The immense growth in networking technology has brought several challenges to network providers across the globe. One of their common goals is to win the war by keeping their respective networks stronger than the others.
Consequently, network providers try their best to keep their networks healthy to gain and retain the maximum number of customers. However, keeping track of huge traffic and maintaining the standard parameters to deliver the best quality networking experience is not a piece of cake. This is where network scanning comes in handy.
In general, it is the process of scanning a network thoroughly and generating a detailed report about the overall performance of the network.
What is Network Scanning?
Network scanning is the process of using a computer network to collect information about computing systems. It is used primarily for system maintenance and security assessment. The following are the objectives of network scanning:
- To identify the available UDP/TCP network services that are active on the targeted hosts.
- To recognize the difference between the target hosts and the user's filtering systems.
- Assess IP responses to determine the operating systems in use.
- To determine the sequence prediction attack and TCP fraud, you need to evaluate the TCP sequence number predictability of your target host.
In general, network scanning involves pinging every port to accomplish the aforementioned objectives. Also, it is challenging to keep a track of network activities and take necessary actions to resolve issues within a network. However, network scanning tools are solely designed to tackle such situations.
How Do Network Scanning Tools Work?
To get a better understanding of how a network scanning tool works, you need to get familiar with the following three steps:
- Discover active devices on the network: Firstly, the network scanning tools conduct a quick scan of the network to prepare a structured list of all active devices and collect some basic details about them, like IP address, behavioral patterns, etc. After creating such a list, it moves forward to analyzing and troubleshooting possible network issues.
- Use of address resolution protocol: Network scanning tools employ address resolution protocol. popularly known as ARP, to scan and analyze all the active devices connected to a local area network (LAN). However, they are limited to the subnet level and have a smaller client base.
- Use of Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP): In the traditional method of scanning and troubleshooting the active devices in a network, Internet Control Message Protocol, also known as ICMP, is used. However, ICMP has complex technicalities, which can easily be integrated with the network scanning tools and assist in achieving higher targets, unlike humans.
Importance of Network Scanning
If network scanning is such a sophisticated and complex procedure, then why do we need to scan our network. This question can be answered in the following points:
Maintain a healthy network
A network comprises a huge number of active devices that are continuously working and using the network as a resource. Network scanning helps us detect and troubleshoot many problems, including harmful malware, unfavorable client behavior, etc. After detecting such problems, fixing them becomes much easier.
Smooth networking experience
The networking market is full of competition, where providing the best quality network experience is the only way to survive. Thus, ensuring a smooth and safe networking experience for customers becomes very crucial. With network scanning, it becomes possible to monitor the health of a network and identify any possible issues in real-time.
Since data is considered to be the most vulnerable asset today, it needs high-end security and regular scanning to avoid cyber attacks. No matter how many firewalls, protectors, security locks, etc. you employ to safeguard your data, a network may have technical glitches that remain unnoticed. Network scanning tools are always the best aid to keep a check on any such glitches or unfavorable conditions.
Detection of glitches
As stated above, even a small technical glitch is enough for hackers to penetrate the network and steal personal data. We must detect and eliminate such glitches as soon as possible. Therefore, network administrators need network scanning tools to identify and resolve network glitches.
Systematic network trafficking
As we know, a network comprises many active devices that constantly use the network's resources. The excessive usage of resources may increase the network load and result in unstructured traffic, which can cause several technical problems, like network latency or lag and technical breakdowns. Network scanning tools take the responsibility of keeping a track of such situations and assist you in resolving them before they hamper the functioning of the network.
Best Network Scanning Tools
Here are some of the best network scanning tools that you can use to scan networks and optimize them for delivering maximum performance.
This is a lightweight network scanning software that comes with an easy-to-use interface. It provides several essential information regarding a network, such as IP address, workgroup name, username, MAC address, number of ports, etc. It is suitable for small businesses that are in the initial phase of their corporate journey.
- It allows quick network scanning with multi-threaded technology.
- Free IP Scanner can scan multiple targets in a second without consuming a lot of resources.
- It runs as a stand-alone executable tool, which makes it ideal for USB toolkits.
- Its scans can be configured to your specifications and you get the option to exclude ranges and subnets.
- The network information is stored in a basic text log output file.
This is an IP address scanner and manager that supports both IPv4 and IPv6 . It also provides the facility to scan the switches available in a network. OpUtils has an intuitive interface that makes it a user-friendly tool. Also, it provides users with an amazing network scanning experience for subnet address, name of device, size and usage, status, last scan time, etc.
- It automates network scanning by scheduling scan routines.
- Supports scalability by allowing multiple subnets as well as IPv4 and IPV6 addresses.
- It can scan a network and find malicious devices.
- It comes with an alert system to inform you about the risk of emerging issues in the network.
