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What are the advantages of using a paid (vs open source) IT Infrastructure Monitoring solution?



There are many open-source IT Infrastructure Monitoring solutions on the market. However, large companies often invest in a paid solution. 

What do paid monitoring solutions offer that make them a better choice than open source?

ITCS user
88 Answers

author avatar
Top 20Real User

When you’re considering infrastructure monitoring, you certainly have plenty of options to choose from. From free to expensive, from targeted to comprehensive, today’s monitoring software presents a confusing assortment of features and claims.

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Richard Treadway

author avatar
Top 5LeaderboardReseller

Frankly speaking, these days there is very little if any advantage. Allow me to build on that if you will.....

First, let's talk about cost. Open source software, such as Zabbix (and numerous others) does not suffer from complex licensing considerations. Most paid-for solutions license their products based on number of devices, number of users, number of locations or a combination of all the above. There are even some licensing schemes where a docker container counts as 1/10th of a device. This makes license compliance difficult and an unwanted overhead to users. It's no wonder that many commercial vendors have "License compliancy" teams who are incentivised to identify and pursue non-compliant customers. In effect, increasing licensing complexity is actually good for the vendor.

With open source licensing these issues are non-existant.

Next, support. One commentator said "Open source software isn't free, you have to pay for support". This is true - if you want official support from the vendor. Speaking from wide-ranging personal experience, I've found that the support from open source providers is, without exception, orders of magnitude better than the paid for software. I've found that there isn't the obfuscation and "script reading" from open source support compared to commercial vendors. Also, with commercial vendors there are usually 2 components to a software support contract - "problem resolution" and "product updates". For most vendors, an annual support and upgrade contract is upwards of 20% of the initial capital cost of the software, usually with an annual uplift. So every 5 years you're buying the software again.

This takes me on to feature bloat. Some of the major vendors seem to introduce features almost to justify the annual support contract. At a high level, the features are always valuable, but in my experience are rarely implemented by users correctly or worse, not even used at all. These features are developed at the insistence of the largest customers and in those cases, the very largest will indeed use the feature. However, every customer will pay for a feature that delivers benefit to only the biggest customers. Smaller customers are hit twice in that they pay via their support contract for these features which likely need increased IT resource just to run, let alone use.

I think I should pause here, as it might appear that I have a massive chip on my shoulder regarding commercial ITOM vendors. Nothing is further from the truth. I have implemented a considerable number of such systems and I've found that once running they are reliable. They do require just as much "care and feeding" as open source solutions but there's no doubt there is a psychological aspect to having paid for the solution. The phrase "reassuringly expensive" comes to mind.

Another commentator talked about "fast training". Well, training is another area where open source providers excel. Certifications, on-site training, remote training, community support and so forth are all part of the open-source ecosystem, just as with any commercial vendor.

Someone else mentioned better security from commercial software. I don't want to offend, but let's ask Solarwinds about that. Open-source software prides itself on the availability of the source code. There are many tools out there that scan source code to find vulnerabilities (including some big vendors). This isn't possible with commercial vendors.

It's also worth talking about "supplier stability" - commercial vendors are likely to be more trusted as they are "real" whereas there still seems to be a perception that open source is written by amateurs in their parents' basement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take a look at Apache and RedHat as 2 examples.

Open source in the 21st Century is as professional and of a quality and security that exceeds many commercial vendors.

Try it, you'll like it.

author avatar
Top 20Real User

George Spiers a certified Citrix CTP and technology evangelist has a nice write up talking about how without enough experts to manage the infrastructure you do have to rely on technology to help:


In relying on software, I think the key difference commercial products can bring is the embedded intelligence and automation that can discover your overall infrastructure along with the what and how to monitor automatically. With open-source, you often have to decide what you want to monitor and what thresholds to set and even create scripts to manage the alert process. With 3rd party tools, it is all there and a core reason for needing help is you don't have enough experts already. 

Just make sure if you are paying for a product, it is doing a lot of the setup, configuration, and management for you! 

author avatar
Top 5LeaderboardReal User

The main reason large companies invest in paid solutions is the advanced and timely support  provided when using paid solutions. And of course those who sell the solutions need to do a good support job to continue selling their products.

Using open source solutions means having very skilled  personnel to do most if not all of the work on getting things working and continue running which can be more expensive than paying for support by opting a paid solution. For example a monitoring solution for a large enterprise may require experts or separate teams to handle database administration, network and systems administration, web applications, systems security etc. but most of the work will be done by the vendor or suppling partner when it comes to paid solutions.

Also paid solutions seem to be more secure and when issues or bugs arise, the supplier/vendor is responsible to quickly get things on track. 

Paid solutions can easily provide customer requested features as part of support, that means less work on the end user for features request.

And since paid solutions are often sold to many similar customers, many large companies feel more assured by the large  portfolio of existing customers hence less risk in their opinions.

author avatar
Top 5LeaderboardReal User

The so called free NMS is not free in case you want support. All organizations where critical businesses processes have dependency on reliable IT Network and therefore, reliable monitoring, have to go for an NMS tool which is preferred by organisations whose business processes are IT critical. It is simple, anything free is not guaranteed to work under all circumstances. Financial viability of NMS too vendor is essential to have a reliable tool which helps them continue to invest in future developments in line with emerging network technolofy landscape.   

author avatar
Top 5LeaderboardReal User

Generally apart from IT companies, I feel its difficult to manage an open source tool since it requires a lot of manual effort. IT Managers / Network Admins / Server Admins would rather use a commercial tool to spend less time on it from a daily operations / maintenance perspective. The major challenges of Open Source Tools include: 

1. Lack of professional support increases tool deployment cycle

2. Better Security and quick fixes to any security issues found in any commercial tool

2. Need for expensive resources to manage open source tool (must have scripting knowledge on programming languages like Perl / Python / Java etc.)

3. Steep learning curve leads to user dissatisfaction in Open Source tools

4. Limited API support for 3rd party integrations in Open Source tools

5. Better roadmap visibility both from product & company perspective for any commercial tool as compared to a similar open source tool

6. Personalized solution / tailor-made solution is a possibility with commercial tools (although it may involve additional costs)

author avatar
Real User

Most of modern open source Infrastructure monitoring tools can suffice the needs of any organisation, but the reason to organisations opt for a commercial product is of timely support and upgrades from the vendor.

Having said that, with Open Source software companies can go for Enterprise support from any certified partner. In this way the company saves massive CAPEX on software licensing.

author avatar
Top 5Real User


It's to have the service of technical support and the guarantee of security and integrity of the applications.

Also to have quick training for the technicians.

Thank you for your interest,

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