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Server Monitoring Tools

Server monitoring tools are typical software applications that are specially designed and developed to track and monitor the health status, CPU usage, disk usage, memory utilization.

Server monitoring tools also offer monitoring characteristics like software and hardware errors, process utilization, alarm trigger rates, and critical function errors.

The role and importance of servers have emerged over time. In fact, we interact with servers on a daily basis while accessing web pages, retrieving emails, and using social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on.

And, the real-time monitoring of servers helps improve stability, business continuity, and uptime.

Before we learn about different server monitoring tools, let’s first know what exactly a server is?

So what exactly is a server?

In computer networks, a server is a physical/virtual storage that provides the collection of information, resources, and data to other computers (also called clients) over a network. A server can reside locally or remotely.

If a server resides locally under the same local area network, it can be accessed without the need for the internet. However, if a server resides remotely, we need to be connected to the internet or a remote SSL VPT to access it.

A web server is an example of a remote server that responds to the requests made from different computers through browser software like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and so on.

Types of servers

Servers can be mainly categorized into two parts, a virtual server and a physical server. Yet, there are different types of servers in both these categories. I will not go deep into this at the moment; I am listing down a few here.

Need of server monitoring tools

Keeping up with the current status of your server is really cool and beneficial, but it gets worse and time-consuming when you have multiple servers running at different locations. In these cases, server monitoring tools become really helpful in managing and checking the status of those under a single roof.

Servers store critical and informational data, it needs to be running all the time, any damage to the servers causing even a small downtime can result in a huge amount of financial losses, service disruption, and decrease in regular clients, which can be a nightmare for any organization.

Furthermore, server monitoring tools also offer alerts for suspicious activities. You can set service threshold trigger rates and get alerts when the rule or threshold is violated. Below I am writing a few points which will determine the need for server monitoring tools.

Types of monitoring tools

We have different types of monitoring tools that can monitor not only servers but other devices, equipment inside an IT infrastructure. Log monitoring, SNMP traps monitoring, TCP/UDP sessions monitoring, and many more. As your server should be connected to a switch or a router, it’s also important to monitor the packets and traffic at the network layer.

Whatever requests we send and receive travel through the network gateway, which might be your edge router or firewall. In order to have a better-layered security approach, we must monitor other aspects of the IT infrastructure apart from server monitoring.

Although servers, network devices, and other resources can be monitored by an individual monitoring tool, it’s best to use the monitoring tools based on your requirement and feature sets offered.

Must-have features for a server monitoring tool

An ideal server monitoring tool must offer software as well as hardware-level monitoring features. Flexibility, ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and data visualization and reporting.

Your server monitoring software should be able to show and notify you, whether it’s a hardware fault or a software service disruption. Below are a few features a server monitoring tool must contain.

1. CPU Utilization.

First things first, whatever tool you’re using needs to have this feature set as the top priority. CPU touching the max threshold peak is a very rare case scenario. During peak hours, the CPU utilization might touch the upper threshold, which is quite common.

But, if you observe the CPU usage hitting the upper limit, not in peak hours, and is continuous, then you must understand there is a serious issue, either the resources are limited or you might be under an attack. In both cases, you need to rush and check what’s actually going on.

2. Memory Utilization

If you get notifications on this section stating limited memory resources or high usage, you might want to scale up the memory segment by adding additional RAMs and SSDs.

3. Bandwidth Monitoring

This feature offered by different server monitoring tools lets us determine and understand how and which user/system is consuming the bandwidth. This helps in implementing QOS policies and compliance requirements as well as reduces cost.

4. Service Disruption Alerts

Services can stop providing resources to end-users for numerous reasons. A good server monitoring tool must also notify the administrator if there are any services currently down and unavailable to end-users.

5. Network Monitoring

A good server monitoring tool should also provide network monitoring features. Tracking the active sessions and SNMP traps and logs from switches, firewalls and routers, this approach provides a centralized monitoring dashboard management of all IT infrastructure.

