Industry Update: Essential tools of the trade for network engineers

Network monitoring tools are indispensable to engineers. With so many free, freemium and premium options available, it can lead to analysis paralysis when deciding on a core package of tools to use. Some of the top trainers in the world will tell their apprentices: find a basic set of tools and stick to them for a better workflow.


These are the latest, most valuable monitoring tools in the world right now:


Infrapedia – The most indispensable map service that is completely free. It is the only single point on the web where engineers can access 3500 datacenters,15000 networks, and hundreds of fiber providers including submarine and terrestrial fiber network providers. So if you wonder: which submarine cable routes should I choose between continents to create most diverse network? Or at which common points do my selected network providers meet at? Or even: what are the alternative datacentre in my city – well, then try out Infrapedia here.

The 3D map view of downtown LA – critical infrastructure

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iperf – The tool measures packet loss and jitter, throughput as well as supporting the UDP and TCP packets. This helps in the determination of the connection quality between the devices that are sharing a network. Its support for the UDP makes the tool essential in the testing of how suitable a link is for VoIP. Further, the tool can present data gathered in graphs to show the variance of network conditions over time. Check out more details in iperf here.


Wireshark – What a winner this is: it is a tool that collects from devices and analyses them to identify the faulty packets. The user has a provision of customising the software to only capture data from areas of interest such as the TCP, wireless or even the http, which will lead to the finding of solutions of slow server response. For instance, filters can be used to find the bad packets amidst the chaff, which might the cause of issues in a system.


TCPTraceroute – This is an essential tool in the tracing of the network paths. It uses the TCP as opposed to the ICMP. It helps in the determination of the cause of traffic blocking like the firewalls that have been set to block the ports used by traffic. The tool is essential in finding terminal spoofing devices, which result in a faster response than expected, given the distance between the actual endpoints.


fprobe – This tool is essential in the monitoring of specific interfaces and also in the gathering of data from NetFlow, which indicates traffic going through. Further, he states that the tool can effectively identify misdirected traffic that can be using excessive bandwidth like Netflix, in an organizational network. The tool can also collect data from Raspberry Pi.


nfdump – this tool can be used to receive data from fprobe and then stores it up in system files. These files can be displayed based on the protocols and top user ranks. The advantage of the tool is that it helps identify the time when congestion is high.


Nmap – This is one of the powerful network monitoring tools. It is essential in the scanning of the networks and the performance of security audits. It can look into 1000 ports that are meant to be open and display those that are open and those that are not. The tool can also be used to scan devices in a subnet and indicate the kind of traffic put up by them. To achieve this, the tool communicates with each device by requiring an SYN packet response; this makes the tool ineffective as it is likely to affect the performance of the network through its noisy activity. Additionally, the software can tell the active devices in a network and then carry out pointer-record lookups. It can also be used to reverse the DNS lookups, which then can tell the kind of device found.


Cacti – This is another awesome tool which helps in the gathering and mapping of the SNMP values in a given time. It gives an overview of the usage of a device. The software can also be used to graph the temperature of an office storeroom.


Smokeping – This is considered the most essential tool in the measurement of latency and packet loss. This data can then be used over time to indicate fluctuations in latency, which then will help in network planning. This function is achieved through the firing of the Ping packets at specific and regular intervals, with response times being recorded. The graphs obtained help tell of the troubles in response time as shown by the spikes. They then can be used to trace the cause of the problem.


OpenNMS – The software monitors services and devices. It also raises alarm when they malfunction and give reports on the device availability. The tool is better used in large networks in establishing reports for network executives.


AirCrack – This is a tool that can be used both by hackers and network administrators to tell the users of a wireless network. It can also help in getting solutions to network issues. It can also be essential in the identification of close wireless networks and client users.


ARPSpoof – This tool sends spoofed ARP requests aiming to pair MAC with IP addresses of devices using the same network. It is a handy tool or hackers. But it can also be used as a middle man to monitor activities of a device with any installation on pan port of a router/switch.


Snort – This software is popular for the detection of invasive ID. It is essential in the monitoring of live networks. It can as well be tailored to trace files obtained. Further, the tool can be used together with ElasticSearch and LogStash. The information obtained can also be analysed and tailored to raise alarm for specified issues.


cURL – This is a simple tool for measuring the response time of websites and for moving data to and from servers.


Elasticsearch – This tool, paired with Logstash and Kibana (ELK), can gather log data as well as establish dashboards. It gives search ability as Kabana takes care of visualization of information gathered to establish dashboards.



Yes, in data & AI the world is moving fast. Expect to see another up-to-date list in the next few months.