REVIEW: Zabbix delivers effective, no-frills network monitoring

Open-source Zabbix network-monitoring software has the granularity enterprises need but requires a lot of manual configuration and has some limits on exportable reports.

diagnostics / monitoring / manual configuration
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We took a look at open-source Zabbix network monitoring software version 3.4.9 and found it to be a solid, straightforward offering that’s easy to install, provides the configurability and granularity that enterprises demand, and delivers fast discovery.

On the other hand, some customers might prefer less manual configuration and more pre-set options, and Zabbix is limited in the types of reports that can be exported.

Zabbix, which claims a user base of more than 300,000 installations, can monitor both Linux and Windows environments, but the Zabbix software itself runs only on Linux.

If you want to test drive Zabbix without committing to the entire installation and configuration process, Zabbix offers a pre-configured appliance for most popular virtualization platforms, including KVM, Zen, VMware, VirtualBox, Hyper-V, and Azure.


Zabbix provides an interactive online form that creates the proper installation steps based on your choice of  Linux distribution (Ubuntu, Red Hat, CentOS, Oracle Linux and Debian) and database (MySQL or PostgreSQL). We selected Ubuntu and MySQL and then followed the installation steps: download and install the server software, install and configure the MySQL database, and install the PHP front end.

Network World > Open-Source Monitoring Tools > Zabbix > Pros + Cons IDG

After completing these steps, which took less than 15 minutes, we launched the Zabbix Web interface from our browser. With proper configuration, the Web interface can be viewed in most browsers and from any location. Once logged in, we were presented with a ready-to-configure dashboard, consisting of a collection of default widgets for items like discovery, problem notification, general system and host status.

You can customize the dashboard by adding and removing widgets as needed. You can also drag and drop, resize, remove and rename widgets to suit your environment. We found the dashboard functionality to be very flexible, enabling us to quickly create multiple custom dashboards and easily switch between them.

Zabbix > Dashboard Zabbix

Zabbix dashboard

Hosts and items

Zabbix network monitoring centers around hosts and items. To get started, we added a mix of Linux and Windows servers. You only need a name and IP address to add a new host. We customized each by adding “items” which are single metrics you wish to monitor – anything from CPU load and memory usage to Web page load time and database status.
You can create multiple items for each host, which provides impressive granularity. With our mix of hosts and a few monitoring items applied for each, we then added triggers that would alert us to any problems. Triggers can be set with thresholds for notification, ranging from informational to hair-on-fire emergencies. Triggers display on the dashboard and can also be configured to send emails, SMS or IM messages when there is a problem.

Zabbix also allows custom scripts to be run when certain criteria are met.  Based on the type of host you create, Zabbix can apply either pre-defined or custom templates. Templates that use pre-configured items and triggers speed up the configuration process. For our Zabbix main server, more than 80 items and 50 triggers were automatically added when we applied two built-in templates.

Zabbix has a discovery feature which uses an IP range to scan the network for assets matching a set of criteria. For example, you can search

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