SAN MATEO (03/20/2000) - Enterprises can benefit from large-scale network management software tying its far-flung elements together. But there's still room for inexpensive network monitoring tools. They allow a network manager or technician to keep an essential handful of tools on a laptop and deal with whatever troubles the network might develop. Whether the technician is at a remote site, a client's site, or helping one of your suppliers, using good, portable tools means the network recovers sooner.
In the past, I've been impressed with IpSwitch's WhatsUp Gold, Aggroup's EtherPeek, Network Instruments' Link Analyst, and NTP's System Sentinel. All are examples of well-made, well-focused, and reasonably priced network monitoring utilities.
Another in the field is Breakout Software's MonitorIT 2.0, but in its current incarnation, I can't add it to this short list. In my testing, MonitorIT had enough problems that I have to rate it Poor, and I suggest you wait until the next version.
MonitorIT has two major components: a server that is controlled from Internet Explorer 5.0 and a client agent for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT/2000 computers. The server program collects data from IP-based services and from the client agents then uses it to create alerts and track performance.
The fact that MonitorIT is Web-based is a mixed blessing. I like that one need not run another Windows client, that the server can be reached from anywhere, and that server performance can be displayed in very attractive charts. But Web programs just don't have the same flexibility and power in their user interfaces as traditional client programs. Although MonitorIT's interface was attractive and reminiscent of Outlook, I found using the product to be cumbersome and cryptic. Sometimes it seemed that I needed to double-click, other times a single click was enough. Perhaps that was due to the overall sluggishness of the interface.
I looked at MonitorIT on two platforms, Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 98.
My mail server rejected the e-mail alerts created by the NT Server copy, as MonitorIT didn't put a valid "from" address on them. But the alerts from the Windows 98 system were accepted.
When a Windows machine has the agent loaded, MonitorIT automatically takes care of the details. IP-based machines can be added manually, or through a system discovery program that will scan IP networks looking for machines. Both versions of the program recognized the IP address of the machine on which they were running and wanted to scan its network; however, neither version recognized the subnet boundaries in place. As a result, they wanted to search the entire class C license, rather than just my part. On both platforms, I encountered program halts, illegal operations, and visits from everyone's friend, Dr. Watson.
MonitorIT is very reasonably priced, starting at $195 to monitor 15 servers or desktops, with each additional 10 nodes costing another $99. On the plus side, MonitorIT installed and uninstalled easily, the manual was quite helpful, the user interface would be familiar to Outlook users, and the graphs and charts of system performance could be very useful. In my testing, however, I found the current MonitorIT short on performance and stability. Much of what it does, other packages do, and they do it more smoothly. MonitorIT's primary charms are its capability to monitor from a Web interface, and its price. Given its drawbacks, however, I have to rate it Poor for now.
Mike Avery (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a networking consultant in Beaumont, Texas.
THE BOTTOM LINE: POOR
Breakout Software MonitorIT 2.0
Business Case: Inexpensive network monitoring tools are fine additions to network technicians' toolboxes, and allow them to diagnose problems when they are away or disconnected from the big-league tools most enterprises use.
Breakout Software's MonitorIT 2.0 will have to wait for an update before it fulfills this need.
Technology Case: MonitorIT 2.0 can monitor IP-based networks, and look at Windows machines at a very low level. But the user interface is rather cumbersome, and the program is glitchy enough that it is impossible to recommend in its current release.
+ Can monitor system availability
- Cumbersome interface
- Not quite stable
Cost: $1,086 for 105 monitored nodes
Platform(s): Server: Windows 95/98 and Windows NT/2000; Monitored clients: Any IP-based computer, also Windows 95/98 and Windows NT/2000 with monitoring agentBreakout Software, Scotch Plains, N.J., (908) 561-5210; www.breakoutsoft.com