Network Monitoring Tools Explained

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Ensuring the reliability and performance of your network is essential for success in the modern software industry. In this article, you’ll learn about the basics of network monitoring and get an overview of some of the most popular tools used for network monitoring. Whether you’re managing a sprawling enterprise network or your home lab, understanding and deploying the right tools can mean the difference between smooth sailing and unforeseen downtime.

Common network monitoring tasks

Network monitoring is an intricate process that involves multiple stages and tools, each designed to fulfill specific requirements for maintaining a robust and efficient network. Here’s an expanded view of the common network monitoring requirements and an introduction to some additional tasks that play a critical role in comprehensive network management.

Data collection

The foundation of effective network monitoring lies in robust data collection. Tools designated for this task act as the network’s scouts, meticulously gathering information about traffic flows, performance metrics, packet losses, latency issues, and anomalies. This capability provides the raw data necessary to assess the network’s health and performance. Data collection tools must be capable of operating in real-time, offering granular visibility into the physical and virtual components of the network and ensuring that administrators have access to timely and accurate information to make informed decisions.

Data storage

Following data collection, the next critical requirement is secure and efficient data storage. Data storage solutions for network monitoring are engineered to manage the vast quantities of information generated by network devices, applications, and users. These tools ensure data is stored securely and facilitate quick retrieval and analysis. Effective data storage is pivotal for enabling historical analysis and long-term data retention, allowing users to identify trends over time, perform forensic investigations following security incidents, and aid compliance with data retention policies.

Network mapping

Network mapping tools provide a graphical representation of the network’s architecture, illustrating the connections between devices, servers, and other network components. This visual context is invaluable for identifying the layout and hierarchy of the network, pinpointing potential bottlenecks, and planning for future network expansions or modifications. Network mapping enhances the ability to quickly diagnose and resolve issues by showing the path that data travels across the network, thereby improving the efficiency of troubleshooting processes.


Alerting systems are the network monitoring’s early warning mechanism, designed to notify administrators of potential issues before they escalate into significant problems. These tools continuously analyze network data in real-time, looking for anomalies, performance dips, or threshold breaches that could indicate underlying issues. Upon detecting such events, the alerting system triggers notifications, ensuring network teams can respond promptly to mitigate risks, address performance concerns, or troubleshoot failures, minimizing downtime and maintaining service quality.

Configuration management

Configuration management involves keeping track of the configuration states of all network devices and ensuring they are correctly set up according to organizational policies and best practices. This task is crucial for maintaining network stability, preventing configuration errors that could lead to security vulnerabilities or performance issues, and streamlining the process of recovering from device failures by quickly restoring known, working configurations.

These are just some of the tasks involved in a comprehensive network monitoring strategy. Together, they help to ensure your network is reliable, secure, and able to support the needs of your organization as it grows.

In this section, we’ll look at some of the most popular tools used for network monitoring. You can use these tools to accomplish many of the tasks covered in the previous section.


Telegraf is an open source server agent developed by InfluxData for collecting metrics from stacks, sensors, and systems. Telegraf supports a wide range of inputs and outputs, making it highly versatile for different monitoring needs.

For network monitoring, Telegraf can be configured to collect a vast array of network metrics, such as bandwidth usage, packet loss, and latency from various devices and services. Its plugin-driven architecture allows for ‌integration with SNMP, system metrics, or third-party APIs, enabling comprehensive network infrastructure monitoring.


Grafana is an analytics and interactive visualization web application. It provides charts, graphs, and alerts for the web when connected to supported data sources. Grafana can visualize network performance metrics collected by other tools, such as Telegraf and InfluxDB. Its powerful dashboards allow network administrators to see metrics like bandwidth utilization, error rates, and response times at a glance, facilitating quick decision-making and problem resolution.


InfluxDB is a powerful, open source, time series database designed to handle high write and query loads. It is particularly well-suited for operations monitoring, application metrics, Internet of Things (IoT) sensor data, and real-time analytics.

In network monitoring contexts, InfluxDB is an efficient repository for storing time-stamped network metrics and events. Its high-performance data ingestion capabilities and efficient storage make it ideal for tracking and analyzing network performance over time.


