Network management is always a complex and time-consuming activity, but as businesses expand their network footprint and add more devices, users and servers to their infrastructure, it can quickly spiral out of control. Even the best-planned networks can find themselves sprawling well beyond the original design intentions, while for more ad-hoc expansions, administrators can end up having to juggle a maze of disparate connections.
Therefore, strong management and monitoring tools are essential. Fortunately, there are a huge number of applications available to help IT pros wrestle back control of their networks. And the even better news is that many of these are based on open-source software and are completely free to use, which will be hugely beneficial for IT managers under pressure to keep budgets under control and justify any new expenditures.
Here are five of our favorite free network management tools that will be able to help your business take back control of its infrastructure.
The more your network grows, the more difficult it becomes to keep track of exactly where everything is and how it's configured. As more endpoints such as Internet of Things devices come online, activities such as assigning and keeping track of IP addresses are set to get exponentially harder in the coming years.
At the moment, many businesses may still rely on manual processes for this, with Excel spreadsheets a common solution for organizing IT addresses. But TeemIP offers an alternative with a database that can not only allocate and keep track of your network's IP addresses, but integrates a trouble-ticketing system to make change management easy.
There can be few things more frustrating for an admin than trying to track down issues within their network, as it can mean they have to start closely looking at individual data packets to find errors. While there are a range of tools to make this easier, Wireshark is one of the best, as well as being completely open-source.
Wireshark is a packet capture and network protocol analyzer that's ideally suited for mid-size companies. It can decode a huge range of protocols and - with the Expert Info feature enabled - offers color-coded details on anomalies and exceptions according to their severity, to help users identify any problem areas as quickly as possible.
Planning and implementing new processes can often be a headache for IT network managers, but ProcessMaker aims to take much of the hassle out of this by helping professionals set up and follow clear workflows that routes users through the process step by step.
ProcessMaker is a browser-based tool and is mobile-ready, so it runs on all major platforms. Its user-friendly interface is easy to pick up and lets you build workflows through simple drag-and-drop actions, while it also provides a full audit trail for each process.
Many businesses now find themselves running large and ever-growing numbers of web apps, which will all need servers to deliver them. In turn, this means firms need many server management tools to keep them up and running. Therefore, a solution that lets you control all these from one location is hugely useful.
Webmin is a flexible free tool that offers a huge range of features and functionality. For example, it can monitor performance, shut down and restart servers, manage databases, create and restore backups, and much more. It also allows admins to perform tasks across groups of machines at the same time - particularly useful for businesses running clusters of cloned systems.
Making changes to configurations, altering code and reviewing logs are among the most common tasks faced by an IT network manager, but often they will have different, specialized solutions for each of these. However, Atom offers a way to combine all these activities - and more - into a single tool.
This versatile editor can complete almost any editing task you need it to, but one of its standout features is its collaboration offering. Its secure Teletype package allows users to create shared portals where users can collaborate and make edits in real time.