput, there is often a lot of confusion between them, to the point that the two concepts are often used interchangeably. This is understandable as both have to do with the time it takes for data to travel from its source to its destination. Latency is often described as the time elapsed from the source sending a packet to the destination receiving it. It can also refer to the round-trip delay time which comprised the one-way latency from source to destination plus the one-way latency from the destination back to the source. In fact, round-trip latency is used more often, mainly because it can be measured from a single point.

Latency is a physical characteristic of networks. It is a factor of the distance between the source and the destination and the speed of light which, incidentally, it also the speed at which data travels over any type of media. Like bandwidth, latency is a fixed parameter. The only way to reduce it is to move the source closer to the destination and reducing the distance by 100 km (60 miles) will remove about 1 millisecond of latency.

Several factors can add delay to network transmissions. For instance, queuing delay occurs when a gateway receives multiple packets from different sources heading towards the same destination. Since only one packet can typically be transmitted at a time, some of them must be queued for transmission, incurring an additional delay. Likewise, processing delays are incurred while a gateway determines what to do with a newly received packet. Buffering can also cause increased delays of an order of magnitude or more. The combination of propagation, queuing, and processing delays often result in a complex and variable network latency profile.

Jitter

Jitter is one of the biggest enemies of network transmissions. Despite being easy to explain, understanding how and why it can have such an adverse effect on data transmissions is somewhat more complicated. In its simplest expression, jitter is a variation in delay. There are several factors that can cause jitter. In fact, many of the same delay-causing factors we just discussed can also cause jitter. For example, queuing delays are directly related to queue length. And since a typical queue constantly varies in length, so does delay, hence jitter.

But jitter does not affect all network traffic in the same way. The risk that is posed by jitter is that, if delays vary considerably between the multiple packets that compose a message, they could arrive at their destination out of sequence. Let’s take, for example, a transmission comprised of four packets that are transmitted at 10 ms intervals. The first one encounters 20 ms of latency, the second one 60 ms, the third one 40 ms and the last one 20 ms. I’ll spare you the boring math but in such a situation the first packet will arrive first, followed by the fourth, then the third and finally the second. In many situations, this isn’t a problem. For example, if we’re dealing with a file transfer, the packets are sequentially numbered and can easily be reassembled in the proper order at the receiving end. On the other hand, if what we have is real-time traffic such as a VoIP conversation, we’re in trouble as packets cannot be correctly reassembled in real-time, resulting in garbled audio. From a user’s standpoint, we’re having a performance issue.

Packet Loss

Packet loss is another major factor affecting perceived network performance. Networks are not perfect and, from time to time, data packets don’t make it to their destination for various reasons. When this happens to TCP traffic, it is not much of an issue as the receiving end can request a retransmission of the missing data. It will, however, cause some delay and increase the data volume. With UDP traffic, things are not so good. A lost packet will be lost forever. In a VoIP conversation, that would result in audio dropouts which, if too severe, can render speech unintelligible. In both cases, it is very clear that packet loss will have an impact on perceived performance.

The Best Tools To Measure Throughput

Among all the tools that are available to monitor and measure network performance, some are better than others at measuring throughput. Those are the tools we’re about to review. The tools below use different methods to measure throughput. Some will use network management and analysis protocols such as SNMP or NetFlow while others will perform various types of stress tests.

1. SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds has carved itself a solid reputation for making some of the best network monitoring tools. And as is that wasn’t enough, the company is also famous for its many free tools that address specific needs of network administrators such as Kiwi Syslog Server or the Advanced Subnet Calculator.

SolarWinds NPM Enterprise Dashboard

But when it comes to network bandwidth and throughput, the SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack is what you need. The platform provides comprehensive bandwidth analysis and performance monitoring using SNMP monitoring and the flow monitoring that is built into most routers. With this product, you can detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance issues. You can also monitor and analyze bandwidth performance and traffic patterns. And finally, you can test network throughput from a single, customizable console.

The SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Monitor Pack includes two different tools. First, there’s the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor. This is SolarWinds’ flagship product for monitoring network usage. The tool’s primary purpose is SNMP bandwidth monitoring but it can do much more. At its core, it offers comprehensive fault monitoring and performance management. The tool primarily uses SNMP for data collection and is thereby compatible with networking equipment from most vendors. Furthermore, its NetPath feature lets you view the critical network path between any two monitored points on your network and the tool can also auto-generate intelligent network maps.

 

Advanced alerting is another of the product’s strong suits and so is its PerfStack performance analysis dashboard. Another exclusive feature is the Network Insights functionality which allows for complex device monitoring. Talking about more complex use cases, the tool can monitor Software Defined Networks (SDN) and it has built-in Cisco ACI support as well the ability to monitor wireless networks and to generate network performance baselines.

The other component of this pack is the SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer. This powerful tool uses the NetFlow protocol to collect detailed information on what the observed traffic is. It can, for instance, report on what type of traffic is more frequent or what user or device is using the most bandwidth. Different views are available on the tool’s dashboard such as top applications, top protocols or top talkers, for instance. The tool will support most NetFlow variants from different manufacturers.

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer Dashboard

Here are some of the SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer’s best features:

  • It can be used to can monitor network usage by application, protocol, and IP address group.
  • It will monitor Cisco NetFlow, Juniper J-Flow, sFlow, Huawei NetStream, and IPFIX flow data to identify which applications and protocols are the top bandwidth consumers.
  • It will collect traffic data, correlate it into a usable format, and present it on its web-based user interface
  • It can help you identify which applications and categories consume the most bandwidth for better network traffic visibility and it has support for Cisco NBAR2.

The SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack is licensed based on the number of nodes, interfaces, or volumes you have to monitor. Pricing is not readily available and you’ll need contact SolarWinds to get a quote adapted to your exact needs. If you’d prefer to try the product before purchasing it, a 30-day fully functional free trial is available for download.

2. Iperf3

The iperf series of tools can be used to determine the maximum throughput of IP networks. It features various tunable parameters related to timing, protocols, and buffers, allowing you to customize the job to your exact needs. For each test, iperf3 reports the measured throughput, loss, and other parameters.

Iperf3 offers many improvements over previous versions and it now incorporates a number of features found in other tools such as nuttcp and netperf. These useful features were missing from the previous iperf. For example, this version has a zero-copy mode and an optional JSON output. Note that iperf3 is not backward compatible with the original iperf.

Iperf3 Screenshot

Iperf3 is mainly developed by ESnet / Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It is released under a three-clause BSD license. Primarily developed on CentOS Linux, FreeBSD, and OS X, these are the only officially supported platforms. There have been, however, some reports of success with OpenBSD, Android, and other Linux distributions.

Note that the previous version of iperf, iperf2, is still actively developed by another organization. If you want the best functionality, though, you should use iperf3 which can be downloaded from its GitHub home.

3. LAN Speed Test

Despite its name, LAN Speed Test from Totusoft won’t only test Local Area Networks. It was designed from the ground up to be a simple but powerful tool for measuring file transfer, hard drive, USB Drive, and LAN speeds. The tool works by calculating the time requires to move a known amount of data. If you select a local hard drive or USB storage devices as its destination, it will measure that device’s throughput. On the other hand, if you select a remote storage location, it will measure the network throughput.

LAN Speed Test Screenshot

LAN Speed Test builds the test file in memory then transfers it both ways (without the adverse effects of Windows/Mac file caching) while keeping track of the time required to complete the transfer. It then does all the calculations for you.

There is also an option to transfer the file to a remote computer running the LAN Speed Test Server. This can be useful as it ascertains that what you are measuring is really the LAN throughput and that any latency in the remote host storage subsystem is ignored. Just like the LAN Speed Test tool, the LAN Speed Test Server will store the received data in memory rather than to disk.

LAN Speed Test is available in a feature-reduced free version or in a paid version starting at $10 for a single license with volume discounts for multiple copies.