Top 5 Server monitoring tools

You can find numerous server monitoring tools on the web, each consisting of its own unique feature set and services. It’s hard to decide which server monitoring tool you should go for, all offer similar characteristics and services.

What really makes the difference is the pricing and post-sales technical support factor. But don’t worry, I am bringing you here the industry’s best server monitoring tools including, commercial and open-source.

1. Solarwinds Server & Application Monitoring.

The American unicorn company Solarwinds is the leader in IT management software and network monitoring tools. With a wide range of products and services, Solarwinds offers the best solution for your enterprise IT infrastructure security and monitoring needs.

Virtual, on-premise, and hybrid server infrastructure can be added to the Solarwinds for centralized monitoring. Multiple dashboards and graph views for alerts and notifications are available.

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2. Manage Engine OpManager

With a customizable dashboard feature and central monitoring services, Manage engine OpManager is leading from the front and is able to make its name amongst the top players in the industry. This tool can monitor each device having an IP address.

Today’s enterprise world not only needs services and features but also security as the topmost priority. Manage Engine OpManager provides monitoring solutions with up-to-date security majors.

Like any other monitoring tool, users need not require any professional training to operate and control the resources integrated with Manage Engine. Following are a few highlights of the Manage Engine OpManager monitoring tool.

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3. Datadog Server Monitoring

Another common name in the monitoring tools domain is Datadog. With some advanced features like correlated metrics, traces, and log events, Datadog is the top choice amongst other server monitoring tools.

No matter how complex your IT infrastructure is, with Datadog, you can gain proper insights into your server environment. Datadog offers individual host-level tag-based alerts for your server environment.

Datadog server monitoring tool improves application performance and availability by tracking end-host metrics at regular intervals in order to identify data and bandwidth usage as well as host machines with overloaded threads and tasks.

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4. Nagios Server Monitoring.

With over 14 years of experience in the server and application monitoring field, Nagios is one of the trusted and oldest names in the market. Nagios provides users with the capability to monitor the servers with or without the need of deploying agents to the servers.

Apart from monitoring the Windows and Linux machine servers, Nagios offers monitoring capabilities for Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, and MAC.OS/X out of the box. Nagios offers server monitoring capabilities in two solutions packages, namely, Nagios XI and Nagios Core. Both solutions offer significant characteristics, you can choose one or both based on your requirement.

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5. PRTG Host & Server Monitoring

PRTG is super easy to install and use. You can add your servers to the PRTG dashboard with just a few clicks. PRTG supports monitoring capabilities for on-premise, virtual hosts, and other server instances. PRTG offers a centralized dashboard for all your IT infrastructure along with unified monitoring capability.

PRTG typically works with sensors in order to fetch and monitor server status. Sensors are deployed to the target hosts, servers for monitoring purposes. A sensor can only belong to and monitor an individual metric value in your network.

PRTG offers 100 free sensors for the trial version and even when you don’t upgrade to a paid or licensed version of the software.

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Open-Source Software Monitoring Tools

Open-source software and tools are generally built by a like-minded community of developers and programmers who want to provide their skills and knowledge to the general public for almost free. This software is customizable with known built platforms.

It is constantly updated and improved based on the user’s demands and requirements. Open-source platforms genuinely focus on the do-it-yourself approach. It doesn’t provide you with many knowledge-based articles, all you will have is the community to get your doubts and requirements answered by the contributors.

If you have the programming knowledge and the right coding skills, you can customize the software as per your need. You can also develop and integrate additional features right into the software.

Open-source software is generally free of cost, only in some cases, they cost some money, which is further used to make the software more secure, reliable, and available on all IT platforms. Here I bring you the top 5 open-source server monitoring tools available in the market.

1. Nagios.

I know we have discussed Nagios in the previous section, but due to its presence since 1999 and open-source capabilities and offerings, it is a must-visit name in the open-source server monitoring platform. Before Nagios went commercial, it was open-source and free initially.

