What is the real cost of free network monitoring?
Freeware, open source software, shareware – whatever ‘free’ option you choose, it’s worth checking out why it could potentially cost you more than a proprietary solution in the long run.
We all love free stuff. Especially if we think it’s going to save us spending money elsewhere. So, it’s understandable that in the past businesses may have opted to use freeware and open source solutions to monitor their networks. But hold on before you head off down that route. We recently had a customer telling us how their ‘free’ solution was causing them so much pain, chewing up time and budget, and generally not doing what they wanted, that they wished they had bought a professional product in the first place.
Here are just five of the hidden ‘costs’ that can add up to a whole lot of frustration and risk to the smooth monitoring and operation of your network.
1. Complex or awkward to use.
This arises for all sorts of reasons: ‘quirky’ systems, user-unfriendly interfaces, and just plain unwieldy design. Free solutions can be complex, requiring all kinds of plugins and time-consuming configuration, coding and testing. Users may face a steep learning curve, perhaps including getting to grips with a long list of command-line interfaces to perform even basic functions. And although your free monitoring engine may have cost you nothing, you’ll probably find that some of the features that could make life easier will still need to be paid for, such as wizards and dashboards.
2. Too many – or too few – alerts.
This is a frequent complaint from users of free monitoring software: there is a Goldilocks zone you want to be aiming for, here. The challenges with too few alerts are obvious – if you don’t know there’s a problem, it can’t be fixed, and you’ll be letting your users down. Yet too many alerts can cause real pain, if you are being sent in hundreds of different directions to remedy red herrings or events that really don’t matter. Will your system be able to identify and spot the important warning signs?
3. Lack of support, technical documentation and updates.
No cost probably means no support team on call and being responsible for your own updates – as, when and if they become available. Communities can be very good, if everyone else is using the same system in the same way as you are, but ultimately, you’re on your own.
The DIY approach doesn’t always mean you can do what you like. For example, there could well be a limit to the number of ports/sensors that can be monitored, which would make your free solution hard to scale. It may not perform discovery properly. Or it may not be able to monitor network throughput (bandwidth use or availability). The chances are that sooner or later you will run into some kind of limitation – particularly if your business is growing and changing.
5. Exposure to commercial and operational risk.
Let’s be candid here – can you trust the integrity and quality of every third-party component that you’ll be using? Will it be free of viruses, bloatware, spyware? Will it even work? There’s another risk, too, as by relying on one or two in-house ‘experts’ to architect and maintain your solution could well mean that you run into trouble when they leave the business.
6. A professional solution is cheaper than you think.
Weighing up the risks, the time investment needed (to set up, let alone run and manage the system) and the lack of full functionality and scalability, it makes sense to look at a professional solution as the best value option for monitoring your network.
A professional solution comes with a known, fixed cost which makes your budgeting more straightforward. It also comes with peace of mind that you have the year-round support and technical know-how of the supplier, whose responsibility it is to ensure your monitoring tool is working optimally for your network and that you are extracting maximum value from your solution.