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Top 5 Best System Monitoring Tools

As part of the contest we conducted recently, we got 130 comments from the geeky readers who choose their favorite system monitoring tools.

Based on this data, the top spot goes to..  drum roll please..


If you are new to any of the top 5 tools mentioned here, please read the rest of the article to understand more about them.

Top 5 Best Free Network Monitoring Tool

Fig: Favorite System Monitoring Tool Voting Results

1. Nagios – Network Monitoring Software

Nagios System Monitoring Tools for LinuxNagios won by a huge margin. This is not a suprise to lot of people, as Nagios is hands-down the best monitoring tool.  As you already know, I love Nagios and have been using it for a long time. I have also written several tutorials on Nagios (and many more to come).

Nagios Core 3 eBook is the only guide you’ll ever need to monitor everything, be proactive, and sleep well.

2. Cacti – Network Monitoring Software

Cacti Network Monitoring Tool for UnixCacti uses RRDtool for the network graphing solution. Using Caci you can monitor and graph – CPU Load, Network bandwidth utilization, network traffic monitor etc.,

Cacti also supports plugin architecture. Some admins like the powerful graphing feature provided by Cacti, they use both Nagios and Cacti in their environment as the network monitoring tools.

3. Top (and other top variations)

Unix top, ntop command for Network Monitoring
  • Top Command – Few of you have mentioned top command as your favorite monitoring tool 🙂
  • ntop (Network Top) – Ntop is a free network monitoring software. ntop displays network usage information in a similar fashion to top command output. You can also create HTML output file (dump) of the network status using ntop.  Apart from the command line, you can also launch the web version of the ntop once you’ve started the ntopd service and visit http://{ip-address}:3000 from browser.
  • htop (interactive process viewer for Linux) – htop is similar to top command with few additional features. The main difference is that you can use mouse to interact with the htop command output.

4. Zabbix

Zabbix Open Source Infrastructure Monitoring Solution for Unix PlatformsZabbiz is an open source monitoring solution with a commercial support provided by a company – Zabbix SIA, who primarily develops the software.  Zabbix requires a database to store the monitoring data. You can choose any DB of your choice – MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, or SQLite.

Zabbix has the following three main modules:

  • Server (written in C)
  • Agents (written in C)
  • Frontend (PHP and Javascript)

Additional information about Zabbix:

5. Munin

Munin Network Badwidth Monitoring Platform Using PluginsSimilar to Cacti, Munin uses RRDTool to present the output in a pretty graph via web interface. The primary emphasis of Munin is on the plug and play architecture for it’s plugin. There are lot of plugins available for Munin, which will just work out-of-the box without lot of tweaking.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hendrik September 2, 2009, 3:11 am

    Hmmm, I must of missed the voting, but I would have definitely liked to see GroundWorks higher up (well definitely above Nagios) – simply because groundwork is Nagios in a sense but with a nice database and webfront end for the configurations – It saves a lot of time when setting up new hosts and services simply because you don’t have to type everything out and the Autodiscovery Feature is something that Nagios doesn’t have thus making setup and the time spent setting up hosts/services through Groundworks a breeze – autodiscovery also assigns a few checks to a newly discovered host making the service setup much easier.

    Groundwork has everything any Nagios has and more and can do it better and faster in my personal view – but none the less Nagios is still a good monitor.

    P.S. with TOP monitoring don’t forget about ATOP – try it out and see for your self it is my most frequently used TOP monitoring.

  • alfred_e_neuman September 2, 2009, 7:27 am

    Thanks for the feedback. The top 5 choices aren’t surprising. If my math is correct, there are 37 responses which fall under “Other”. It would be interesting to see which tools are included in that group. There could be some hidden gems there.



  • xscousr September 2, 2009, 7:49 am

    OpenNMS – snmp based monitoring tool that incorporates rrdtool, asset management and excellent reporting. Hundreds of oid based alerts are pre-configured for many hardware vendors.

  • Marcelo Silva September 2, 2009, 8:37 am

    Nagios lo tengo funcionando en mis servidores y tengo excelentes resultados de monitoreo y de envío de alarmas en eventos críticos.

    Munin tambien lo utilizo para monitorear el acceso a los servidores WEB.

    Translation: Spanish » English

    I have Nagios running on my servers and have excellent results of monitoring and to send alarms in critical events.

    Munin is also used to monitor access to Web servers.

  • Cedric September 3, 2009, 2:32 am

    After the best monitoring tools, it will be nice to have a topic about the remote monitoring services like watchmouse, alertra, internetVista, alertsite or keynote. Those services are completely complementary to monitoring tools.

  • Net Diva September 3, 2009, 11:50 am

    Thanks for the props Hendrick! GroundWork also includes Cacti as well as Nagios. We bundle both. So in a sense, I feel like we kind of hold three of the spots up there.

    I also feel like our 6.0 product which will GA in September blows anything you guys have seen out of the water. It’s seriously slick.

