In 2015, we reviewed the must-have free systems and server monitoring tools, but (as everyone knows) the landscape has changed for monitoring, free tools, and IT in general. So, I think it’s time to review and update those old choices and possibly add a few new tool reviews into the mix.
Just in Case
It’s not always the server’s fault. Sometimes it’s the network. If you’re on the hunt for a free tool that can show you if your packets are passing, your routers are routing, and your NetFlow is flowing, you may want to check out my list of must-have top free network monitoring tools.
Laying the Foundation
To build application infrastructure, you start with an architecture, draw the design, then analyze and choose the platform(s) that best fits. Because most organizations live or die by their applications (whether it’s critical internally or for external customers), having the right set of tools to monitor and manage your server environment is critical. Even so, budgets aren’t infinite, and sometimes management mistakenly thinks they can do without because, “Everything’s running great right now, and we’ll know if it doesn’t, right?”
That’s all great, but how do you pick out the best server monitoring tools in a field of hundreds? Today, there are commercial products, freeware tools, and open-source software to choose from. While the debate about free versus commercial goes on, there are well-recommended, free server and systems monitoring tools that many sysadmins swear by. In this server monitoring tools guide, I’m sharing some of my favorites with you below.
Open-source monitoring solutions often require significant investments to learn, install, configure, and use. Another thing to consider is security, which may become an issue depending on the tool and your company’s guidelines for security. Finally, many open-source solutions don’t scale past a single server. When you’ve grown past what one polling engine can do, you have to stand up an entire separate solution (complete with a separate database) rather than federating an additional poller into the existing environment.
When we need a server monitoring tool that is easy to install, and supports monitoring and reporting out of the box, we like SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor (SAM). SAM acts as a single pane of glass to provide complete and comprehensive server, application, virtualization, and infrastructure monitoring capabilities that complement some of the essential free tools you may already use.
What’s on my list?
There are many popular, widely used systems and server monitoring tools. Deciding which tool suits you needs best depends on what kind of infrastructure you want to monitor, how much of the stack you want to monitor, and how much time and resources you have to invest in building, integrating, and customizing a free server monitoring tool versus investing in a commercial product.
Open-source tools are sometimes too basic to monitor a system on which a business relies. On the other hand, they can be useful toolkits that a development team can use to build exactly the type of monitoring tool they need. Of course, that team would have to have one or more members willing to manage and maintain the monitoring system they build.
Before spending a significant portion of your IT budget on application and server monitoring tools, consider this list of the best free systems monitoring tools available today for monitoring your IT needs and environment.
✔ Nagios Core
Nagios® is a widely used open source tool for monitoring server and network performance. Many IT pros consider Nagios to be cost-effective and customizable, and appreciate being able to seek support from its user community. However, one of the biggest obstacles is getting past the initial setup phase. Nagios can be complicated to install, set up, and configure. Once this is done, the tool offers metrics to monitor server performance, remediate services, and reporting. Nagios Core provides only limited monitoring capabilities, unlike Nagios XI, which is a commercial tool with added features. If you are comfortable setting up your own custom dashboards, or have time to learn and master everything Nagios has to offer, it can very well be the solution for you.
Ganglia is an open-source (BSD license) monitoring system designed especially for high-performance computing systems, such as clusters and grids. It has a scalable and distributed architecture based on a hierarchical design targeted at federations of clusters. It leverages widely used technologies, such as XML for data representation and XDR for data transport. One of its goals is to engineer data structures and algorithms for maximum efficiency, resulting in overheads for each node.
It’s a solid monitoring platform that supports many operating systems and processors. Large clusters around the world use the platform, especially in university settings. This is not surprising given the fact that Ganglia evolved out a project at the University of California, Berkeley and was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
CollectD is a popular open-source daemon, which collects basic system performance statistics over time and stores the data it collects in multiple formats, such as the RRD files that Cacti can use to graph the data.