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is an advanced network scanning solution. It automatically scans your network and provides every essential data to you. To provide optimal results, this tool prioritizes IP address scanning.
- It can automatically make the topology of networks.
- Detects device faults, availability, and performance.
- Provides an easy-to-read matrix of the network and its connected device performances.
- You can modify charts and dashboards.
- Sends you notifications via SMS and email when there are any changes in the network
- Offers a 30-day free trial.
When we talk about the best network scanning software, there’s one particular name that we can’t simply ignore, and it is none other than PRTG Network Monitor. PRTG Network Monitor is mostly recommended for organizational usage as it can analyze the entire network infrastructure i.e, the system, traffic, device, and applications on a large scale.
- It helps you measure the bandwidth your devices and applications are using.
- It can provide detailed statistics for every application in your network.
- You are able to analyze a network remotely.
- It comes with an automated failover handling feature.
- You can visualize your network using maps.
- PRTG Network Monitor sends you an email, plays alarm audio, or triggers HTTP requests when it finds an issue in the network.
This is an open-source network scanning tool. It is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. With this tool, you can scan IP addresses and all the available and active ports.
- It is a completely free and open-source network scanner that is capable of scanning IP addresses as well as ports efficiently and quickly.
- The scan report from the IP scanner contains details such as hostnames, NetBIOS, MAC address, and device name.
- It allows you to export reports in CSV, TXT, and XML formats.
- It employs the multi-threaded scanning method that has distinct scanning threads for each IP address to make the network scanning process fast.
This is one of the best network scanning tools as it provides the facility to discover all active local area networks (LAN) automatically. You can use it on Windows, macOS, and Linux systems. Furthermore, it comes with a user-friendly dashboard and robust functionalities that allows it to scan a network in minutes.
- It is simple and easy to install.
- You can set the alert thresholds, in-app notifications, or emails.
- Quickly gain insights and spot slow, sluggish or overloaded systems.
- It is free of cost.
- Provides customer support over a call or chat.
This tool is developed by Lizard Systems, and it can be primarily used for personal as well as corporate purposes. This tool can be the best fit to audit networks and the devices using the network. It finds the computer and also authenticate it. Key features of this scanner are:
- It is a user-friendly network scanning tool.
- Uses multi-threaded scanning to achieve a scanning rate of 1000 systems per minute.
- It allows you to filter results and export them in txt, XML, and HTML file formats.
- Help you check the status of any computer connected to the network.
- It can generate NetBIOD, FTTP, and web server reports.
Advanced IP Scanner is one of the most popular network scanning software. It can scan all active local area networks in a few seconds. Additionally, you do not have to pay any fees to use this software.
- It is a free, open-source network scanning tool.
- Detects devices connected to the network, including wireless devices.
- It allows users to perform FTP and HTTP services on remote machines.
- You can use it without actually installing it on your computer.
- The scanned results can be exported in a CSV file format.
- Compatible with Windows OS.
9. IP Scanner
IP Scanner is a network scanning tool developed by Lansweeper. Many people prefer using this tool due to its capability to deploy commands and scripts to multiple devices simultaneously. It makes use of an integral deployment function that allows you to automatically install software and scan networks.
- Prioritizes IP address scanning.
- It can act as a Wake-On-Lan manager.
- Scans MAC addresses, logged-on users, users accounts, device up-times, etc.
- Provides a filter option to search, which is ideal for BYOD networks.
- Provides additional information, like hostname, manufacturer, hardware statistics, and NetBIOS information.
- IP Range Scanner is an excellent option for asset discovery without agents for smaller networks.
Last but not least, Nmap is one of the best software for scanning networks. Also, it is a well-known network security finder tool. Nmap is an ideal option for network administrators, ethical hackers, security analysts, and pen testers. One of the best things about Nmap is that it is available for all three major operating systems, i.e., Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Also, you can access its source code if you want to run it on any other operating system. If you face any issues operating NMAP, there are various tutorials, articles, cheat sheets and videos provided by the software vendor that can help you out.
- It describes the network and ports numerically which makes it the most userfriendly scanning tool ever.
- Nmap comes with NSE (Nmap Scripting Engine) to detect security problems and issues with network configuration.
- It tests hosts’ availability by analyzing the IP packets.
- Namp is compatible with both GUI and CLI interfaces.
- It offers Zenmap with advanced GUI and also provides Ndiff to get results of computer scan and NPing for response analysis.
Network scanning is quite important for administrators to find and resolve issues and glitches in a network. An administrator can use one of the leading network scanning tools mentioned above. All these tools provide various services related to network scanning and analysis. Also, it is possible for network providers to take advantage of a network scanning tool to maintain their networks and ensure better customer satisfaction.
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