    You can download the beta now: http://www.gwos.com/community/downloads

    Send your feedback, please. We’d love to know how the community feels!

  • Sam September 3, 2009, 1:42 pm

    are there any online monitoring solutions? I tried nagio and gave up after the initial install. I’m a newbie in Linux.


  • Hendrik September 4, 2009, 12:13 am

    HEHE, no Prob Net Diva and I will definately have a look at the new 6.0 😀

    Sam, definitaley try Groundwork, after resolving dependancies (I haven’t done the install in a while, but if memory serves there aren’t major dependancies to solve) the install is very straight foward and the rest is done from a webinterface.

  • lappol90 September 4, 2009, 3:47 am

    I thought Cacti was the best.I am really surprised at this result.

  • Ramesh Natarajan September 10, 2009, 11:45 pm

    For those who are interested, here is the list of all system monitoring tools mentioned by users along with the votes.

    Following tools received more than 1 vote:

    Nagios 64
    Cacti  9
    top 6
    Zabbix 5
    Munin 3
    Centreon 3
    Big Brother 3
    Groundworks 3
    conky 3
    OpenNMS 2
    htop 2
    gkrelm 2

    Following tools received only one vote:

    BitDefender Total Security 1
    Azul RTPM 1
    RTO Pinpoint for Windows 1
    Solarwind Orion 1
    Network monitor 1
    Pandora FMS 1
    OPSview (Using Nagios) 1
    glance (HP and HP-UX) 1
    ntop 1
    Nagiosgraph 1
    icinga 1
    Ganglia 1
    Monit 1
    Monitorix 1
    strace 1
    NetDisco 1
    Dynatrace 1
    Hobbit 1
    lm_sensors 1
    sar 1
    tcpdump 1
    netlogger 1
    history 1
    XYMON 1
    uptime 1
    ossim 1
    SMARTS 1
    rrdtool 1

  • Mark Hinkle September 14, 2009, 9:31 am

    I think Zenoss is worth mentioning here. It’s an open source (GPLv2) monitoring application that can monitor servers, networks and apps. It’s one of the most active projects on Sourceforge(https://sourceforge.net/projects/zenoss/) and incorporates RRDTool. It also supports execution of Nagios plugins. Definitely worth a look if you need both availability and performance monitoring. Plus it autodiscovers devices so no more manually updating config files.

  • warren September 15, 2009, 5:23 am

    I’m surprised so few votes overall were cast – from the mailign lists I personally subscribe to, I would’ve expected a) many more votes and b) OpenNMS to rank substantially higher 🙂

  • GamBit October 30, 2009, 3:17 am

    I have worked with Nagios an Cacti for years.
    I also have active developed some little things for cacti.

    After all i prefer Zenoss…

  • Scott Nolan November 3, 2009, 4:57 pm

    I am smitten with Xymon (aka Hobbit, aka Big Brother) – they really are extensions of each other… so they are pretty interchangeable.

    I liked MicroMuse’s commercial Netcool/Omnibus product – but that was before the IBM/Tivoli buyout and ruination.

    Nagios, ZenOSS, Ground Works, Cacti are all good; and have reasonable learning curve.

    Zabbix is hard as hell to get really meaningful documentation for.

  • Frank Beers August 17, 2010, 12:02 pm

    I think Absolute Performance is worth mentioning, there is a lot of buzz about there solutions and their ability to monitoring end-to-end user performance. They also have a product called NetWalk that is gaining traction in the enterprise space. There are a few others that are on the up and up as well, appfirst, scoutapp, and cloudkick.

  • Mark Seger September 24, 2010, 5:25 am

    I think one of the overriding questions to all of this is WHY are people monitoring? Is it to get a general sense of their system’s health OR collect enough data to be able to diagnose a future problem, because I believe the 2 are not the same.
    For example, if you’re collecting data over the network and the network dies, you may not be able to get the very data you need to diagnose it.
    If you’re only collecting data at a rate of a minute or so you may not have the granularity to see what’s really going on. I’m talking about monitoring at 1-10 second intervals and not generating a load of more that 1% even at a 1 second sampling rate. There are tools with this capability.
    Then there is visualization, which you need if you have a lot of data to look at. If you want accuracy for diagnostic purposes and use RRD, you may be surprised to know it does not plot your data faithfully but rather normalizes it. This is fine for rough trends but not for deeper analysis – that’s why I use gnuplot. Not as pretty, but it always tells the truth.

    In any event, if anyone wants to discuss any of these point in more detail I’ll be happy to elaborate on any/all of them.


  • Sumit Pandya January 8, 2011, 8:37 am

    NetXMS and OpenNMS are wonderful next-generation tool.

  • Joseph John March 17, 2011, 5:47 am

    Dud you miss “Zabbix ” and “ZenOSS”
    For me ZenOSS is my favourite

  • Brian King September 14, 2011, 9:31 am

    my vote is for Opsview. Especially like their new mobile app.

