While the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is still the dominant protocol for managing network elements in IP-based networks and the Internet, network managers are acknowledging its limitations with respect to configuration management, application development and decentralization of management tasks. Web Services (WS) have been recently proposed to alleviate these limitations, given their pertinence to both decentralized management paradigms (e.g., CORBA), and XML management systems which provide efficiency in configuration management operations. This paper reviews architectures for WS-based network management, outlining their advantages and disadvantages. These architectures address management of both individual network elements and composite multi-device networks. Moreover, the paper introduces the architecture of a prototype system for WS-based network management, namely WSNET. Along with presentation of the WSNET system, we provide a set of experimental results reporting performance figures for the WSNET system, as well as for systems based on other WS architectures. These figures allow for a comparative evaluation of the various systems, and manifest the benefits of the WSNET implementation. An important conclusion from our work is that WS should be seen as an accompaniment to conventional SNMP management rather than a replacement. However, there are also cases (e.g., need for secure remote access) where WS serve as a core rather than auxiliary solution, given that conventional methods are not applicable. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.