Small Business Networks: 10 Must-Have Tools

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Here’s the thing about small businesses: no one has one job to focus on. As a small business owner, you may find yourself as the CEO, CIO, CMO, CFO, and the network administrator, all rolled into one. You may not have the staff to back you up or the talent for reinforcements. Plus, you may find yourself sticking to a tight budget as you focus on ramping up your business.

Your network is important, no matter the size. You must have visibility into your network to avoid disaster – even if you’re working with a small group. Thanks to the ever-growing world of technology, there are many tools available that are budget-friendly, without a ton of bells and whistles, that simply do their job for small business networks. For troubleshooting, network management, and data graphing, there is a tool for that.

Let’s dive in and discuss ten, must-have tools for small business networks.

#1. Spiceworks Network Monitor

When it comes to a monitoring tool for your network software with added support, you cannot beat Spiceworks. This completely free offering gives you real-time status updates and alerts for all your critical devices. Designed especially for businesses monitoring less than 25 devices, the Network Monitor is simple to install and add devices to quickly.

The tool allows you to see potential disasters before they happen by giving you real-time updates regarding overwhelmed systems and devices before they crash. The tool also offers customizable notifications on your own terms and an advanced support team to offer insights and help for small business networks.

#2. LizardSystems Network Scanner

If you are concerned about security, the LizardSystems Network Scanner may be for you. The low-cost option, which is free for personal use and only $40.00 for business use, offers a quick scan of your entire network to find details and IP addresses of each.

The best part? The network scanner can locate all publicly shared folders, allowing you to close holes in your security fast. As you build an inventory with the Network Scanner, you can complete audits of your network seamlessly, without the expensive IT team.

#3. Ntop

Ntop, also known as Ntopng is a free tool offering traffic analysis and usage monitoring for your network. With Ntopng, you can sort network traffic according to many different types including IP address, port, L7 protocol and more.

Best for small business networks, Ntopng gives you measurable network results. Monitoring your network allows you to find security vulnerabilities, find issues within your network to troubleshoot and see how new applications or devices are impacting your network. This tool gives you real-time reports, so you can accurately check the health of your network.

#4. Rokario Bandwidth Monitor

Do you have a slow-moving network? Chances are, you may have some devices eating up all your bandwidth. It can be difficult to gauge your network speed without a tool to do it for you. The Rokario Bandwidth Monitor helps you measure your bandwidth usage, discover which devices are hogging the space and gives you real-time notifications on your connections.

This tool is super easy to install and even faster to configure. It is fully customizable, down to the type of notifications you want to receive. A slow-moving network can be detrimental to your productivity. This tool allows you to fix those issues quickly. And guess what? It’s free.

#5. Observium

This tool is yet another great choice for network monitoring and troubleshooting. However, Observium automatically collects and displays information about services that you may not otherwise monitor. It is smart and intuitive, allowing you to streamline your disaster recovery planning as well as your network capacity. It collects metrics over time and displays them beautifully with easy readability.

Trusted by brands such as Yahoo, Spotify and Squarespace, Observium gives you network reliability, something your small business could always use. It is completely free and comes with a support community for clients.

#6. Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector

Have you ever experienced a spot in your office or home where the Wi-Fi just disappeared? It’s annoying and a hit to the entire office’s productivity. The Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector is a free tool that allows you to view your wireless networks to check for configuration issues and more. Complete with a network speed tester, the Wi-Fi Inspector can bring your wireless network back up to speed, so to speak.

You can control a laptop’s connection, detect rogue APs and aim your Wi-Fi antennae. This tool is available now for both Mac and Windows, which gives you one less thing to worry about.

#7. Cacti

Data tracking and graphing when it comes to your network is a chore. But, for small to medium-sized business, the health of your network and the devices connected to it depends on it. Cacti is a LAMP application that allows for graphing endless types of data. From license utilization to free space on devices, Cacti can track and graph it all.

The amazing thing about Cacti is the templates built in for your needs. This includes templates for Mac, Linux, Windows and even Cisco router templates so you can monitor all your tools in one place. Cacti is free and a standard in its niche.

#8. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

Paessler offers multiple free network management tools for your network, with the PRTG Network Monitor as the shining star. This freeware delivers excellent monitoring of bandwidth, SNMPs, LANs, hardware and more.

Some of the other tools include the Billing Tool, which generates bills using server data for network usage, as well as the Multi Server Simulator that simulates server networks for evaluation and testing of network management tools. For the more experienced small business owner or small enterprise, Paessler has developed many tools to be used in conjunction with one another for free.

#9. Datadog

Using turn-key integrations, Datadog allows you to see metrics and events across your network. Datadog gives users full access to their applications to monitor and troubleshoot. The tool will also alert you automatically about critical issues that happen within your system. The infrastructure-wide visibility puts all your networks, applications and tools into one streamlined interface.

Datadog is easy to use, with state-of-the-art drag and drop dashboard creation. Your data can be graphed with multiple graphing options and those graphs can be shared along Datadog’s collaboration features. Free for up to five hosts, Datadog is changing the network management industry for small business networks.

#10. Nagios Core

Known as the “basic event scheduler, event processor, and alert manager for elements that are monitored,” Nagios Core is a great tool for network monitoring needs of any size. It is so popular because the tool can do anything you require, even if it isn’t built yet. It also includes external plugin support for any monitoring plugin you can imagine.

If you are a small business that is fortunate to have some IT help, Nagios could be a great tool for your network and its capabilities. If you do not, Nagios boasts an incredible community where help is just a click away.

All these tools are perfect for monitoring small business networks yet can scale up as the business grows. When your budget is tight and your talent tighter, technology is always coming in clutch.