Navigating Network Visibility: A Guide to the Best IP Scanning Tools
IP scanning is an essential network administration task that provides visibility into the devices on your network. But what exactly is an IP scanner, and what are the top tools to use for scanning your network IPs? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know.
What is an IP Scanner?
An IP scanner is a software tool that discovers devices on a network by scanning for active IP addresses and reporting back information about each one.
IP scanners work by sending ping requests to ranges of IP addresses, then listing which IPs respond positively. This verifies which devices are online and allows the gathering of additional data like MAC addresses, hostnames, and sometimes operating systems. (A MAC address is required when trying to locate a device or when performing diagnostics on a network device.)
Network admins use IP scanning to map out subnets, troubleshoot connectivity issues, monitor network usage, and inventory IT assets by IP address. Scanning also helps maintain updated records of what devices are on your networks.
Key benefits of IP scanning
- Discovering all active IPs on a network
- Locating rogue or unauthorized devices
- Detecting IP conflicts or duplicate IPs
- Identifying open ports and potential vulnerabilities
- Auditing and documenting your IP address space
- Planning IP address capacity and expansion
Regular scanning provides an up-to-date view of your dynamic network environment. IP scanners are a fundamental network management tool.
Choosing the Right IP Scanner
With various scanning tools available, here are key considerations when choosing an IP scanner:
- Network size – Free or open-source scanners work for home or small networks. Larger networks need advanced enterprise scanners with more robust features.
- Centralized management – Multi-subnet environments benefit from centralized consoles to scan from a single pane of glass.
- Discovery methods – More advanced scanners use ICMP, TCP, and SNMP polling for more reliable detection.
- Passive scanning – Passive scan modes can detect devices without sending traffic.
- Reporting – Custom reporting and export options help document results.
- Topology mapping – Some scanners include switch port mapping and network mapping capabilities.
- IT integrations – Scanners with monitoring, IPAM, or ITSM integrations provide more context.
- Multitenancy – For managed service providers, multitenant scanners allow serving multiple customers.
Top 9 IP Scanner Tools
Many options exist for both free and paid IP scanners. Here are the top tools:
1. SolarWinds IP Address Manager
SolarWinds IP Address Manager (IPAM) is a complete IP management software with integrated scanning capabilities. It can discover DHCP and DNS servers, inventory devices, monitor IP networks, and help admins manage their IP address space.
IPAM performs ping sweeps and SNMP polling to find active IP devices. It scans entire networks or subnets, scheduling periodic scans for automated monitoring. Customizable reports and summary dashboards provide visibility into IP address usage and status. Overall, this is an enterprise-ready fully-featured IPAM with robust scanning features.
2. Angry IP Scanner
Angry IP Scanner is a popular free and open-source IP scanner for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It scans using multithreaded pings for faster discovery and offers basic reporting on live hosts.
While missing some features of paid scanners, Angry IP Scanner is straightforward and easy to use for small network scanning needs. It provides IP and MAC addresses, NetBIOS information, and some scanning options like port probing.
3. Advanced IP Scanner
Advanced IP Scanner is another free scanning tool for Windows, providing an ad-free experience. It scans for live hosts using ICMP and TCP pings and resolves hostnames via DNS.
This scanner discovers WINS and NetBIOS names, MAC addresses, and switch port numbers. Scans can export reports in CSV format. The interface is intuitive with logical menus and views. Overall, Advanced IP Scanner is great for small business networks.
4. SoftPerfect Network Scanner
Network Scanner from SoftPerfect runs on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It scans using ICMP, TCP, and SNMP pings to detect live nodes. It also tries to determine the operating system, traceroute gateways, scan uptime, and more.
Paid versions unlock additional features like subnet availability monitoring, domain/workgroup enumeration, and integration with SoftPerfect Switch Port Mapper. This is a flexible IP scanner especially suitable for multi-OS environments.
Lansweeper takes an IT asset inventory approach to IP scanning. It gathers extensive device details from the OS-level up for in-depth network auditing.
The Lansweeper scanner maps network topologies, performs port scanning, and has customizable dashboards. Integrations are available with IT service desks. Lansweeper is aimed at larger networks that need detailed asset inventory capabilities.
6. PRTG Network Monitor
PRTG from Paessler is a unified network monitoring platform that includes an integrated IP scanner. Users can scan any subnet or IP range and get detailed live lists of active devices.
PRTG will discover devices on networks and can perform regular auto scans to detect new devices. Since it’s built for monitoring, PRTG can also map network dependencies and relationships between devices. This is great for scanning tasks that feed into broader monitoring.
Nmap isn’t exclusively an IP scanner but includes robust scanning capabilities. This open source tool can rapidly scan large networks using host discovery, port scanning, OS detection and more.
Nmap generates detailed reports on live hosts, ports, services, and OS. It uses sophisticated techniques including TCP and UDP probing for scans. Nmap can integrate with other monitoring tools via CLI, data files, and APIs. Overall it’s extremely powerful for more advanced scanning needs.
8. Colasoft Capsa
Capsa from Colasoft combines an IP scanner with packet analyzer capabilities for network analysis. It can scan subnets and offers real-time traffic monitoring. This makes Capsa suitable for network troubleshooting scenarios where admins need integrated scanning, device discovery, and packet inspection. The interface provides device details, protocol analysis, packet decoding, and network security alerts.
9. OpUtils IP Address Manager
ManageEngine OpUtils is an integrated IP address management platform with built-in network scanning features. It scans for DHCP, DNS, switches, and IP addresses, mapping device-to-IP relationships.
OpUtils discovers live hosts through ping sweeps, SNMP polling, and port scanning. Schedule scans across multiple subnets from a centralized dashboard. This is designed as an all-in-one IPAM and scanner tool for midsize and large network environments.
Effective network management starts with having full visibility into your network devices. IP scanners provide this visibility by discovering all your IP-connected devices.
Choosing the right scanning tool depends on your specific network environment and what you aim to achieve from your scanning efforts. But with the right scanner in place, you gain an invaluable view of your infrastructure upon which to build effective network operations, security, and capacity management.
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