Network scanners have become an integral part of every IT admin’s first line of defense against security breaches. Using the right network scanner tool to conduct effective network reconnaissance and diagnosis enables you to pinpoint network issues that can escalate to security risks and network mishaps. A typical network scanner would allow you to scan a range of IP addresses sequentially, and display the active devices within that address block. Besides that, network scanners can also display details about network ports, port services, and identify rogue agents.
Whether you have already deployed or looking to deploy a network scanner, several options are available in the market. It is important to ensure that your tool’s best features suit your organization’s scanning requirements. This helps you avoid the need to compensate for missing or unsuited features, and helps you effectively automate the scanning process.
To make things easier, we have compiled a checklist of features to help ensure your network scanner tool meets your organization’s needs.
The ultimate network scanner features checklist for IT admins
1. Organization-wide network scans
Unlike networks that are made up of a small IP pool, enterprise- level networks can span across multiple subnets, routers, and servers. Trying to manually scan and manage these networks is often mundane and less accurate. Because the manual scan process is more time-consuming, results might be inconsistent with the real-time network status, and could potentially expose your network to security risks.
It’s important to deploy a network scanner tool that can automate the network scanning process, and display scan results in real time. It should also be able to scan across multiple subnets and network entities, such as switch ports and routers. An ideal network scanner enables you to scan thousands of IPs within a short span of time without requiring much manual effort.
A solution that offers this functionality keeps you informed about what’s happening in your network, including the status of IP address assignments for devices, switch port mapping, port services, and so on.
2. Support for IPv6 address space
IPv6 addressing is growing more popular among IT admins around the world compared to the IPv4 addressing techniques due to its advantages, such as more effective routing, packet processing, and increased support for new services. Many organizations have adapted IPv6 addressing for their network entities. However, many organizations utilize both IPv6 and IPv4 in their networks.
The network scanner tool you deploy in your network should support scanning both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to ensure full coverage of your network’s IP address space. It should be compatible to scan, track, and manage both the IP versions without any additional setup.
3. Network scan types offered
Not all network infrastructures are the same. Different organizations follow different strategies to set-up their IT infrastructure, and to decide on the tools deployed to manage it. Using two different tools for monitoring a specific aspect of the network is like using two software firewalls. It can result in internal conflicts and can be an expensive mistake, costing network issues, time, and money.
When it comes to network scanners, understanding your network scan requirements first, and then choosing the network scanner that offers the required scan types helps you skip the hassle of conflicting scans caused by using different tools. The most popular types of network scanners are:
- IP scanner: Scans IP addresses and their associated resources.
- Port scanner: Scans ports and identifies the services running on them.
- Vulnerability scanner: Scans network to identify potential vulnerabilities that could expose the network to a security breach.
4. Supported network scanning techniques
IT admins employ different scan techniques based on scan requirements and the network entity being scanned. Choosing the network scanner that provides and supports the required types of scan techniques utilized in your IT infrastructure is important.
Some of the popular scan techniques include:
- Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) scans that pings your network to check for live systems.
- Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) scans that collects information about the devices in your network.
- Scans for Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) services that provides extensive error checking, and ensures data packets arrive in order at the receiving end.
- Scans for User Datagram Protocol (UDP) services, a connection-less transport layer protocol that is faster than TCP.
5. In-depth visibility into scanned devices
Besides determining the active hosts in your network, some network scanner tools also shed light on the details of the scanned device. You can monitor network devices in depth by tracking details, like live status, user, physical location, and more. This enables you to verify your network documentations, IP allocations, and blocking rogue devices, as well as whitelist new devices that are trusted, and identify open ports.
Choosing a network scanner that provides visibility into the status of the devices being scanned helps you inspect and monitor complex networks with ease.
6. Exporting scan results
An important step of the network scanning process is analyzing and storing the scan results. In a complex network with hundreds of resources, a network scanner tool that offers flexible scanning and scan report export options eases the load of IT admins by simplifying documentation tasks. An ideal network scanner tool should offer you options to export scan results required to maintain logs of network operations in different formats, such as CSVs and PDFs.
7. Scan schedules automation
Network scanning is not a onetime process. Depending on the type of network resources being monitored and the network monitoring strategy being used, you should run scans regularly. Manually initiating the scan process each time is tedious and inefficient. To overcome these hurdles, opt for a network scanner that enables you to automate the scanning process. The solution should be able to create scan schedules that trigger and run network scans without requiring manual initiation.
8. Detailed reporting options
Network reports play an important part in conducting network audits, and in analyzing network utilization, performance, and availability trends over time. This helps you to understand who, how, and when your resources are being used, enhance your capacity planning, and better predict your network requirements. Using a network scanner tool that offers a diverse set of reports helps you plan so you can avoid network issues, such as IP resource exhaustion.
9. Real-time alerting capabilities
An effective network scanner should aid in identifying emerging issues in real time, and pinpoint the cause of these issues. For this, the network scanner should provide features that enable you to set thresholds on the network performance, availability, and utilization metrics. This ensures that when these parameters cross the threshold levels, which can indicate a network issue such as resource overutilization or underutilization, the IT team is automatically alerted.
Most network scanner tools require you to be tethered to your workplace. Alerts and issues are often displayed in product. What if a network issue that requires your immediate attention is detected on a network scan, and you are away from your desk, replacing a faulty network cable? Staying connected with your network resources and monitoring the scan results from anytime, anywhere, and enables you to prevent minor issues from escalating to major network mishaps.
The IT team’s tasks are more efficient and easier if the network scanner solution includes a mobile app that displays and provides alerts about the real-time scan status, ensuring scan results are monitored even when IT admins are offsite.
ManageEngine OpUtils – An advanced network scanner for complex IT infrastructures
Offering powerful scanning capabilities and more than 30 built-in network tools to tackle emerging issues, ManageEngine OpUtils is a reliable network scanner for small to enterprise-level networks. OpUtils offers a range of network scanning options including, IP and port scanning, and supports different network protocols, such as ICMP, SNMP, and ARP.
More than just a network scanner, OpUtils is a complete IP address management and switch port mapping solution loaded with advanced features to help you keep track of your network resources with ease.
What makes OpUtils stand out?
- Advanced IP scanning capabilities include real-time status tracking and availability monitoring.
- Support for multiple subnets enables enterprise-level scanning within minutes.
- DHCP server monitoring provides a clear overview of your DHCP server statuses and scopes.
- Historical IP operations logs aid in understanding resource usage patterns and accomplishing better capacity planning.
- Advanced port scanning features enable end-to-end switch port mapping and a Port View option that displays real-time graphical views of switch port connectivity status.
- Custom scan schedule options help automate periodic manual scanning.
- Threshold-based alarms triggered automatically to escalate potential network issues.
- Diverse granular reports provide insights into network resources’ performance, availability, and utilization metrics.
- Supplementary Android and iOS mobile app enable network resource monitoring on the go.