Two other 'network' monitoring options

If you don't use Windows NT or you're really only interested in network monitoring rather than operating system monitoring, Dartware's InterMapper 3.0 or Ipswitch's WhatsUp Gold 5.0 might be just the ticket.

Dartware's InterMapper is a Macintosh-based tool that monitors a network for device status and availability. It's appropriate for AppleTalk-based networks consisting entirely or almost entirely of Macintosh computers.

Starting at a particular DNS name or IP address, InterMapper uses a combination of SNMP polls, IP pings, AppleTalk echo packets and Domain Name System (DNS) and Name Binding Protocol (NBP) queries to discover network devices. The SNMP requests InterMapper sends out include DNS server, User Datagram Protocol (UDP) Listener, Real Time Streaming Protocol, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, RADIUS, KeyServer, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, APC Uninterruptible Power Supply, Network Time Protocol (NTP), HTTP Proxy, HTTP Post, 4D Server and FileMaker Pro. Based on the hierarchical order in which the devices are discovered, InterMapper creates a map showing their connections. InterMapper can notify administrators of problems through e-mail, pager, AppleEvent or SNMP alert. For corrective action, it can cycle power through a PowerKey Pro unit (a remote-control type of power strip) to rather forcefully reboot a Macintosh server. InterMapper can't restart programs, launch repair utilities or update relational databases with SQL.

In addition to producing an SNMP-based map of the network, InterMapper can overlay the map with the history of one or more variables, such as switch or router availability. The overlaid image is termed a "strip chart," and it appears as a floating window linked to the map on which the network device exists. InterMapper can also log the data for later export into a database program (such as FileMaker Pro) for further analysis.

It presents a typical Macintosh interface that's easy to navigate, and it also offers a Web-based interface with customizable Web pages. By creating templates for the Web pages InterMapper displays, we were able to tailor its appearance to our liking. Each customizable Web page is essentially a server-side script containing HTML statements and variables whose values you can set.

InterMapper is a breeze to install. Unfortunately, the all-too-brief documentation is entirely online at Dartware's Web site. You'll need an Internet connection and browser whenever you want to refer to it.

What's up?

WhatsUp Gold has come a long way from its simple beginnings as a freeware download, but it retains its simple and uncluttered nature. Like InterMapper - and unlike the other products we reviewed - WhatsUp Gold monitors the network rather than a particular operating system. We were especially keen on WhatsUp Gold's autodiscovery function, called SmartScan, which used router tables to identify our network segments during the monitoring process. The network mapping process used SmartScan's hierarchical connectivity data to create separate mapss for each subnet instead of drawing a single map containing all devices.

WhatsUp Gold 5.0

COMPANY: Ipswitch(781) 676-5700 -- COST: $695 per server. PROS: Accurate discovery of devices; useful status charts. CONS: No server-level monitoring; no corrective actions.

InterMapper 3.0

COMPANY: Dartware(603) 643-2268 -- COST: Starts at $295 for 10-node network. PROS: Excellent awareness of Apple-based network devices. CONS: No server-level monitoring; can only read documentation while connected to Dartware's Web site.

The supplied SNMP Manage-ment Information Base (MIB) browser is almost rudimentary. WhatsUp Gold doesn't offer graphical point-and-click drilling down into MIBs, nor does it give you usage baselines for devices. Rather, it performs a simple poll of the network via SNMP to capture device status information.

WhatsUp Gold tracks SMTP, HTTP, DNS, FTP, Post Office Protocol 3, IMAP, telnet and other common services. Its quick and accurate discovery process and its informative status and availability charts are WhatsUp Gold's strong suits. It also includes ping, port scanning and throughput utilities. The product doesn't monitor server processes on Windows NT or any other platform.

WhatsUp Gold can notify administrators of problems through e-mail, text-capable pager or beeper. Setting up an e-mail alert telling us of unavailable devices and showing the last several lines of the NT event logs took just a few minutes to configure. However, WhatsUp Gold lacks the ability to take corrective actions.

The product's network event and statistics reports are extremely useful for tracking device and service outages. WhatsUp Gold incorporates a Crystal Reports plug-in for producing a range of reports, such as an availability report showing devices whose failures have resulted in the greatest downtime. Nonetheless, because they didn't let us drill down into SNMP alert details, the reports weren't as granular as we would've liked.

The interactive Web page interface was a joy to use and encompassed all the functions of the Win32 native interface. For example, it let us check the status of any network device from a remote location, using only a dial-up connection and Web browser. On the other hand, for many of its displays, WhatsUp Gold simply scrolled lines of text in the Win32 console's window and the Web browser window when it ought to have formatted one or more data presentation screens. Installation is unremarkable, and the printed documentation is perfectly adequate.

This story, "Two other 'network' monitoring options" was originally published by Network World.

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