March 22, 2001, 11:45 AM — Problem notification on small, local networks is easy - just listen for the complaints from your co-workers. On large, global networks, an enterprise-level network management platform can keep watch. But for a midsize network (up to several hundred nodes), you'll need one of these monitoring and alerting software packages. While these tools aren't as feature-laden as ones from Tivoli, Computer Associates or Hewlett-Packard, they can automatically detect network connectivity problems, Windows NT operating system problems or both. In fact, two of the tools we reviewed can only monitor IP-addressable devices and SNMP-manageable nodes (see related story). The other seven offer varying degrees of connectivity surveillance and server health monitoring.
Some monitoring and alerting tools can tell you - via e-mail, pager, SNMP alert or other means - that a server's CPU is overloaded, its memory resources are nearly exhausted, its free disk space is precariously low, or that some other error condition exists. In some cases, these tools can reboot a server, restart a service or take other corrective action without your intervention. For connectivity, a tool might ping IP-addressable devices or poll SNMP-manageable devices to alert you to network failures.
Using one of these tools, you get notification of problems earlier than if you waited for users to complain. Remember that the earlier you deal with a problem, the smaller it is, and the later you deal with it, the bigger it is.
Our evaluation focused on Windows-based products that notify network administrators about connectivity and server health problems. We tested nine products: Ipswitch's WhatsUp Gold 5.0, Ripple Technologies' LogCaster 2.6, NetIQ's AppManager 3.4, Breakout Technologies' MonitorIT 2.0, NTP Software's System Sentinel 2000, MediaHouse Software's ipMonitor 6.0, Heroix's RoboMon NT 7.5, Dartware's InterMapper 3.0 and Argent Software's Guardian 4.1A.
Our World Class Award goes to ipMonitor, which proved to be a superior and intelligent problem notification aid for our network. Its monitoring and reporting features, together with its slick user interface, impressed us greatly. AppManager and RoboMon NT deserve special mention. Their ability to closely monitor the Windows operating system rivaled ipMonitor's.