4. NetStress

NetStress is a tool that specializes in measuring throughput on wireless networks. It is a two-component tool with a client and a server and it will effectively measure throughput between the two. So, it can be used for wired networks as well.

NetStress Screenshot

The recommended usage for this tool is to first use it to establish a benchmark of a network’s performance. Then, when issues are reported and you suspect that performance has degraded, you run it again and compare the results to the benchmark. This will tell you if there’s actually an issue with throughput and indicate the steps required to fix it. This actually where the tool’s wireless specialization comes in.

NetStress is loaded with features. First, there’s only one tool that can be either the server or the client. It will also support both TCP and UDP data transfers with variable segment size and it will support multiple data streams. It also has several advanced parameters that can be adjusted to your liking. For instance, you can choose the display units to be in bits or bytes per second.

5. TamoSoft Throughput Test

The TamoSoft Throughput Test is the only tool on our list that is advertised as a throughput test tool. It is a freeware tool. This means that while it is available for free it is not open source. The tool works by continuously sending TCP and UDP data streams across your network and computing important metrics. It will, for instance, calculate upstream and downstream throughput values, packet loss, and round-trip time. The software displays the results in both numeric and chart formats.

TamoSoft Throughput Test Screenshot

The TamoSoft Throughput Test supports both IPv4 and IPv6 connections and allows the user to evaluate network performance depending on the Quality of Service (QoS) settings. Like a few other tools on our list, this is a two components tool with a server and a client.

Here’s how the tools work: The client part connects to the server part which is listening for connections. Once the connection is made, the client and server exchange data in both directions and the client part of the application then computes and displays the network metrics. This is rather simple but it does an excellent job of measuring actual throughput.

The TamoSoft Throughput Test is freeware and TamoSoft also offers a full-fledged solution for WLAN performance analysis that is called TamoGraph Site Survey.

6. IxChariot

Last on our list is IxChariot from Ixia, the software branch of Keysight, maker of some of the world’s most renown electronics test equipment. IxChariot is actually way more than just a throughput measurement tool, it is a complete network analysis solution with countless advanced features. It will measure throughput—it wouldn’t be on this list otherwise—but it will do much more.

Ixia IxChariot Throughput Screenshot

This product will let you instantly assess network performance, including wireless performance and geo-location. Its performance Endpoints will run on mobile devices, PCs, Macs or in any hypervisor or cloud service and allow for central management of any platform. The software delivers full application emulation and key performance metrics, including throughput, packet loss, jitter, delay, MOS, and OTT videos like Netflix or YouTube.

This is a top-level product that carries a top-level price which can only be obtained by requesting a formal quote. And while a free trial version is not available, a free online demo is.

Read What Are Network Throughput and Bandwidth? Performance-affecting Factors by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Network Management Best Practices and Tools to Use [Guide]

Network Management is a broad and complex concept. It encompasses several different processes and tasks that combine to ensure the smooth operation of networks. Today, we’re having a look at some of the best practices of network management as well as the best tools available to assist you with these. As you’re about to discover there are different components to network management and each is probably as important as the next. Whether you’re looking for network management software tools or you simply want to make sure you don’t omit anything important, we fell that you’ll find something useful in this post.

We’ll begin our exploration of network management by a generic overview of what it is. That will ensure that we all start on the same page. Then, we’ll have a more detailed look at some of the network management best practices. We’ll first look at network bandwidth monitoring, then network traffic analysis, device configuration and change management, switch port and user monitoring and tracking, WAN performance monitoring, and IP address management. Then, we’ll have a look at a few of the very best integrated tools for network management.

Network Management In A Nutshell

It seems that everyone has his own idea of what network management is or what it should be. This makes defining the concept a bit complicated. In a nutshell, network management comprises all the processes, systems, and tools that are used to ensure the smooth operation of networks. Things like bandwidth monitoring, traffic analysis, device configuration and change management are, for instance, part of network management. We’ll discuss the various component in greater detail shortly.

