Monitoring networks can be tricky, whether it is connecting ten machines or ten thousand.
The concepts are mostly the same, and some machines work fine, but others emit loads of broadcast messages for no reason. Monitoring tools help to locate faults and enhance the performance of networks.
WhatsUp Gold appears to be an effective network-monitoring tool.
The software, now in version 8.03 (Version 8.01 is reviewed here), monitors network infrastructure and reports any problems it finds.
Specifically, it is a mapping, monitoring, and notification tool that identifies maintenance issues over a wide or local area network. It finds all devices and TCP, NetBIOS and IPX services running over a network and creates a map of the environment. Once this is done, it monitors the network's performance and sends feedback reports.
The software polls mapped services and devices for a response and fires off visible and audible alarms if things go wrong. While listening to services, it can send alerts if specific events occur, and report on device response and uptime.
In this version, one new feature is an events monitoring system.
This triggers system events alerts recorded as new entries in NT event logs (either local or remote), SNMP traps, and new entries in syslog. It also has the ability to save and restore map and device data as ASCII files, and it can use ASCII as the default file format for maps.
Other features include better service monitoring and filtering by device types during discovery when mapping out the network.
Installation took minutes. It was simply a matter of inserting the CD-Rom and answering a few routine questions. When it was up and running, it took only a short amount of time to find and map the network.
When it found a problem, it sounded an alert. This was no big deal, but then again, this tool does what it says on the box – it monitors networks and it does not fix them.
The graphical interface is self explanatory and similar to HP OpenView's layout. The WAN is presented on a global map, and it is possible to zoom in to LANs and individual workstations or devices to view diagnostics.
There are several automated discovery options that create the network map of devices, such as routers, switches, servers and workstations.
This option can also find web, mail or file transfer services on each device.
For the extra-safe approach to security, there is a failover option in the program, which automatically switches to a secondary machine if the primary one fails.
The documentation was detailed and helpful, and at first glance, a lot was up with this product. Several known issues were documented that cause general protection faults (GPF) to occur through the slightest misuse, which cause it to fall over. That aside, it gave clear and concise information on set up and use of the product. Online support is available, and when we had a problem our telephone query was answered within a minute. A tutorial on mapping is available on set up, taking the user through a step by- step configuration process. This is useful for learning how to edit device information.
Failover documentation is also provided on set up of the product, explaining how to configure primary and secondary devices in the environment, and how to select preferences if failover occurs.
WhatsUp Gold is straightforward to use because it operates on simple principles, such as the graphical interface, which makes network administration easy. How it provides alerts is clever, as instant notification can be sent by pager, sound, email or voice message. It is also possible to manage remotely using the built-in, secure, web server to view maps from a browser on a remote computer. This is easy to match to a precise network environment and to take into account any future growth of the network.
The downside is that it only runs on a Microsoft environment. It operates on NT 4.0 (SP6a), 2000 (SP2), 2003, 98, Me and XP, but nowhere in the documentation does it mention Linux or other operating systems. So, although it can monitor any device with an IP address, it can only run from one type of machine.
As mentioned before, there are some known issues with the product. If a reboot takes place while a poll is in progress, a GPF may occur.
Certain versions of Microsoft operating systems are known for presenting the user with the famous and much despised blue screen of death if this occurs. The traceroute tool can be impaired if 'stack supports raw sockets' is enabled, which could seriously upset diagnostics and network investigations. Closing the program while a net tool is active might also cause a GPF, and changing the protocol of a device can cause incorrect statistics to be displayed on the web page.
These might be minor problems, but if you are going to sell an update, why not iron out the faults before you put it on the market? And make it work on Linux as well (the company said it is monitoring demand for this).
Overall, the product faired well and there were no nasty surprises.Weaknesses in the product were admitted in the documentation, and good support was provided on the web, in the tutorial and on the phone. It is a shame that it only runs on one type of operating system.