June 12, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Nagios XI – Review 2020

6 min read

If you’ve been an IT professional for any length of time, the name Nagios XI is likely a familiar one. Starting at $1,995.00 for a perpetual license of the Standard Edition, this network monitoring tool is great for experienced IT professionals looking for a platform they can customize as the platform is rife with such features. While that’s great for IT pros with some time under their belts, it makes for a steep enough learning curve to keep Nagios XI behind our Editors’ Choice winners in the network monitoring category, Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold and Paessler PRTG.

On the pricing side, for smaller shops with less than 7 hosts, there’s a free version that can be downloaded directly off the website. That makes it very easy for new IT pros and those working smaller networks to engage with Nagios XI at minimal cost.  When your network grows enough to upgrade to the standard edition, you start at 100 nodes. A node is considered to be anything with an IP address. This is as opposed to PRTG, for example, where you have to license per sensor, which might be attractive to folks needing to monitor all aspects of each device on which the agent gets installed. For larger networks or IT pros with very advanced needs, Nagios also offers an Enterprise tier, which is also a node-based price starting at $3,495 for a perpetual license. For that you get everything we reviewed plus additional capabilities around scheduled reporting, web-based console access, audit logging, and quite a bit more. However, this doesn’t include phone support though. That costs extra, though granted, with it being a one time cost, this could be a significant savings over the lifetime of the product.

Screen shot of the Nagios XI installation screen

Configuration and Interface Design

Installing Nagios XI is mostly a non-event. It involves downloading and deploying a virtual machine (VM) in either a VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor environment. As long as you can install an OVA file on premises, you’re good to go. After launching the VM, you can point your browser to the IP address listed on the console and log in using the default credentials.  Because Nagios XI uses an agentless architecture, this is as far as you need to go in terms of installation.  Once it’s up and running, you can start adding devices for monitoring. This is in stark contrast to tools based on agent deployment, like Datadog, which will require device by device agent installation followed by the tool’s initial setup process.

Nagios XI’s interface is not particularly fun to look at when compared to flashier and more modern-looking tools, like IPSwitch Whatsup Gold. But if you get past that, you’ll see it’s well organized. On the left hand side, you have some quick links to different views such as network outages or host statuses.  Along the top, you have a reasonable number of tabs, which are broken down into Views, Dashboards, Reports, Configure, Tools, Help, and Admin. Status really comes down to Up, Down, Unreachable, and Pending, though you get an optional text message with that. While this sounds basic, it’s actually very flexible via the plugin framework we’ll describe below.

Nagios XI is one of those products that isn’t framed by what it can do.  It’s framed by what it can’t do.  That’s because it’s essentially a product constructed around a massive set of available plugins. Essentially, if someone wrote the right plugin for a particular device or service, Nagios XI can monitor it. That being said, you’re going to start running into problems when you want to monitor information outside of the typical offered statuses.  While most folks, especially beginners, will likely never branch past that point, the limitation is definitely there.

Screen shot of the Nagios XI basic dashboard

Managing Devices

Autodiscovering devices is done using the Configuration Tools and Auto-Discovery option.  By creating a new job here, you can simply provide a range of IP addresses, setup a schedule, and tell Nagios XI whether or not you want to attempt to detect operating system hosts. After the job completes, you’ll see the status show up below in the Auto-Discovery Jobs section. At this point, you need to run a second wizard called the Configuration Wizard that will take the results of a discovery job and turn them into monitored devices. This extra step seemed needlessly redundant as other systems we tested, including WhatsUp Gold and PRTG, can do this in the same wizard. Nonetheless, it does get the job done. The last step of the wizard will have you choose the services you want monitored on each device that Nagios has discovered. When you complete the wizard, everything will spin up and you’ll see some initial statuses.

Adding an individual device is or service is fairly easy. You’ll find a wizard for nearly every common application stack you might need. For example, taking a simple Windows WMI monitor, you can feed it an IP address or host name, a WMI string, and some credentials and you are off to the races. 

As part of our testing, we included an ESXi host to see how well it fared detecting and adding VMs.  This turned out to be an annoying process, since there’s an extra step for installing the ESX plugins. Fortunately, there’s a link to the documentation from the wizard’s start page, and after running a few command line options, it worked like a charm during testing.

Nagios XI dashboard customization screen shot

Configuring Alerts

Once a device is added and being monitored, alerts on the dashboard require no additional configuration.  If you need to configure an alert, email is the primary way that will happen.  If you want to use SMS or another method, you’ll need to use some kind of gateway or bridge to that service.  This is a bit of a step backwards from applications like IPSwitch WhatsUp Gold or ManageEngine OpsManager, that have this capability directly. To add an alert, you need to navigate to the host and the alert settings tab.  From there, you can click which events you want to trigger a notification and whether or not the notification is enabled.  You can also specify a first notification delay and a period for checking to see if a notification is even required.

Notifications are sent to contact groups that can be defined right on the notifications page or you can set up service notifications based on a service group.  For instance, if I wanted a notification on a certain set of hosts for HTTPS offline, I could set up a filter to notify based on that.

Nagios XI report selection screen shot

Plug-Ins and APIs

As mentioned, one of the most attractive aspects of Nagios XI is the plugin framework. The tools is essentially designed mainly with this framework in mind and it shows in how well the platform works. Designed to be language agnostic, the only requirement is that your plugin return a status code and text message.  With this level of flexibility, there’s really no limit to the number of things that Nagios can monitor. And you can make the time investment with some security since it’s a mature plugin community that’s constantly working to expand Nagios XI’s capabilities. As long as you’ve built the plug-in correctly, you can monitor anything you can connect to a network.

And that capability is Nagios XI’s primary differentiator over other monitoring tools. As long as you’re not bothered by its somewhat limited visualization tools and somewhat stodgy UI design, the huge availability of plugins and the active and mature community surrounding them can be a big draw. If you’re not sure, just remember that Nagios Core is always free, so trying it out is easy.

Nagios XI Specs

Auto-Discover – Text Yes
Agentless Yes
Traffic Monitoring/Packet Inspection Yes
Email/SMS Alerting Yes
Patch Management Yes
Real-Time Alerting Yes
Mobile Device Support Yes
On-Premises Deployment Yes
Application Programming Interface (API) Yes
Custom Dashboards Yes
Custom Reporting Yes

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