When it comes to network management tools, things tend to get even more complex. Various vendors have different offerings that they call network management tools but their feature sets vary greatly. Some tools are big, multi-purpose packages that can accomplish several network management tasks while others are bundles of individual tools sold together by a vendor. Sometimes, these tools are integrated under a common GUI but often they are really individual tools. The main advantage of such bundles is often financial as you can usually get the bundle for less than the price of the individual components purchased separately.

Network Management Best Practices

We’ve compiled a list of various network management practices and processes. It is not necessarily an all-inclusive list. Instead, we’ve chosen to include processes and tasks that are typically included in network management software tools. While some tools do encompass all of these processes, some only implement a subset of them. But no matter what, they are all part of network management best practices.

Network Bandwidth Monitoring

Don’t we all wish our network had infinite bandwidth? Despite the fact that technology has evolved immensely and that bandwidth is not as expensive as it once was, it is still a limited resource. And congestion is still one of the biggest issues with every network. Congestion is the immediate consequence of the current throughput approaching or exceeding the available bandwidth. Its effect is a noticeable hit on network performance. When you have a congested network, users do notice it.

As a rule of thumb, it’s preferable to keep the 5-minute average bandwidth utilization below 70% of the maximum available bandwidth. On a 1 Gb/s interface, for instance, average utilization should never exceed 700 Mb/s. To keep that from happening, you need to keep a close eye on the actual network traffic level. This is what bandwidth monitoring is.

You may think of a network as a highway where congestion is similar to traffic jams. But unlike automobile traffic which one can easily view, network traffic happens within cables, switches, and routers—or even over the air with wireless networks—where it remains invisible. This is where network bandwidth monitoring can be useful. It gives network administrators the visibility they need to keep things running smoothly.

Another reason for network bandwidth monitoring is capacity planning. Network usage always tends to increase over time. No matter what bandwidth your network currently has, chances are it will eventually need to be increased. By monitoring bandwidth utilization, you’ll always know what segment of the network needs to be upgraded and when.

Most of the best bandwidth monitoring tools rely on the Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP, to accomplish their feat. SNMP lets monitoring tools read traffic counters directly from networking devices, allowing them to calculate the average bandwidth utilization and display it along with its evolution over time in a graphical or tabular format.

Network Traffic Analysis

While bandwidth monitoring tools are great to measure the utilization of a network, they don’t tell much about the nature of that utilization. Sometimes, it could be very useful to know what type of traffic or what users are utilizing the available bandwidth. This is where network traffic analysis comes in.

Analyzing network traffic can provide such information as the distribution of traffic by type. For instance, while SNMP monitoring would tell you that a given circuit is used at 90% of its capacity (a figure that is, incidentally, way too high and shall be avoided at all costs), network traffic analysis could tell you that 80% of that traffic is web browsing and that 10% of it is email. But it doesn’t stop at traffic types. Traffic could also be reported by source and/or destination IP address. In the previous example, you could be able to see what precise website is behind most of this web browsing traffic. And by adding some extra intelligence and connecting the monitoring tool to other components of the infrastructure such as the AD domain controllers, traffic can also be viewed by user.

Network traffic analysis tools use a variety of technologies to do their magic. One of these is Cisco’s NetFlow technology. Originally only available on Cisco devices, it is now present of equipment from many vendors in one form or another. Several vendors have their own versions such as Juniper’s J-Flow or InMon’s sFlow. While they all have differences, they all accomplish the same goal.

Device Configuration And Change Management

More than anything network configuration and change management has to do with documenting and/or somehow preserving device configuration data. Whenever a network switch breaks and needs to be replaced, wouldn’t you rather pull its configuration from some archive than have to redo it from scratch? Especially when considering how this can lead to useless delays and inconsistencies.

Device configuration management also helps with deploying standard device configurations. This makes maintenance much easier and also helps with troubleshooting. The configuration standardization offered by configuration management can also help with regulatory compliance. Several regulatory frameworks—such as PCI/DSS, for instance—have strict guidelines as to how switches should be configured and what configuration options should and should not be present. Configuration management will help you audit switches and demonstrate their compliance.

