Review: Network monitoring for the masses

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

using.

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.

Learning to

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

Gold.

— Greer is a senior network analyst at a large Texas state agency. He can

be reached at Earl.Greer@dhs.state.tx.us

REPORT CARD

WhatsUp Gold 5.0

Score: — A

Ipswitch Inc.

(781) 676-5700

www.ipswitch.com

Price: Available on the open market for $695.

Remarks: Powerful yet inexpensive, WhatsUp Gold monitors your multiprotocolnetworks of all sizes and alerts you to problems before you get the firstcall from a customer. New features, such as improved reporting and remotemanagement from a Web browser, make the new version a must-have.

Platforms: Windows 95/98/NT/2000

BY Earl Greer
May 24, 2000

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