  • saijusgeorge November 16, 2011, 11:04 am

    I have configured OpenNMS and Nagios , But OpenNMS is far much better than Nagios ….

  • hENDRIK November 17, 2011, 3:25 am

    Saijusgeorge, may i ask why you say that? Just interested in your reasoning

  • Manojkumar November 18, 2011, 6:15 am

    can anyone say which is the best tool for auto discovery of servers in amazon cloud??? its better if u give open source tool Thanks

  • hENDRIK November 18, 2011, 6:18 am

    I am quite comfortable with GroundWork Comunity Edition and it’s autodicovery (inside amazon cloud – not sure – if the items are dicoverable and not blocking everything it should be found quite easily if correct communication methods are in place) – the rest I haven’t used, or it didn’t work for me 😀

  • Konrad February 5, 2012, 8:22 am

    I dont know why Nagios is so popular. In my opinion ICINGA is much more better than NAGIOS. If You havent seen yet, I suggest You to take a look. Friendly interface, easy to use and easy to install. Faster support and big community. Nagios core programming only one person, so for each new bug or feature You need more time.

  • Mike February 20, 2012, 10:35 am

    It should be noted that “Xymon” and “Hobbit” are simply newer versions of “BigBrother” and should be included together. The significance here is that added together, that gives that particular tool a score of 5 putting it in the top 5.

  • dan March 9, 2012, 8:10 pm

    Interesting result. This could be depends on what currently the voters are using. If it is, it won’t be surprising that Nagios is in the top because its GNU, it has all if not most of the features that network administrator need without those fancy thins that other tools provides and it runs in Linux/Unix. Hardcore network administrator know Linux/Unix well and prefer it over Windows.

    It could be more scientific if each voter have to choose at least 3 tools (not just one). Nagios may still be on top but others will get a fair score.

  • aryan June 14, 2012, 6:08 pm

    i want to know about NewRelic. can we do OS level monitoring with NewRelic. If yes then how. Plz reply asap.

  • Scott Marsh June 26, 2012, 9:43 am

    If looking at commercial products, also add Nimsoft and Zyrion to the mix. Both are popular network monitoring alternatives to the Big-4 and for someone like us who wanted to replace our SolarWinds.

  • Ajay July 10, 2012, 1:37 am

    We are looking desktop monitoring tools so that we can monitor
    CPU Utilization
    Memory Utilization
    Harddisk Utilization
    and reports also there
    So plz tell us what monitoring tools we can implement

  • vance November 12, 2012, 2:03 am

    I wish uptime was free. I will try GroundWorks.

  • Mohit March 20, 2013, 2:44 am

    openNMS and Zenoss are good next generation alternative

  • Durgesh March 20, 2013, 4:15 am

    You should use Kaseya tool.

  • rajesh kumar avn September 16, 2013, 9:50 am

    i want to know tool like nagios ..which are most popularly used in industry and demanding ones.

  • CompGoddess January 15, 2014, 1:51 pm

    I have used Groundworks, Nagios, Cacti, Zenoss, Xymon (Big Brother), servers alive Here is my opnion:

    Groundworks is awesome (again as listed above all of the capabilities of Nagios and then some)
    Cacti rules and can be incorporated to Groundworks
    Nagios is great but I prefer Groundworks for the configuration of Nagios
    Zenoss is a great product
    Xymon aka Big Brother is good but the biggest pain is that it needs it’s agent to monitor so you are looking on the agent install everywhere and it seems really lame from a configuration standpoint. Yes, it can be custom configured but in a text file really? May as well use serversalive….
    ServersAlive – ok bottom of the barrel but functional if you need an easy monitoring solution that is very simplistic here it is. Everything in a text file.

  • Rafael Sanchez January 20, 2014, 11:41 am

    Pandora FMS is probably one of the best tools in the list, since 2008 has improved A LOT not only the features, also the interface. If you compare it with alternatives like Nagios, Zabbix or OpenNMS is better. Only PRTG can match it.

  • Shivam kumar March 12, 2014, 2:11 am

    Hi all plz give a ans to delete data backup from hard disk backup..

  • Neil February 20, 2015, 9:16 am

    Is there such a thing??

    I have a number of systems which have a VPN connection so real time monitoring is not possible as I can only VPN to a single site at a time.

    What I do have are lots of stastics and status related emails that are produced by these systems and mail to sperate boxes. Q. Is there a monitoring tool that I can run on my local machine to grahically build a status based on these mails? I know they will be very snap shot rather than real time like the tooling above.

  • Chandra Shekhar December 28, 2016, 8:52 am

    Hi Respected Ramesh, I am fan of you. Everyday i read one article. I am new joined for Datacenter. Recently my manager asked about fiber monitor solution tool.. here means if any fiber cable damage/link up & down through fiber cable/ water marks & fiber fail alert tool. It gets alert and send mail / message to phone. we plan to install monitor for fiber. Please Can you suggest for this tool.