SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager
Strengths: Easy-to-use network device management tool.
Weaknesses: Documentation could include more visuals, such as screen shots and diagrams.
Verdict: This is a venerable product from a venerable supplier. It is solid and a good performer. Documentation needs a bit of tweaking though.
Network Configuration Manager from SolarWinds is a powerful tool for managing policy compliance across many network devices including routers, switches and firewalls. This product can be used by administrators to automatically backup device configurations across the network and monitor for configuration changes. If a change is detected, Network Configuration Manager will notify the appropriate individuals to ensure changes are authorized and do not cause downtime.
It may seem odd for us to say, but we quite enjoyed installing this product. Network Configuration Manager has many components that need to be installed along with database configurations and other configuration details. While usually installations such as these can be quite a headache, this one was guided by a well-designed installation wizard. The installation process was guided by a master installation wizard which was broken into steps. Each step opened the appropriate component installation wizard. Once the component was installed and configured, the master installation wizard closed the completed component wizard and automatically proceeded to the next step. This allowed us to easily get all the components installed in the correct order and with little effort.
After installation was complete, we were able to see the true power of this product. From the well-designed management interface, we were able to easily add nodes to be managed and to design our policy easily through the use of configuration wizards and simple button clicks. We found this product to be easy and intuitive to use and manage with many configurable options. Network Configuration Manger also includes built-in compliance checks based on regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, SOX, PCI, DISA STIG and FISMA, along with a clean remediation feature that allows for automatic remediation of policy violations. Aside from automated remediation, this product also features solid reporting capabilities. Reports can be run on demand or can be scheduled and emailed directly to network engineers or security personnel for analysis.
Documentation included a full administrator guide that covered the product from installation through advanced configuration and management. We found this guide to be well-organized and to include detailed, step-by-step configuration instructions that were easy to follow. We did notice a lack of screen shots throughout the documentation. While this did not hinder the documentation overall, we found visuals can help with the more advanced configuration steps.
SolarWinds offers one of the most comprehensive support offerings that we have seen. Customers have access to 24/7 phone- and email-based technical support as part of the purchase prices of the product, as well as access to a massive online assistance community. The SolarWinds online community offers a knowledge base, user forum, product documentation and downloads, training videos, tutorials and many other helpful resources.
At a price just under $2,700, we found this product to be an excellent value for the money. Network Configuration Manager offers a solid feature set in an easy-to-use and easy-to-deploy package. For added policy and compliance management and additional value, this solution can be integrated with many other SolarWinds products, including the SolarWinds IT Management Suite.