Nagios still offers free services with up to seven nodes/hosts monitoring. This monitoring software offers certifications programs as well namely, Nagios Certified Professional & Nagios Certified Administrators.

With Nagios, you can facilitate and integrate with third-party applications, software using a plugin. Since it’s an open-source platform and pretty old in the business there are a huge number of plugins already written and can be found in the Nagios community section. You can also create a new plugin.

2. Prometheus

Prometheus is another big name in community-driven open-source tools. Powerful metrics with dimensional data sets allow users to enhance the way of monitoring their resources. You can build and deploy your own library files to Prometheus

Prometheus is available for all platforms including, on-premise, cloud, docker, Linux and Windows systems. If you feel Prometheus is missing somewhere, you can add it yourself. All you would need to do is, just write some code or look for the right plugins in the community.

You can further integrate Grafana with Prometheus to visualize and get a graphical representation of your data and alerts.

3. Zabbix

Zabbix is best known for its enterprise-level service offerings to big organizations. It collects information from servers and different resources on an agent-based architecture model. When you add any resources to Zabbix for monitoring and alert purposes, an agent is deployed to that server resource and then communicates with Zabbix.

The agent then checks the predefined and manually set metrics values, threshold rates and sends the status of the same to Zabbix centralized dashboards. Zabbix is easy to run and operate because of its widget-based dashboard, graph representation, and network maps.

Unlike any other open-source monitoring software, Zabbix has some advanced features like root cause analysis, anomaly detection, multiple severity levels, and trend prediction as well. Free of cost and the ability to monitor all sorts of resources like containers, virtual environments, databases, and application servers make Zabbix one of the most demanding tools in the market.

4. Icinga

Icinga helps you monitor your server infrastructure with its two different UI offerings Icinga web and classic UI. You can integrate all of your IT resources using thousands of plugins already created and updated by the community contributors.

Icinga is fast and reliable. Adding resources to Icinga is easy. You can contribute to this open-source tool by posting solutions in the community forums, adding new repo files. Icinga is available on multiple platforms like Windows, Linux, Debian, and other distributed environments. It is recommended to use the Linux package to install Icinga. You can use Github as well, since all the packages, resources are available on Github.

Icinga also offers automation capabilities to monitor large enterprise data environments. To further learn about Icinga and its characteristics you can check the Icinga documentation and visit the community support section.

5. Grafana

The Grafana project was initially started in the year 2014 by Torkel Odegard. Grafana works on the belief of democratizing data. It says data should be available and accessible to everyone in an organization and not only to the IT team or whoever manages it. Yet there are disagreements with this type of approach to data.

Many security experts say, allowing access to data to everyone inside an organization conflicts with data security and privacy information norms.

Grafana is one good powerful tool to visualize your data graphically, no matter where it is being stored. With the help of graphs, Grafana makes the data representation more detailed and understandable for the administrators as well as normal end-users. Its dynamic dashboard building capability allows users to share the dashboards with other users.

Grafana further supports different plugins, in order to import data from other external sources. Grafana then takes its own approach and representation to the data interoperability. Grafana is available in two modules, open-source and enterprise with enterprise-grade features.

Which tool is best for you?

Choosing the best server monitoring tool for you can get hectic and confusing due to various options and the rich set of features offered by each tool. Don’t just pay for the feature you would never use or require. Still, you can choose the best for yourself by first determining your requirements.

If your business or organization doesn’t have specific compliance or other needs, you can best go for open-source products. It saves you time, money and lets you customize the source code as per your need. Below are a few metrics considering which you can decide the monitoring tool you should go for.

Final Words

Open-source or commercial, both types of server monitoring tools help you in all the possible ways to get the current status of your IT infrastructure. Your IT admin can rely on these tools knowing that the whole server and network environment is being monitored.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article on server monitoring tools.