CollectD is written in C++ and is available for multiple operating systems. There are a number of plug-ins for various systems that allow you to collect data beyond the essential system metrics, such as CPU and memory. CollectD is commonly used to find performance bottlenecks, monitor and predict system load over time, and create alerts.
CollectD is commonly used in DevOps projects as an industry-standard, open-source collection agent. It is usually integrated with a graphing tool, such as Graphite, Grafana, or Cacti.
Spiceworks has several free IT tools in addition to the server monitoring solution I’m focusing on here. The Spiceworks free monitoring tool can provide insights to many aspects of your infrastructure, such as servers, switches, SNMP devices, and services.
It is important to note that there are display ads within the free tool that provides revenue to Spiceworks. While that’s a small price to pay, it is something to think about before installing.
Cacti is mainly a front end graphing tool for system data, but it can also handle data collection. Data gathering happens in a cron job via an external script that feeds metrics, which Cacti stores in a MySQL® database.
Cacti leveraging on RRDTool, an open-source data logging and graphing system for storing polled data, can generate any type of graph for any dataset. You can create all kinds of graphs that can be displayed and organized in a number of different ways by collectingdata from almost any infrastructure element, including load balancers and servers.The graphing used in Cacti is the standard used by many open-source and commercial tools. Cacti also works with user permissions, allowing certain users access to specific charts or graphs.
Cacti’s strength lies in its community of developers who have contributed many plug-ins, scripts, and templates that can be used to monitor almost every type of device.
Zabbix is an enterprise class solution that is written in PHP, fully equipped with many useful features, and has an option for (non-free) commercial support.
Zabbix allows users to agentlessly check the uptime and response time of remotely-responding services like SMTP or HTTP. For on-system statistics like CPU, network utilization, and disk space, you use SNMP. For asset and hardware information like temperature, fan speed, etc., there’s an “IPMI” agent that needs to be installed on the target device. Data is stored on MySQL®, PostgreSQL, Oracle®, or SQLite database platforms.
Icinga was originally created as a fork of Nagios, but the tool has added many new features over the years. For example, it offers more database connectors (for MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL), as well as a REST API. Using this new API feature, sysadmins and users can easily integrate numerous extensions without modifying the Icinga core directly.
Using all the usual suspects (SMTP, POP3, HTTP, NNTP, ping, etc.), Icinga can collect data on host resources (like CPU load and disk usage) across a wide range of device types (switches, routers, temperature and humidity sensors, etc.). Alerting options include email, SMS, and user-defined methods that can be scripted on the Icinga server.
Another “freemium” monitoring option, the free version of OpenNMS is limited to 10 devices, a single user login, and only supports basic server monitoring functionality. That said, OpenNMS lives up to its billing as an enterprise-class solution, with the ability to monitor a wide range of hardware, operating systems (Windows, Linux®, Solaris, and more), and virtualization platforms (VMware®, Hyper-V®, Citrix XenServer).
✔ WhatsUp Gold
For many IT professionals, their first foray into the world of monitoring begins with this toolset. While many IT pros find that they outgrow the abilities of this tool almost as soon as they get it installed, it’s still a good option to ease into the water. With a clean interface and the ability to discover, map, and display most of the devices that are typical to small and medium-sized businesses, along with some nice-to-have capabilities, such as network device config backups and the use of WMI on top of the usual SNMP and ping for data collection, it’s a good go-to option for teams and departments that aren’t sure where else to turn. One caveat: the free version of WhatsUp Gold only supports five devices.
Free Server Monitoring Tools
“Free as in Beer” – Richard Stallman
While I focused on the most popular sever monitoring tools in this post, up until this point they have been more “freemium” vs free. Freemium means that the tool provides limited features (or support) for free, and any additional features, support, or offerings are available for an added cost.
So, I wanted to make sure I also touched on free serving monitoring tools that are actually “free.” These free tools do a particular task very well at no cost (well, maybe with the exception of some ads during installation).
My list below isn’t meant (or even appear) to be exhaustive. There are many, many useful free server monitoring tools out there. I’m simply listing the ones I find myself using the most often.