As for the change management part of this activity, its primary purposes are auditing switch configuration for unauthorized changes as well as demonstrating adherence to change management processes. Haven’t we all heard of malicious users trying to gain access to corporate networks by first modifying networking devices configuration to put backdoors in place? Whether this is a true risk or an urban legend is open to debate but we’re never too careful and auditing device configuration for unauthorized changes important. And even if you’re not that paranoid, isn’t it always better to err on the side of caution.

Switch Port And User Monitoring And Tracking

Knowing what is connected to each port of his networking devices is any network administrator’s dream. And although you could thoroughly document everything as you build a network, a network is a living thing and, over time, undocumented changes will happen and you’ll lose track of what connects where. Even worse, you can often end up losing track of what ports are available. And while it would seem to be a simple matter of looking at your switch’s status, it could be misleading. One user could, for instance, be out to a meeting with his laptop computer, making his office connection appear to be available although it is not. Switch port and user monitoring and tracking tools will help you know what and who is connected to each and every port on your network.

WAN Performance Monitoring

WAN performance monitoring is almost identical to bandwidth monitoring. The main difference lies in the fact that WAN circuits typically have lower bandwidth than local networks and, as such, are easily congested. Also, the adverse effects of WAN congestion have a tendency to have much more impact than its LAN counterpart. It’s actually not that rare to see extreme WAN congestion situation be so bad that a whole site loses access to the corporate network. Although the costs of WAN are not as high as they once were and it is common today to have decent bandwidth on WAN circuits, they are rarely as wide as local networks. For that reason, they need to be closely monitored.

IP Address Management

IP Address Management, or IPAM, is the process of managing IP address allocation as well as establishing an IP addressing plan. It may seem trivial to many but in reality, this is one of the most important parts of network administration. It is also the part that is typically given the less thought and, consequently, where many issues can develop.

Managing IP addresses can be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet of what address is assigned to what resource. This is a simple and efficient way to do it—and a cheap one too—but it has a few flaws. First, it assumes that each and every change will be correctly documented. This is where problems start to roll in as the documentation is rarely kept up to date.

The best IPAM tools will often interact with—or take control of—your DNS and DHCP servers. It makes sense as the former is what is used to resolve hostnames into IP addresses while the latter automatically assign addresses to end devices.

The Best Tools For Network Management

Now that we’re familiar with the best practices of network management it is time to have a look at what software tools are available to assist you with that considerable task. Not every tool includes every network management process and some include processes or tasks that we have not yet discussed. They all share one important thing, though: they are designed to help network administrators with their management tasks. This is a rather short list but our goal was to give you an idea of what’s available while reviewing the very best products from some of the most reliable vendors.

1. SolarWinds Network Automation Manager (FREE TRIAL)

Most network administrators have heard of SolarWinds. After all, the company’s been there for about 20 years and it has brought us some of the best network management tools. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, consistently features among the top SNMP monitoring products. And to add the icing on the cake, SolarWinds also makes a few dozen free tools designed to address some specific needs of network administrators. Among them, you’ll find an excellent subnet calculator and a TFTP server, just to name a few.

SolarWinds NPM Network Summary

When it comes to network management, the SolarWinds Network Automation Manager combines the benefits of several tools. Before we dig deeper, let’s have a quick glance at what the product has to offer in terms of features.

  • Performance monitoring
  • Traffic and bandwidth analysis
  • Configuration and change management
  • Switch port and end-user monitoring and tracking
  • WAN performance monitoring
  • IP address management

The SolarWinds Network Automation Manager is actually a bundle of several tools’ functionality, each covering on network management practice. This bundling of several essential tools provides the utmost convenience and the best value. Let’s have a deeper look at some of the bundle’s main features.

