What are the Best Network Diagnostics Tools?

J. Uhl

The best network diagnostics tools are available both as hardware and software solutions. Software-based network diagnostic tools utilize existing hardware to run various tests to diagnose issues in equipment and errors and to monitor the health of connections and devices. There are a variety of hardware tools available for diagnosis, and they can vary greatly in both price and features. Many of the best network diagnostics tools can diagnose not only the nature of the issue but also the location. This can be useful when tracing cables throughout rooms or buildings.

Cat5 cable, which is used with networks.
Cat5 cable, which is used with networks.

These network diagnostic and management tools can be found at the core of any information technology (IT) professional's diagnostic arsenal:

A packet sniffer, a network diagnostic tool, can monitor all of the traffic that passes through a router.
A packet sniffer, a network diagnostic tool, can monitor all of the traffic that passes through a router.

1. Ping: Ping is an Internet command that bounces a packet to an Internet Protocol (IP) address or domain name in order to test the network's communication. It returns the length of time that it took for the round trip there and back. This is a commonly used utility for conducting what is essentially a very basic foundational network test, because its primary purpose is to determine whether a computer can reach other computers on the network and how long the trip takes in the process.

2. Traceroute: Traceroute is a command designed to trace the network path that packets take through Internet routers when traveling from the source computer to the destination address. The number of Internet routers that make up the traceroute path are what determines the network connection "length." Traceroute is used to diagnose a slow network connection.

3. Port scanner: A port scanner is an application that probes the network host in search of open ports. Network administrators use this software to verify the security policies within their networks, though it is also used by attackers in order to identify the services running on a host. Portscanning a host implies scanning for ports that are listening on the target host.

4. Vulnerability scanner: This is a computer application that is designed to assess applications, networks, computers and computer systems for any weaknesses. Vulnerability scanners exist in many forms and are differentiated by the particular targets on which they focus. Functionality can vary from one vulnerability scanner to the next, though they share the same core purpose, which is to enumerate a target's vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scanners play an important role as a component of vulnerability management in networking.

5. Packet sniffer: Packet sniffers are also known as network analyzers, and network monitors and are used by network administrators to troubleshoot or monitor traffic on the network. The packet sniffer captures information that the administrator can then use to identify any erroneous packets, to pinpoint bottlenecks and to maintain efficient transmission of the network data.

The best network diagnostics tools can benefit an IT professional managing a computer network or multiple network computers. Whether it is a small home network or a corporation's wireless network that is being managed, the right utilities can play an important role in effectively diagnosing and managing multiple network devices. The best network diagnostics tools will help the IT professional resolve any network issues quickly and with minimal difficulty.

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Discussion Comments


What is the difference between such tools and the usual networking monitoring software like Anturis, Pingdom or Monitis? They seem to be rather the same.

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