✔ SolarWinds Server Health Monitor
This free monitoring tool tracks the health, status, and availability of server hardware in minutes. It lets you see the status and performance of critical server hardware components, such as fan speed, temperature, power supply, CPU, battery, and more. With it you can quickly identify server hardware issues impacting server and application performance. It lets you monitor the status and hardware health metrics of Dell® PowerEdge™, HP® ProLiant®, IBM® eServer xSeries servers, and VMware ESX/ESXi hypervisor.
✔ Storage Performance Monitor
Storage is one of those areas of the infrastructure that touches almost everything else, where an error can have wide-reaching impacts and implications, but which seems like a black hole to many IT pros. This utility gives you quick, simple visibility into storage arrays and helps surface the common errors that can otherwise be confounding to pinpoint and resolve.
✔ Exchange Monitor
I’ve long said that in every organization, there are a bunch of applications, and two “religions”—applications so important that if they are impacted in any way, all work comes to a halt. One of those “religions” is unique to the business—it might be the CRM tool, the supply chain forecasting system, or the software that runs the production line. The other is always email. And Microsoft® Exchange™ is the nearly ubiquitous platform on which corporate email runs. While many enterprise-class system and application monitoring solutions include support for Exchange, this free utility does the job singularly and without any additional frou-frou.
✔ WMI Monitor
Many of the tools I’ve featured in this post are based on the SNMP protocol for collecting data. But these days, Windows systems are the majority in most organizations and thus a vast swath of data is overlooked unless a tool can also leverage WMI. This utility shows you the power within that humble protocol, and also lets you focus your monitoring investigation with minimal effort.
✔ Free Database Performance Analyzer
It’s no exaggeration to say that databases sit at the heart of every business-critical enterprise application. And yet, in my time as a monitoring specialist, it’s this area that teams are least comfortable digging into, unless they’re part of the DBA team. This is a pity, because knowing how your application’s database is behaving can reveal important details about how to improve performance and nip problems before they become critical. This utility lets you monitor just about everything that matters for a single database.
What have we learned?
Now more than ever, monitoring professionals have almost too many choices when it comes to free and open-source solutions. And while these free tools aren’t exactly push-button simple to install, maintain, or use, if you find yourself low on cash but with plenty of time to invest, they may work for what you need. Otherwise, I’d still recommend a tool like SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor, which is easy to install and includes out-of-the-box support for monitoring and reporting. Try a demo to see how your infrastructure performance is holding up.
What is the best free PC monitoring software? ›
The best free computer monitoring software is Connecteam. It comes equipped with tools for time tracking and activity monitoring to keep tabs on what employees are working on at a given time. This easy-to-use platform allows you to manage all employee activities from a single dashboard.What is the best website monitoring service or tool? ›
- Checkly [paid]
- Calibreapp [freemium: free trial available]
- Site24x7 [paid]
- Uptime [paid]
- Uptrends [paid]
- Host-tracker [paid]
- Smartbear [paid]
- SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor [paid]
- SolarWinds ipMonitor Free Edition (FREE TOOL) At the number one spot on this list, we have SolarWinds ipMonitor Free Edition. ...
- Paessler PRTG Network Monitor (FREE EDITION) ...
- Site24x7 Server Monitoring (FREE EDITION) ...
- ManageEngine OpManager (FREE TRIAL) ...
- Domotz (FREE TRIAL) ...
- Zabbix. ...
- Nagios Core. ...
- Icinga 2.
A monitoring system is software that helps system administrators monitor their infrastructure. These tools monitor system devices, traffic, and applications, and sound the alarm in the event of malfunctions and disruptions. There are lots of monitoring systems on the market, from freeware to professional software.How can I monitor employee activity on my computer? ›
- Teramind. Teramind has a live screen view and history playback, which can record employees' screens only when violations occur. ...
- ActivTrak. ...
- InterGuard. ...
- BambooHR Employee Monitoring Software. ...
- Hubstaff. ...
- SentryPC. ...
- Controlio. ...