The performance monitoring component of this product is the Network Performance Monitor. It will help reduce or shorten network outages and quickly detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance issues. It has critical path hop-by-hop analysis and visualization from end to end. The tool will let you view network performance and traffic details, regardless of device location.

 

The SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer is also included in this bundle. It will let you monitor interface-level traffic patterns with a fine granularity as low as up to one minute. It will collect and analyze NetFlow, sFlow, J-Flow, IPFIX, and NetStream data to identify users and applications that are generating and consuming bandwidth.

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer Dashboard

The configuration and change management module will let you monitor, back up, and deploy network device configurations, allowing you to recover quickly from hardware issues or human-caused configuration errors. The system can send real-time change notifications, helping to ensure that devices are configured and operating in compliance with any regulatory standard such as PCI, SOX, or HIPAA. Finally, this tool will let you compare configurations side-by-side letting you quickly determine what has changed.

SolarWinds NAM - Config And Change Summary

This all-in-one bundle will also let you understand how switches and ports are being used, as well as which switches are nearing their respective capacity. It will also let you know who and what is connected to your network, and when and where they are connected. It can track endpoint devices by MAC and IP addresses on both wired and wireless networks.

The WAN performance monitoring component of the excellent product goes much further than just SNMP monitoring. Using Cisco IP SLA technology, this tool will also let you simulate traffic data to test the network between a Cisco router and a remote IP device to measure the performance of key apps and services.

SolarWinds NAM - IP SLA

Finally, the tool’s IP address Management features automated subnet discovery and IP scanning which will scour your network and find how IP addresses are used. It will alert you if IP address conflicts, subnets/scopes depletion, or mismatched DNS. The power of this tool will find an open IP address and make the DHCP reservation and DNS entries in a single step and from a single console.

SolarWinds NAM - IP Address Management

Prices for the SolarWinds Network Automation Manager start can be obtained by contacting SolarWinds Sales. Optionally, a high-availability module can be added for better uptime and application and server monitoring is also available as an optional component. If you’d rather try the product before committing to its purchase, a free 30-day trial version is available from SolarWinds.

2. Micro Focus Network Operations Management

Micro Focus might not be as well-known by network administrators as SolarWinds but it is one of the best-known software publishing companies. It is particularly known for its software development tools but it also makes some administration tools. The Micro Focus Network Operations Management is one such tool. Although not as broad as the previous tool, this is still a very potent system. Its key capabilities include:

  • Topology, Health, and Configuration of Network Services
  • Performance and Capacity
  • Policy-Driven Configuration Management
  • Automation and Orchestration
  • Executive Dashboards and Custom Reporting

Micro Focus NOM

This tool will let you manage both physical and virtual networks as well as Software Defined Networks (SDN). It also claims to have The best scalability of any network monitoring and troubleshooting tool in the industry with 80K devices (monitoring) and 120K devices supported (configuration) per global domain. It also claims to the device coverage in the industry, supporting more than 180 vendors and 3,400 devices and delivering device support on a bi-monthly cadence.

Like it is often the case for this type of tool, pricing information can be obtained by contacting Micro Focus Sales. Note that a free 30-day trial is also available.

3. Cisco Tools

Cisco is such an important player in the networking field that we felt we had to include their network operations management offering on our list. Unfortunately, Cisco doesn’t have an integrated operations management tool. Instead, the vendor has many smaller tools, each addressing a different aspect of network operations management.

Cisco has several generic tools for network management such as the Cisco DNA Center, the Cisco Prime Infrastructure. The Cisco Prime Virtual Network Analysis Module which specializes in virtual networks of the Meraki Dashboard, a cloud-based management solution.

Cisco Prime Infrastructure

The vendor also has smaller tools targeting small and medium businesses. The Cisco Configuration Professional for Catalyst can be used to configure network switches via a web-based interface and the Cisco FindIT Manager can help improve security and performance. Cisco also offers several tools for network automation and data center management, both of which can be considered as part of the grand scheme of network operations management.

Read Network Management Best Practices and Tools to Use [Guide] by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter