Ask any network administrator which is the toughest task of their job and the answer would invariably be troubleshooting network problems!
This is a tough task even for the most experienced network admins because it is hard to pinpoint the cause of a network-related problem because of the many variables and devices present in it. Also, traditional troubleshooting techniques have an equal chance for a hit or a miss and many times, your time and effort can go down the drain.
To avoid all this frustration, you’re better off using tools and software that will point to the root cause of the problem, so all that you have to do is analyze the problem and fix it.
There are many network tools available today for network troubleshooting and one of the most popular categories among those is the IP sniffers.
Methodology for selecting the Best IP Sniffer Tools
IP Sniffer tools assist in the analysis of collected inbound and outbound packets. With the help of these tools, you can generate insights and discover the reason behind slowdowns. Here are a few methodologies that you must consider when selecting the best IP Sniffer tool:
- Check if your tool can read packet headers or identify addresses
- Can you categorize traffic by app with the help of your selected tool?
- Does it support communicating with switches and routers using NetFlow?
- Does it support multiple networking technologies?
Best IP Sniffer Tools and Software for Enterprise Networks:
An IP sniffer or a packet sniffer is a tool that analyzes all the inbound and outbound packets of a network. In addition, it records the path taken by each packet and interprets it to give more visibility into your network. Some of these tools can also be used to monitor routers, switches, server traffic, network hardware, and even networks as a whole.
Let’s take a detailed look into each of these tools, so you can decide which is the right fit for your organization.
The Packet Sniffer from SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) gives you the necessary insights to get to the bottom of all network traffic anomalies.
Features: Here is a look at some of the salient features of this packet sniffer tool.
- Sniffs packet data and calculates the network and application response time.
- Helps to determine whether the root cause is an application or the network itself.
- Identifies more than 1,200 applications, so you can have a better idea over your network traffic.
- Spots abnormal traffic patterns quickly to prevent any security threats from it.
- Gives insights into a wide range of metrics such as data volume, transactions, and risk.
- Provides hop-by-hop analysis of cloud or on-premises applications.
- Helps calculate the response time of your network and applications by sniffing packet data
- Quickly identifies unusual traffic patterns to prevent security threats.
- Generates report covering transactions, risk, and data volume
- Perform hop-by-hop analysis for cloud as well as on-premises apps
- The dashboard helps view the real-time performance statistics based on packet-level data
- The Dashboard at times takes a while to display the Nodes or Services current status
Pricing: This tool starts at $2,995.
Download: Start with a fully functional 30-day trial version of Network Performance Monitor.
SolarWinds Network Packet Sniffer with NPM is a top pick for it allows users to identify ports, sessions, hostnames, as well as operating systems. Using this platform, you can generate detailed insights into the response time and alert if the application is causing any negative impact on the end-user experience. The comprehensive dashboard allows you to view performance stats depending on packet-level data. Further, it allows you to collect data from 1,200+ applications and differentiate normal traffic from abnormal traffic. You can also discover reasons for slowdowns and isolate the underlying cause with SolarWinds Network Packet Sniffer.
Official Site: https://www.solarwinds.com/network-performance-monitor/
OS: Windows Server
2. PRTG Network Monitor
PRTG Network Monitor is an agentless monitoring tool that monitors the performance of different devices, collects information from them, and classifies them based on many parameters such as bandwidth usage and uptime.
Features: The features of PRTG Network Monitor are:
- Monitors traffic, packets, applications, bandwidth, databases, ports, virtual servers, IoT devices, physical environments, and more.
- Supports all common flow technologies
- Gives a comprehensive view of all applications and vendors in a single dashboard.
- Scans different network segments and automatically discovers the presence of new devices.
- Allows you to create web pages with up-to-date monitoring data.
- Sends alerts as soon as it discovers warnings.
- Works well on most major platforms.
- Watch over applications, packets, databases, as well as virtual servers
- The single dashboard displays all information related to applications and vendors
- Allows scanning network segments and notifies on identifying new device
- Alerts on discovering threats or warnings
- View maps with live status and real-time data
- Users can face bandwidth problems
- It is a detailed platform and a user may take time to fully use all its supported functions
Pricing: Since this is a sensor-based tool, the cost will depend on the number of sensors you use. Here is the sensor-based pricing.
- 100 sensors – Free
- 500 sensors – $1,600
- 1000 sensors – $2,850
- 2500 sensors – $5,950
- 5000 sensors – $10,500
- Unlimited sensors for one installation – $14,500
- Unlimited sensors for five installations – $60,000
Download: Click here to download the free version.
WireShark is a free and open-source packet analyzer that is ideal for network troubleshooting, and for developing different software and communications protocol.
Features: The features of WireShark are:
- Inspects hundreds of protocols
- Captures live data for future analysis. Coloring rules can be applied to the packets for intuitive analysis.
- Comes with a standard three-pane packet browser
- Runs on most popular platforms like Windows, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, macOS, and more.
- Exports output to XML, CSV, PostScript, and plain text formats.
- Supports the decryption process for most protocols.
- Offers rich VoIP analysis
- Reads or writes many file formats.
- Run scans and inspect hundreds of protocols
- Collect live stats and color-codes packets for intuitive future analysis
- Compatible with Solaris, FreeBSD, Windows, Linux, macOS, and other popular operating systems
- Allows exporting results in different formats, such as plain text, XML, or CSV
- Supports VoIP analysis and decryption procedure for protocols
- The platform was designed keeping network professionals in mind and has a steep learning curve
- When used on large networks, filtering can be overwhelming because it collects everything by default
Pricing: 100% FREE
Download: Click here to download WireShark.
4. SteelCentral Packet Analyzer
SteelCentral Packet Analyzer improves the speed of network packet analysis and reports the trace of large files through an intuitive GUI.
Features: Some of the salient features of SteelCentral Packet Analyzer are:
- Comes with extensive drag and drop, multi-level drill-down and an extensive collection of network analysis views to create stellar reports and also to make it easy to understand the cause of a problem.
- You can configure triggers and alerts to catch any abnormal behavior.
- Goes deep into packets and makes it easy to identify issues when millions of packets need to be analyzed.
- Allows you to merge and analyze multiple trace files at the same time, thereby helping you to pinpoint the root cause of problems in a network.
- Reports can be customized to meet different needs.
- Using an intuitive GUI, you can report large file traces
- Supports extensive drill down as well as drag and drop features that help generate stellar reports highlighting the root cause of the problem
- Set alerts and triggers to detect any unusual activity
- Users can customize reports as per their choice and requirement
- Allows simultaneous merging and analysis of multiple trace files
- Even captures sensitive information that makes it a potential security risk
- Lacks automated analysis feature
Pricing: Contact the sales team for a custom quote.
Download: Click here for the trial version.
NetworkMiner is an open-source tool for network forensics and analysis and can be used as a packet sniffer to detect sessions, hostnames, ports, operating systems, and more.
Features: Here is a look at some of the features available in NetworkMiner.
- Supports live sniffing
- Parses PCAP and PcapNG files.
- Extracts files from FTP, TFTP, HTTP, SMTP, POP3, and IMAP traffic.
- Runs on Windows and Linux.
- Supports audio extraction and playback of VoIP calls
- Exports data to different file formats such as CSV, Excel, XML, JSON-LD, and CASE.
- Comes with online ad and tracker detection.
- Users can decode PCAP and PcapNG files with NetworkMiner
- Allows exporting data in CSV, Excel, XML, and other file formats
- Supports live sniffing and VoIP call audio extractions
- Allows reconstructing files sent over the network
- Accessible even in offline mode
- It has an outdated interface and is occasionally challenging to use
- Built only for Windows and does not run on Linux and macOS without Mono
Pricing: There are two editions available with NetworkMiner and they are the free and paid editions. The paid edition costs $900 for a single user license and $4500 for a corporate user license.
Download: Click here to download the free version.
To conclude, IP sniffer and packet tools analyze the incoming and outgoing traffic in a network and helps to identify the root cause of problems, thereby making them indispensable for every network administrator. The tools mentioned above are some of the best in the industry today and come with a comprehensive set of features. We hope they help you to make the right decisions for your organization.