What Are Network Discovery Tools and Why Are They Important?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Network discovery is a useful process that allows IT professionals to locate and review all the devices on their workplace's network. They can use tools to perform the network discovery process to ensure that their network is secure and lower the risk of a potential hack or data breach. If you're an IT professional, reviewing different network discovery tools are may help you determine which one is the best fit for your workplace's needs. In this article, we explain what network discovery tools are and share a list of them for you to review.

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What are network discovery tools?

Network discovery tools allow you to use software to discover the devices that are on your network. These tools may help you organise your network's devices and ensure they perform properly. You may also use them to receive information when issues occur on any device. If your network grows quickly, these tools allow you to keep track of your devices easily since they provide you with documentation of your network's structure. This information is especially important for individuals that use various networks, including cloud-based servers, wired servers, wireless servers or virtual networks.

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How does network discovery work?

When using tools that enable network discovery, the program first locates all the IP addresses linked to a specific network. It looks for all types of IP addresses, including reserved, dynamic, static and abandoned devices. Then, the network discovery identifies which ports are in use, and which ports are available for other devices to use. If a network has ports that the user doesn't need, it may be a security problem since hackers can sometimes gain access to open ports easily. The tool then closes any open ports to limit access by any external users.

The final part of the network discovery process involves determining how all the devices connect to the network. The tool performs network mapping to ensure that each device performs properly, including running at a high speed and being issue-free. The process may also help you find any bottlenecks that keep your network from performing efficiently.

Importance of performing network discovery

Here are several reasons why it's important for users to perform network discovery to locate their devices:

  • Helps monitor traffic: These tools monitor the traffic of your network to determine which devices are on your network. You can also measure which devices use your network most frequently.

  • Ensures that each IP address is valid: You can use these tools to ensure that each IP address linked to your network is valid, meaning that you or someone you know uses the device frequently. This lowers the chance that a malicious device or hacker account is using your network.

  • Maintains an efficient set-up: By locating abandoned IP addresses and removing them, you can ensure that you have the most efficient network structure.

  • Keeps operations running smoothly: Using tools to perform network discovery can help you identify network issues, which may allow you to troubleshoot and resolve them. For example, if your workplace has 100 devices connected to the network, including computers and phones, it may be important to resolve network issues quickly to ensure the devices can function properly to keep business operations running smoothly.

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6 network discovery tools for IT professionals

IT professionals often use these tools to track the devices on their workplace's network. The type of tool that you choose may depend on your workplace's budget, IT needs and the number of devices on your network. Here is a list of tools that you can use to perform network discovery:

1. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

Consider purchasing the Network Performance Monitor tool with the network discovery feature from SolarWinds. This tool allows you to perform network discovery and management. It scans your network to discover the network's topology, which shows the arrangement of devices and ports on a network. Using these maps may allow you to identify issues in your network quickly or recognise potential issues before they occur.

This tool also includes performance monitoring features to ensure that your devices deliver a high performance. You can enable security features that alert you if an external user tries to access the network. SolarWinds offers a free trial of the Network Performance Monitor so that you can determine if the tools and network management features are a good fit for your IT needs.

2. SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper

The SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper is a great tool for users that want to focus on the mapping stage of the network discovery process. This tool performs network mapping and can build various types of maps after conducting one discovery scan. You may use your maps to detect any changes in the network's topology. The tool saves previous maps so that you can review older maps to determine more recent changes or updates.

When using the mapping tool, you can scan each device on your network or select specific devices that you want it to scan. After receiving a copy of your map, you may download it using a PDF or Word document, which allows you to save it on your device easily. SolarWinds offers a 14-day free trial of the Network Topology Mapper.

3. Advanced IP Scanner

The Advanced IP Scanner is a free tool that Famatech Corp. offers to users that want their network mapping done by simple IP scanning processes. This tool is compatible with Windows 7,8,10 and 11. After downloading it, the tool runs a scan of your network to identify any Windows PCs connected to your network. The scanner can then shut down any unused devices or add new devices. This may be a useful tool for new businesses that don't have the funding for advanced discovery tools, since it can provide reliable mapping and scanning processes.

4. Nagios XI

Nagios is a software company that offers the Nagios XI which is a network monitoring tool that monitors your network data to optimise your devices' performances. Typically, users choose this tool for its simple dashboard, which makes it easy to operate and receive results. The dashboard displays network behaviour patterns, potential issues and security alerts so that you can prioritise the network's needs. For example, if you view the dashboard and identify a security risk, you may address that issue before monitoring the network's traffic or reviewing other issues.

The tool also displays charts that share the network's bandwidth and general health. You can customise the tool's features to change the dashboard's display, including the design, colour and font. Nagios provides a free trial and online demo to users before they purchase this tool so that they understand how to use it properly.

5. Intermapper Network Software Monitoring

HelpSystems created the Intermapper Network Software Monitoring, which is a mapping tool that had network discovery and performance monitoring capabilities. The mapping tool identifies all virtual and physical equipment with an IP address that is in your network. Then, it creates a map with information about each device, including the bandwidth that it uses and its performance speed. You can set the map to update automatically with more recent performance data.

Various versions of this tool are compatible with Linux and Windows products. You can purchase it for a cost that depends on the number of devices you have on your network, or you can pay a flat fee that allows you to have unlimited devices. The option that you choose may depend on your workplace's size and IT needs. For example, if your workplace has 250 devices on a network, then you may pay a flat fee to save money. The flat fee can vary depending on the type of devices that your workplace uses.

6. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

Paessler offers the PRTG Network Monitor, which is a tool that provides network discovery by tracking traffic, performance and a network's database capacity. By adding the PRTG Map Designer feature, you also receive the mapping tool. The maps display updated information for each device in the network. It also displays connection data, including the amount of bandwidth that each device uses.

You can use this tool to receive alerts when the system detects any unusual metrics in the network's behaviours. Paessler provides users with a free 30-day trial to use the tool on their network. It also offers free mobile applications that you can download to receive security notifications or updates in real-time so that you may address an issue quickly.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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