We are at times when almost every business relies on computer networks to operate and for good reasons. A computer network not only helps to boost productivity but it also facilitates better utilization of resources. For instance, you can use a centralized storage instead of every computer having its own storage. This consequently makes it easier to secure this data and is also more economical on the space since the employees may have had the same files stored on their single storage spaces. Another advantage would be the sharing of hardware and software resources. I could go on but you get my point.
But, there is just one problem. The more complex networks become the more interrelated they become. Which means if one component was to go down then chances are it will affect the whole network. And with the rate of competitiveness in businesses a small downtime can have devastating results to your reputation and profits.
So what’s the solution. Well, you need to be monitoring your IT network at all times. And while this would have been a time consuming and draining task some few years ago, it is now very simple. All thanks to the automated monitoring tools.
Today we will specifically be talking about the IP Monitoring software. These tools assume control of the monitoring process and will notify you when an issue is detected. These tools can be used to monitor your servers, applications and every other IP-based component in your network. So now you don’t have to be on your screen the whole day tracking every activity in your Network.
1. SolarWinds IP Monitor
You have definitely heard about SolarWinds. Their flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor is one of the best in the industry if not the best. And since its release, every other product that has been released by SolarWinds has been exceptional. Case in point, the IP Monitor that we will be addressing in this post. It is a comprehensive tool that will be perfect for monitoring ups and downs in your network, servers, and applications.
The tool is agentless which translates to less configuration work. Even better it automatically discovers your IP-based devices once it is launched. The only thing you have to worry about is the configuration of alerts. Which is also not a big deal since you will be guided by a configuration wizard. SolarWinds also includes built-in templates that define the specific performance metrics to be monitored in every device and application. It also goes a step further as to define the ideal threshold value which when exceeded, will trigger alerts. This helps you to quickly address problems before they can cause major concerns on the network.
The alerts can be sent via email, SMS or directly to the Windows Event Log files.
SolarWinds IP Monitor combines network mapping with Network Operations Center (NOC) to facilitate quicker troubleshooting. NOC View is when the tool only displays the monitored components that are not in a normal state. You can then drill down into each component to get the specific metrics associated with the problem.
For those times that you are not available during downtime, you can automate the remediation actions such as restarting the failed components or configuring the tool to run custom scripts.
One last thing, the SolarWinds IP Monitor stores historical data in the form of easy to follow reports that can also help in quick troubleshooting. It can use the past performance data when a particular IP device was healthy to form a baseline that will act as a reference when dealing with new data.
2. Paessler PRTG
Paessler PRTG is another excellent solution that is quite similar to SolarWinds except that it is a full-suite Network Performance Monitor. For example, PRTG has an auto-discovery feature that saves you from the hassle of manually configuring your IP-devices before you can start monitoring.
This tool works on the principle of sensors where it packs over 200 sensors to monitor the various aspects of your IT infrastructure. Some of the sensor examples include Website, bandwidth, storage, virtual and SNMP.
So in regard to IP Monitoring, PRTG uses the SNMP sensors to determine which IP devices are up and down. It then combines this with other sensors like Packet Sniffing and NetFlow sensors to perform an in-depth check of the devices and collect more performance metrics.
This tool has a really impressive user interface and uses color codes to highlight the state of your network components. Green represents the devices that are working normally while red indicates a problem or complete device failure. PRTG also comes with a built-in notification function. It alerts you of possible issues allowing you to act on them before they can escalate to the end user. The tool allows you to customize the alert threshold so that you don’t receive unnecessary alerts.
PRTG also comes with the automated remediation feature. This means you can create custom scripts that will be executed automatically when the alert threshold is reached. Finally, I feel that I should commend this tool’s reporting feature. It allows you to create full reports complete with a graphical representation of the performance analysis which you can use for future reference or when you want to pass on the information to your boss and other admins.
PRTG has a 30-day free trial where they allow you access to its full functionality after which they revert to the free version that only allows 100 sensors.
3. ManageEngine OpManager
The other tool I would recommend is the ManageEngine OpManager which provides real-time monitoring of your Network devices. It can be used to track routers, switches, firewalls, servers and every other IP-based device in your Network. It has over 2000 network monitors that help you track the uptime and downtime and collect critical performance metrics such as packet loss, latency, speed, and analyze performance bottlenecks.
For each of these metrics, OpManager allows you to set custom thresholds that will trigger an alert when exceeded. The dashboard is also set to allow you to view all the metrics on one interface and ManageEngine allows you to customize it in the most ideal way for you.
This IP Monitor uses ICMP pings which by default are sent out every two minutes. If the network device does not respond after two pings then it is flagged as being down. Nevertheless, OpManager allows you to extend the number of pings that are sent and also the interval between them. Like all the other tools so far, OpManager has built-in report templates that you can utilize to generate reports. It supports automatic report generation and it is up to you to set the specific days and times.
One of my favorite features about ManageEngine OpManager is the web interface. And the reason for this is because it allows you to check the performance of your IP components from any device regardless of where you are.
Finally, this IP Monitor by ManageEngine has really extensive functionality that stretches to other monitoring roles such as Database, Virtualization, and Cloud Monitoring and will, therefore, save you the task of having to deal with multiple GUI from different programs.
As usual, we always include at least one open source software in our reviews. Nagios would have been a great recommendation if not for the fact that Icinga was created to address all the Nagios shortcomings. It is a fork software of Nagios which means it was created from the same source code but with added functionalities. For instance, Icinga comes with a modernized UI that is significantly easier to use than Nagios core. It also incorporates a REST API which allows integration with third-party apps without having to modify the Icinga core. For example, you can add graphing extensions that will help better visualize the data collected from your devices.
Icinga boasts of an efficient monitoring Engine that keeps track of the availability of your network hosts while also collecting the relevant performance data. This IP Monitor accessed using a web interface which means you can use it from anywhere. You can also customize it by grouping or filtering specific hosts in a way that you understand better.
The other salient feature about Icinga IP Monitor is the ability to delegate the monitoring roles to other admins. And the best part is that you can limit the access rights of these additional admins so that they can only view and edit parts of your monitoring system that are related to them
The Icinga notification feature is also quite comprehensive. Apart from the usual email and SMS, the tool also allows the user to define their own alert methods which you can integrate into the software using their API. The built-in reporting functionality is based on a popular open-source Java reporting tool calledJasper reports which is guaranteed to facilitate easy creation of reports.
Nonetheless, as with any open-source software, you should be prepared to do a lot of configuring. Which is actually one of the reasons why many people opt for the commercial product. The fact that they hold your hand through the various setup and monitoring processes.
Our last tool on the list is not your typical open-source software as it is significantly easier to use. And one of the reasons for this is that it requires less configuration. Zabbix can automatically discover your IP-based devices just like SolarWinds or PRTG which are commercial products. Additionally, it comes with built-in templates highlighting the various performance metrics to be monitored for each of the discovered components.
You can also create custom templates in which you define additional performance metrics that you wish to monitor and then create your own scripts that will facilitate the collection of these particular metrics.
Zabbix uses multiple metric collection methods and some of them include SNMP, IPMI, TCP, SSH, IPMI, and Telnet. It is also compatible with both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. As expected the tool also features a really flexible alert system. Notification alerts can be sent via email SMS, messenger or other scripted modes. But what distinguishes this IP Monitor from the other tools with respect to notifications is the escalation feature. It’s a welcome addition that ensures that if an alert is not responded to after a set time then it is forwarded to another admin or a custom script is executed
Zabbix uses the collected data to predict potential network downtime. Some of the other functions it can be used for include checking for bandwidth utilization and also preventing network bottlenecks.