7 Best server monitoring software for businesses in 2022

Once upon a time, "server monitoring" was a delightfully simple category of monitoring sub-discipline within IT. There was a box, the box had an operating system, and that operating system did certain things for the organization. Even as the word "server" morphed into "the box in the data center" and "the function that box needs to perform" - such as a print server or a file server - it was still easy to figure out what was needed and find or create server monitoring software that would tell us if those functions were working well.

Unfortunately, time has moved on and the concepts have become more and more intertwined: Is our focus on monitoring the Exchange server on the machine, the basic components like storage, the Exchange application itself, or the user experience with that application? Or all of those just mentioned?

These days, the disintermediation of the cloud means it's hard to know where the application ends and the hardware begins, and whether we should even care (spoiler alert: yes, you should). The good news, however, is that server monitoring software has kept pace with the ever-changing landscape and it's embarrassing for those of us who do the hard work as gatekeepers of observability in our environments.

After doing a little digging, a little research and no small amount of testing, I've realized that this is less about finding the "best all-around server monitoring software " and more about figuring out which tool is right for a particular use case, business niche and budget.

That's what I'm going to do in this post. I won't try to cover every single one of the open source, free, freemium or paid server monitoring tools. Instead, I'll look at some of the most common use cases and offer my best picks for server monitoring software in those categories. I hope this will help you speed up your own process, whether you're just starting to find a server monitoring tool that fits your needs or you already have one that you may have outgrown.


Best general server monitoring software: Server & Application Monitor.

When it comes to a solution that combines a wide range of features, scalability from small stores to global enterprises, a support ecosystem that ensures you can expand horizontally into other technologies, and a price that is a bargain - relative to what you get - there's really only one choice: SolarWinds® Server and Application Monitor (SAM).

In addition, SAM is easy to install and maintain, has more than 1. 200 pre-built application templates, hundreds of reports, and an alerting system that lets you not only trigger an email, page, or ticket, but also automatically respond to events to try to resolve the issue before support staff are called in.

Best open source server monitoring tool: Nagios Core

System administrators like Nagios because it can do everything. What it doesn't have can be built - or more likely, it's already been built by the incredibly dedicated Nagios community.

There are two versions of Nagios. Nagios Core is open source and free. Nagios XI is a commercial tool based on Nagios Core, but with additional features. Nagios can be overwhelming for both beginners and organizations that lack IT support staff, but it offers good server monitoring capabilities. For support, users can get help from the Nagios community or opt for a commercial support package from Nagios Enterprise.

Best server monitoring software for virtualized on-premise environments: Virtualization Manager

Despite all the talk about cloud migrations, there are still many applications that, for one reason or another, need to have their feet (and servers) firmly on the ground in the on-premises data center. For the most part, these applications run in virtual machines, which present their own monitoring challenges. The obfuscation of real hardware versus hardware presented to VMs, instances moving from host to host when resources are contested, and actual usage of systems versus their provisioned capacity can virtually overwhelm IT staff.

SolarWinds Virtualization Manager monitoring helps resolve all of these issues by tracking and displaying the relationship between data center and host to VM, the connection between LUNs and the applications they serve, the status of the storage resources that make up a vSAN, and the vMotions that occur during the day.

Best monitoring tool for local environments: CA Network Operations Analytics

Believe it or not, there are still organizations that have not yet started cloud computing migration. The reasons are valid and varied - security and audit requirements, budget concerns, skills shortages and more - but the bottom line is that many of today's server monitoring solutions either fall outside those parameters or simply have features they don't need and don't use. I wanted to highlight CA Network Operations Analytics, one of the classic tools that was the foundation of server monitoring when the cloud wasn't even a glimmer in a DevOps unicorn's eye.

Like similar products -- IBM Tivoli and BMC Patrol come to mind -- this tool is on the higher end of the cost scale and requires an investment in staff for installation, configuration and operation. But once you get it up and running, the range of systems it can monitor and the list of applications it can display performance metrics about is huge.

Best server monitoring solution for hybrid IT environments: Application Performance Monitor

What is it when your organization is not cloud-native, but not completely on-premises either? Welcome to the strange gray area of hybrid IT, where you have systems and solutions in your data center hosted in the cloud and probably other intermediate solutions like the "private cloud." What can a bad monitoring engineer do in this case? If you need all three pillars of observability (metrics, logs and traces) AND you need to connect these pillars to multiple deployment platforms, SolarWinds Application Performance Monitor is the best server monitoring tool we have found. This is based on the aforementioned SAM and extends your visibility to include traces across the application stack.

Best server monitoring tool for beginners without budget: Spiceworks

Based on agentless techniques such as WMI (for Windows computers) and SNMP (for network and *nix systems), the free server monitoring tool Spiceworks can monitor servers, switches, SNMP devices and services. You can also set up customizable notifications and restart services through the app.

Best server monitoring tool for managed service providers: N-Central

Now let's look at something completely different. What if you're looking for a bigger and better solution - one that offers a wealth of features and all the tools you might need?

This is especially relevant for MSPs and those in similar businesses. You need something robust, yet easy to use. This is where N-central comes in.

N-Central is a remote network monitoring solution with a variety of tools. You can use it to efficiently monitor various elements of your customers' networks. You'll get security and performance alerts, the ability to monitor mobile devices and virtual machines, full customization of user roles, permissions and much more.


Like the other "top monitoring software" articles here, this list is by no means exhaustive. As you can see, server monitoring is a large and diverse subspecialty within the monitoring discipline and there are solutions for just about every use case. If you're just starting your search for the right server monitoring tool for the job, I hope this has given you a head start. And if you already have a tool and are considering either a change or addition to your setup, I hope this has given you more data to consider. That said, SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is still my top choice for the best server monitoring tool after considering its overall features and price.