There are three basic categories of monitoring; technical monitoring, functional monitoring and business process monitoring.What is a server monitoring tool? ›
Server monitoring tools help users identify and solve any application hosting and performance issues by tracking and monitoring server performance. Applications Manager's server monitor provides unmatched visibility and insight into the performance of various servers in your IT infrastructure.What are the types of monitoring tools? ›
The basic types of IT monitoring include availability monitoring, web performance monitoring, web application management and application performance management, API management, real user monitoring, security monitoring and business activity monitoring.What is the tool used for external monitoring? ›
The external monitoring uses Acronis public agents that remotely check the network via the worldwide polling network. This determines the availability and uptime of the web services when accessed externally from various locations.How do website performance monitoring tools work? ›
Performance monitoring checks a website's or service's speed. Performance monitors track the time for connection speeds (frontend and backend) and browser load times. Performance monitors may utilize Synthetic Monitoring or RUM technology. RUM and the Full Page Check provide the most comprehensive performance data set.
Why do we need website monitoring? ›
Why do I need to monitor my site? Keeping an eye on your site health is a critical part of being a website owner. Tracking performance, security, analytics and other data helps you improve your conversions, user experience, search engine rankings, and overall protection.Is Nagios free to use? ›
Nagios Core /ˈnɑːɡiːoʊs/, formerly known as Nagios, is a free and open-source computer-software application that monitors systems, networks and infrastructure.How do I monitor real time bandwidth? ›
- SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer – FREE TRIAL. ...
- PRTG Bandwidth Monitor – FREE TRIAL. ...
- ManageEngine Netflow Analyzer – FREE TRIAL. ...
- BitMeter OS. ...
- SoftPerfect NetWorx.
ntopng comes in four versions, Community, Professional, Enterprise M, Enterprise L. The Community version is free to use and opensource (code can be found on Github). The Professional and Enterprise offer some extra features that are particularly useful for SMEs or larger organizations.What is the seven monitoring tools? ›
Recognizing the need is easy, but choosing which monitoring tool or set of tools to use can be difficult. The seven tools I wrote about here – Datadog, Ruxit, OverOps, Rollbar, Sensu, ELK Stack, and Graphite – are worthwhile tools to check out.What is online monitoring system? ›
Online monitoring technology of transmission lines is a technology whereby characteristic quantities of line operating conditions are continuously or regularly recorded, transmitted, and treated through installing monitoring equipment on transmission lines, without influencing the normal operation of the equipment.What is an example of system monitoring? ›
A significant number of secure systems are concerned with monitoring the environ- ment. The most obvious example is the burglar alarm. Then there are meters for meas- uring consumption of utilities such as gas and electricity.How do I track my employees daily work? ›
- Asana. Asana is one of the leading cross-platform task tracking and project collaboration apps on the market. ...
- Basecamp. ...
- Google Apps. ...
- DropBox. ...
- Rescue Time. ...
- Toggl. ...
- Remember the Milk. ...
Four basic types of monitoring can be readily distinguished by the nature of questions that the particular monitoring effort is designed to address—(1) surveillance monitoring, (2) implementation monitoring, (3) effectiveness monitoring, and (4) ecological effects monitoring (Table 1).What are the four monitoring strategies? ›
- Setting objectives for machine monitoring. ...
- Prioritizing machines for implementation. ...
- Developing relevant performance metrics. ...
- Continuously improving machine monitoring systems. ...
Which server software is best? ›
- Ubuntu Home Server Software - All-around server OS.
- Amahi Home Server - Easy-to-use user interface.
- FreeNAS - Best great free NAS solution.
- Emby Media Server - Easy local and remote streaming.
- ClearOS - A well thought-out distro.
- OpenFiler - For making a NAS gateway.
