Network mapping software, like a mind map, creates a visualization of your entire network and its relationship to devices connected to it. These maps include how many devices are accessing your network at any given time, how long these devices are connected to your network, the location of these devices, what other networks they are connected to, and more.
Getting the right picture of the status of the company’s network has never been more challenging. Obtaining these insights are poised to get more complicated as new methods of connectivity are introduced in the coming years. To improve network management, tools like network mapping software are now a must-have.
Networking Mapping Software Overview
The Benefits of Network Mapping
Businesses undergoing digital transformation may need to invest in network mapping software simply because it makes the management process easier. To better appreciate the importance of network mapping software, here are some of its biggest benefits:
1. Network mapping software monitors devices.
Network mapping software determines the number of devices connected to the network and where they are located. This information matters to enterprises for two reasons.
- It can help design (Bring-your-own-device) BYOD policies.
- It gives a more realistic picture of how employees access the network.
BYOD, while cost-effective, can raise serious security concerns. For example, an employee may inadvertently access the network using an unsecured internet connection. To avoid these problems, companies need to draft BYOD policies. This is where data from network mapping software can be valuable.
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2. It can monitor and prevent an array of network problems.
When so many devices are connected to the network, troubleshooting can be painful. Tracing the root cause can take hours, days and sometimes, months. One benefit of network mapping software is easy detection and diagnosis. By updating the data, a user can identify where the problem is, including which device needs troubleshooting. can also help companies avoid even more critical problems many networks are currently facing. These include computer breaches and 5G security glitches.
The number of data breaches has been increasing over the years. In 2017 alone, over 1.6 million breaches occurred.
5G also poses potential security challenges to a network. 5G creates several access points for hackers and other cybercriminals. Moreover, because there are only a few 5G providers today, users may end up being totally dependent on one supplier. If this supplier is vulnerable to attacks, all businesses that connect to its 5G network suffer the same problem as well.
Network mapping software can help mitigate these growing enterprise threats:
- One can use the platform to identify weak points in the network. Weak points could be unsecured devices that regularly access the network.
- The software can also help one identify chokepoints in the network, which may warrant further investigation. Certain malicious actors may be accessing the same network already.
- It helps businesses implement more secure strategies. One of these is the zero-trust approach, which (1) limits the access of users and, (2) creates multiple-factor authentications to monitor and control access. To design zero trust in your business, the IT security team can rely on the information generated by network mapping software.
3. It creates opportunities for a better network design.
Most network topologies fall into any of the seven categories. These include bus, ring, tree, mesh, and star. As a network grows, it may evolve into a hybrid of any of these topologies. With the introduction of new technologies like cloud computing, network topologies have to be dynamic — ready to adapt to changes to ensure both the network and employees remain efficient, secure, and productive.
One way network mapping software can be helpful is in creating better network design to accommodate smart connectivity principles. The best network mapping software ensures that the enterprise is ready to welcome these new accessibility and storage options anytime.
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How to Choose Network Mapping Software
Today, there’s a growing number of network mapping tools available. Choosing the right one can be challenging. To help users, here are the most common features to look for:
Because organizations can have different network topologies, which can also change over time, network mapping software needs to be both flexible and customizable. The ideal network mapping tool is also convenient to integrate with any existing infrastructure while versatile enough to be adaptable to new network technologies. Network maps need to be understood not only by the administrators but any person who needs such data, such as business executives (CEOs, COOs, and CFOs).
2. Real-time discoveries and updates
Some network mapping platforms let users update the topology, design, and other components on their own. However, it would be better if one can already update the data in real time. The software can perform periodic scans.
Companies spend a good amount of their revenues on information technology. As a percentage of revenue, it can range from 1.4 percent to as much as 5.9 percent, which is common in the healthcare industry.
Besides costs, IT executives will be interested to know factors that can make the entire network costly, such as the risk of data breaches. Network mapping software can provide the necessary information, but the best ones are understandable even by someone who has only basic knowledge about networking.
Also read: Approaches to Cybersecurity in 5G-driven Enterprise Networks
Best Network Mapping Software Tools
Here are the six best choices for network mapping software in the market:
SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper
This software has been consistently cited as the editor’s choice in many review websites for a good reason. First, it can automate both device discovery and mapping. It can build several maps from a single scan to determine how comprehensive the network is.
When the user wants to enhance the appearance of the network symbols, SolarWinds can export diagrams to Visio. This is a good option for those who need to submit regular network reports for decision making and reference.
SolarWinds can also map the network using a variety of protocols, such as Simple Network Management (SNMP) and WMI (Windows Management Interface). It can also do the same job scanning virtual network architectures like VMWare.
The software costs $1,570. However, users can take advantage of a 14-day free trial.
Spiceworks Network Mapping Tool
Spiceworks offers excellent visualization of the network and plenty of information not only on the devices, but also on the users. It can present data in different easy-to-browse categories and picks up information that can range from asset licenses to disk space usage and availability.
This network mapping tool can be a source of add-on revenue for an IT-oriented business. It can function as a managed service provider, which can also run a help desk. Within a single console, users can identify client issues, receive real-time notifications, and track costs.
Spiceworks can also generate results and data in an easy-to-understand report format. Because the information is generated automatically, it leaves less room for errors and human manipulation.
Spiceworks is free but there are a few caveats:
- It seems to run all the time, which means it can compete with the network for bandwidth.
- Users may find the network diagrams difficult to customize, especially since Spiceworks is not compatible with Visio.
Datadog Live Network Mapping
Datadog Live Network Mapping has one of the most well-organized and easy-to-understand visuals among the options on this list. Relationships between the different components, such as nodes and devices, are color coded, so they are much easier to trace.
The software can perform live network mapping, allowing end users to analyze traffic as it flows through containers, apps, and devices in real time. It can also generate reports, such as connection churn, latencies, and retransmits between transmission control protocols (TCP).
Datadog’s network monitoring tool can autodiscover networks and devices that support brands like Cisco, Dell, HP, and Juniper. The information available can also help in forecasting bandwidth utilization.
Data Dog has two pricing plans. Network Performance Monitoring costs $5 per host per month, while Network Device Monitoring is priced at $7 per device per month. Free trials of both price plans are available.
Intermapper is a network monitoring tool designed by HelpSystems. One of its main advantages is it works on multiple operating systems at once, including Windows, Linux, and Mac.
The software is also loaded with a huge catalog of network symbols for customization. Users can manually update the map to create submaps and hierarchical maps. They can also upload the map to Visio or work on it as an SVG file if they want to further personalize the look.
Intermapper offers different pricing plans according to the number of devices the user wants to monitor. The free version can track up to 10 devices. The software also includes a free 30-day trial.
Lucidchart is a cloud-based network mapping software. As such, it is ideal for companies with large remote teams and cloud networks. The software can also create wireframes and mock-ups, document the codebase, and provide an understandable presentation of data and user flow in the network.
Since Lucidchart is in the cloud, it encourages collaboration in the IT team, allowing for the responsibility of updating and monitoring the network to be shared among different experts.
Lucidchart has four pricing plans, but only the Enterprise option has the advanced data and automation feature, which suits the creation of a network map.
D3M is one of the ideal network mapping platforms for IT businesses. It is a web-based app, which means the features are accessible anytime, anywhere. It also promotes collaboration between customers and providers, especially during the installation or the design phase of a company’s network. This job can also be done remotely to save costs and time.
D3M’s diagrams and their updates are available in real time, so expectations between clients and providers are more realistic and achievable. The data they generate is also helpful in creating sales quotes and proposals.
D3M is available for $9 a month. It also offers a free trial and a free version.
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