Review: Network monitoring for the masses
- By Earl Greer
- May 24, 2000
Imagine having a network monitoring utility that tells you about problems
before the users call you. Then imagine that this utility is easy to learn
and use and will hardly put a dent in your IT budget.
WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch Inc. will probably meet most of your the
network-minding needs — at a very affordable price — while enhanced features
in the new version 5.0 will add icing to the cake.
Installing WhatsUp Gold Version 5.0 took less than four minutes, which
was far less than the time required to download the 8M install file from
Ipswitch's World Wide Web site. The new version installed cleanly over my
previous 4.0 version without disturbing the network display maps I was already
When I first used WhatsUp Gold, I got off to a slow start. A "Getting
Started" manual is sorely needed, but you can jump right in by turning to
the section in the introduction to the user's guide titled, "Testing WhatsUp
Gold on Your Network." Within an hour you can create customized maps of
at least a part of your network with everything neatly labeled, set a variety
of alerts, and begin automatic monitoring.
You don't have to be an artist to create an effective network map. The
tools for drawing maps are simple and easy to learn. In short order I had
produced professional maps that made up in good organization what they lacked
in artistic flair.
You can save time when creating maps by using the Discover and Map feature.
It will search your "Network Neighborhood," the Windows registry and the
hosts file for devices to add to the maps. But as the manual wisely reminds
us, we should monitor only those devices we have permission to watch. At
first I missed a feature to scan a selected range of IP addresses but later
found it under the Tools>Import selection on the toolbar.
become fairly proficient with WhatsUp Gold took just a few hours. In truth
you really don't have to be a networking expert to use WhatsUp Gold's most
important features. When I first started polling my devices, I saw one server
icon change from green to red. Suspecting the obvious, I checked, and sure
enough, that server had gone down. Some of my older Novell Inc. NetWare
servers also appeared in red at first, but after checking their status tabs,
I remembered to change their WhatsUp polling protocol to IPX, as those servers
do not use the IP. I was quickly rewarded with a row of green icons.
From my desktop PC, I quickly began monitoring servers so far away that
some were in a different time zone. I suddenly realized that with my Internet
connection I could monitor anything that had an IP address, and I added
to my maps all my World Wide Web sites, including one a thousand miles away.
Combining manual and automated processes, I quickly populated my map
with NT servers, NetWare servers, routers and workstations. When I upgraded
to Version 5.0, I was able to assign each subnet to its own console window.
Even better, you can monitor multiple network maps simultaneously.
Network gurus will enjoy the easy interface to 15 classic network tools,
including Ping, Traceroute and Lookup. But I found myself spending more
time studying WhatsUp Gold's performance graphs that show the day-to-day
health of each segment of the network and whether service agreements were
being met. The new version has greatly improved charting features, and the
plug-in Seagate Crystal Reports feature makes it easy to generate good-looking
reports for management.
With Version 5.0, WhatsUp Gold still does not have multiple consoles,
but who needs them? In less than three minutes I had WhatsUp Gold configured
as a Web server and was remotely controlling the console from another PC
using a Web browser. Using the Web browser is not the same as being at the
console, but it does give you the basic status and statistical information
you are likely to need from a remote location.
I found WhatsUp Gold to be stable and user-friendly. I would like to
see expanded alerts that are triggered by additional indicators of declining
performance, which is one of the strengths of WhatsUp's competitor, Network
Instrument LLC's Link Analyst. But overall, for low-cost monitoring of multiprotocol
and multiple subnetworks with no device limit, you've got to like WhatsUp
— Greer is a senior network analyst at a large Texas state agency. He can
be reached at Earl.Greer@dhs.state.tx.us