Server monitoring is a process conducted by network administrators to monitor the working of all the available resources such as hardware/software. Metrics like CPU usage, RAM usage, hard disk space utilization, reporting, and server alerts can be monitored using a server monitoring tool.Which of the following is the popular monitoring tool? ›
Datadog. DataDog is the most application performance monitoring tools the best i have use, actually datadog provide in cloud, all device that monitoring must have connection to internet to sending log, and data dog can analyze my device in my environment network/application.What tool helps server performance? ›
It's a reliable tool to monitor server health. This Linux based monitoring system provides real-time monitoring of operating systems, applications, infrastructure performance monitoring, and systems metrics.
Monitors every online and offline activity of Android devices. Track the whereabouts of the target device and provide detailed reports on location history.How do you choose monitoring tools? ›
Networking monitoring tool features
The interface should include a Dashboard with easy-to-read graphs and tables that provide different views of network status; it should also have a network topology map -- or the ability to generate one -- as well as commands for modifying network settings and troubleshooting issues.
SNMP: The Simple Network Management Protocol, a.k.a. SNMP, is one of the most common network monitoring protocols. SNMP can be used for polling (a monitoring station queries a network device) and notifications (a device sends an SNMP TRAP or INFORM to a monitoring station).What are the types of network monitoring? ›
- Availability monitoring. Availability monitoring is the simplest way for network teams to know if a device is up and operational. ...
- Configuration monitoring. ...
- Performance monitoring. ...
- Cloud infrastructure monitoring.
- Panopticlick. Panopticlick is one of the first sites to check out. ...
- Am I Unique? Am I Unique? is a tracker analyzer with a focus on the unique fingerprint your browser broadcasts. ...
- Disconnect. ...
- Thunderbeam—Lightbeam for Chrome. ...
- Trackography. ...
- Trace My Shadow.
Web metrics are the numbers that let you know something about your website's performance and your return on marketing dollars (ROMD), and web analytics, the most popular being Google Analytics, is the software that lets you measure those numbers.
What tools will be used for the web frontend performance monitoring testing? ›
Monitor the uptime, performance, and accuracy of your websites, APIs, web applications, and servers. Test multi-step API calls, and check your websites using real browsers.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is nothing more than the address of a given unique resource on the Web.What is web structure? ›
Web structure is how information is organized and interconnected on a website. An effective site structure improves usability and user experience which makes web structuring an important step in the web design process.Which is better Nagios vs zabbix? ›
The Zabbix tool's performance is good compared to Nagios, and the tool is fast compared to the Nagios tool. The Nagios tool is a bit slow compared to the Zabbix tool, and there is always an issue in the Nagios tool's performance.Is zabbix free to use? ›
Zabbix is released under the GPL license, thus is free for commercial and non-commercial use. There are no limitations on the number of monitored devices, you can use Zabbix to monitor many thousands of devices absolutely free.
Nagios is a great tool for Server and Application monitoring and keeping an eye on your infrastructure and organization. For being Open Source and widely available for multiple operating systems, Nagios can sometimes have its limitations compared to other commercially available options.Is there a free version of PRTG? ›
3. Do I need a commercial license for PRTG or can I use the Freeware Edition? The Freeware Edition is available for both personal and commercial use for free, but is limited to monitoring 100 sensors. If you want to monitor more sensors, you need one of the commercial editions.What is real time bandwidth? ›
Real Time Bandwidth: This generally refers to the maximum capture bandwidth of the RSA. In other words, this is the widest bandwidth over which the RSA can capture/record signals over time. It is also the widest SPAN that the DPX Spectrum display can present “live” without sweeping, for real-time analysis.How can I tell which IP address is using more bandwidth? ›
Navigate to Dashboard | Real-Time Monitor to check which applications are using the most bandwidth. Also navigate to Dashboard | AppFlow Monitor. Click the Initiators tab and select the check box to the IP address to monitor. Select Filter View to only see results for the IP address selected.