OpenTelemetry offers a single set of APIs, libraries, agents, and instrumentation to provide observability for cloud-native software. It supports the collection of traces, metrics, and logs, facilitating comprehensive visibility into applications and infrastructure.

OpenTelemetry’s capabilities extend to monitoring network interactions within applications. Tracing requests across network boundaries and collecting metrics on inter-service communication, OpenTelemetry helps identify performance bottlenecks and ensures the reliability of microservices architectures


eBPF technology allows the dynamic insertion of powerful monitoring and networking code directly into Linux kernels. eBPF enables observability, security, and networking through its high flexibility and performance.

eBPF can be leveraged for in-depth network monitoring by capturing real-time data about packet flows, system calls, and network traffic patterns without traditional probes or agents. This makes it invaluable for performance analysis, security monitoring, and troubleshooting at the kernel level.


Nagios is a mature monitoring system offering comprehensive monitoring and alerting services for servers, switches, applications, and services. It provides a vast ecosystem of plugins and a robust framework for developing custom monitoring scripts. Nagios offers real-time alerts for network anomalies, outages, and performance degradation. It can monitor network protocols, bandwidth, and the health of network devices, ensuring timely detection and resolution of network issues.


Fluentd is an open source data collector for unified logging. It allows you to unify data collection and consumption, providing a flexible layer for transforming, enriching, and storing log data. In the realm of network monitoring, Fluentd can aggregate and analyze log data from various network devices and applications. This capability is crucial for identifying patterns, anomalies, and potential security threats within network traffic, aiding in operational intelligence and incident response.


Wireshark is the world’s foremost network protocol analyzer, allowing you to capture and interactively browse the traffic running on a computer network. It provides deep inspection of hundreds of protocols and can capture packets live or from a saved file.

Wireshark is useful for network monitoring and troubleshooting. It enables detailed analysis of network packets, helping to diagnose issues, ensure security through packet-level analysis, and understand network protocol behavior.

Choosing the right network monitoring tools

Selecting the optimal network monitoring tools is crucial for ensuring your network’s performance, security, and reliability. The selection process should be thoughtful and informed, considering the unique characteristics and needs of your network. Here are the key factors to guide you in making the right choice:

Network size and complexity

You need to factor in the size and complexity of your network when choosing your network monitoring tools. For a smaller network, you might not need to worry about scalability too much, and a little bit of routine manual work may not be an issue.

On the other hand, if you are working with a massive network, you will need to plan your network monitoring infrastructure around scaling long-term and the ability to automate tasks. Ease of integration should also be a priority in larger networks because you may need to support new types of hardware and software in the future.

Specific hardware and monitoring needs

You’ll also need to account for the type of hardware you are monitoring and your specific use case. Some networks will have a variety of devices from different manufacturers, each using different protocols and emitting different metrics. In this case, you will want to choose a tool to make collecting that data easier and ensure compatibility.

An example could be a use case like IoT, where you can’t guarantee reliable connections at all times. In this case, you might choose technologies that can be deployed directly at the edge rather than cloud-based services.


Your monitoring tools’ ability to integrate with existing systems (such as incident management, automation platforms, and other IT management tools) is crucial. This ensures streamlined operations and enhances ‌visibility across your infrastructure.

Building vs buying

A big decision is buying a pre-built platform solution versus building a custom solution. Commercial platforms can offer faster deployment and come with professional support, but the tradeoffs can be higher costs and less customization for your specific workload. Creating a bespoke solution allows you to optimize performance and features based on your unique needs but requires investment and technical expertise to build and maintain.

Security requirements

Security should always be a priority, but how strict the requirements are will depend on your location and industry. Regulations around data privacy and compliance may impact your options when it comes to selecting the tools you want to use.

Making the right choice(s) involves balancing these factors against your organization’s priorities, resources, and long-term objectives. By carefully evaluating your needs and the capabilities of potential tools, you can build a network monitoring solution that ensures optimal performance and reliability of your network infrastructure.

Next steps

In the digital age, where networks form the backbone of our technological ecosystem, deploying effective network monitoring tools isn’t just beneficial—it’s essential. From the granular packet analysis provided by Wireshark to the comprehensive monitoring ecosystem of InfluxDB and Telegraf, the tools discussed in this article offer the capabilities needed to ensure network integrity, efficiency, and security.