Different network management tools are typically designed to function primarily with either a Wide Area Network (WAN) such as the Internet or with a Local Area Network (LAN). Systems for LANs are often designed to help locate devices and computers connected to a network, and find errors or other issues at a local level. Network management tools for WANs, and for systems with Internet connectivity, can be used for tracking activity on it and improving security. These tools are provided as commercial programs that are often quite expensive, or as open source software that may be available for free or at much lower rates.
Some of the most popular network management tools are those designed for monitoring and working on LANs and similar systems. A LAN typically consists of multiple computers and other devices that are all physically near and connected to each other and are able to share data and resources. Through local network management tools, an administrator is able to determine how devices are connected to each other and find where problems have occurred. Port mapping can be used on a host device that is connected to other computers to determine how they are linked, allowing for easy swapping out of cables without tracing each one from a port to a machine.
There are numerous network management tools established for use with WANs and similar systems that include Internet connectivity. An administrator working with a host system, to which multiple users are able to connect, can monitor incoming and outgoing data to look for flaws or bugs that may be causing problems in the system. These tools can also be used to find areas in a network where bottlenecking may be occurring, in which data is slowed down.
Various network management tools are created to assist with security for a system. These types of programs can include firewalls and similar software to help keep unauthorized users out of a network. Different programs have been developed for use in penetration testing, in which an administrator launches a virtual attack on a server to see how well its security holds up. These tools provide security professionals with the ability to emulate an attack from a malicious source, without actually damaging a system.
Some network management tools are created as expensive commercial software. These programs are typically provided by a particular service, that offers support and maintenance of a system while the software is used. Other network management tools are available as freeware, open source programs that are free to use. Some of this software may have a service connected to it, which is not free, while other programs are meant for an administrator interested in handling all management on the user end.