Get $440 Worth Of Network Monitoring Software For Free

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If you're a regular reader of my contributions to this web site you'll know that I'm a big fan of PRTG.  It's a software product that you install on a Windows machine (ideally a dedicated one, but it doesn't have to be), which then monitors your network and keeps a watch on all your other devices. It can monitor Windows PCs and servers, Linux machines, and just about everything else.  It can even monitor specific applications.

In my case, I use PRTG to monitor of bunch of servers that I look after as part of my day job.  As soon as one of them is running low on hard disk space or memory, or is running more slowly than normal, PRTG lets me know.  It even keeps an eye on all my SSL web certificates, and warns me when I need to renew one of them.

A couple of years ago, PRTG was free if you only needed to monitor 10 things across your entire colllection of servers.  Then they increased it to 30.  Today the company announced that the limit for the freeware version was being raised to 100 sensors, which previously cost $440.  

So if you have never tried this great app, now is the time to put it through its paces.  See www.paessler.com for the download, which runs to a fairly hefty 150 MB.  The program is malware-free according to Web of Trust and the virus scanner I use most often (the download is too large for VirusTotal).

 

 

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Comments

Hmm, wonder how this compares to GlassWire...

I'm trying both at the moment and they are quite complementary as there is little overlap in functionality using the default configurations. In the main, this is because the scope of Glasswire is primarily my computer and what connects to it whereas PRTG's scope is my network anywhere.

Here's some more detail for those who are interested:

  • Glasswire is also more of an intrusion detection system for my PC. This is primarily achieved by monitoring changes to my firewall, connections, applications e.g. updates and version changes, and network-related Windows devices and configuration. Glasswire is so simple and well-designed that it is the first network monitoring program that I actually want to keep using all the time on my computer.
  • PRTG is primarily monitoring the connection to and availability of "my network". In the broader sense, "my network" is much more than my local network devices which includes my router, the DNS servers I use, and my network printers. It also monitors my external websites, external servers, and some common web services like Dropbox, Skype and Facebook.
  • Of course, like Glasswire, PRTG also has features that focus on my computer: the standard sensor is ping time from my computer to all other devices on "my network". PRTG's sensors include monitoring memory and disk utilization and security checks such as use of SSL and antivirus. For example, it picked up that Windows Defender is up-to-date but is not running as Avira is running instead. Each of my network printers uses about twelve sensors each by default so that would be 36 if I had all three turned on at the same time. So it will be easy for some techies to hit 100 sensors but the average user will have no such trouble.
  • PRTG lacks the simple interface of Glasswire but that is to be expected from a system that is aimed at network administrators and is scalable to large networks. It focuses on the needs of people who have to take care of networks with many users so it uses alerts and alarms delivered by email wherever the administrators are. That is overkill for me and most home users who generally only want alerts while we're actually at our computer.

PS. I should have added that the default install of PRTG uses quite a lot of bandwidth. Most of it is local for me but there is a lot that uses my Internet quota. Actually, it doesn't bother me because my ISP provides me with unlimited bandwidth. But if you have limited Internet bandwidth then PRTG can use several MBs a day depending on the number of devices you are monitoring and the types of sensors you are using. You can use Glasswire to monitor this situation. :D

For the last couple of years I've actually been a fully paid up user of PRTG (the 100 sensor version, at some $400). I chose it to monitor the 15 servers that I look after as part of my day job, and I have to say that it's been very good indeed. So when I heard that the product is now free, I was doubly interested. When the company increased the number of free sensors from 10 to 30, they said that it was because hardly any of their paying customers used such a low number of sensors, and so they wouldn't lose out by increasing the free quota. Presumably it's now the case that the vast majority of their customers use (and pay for) more than 100 sensors. Which, if I had the time and the staff to sit in front of all those red and green blocks all day, I would do too. But when it's merely one part of a job, keeping track of 100 things is plenty. Also, note that PRTG uses 3 sensors to monitor itself so there's actually only 97 available for you. But that's still plenty for a lot of people.

Rob, I should have thanked you for recommending this free product. It is excellent and I plan to keep it running because it provides so much information that I can quickly access, even if I only need it infrequently.

PRTG will suit many of our readers because it is useful for home users and non-specialists even if they have very limited technical knowledge. It installs very easily without having to configure settings because you just answer some questions provided by PRTG's GURU: if you don't know the answer you can skip it. It also provides excellent in-line help for almost every task. The only obvious improvement would be a bit more hand-holding when it is first run to better explain the monitoring terminology to new non-technical users. PRTG also has key advanced features available in the free version:

  • multiple computers can act as probes (the computers that do the monitoring)
  • any of the probes can takeover monitoring in the event of the main probe failing
  • it doesn't require other specialized products, add-ons or servers, e.g. it doesn't need SQL Server running because it has its own proprietary database - apparently their format is better at handling the many small records.

yea, Rob