Is NetFlow free? ›
NetFlow Analyzer is a free NetFlow network traffic analyzer and its customizable dashboard enables you to view widgets grouped by devices, interfaces, interface groups, or IP groups, and can also detect network anomalies at a glance.What is Nload? ›
nload is a console application which monitors network traffic and bandwidth usage in real time. It visualizes the in- and outgoing traffic using two graphs and provides additional info like total amount of transfered data and min/max network usage.How do I access Ntopng? ›
By default, the GUI can be accessed from any web browser at http://<ntopng IP>:3000/ . A different port can be specified as a command line option during ntopng startup. The first page that always pops out contains the login form - provided that the user has not decided to turn authentication off during startup.How can I monitor my PC health? ›
- In the search box on the taskbar, type Windows Security, and then select it from the results.
- Select Device performance & health to view the Health report.
- Click Start.
- Select the Control Panel.
- Select System. Some users will have to select System and Security, and then select System from the next window.
- Select the General tab. Here you can find your processor type and speed, its amount of memory (or RAM), and your operating system.
If you want even more detail, click the Show hidden icons button in the system tray located at the right edge of your Windows taskbar. You'll see a temperature listing for every individual CPU core in your computer. Per-core CPU temperature readings provided by the Core Temp app.Can you use Nzxt cam on any PC? ›
While Nzxt CAM works on Windows, Android, and iOS, Speccy can be installed only on Windows computers. The software is compatible with 64-bit and 32-bit Windows PCs running on XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10 versions.Is HW Monitor Free? ›
HWMonitor is a free hardware monitoring program that monitors the speed, voltage, temperature, fans of PCs connected to your network.Which tool you may use to control your PC hardware devices? ›
HWiNFO. HWiNFO is a network monitoring tool that is used for hardware and system monitoring. HWiNFO offers real-time hardware monitoring for your computer's CPUs, GPUs, mainboards, drives, and peripherals.Where can I download PC health check? ›
In Windows, use Search on the taskbar to search for “PC Health Check,” then select it from the list of results. If a PC Health Check update is available, you can quickly install it for the latest version.
What is a good computer speed? ›
A good processor speed is between 3.50 to 4.2 GHz, but it is more important to have a single-thread performance. In short, 3.5 to 4.2 GHz is a good speed for processor.How can I check my system performance using CMD? ›
Launch Run window by pressing Windows Key + R, type cmd and press ctrl + shift + enter. 2. In the Command Prompt window, type 'winsat prepop' and hit enter. The command prompt will now run various tests to check the performance of your GPU, CPU, disk, etc.What is a good CPU benchmark? ›
We recommend a PCMark 10 Essentials score of 4100 or higher.How do I increase CPU speed? ›
To give your CPU more power, find the CPU voltage setting. In your BIOS controls, this may be called CPU VCCIN, CPU Vcore, Dynamic Vcore, or simply CPU Voltage. It's usually set to 1.25 or Auto by default. Increase this value slowly, for example to 1.4 or 1.5.What CPU temp is too high? ›
At the highest loads, your average CPU temps can go up to 80–85°C, but consider this the absolute limit. Sustained CPU temps above 80°C can do long-term damage to the CPU and its silicon. If your CPU goes higher than 90°C for several hours, it will likely reduce the lifespan of your processor.How do I monitor CPU and GPU temps? ›
HWInfo is our go-to monitoring program, because it provides a snapshot of virtually every aspect of your PC (click the Sensors icon to see temps), but SpeedFan and Open Hardware Monitor are solid options, too. Open Hardware Monitor also supports Linux. HWInfo's sensor info includes GPU temperatures and a lot more.Is NZXT trustworthy? ›
No defects of any kind. You're not over paying for parts like most sites. Would definitely recommend to a friend or for anyone who doesn't have the knowledge/time to build a pc themselves. Peace of mind to also know warranty is through one company instead of several."Is NZXT Cam free? ›
NZXT Cam is a free utility tool made by NZXT for use with PC devices. It serves as a PC monitoring software that helps users keep track of the state of their computers' components, such as the CPU, graphics card, and other installed devices for temperature and performance.What does NZXT stand for? ›
NZXT is an American computer hardware manufacturer based in Los Angeles, California. The company is best known for being a major manufacturer of computer cases, components, and accessories for the PC gaming market The name NZXT is a corruption of the word "next" in uppercase.