Tools give you a heads-up to server problems

You can avoid server crashes before they happen if you use the right tools. Here, we look at four server management tools on the market -- some of which take steps proactively to dodge a potentially harmful situation.

Unlike years ago, now you can take steps to avoid a server failure. For instance, you can configure your hardware to be fault tolerant. You also have various server management tools at your disposal that anticipate problems before they occur. These tools can either take action against the situation or send you an alert.

You can choose among the many server management applications on the market today, each tackling the task of managing servers in a different way. Here I've taken a representative sampling of what's currently available and give you the pluses and minuses of each product.

Product: up.time 3.0 from Uptime Software Inc.
http://www.uptimesoftware.com

Uptime Software designed its server management program, up.time 3.0, to give you a graphical view of your network's overall health. If a server seems to be experiencing problems, you can drill down through various analytics to determine the root cause of the problem. The software also delivers graphs that let you see how servers within your organization compare to each other and which applications on a server are consuming the most resources.

Price: $695 per server plus $95 per network node (anything with an IP address)

Pros:

  • Can help you determine the cause of server problems
  • Examines the impact of individual applications and services on server performance
  • Supports a wide variety of server operating systems
  • Product interface is Web browser-based

Con: The product displays enough graphs and charts to make you dizzy.

Product: Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM)
http://www.microsoft.com/mom

If you've worked with Windows servers for any length of time, you are probably familiar with the Windows Performance Monitor. The Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) works by analyzing the various Performance Monitor counters, and it for trends or for specific threshold values to be exceeded. In doing so, MOM is able to gain an accurate picture of the server's health. If MOM notices a condition or trend that could impact your server's health, then it will take proactive action or contact an administrator.

Price: $6,099 for 10 licenses (Microsoft also offers a lower cost workgroup edition)

Pros:

  • Designed by Microsoft for Microsoft servers
  • Management packs allow MOM to monitor an assortment of server applications such as Microsoft Exchange Server

Con: It will only monitor Microsoft servers.

Product: NetVigil from Network General
http://www.networkgeneral.com/Products_details.aspx?PrdId=20064242959419

Similar to the other server management applications I have discussed, NetVigil uses statistics to gauge a server's health. While there isn't anything unique about the types of information that NetVigil reports, it does have a couple of useful features worth mentioning.

One of those features is that it is designed to prevent alarm floods. For example, suppose a server occasionally exceeds a threshold value because of a spike in activity. Rather than sending an alert every time an activity spike occurs, NetVigil sends alerts only when the threshold value has been sustained for a period of time. Another nice feature is that based on trends, the software will give you the estimated date or time of when a current trend will cause a problem if something is not done to prevent it.

Price: $45,000 for a 100-device license

Pros:

  • Extensible API that lets you design your own notifications
  • Smart notifications and alerts
  • Works with a variety of server operating systems

Con: The company's Web site makes no mention of the software taking any sort of proactive action against a problem nor of it being able to diagnose the cause of a problem.

Product: MonitorIT from Breakout Technologies Inc.
http://www.breakoutsoft.com/

MonitorIT is a product that was designed to centralize server monitoring. It derives information about the server's health by examining event log entries, critical performance monitor counters and SNMP (where appropriate). MonitorIT's most useful feature is that it can monitor the health of individual network functions such as e-mail, DNS and FTP. You can configure MonitorIT to watch over critical services or files and issue an alert if the state changes. For example, an alert might be issued if a service stops or if a certain file is modified. Price: $1,500 for 10 server licenses (price includes one year of updates and support)

Pros:

  • Extensible to allow the use of custom monitors
  • Watches over critical files and services even if they are not a part of the operating system
  • Monitors critical network functions such as Web and e-mail access

Cons:

  • Designed only for the Windows operating system (although it can monitor certain functions running on other operating systems such as e-mail and FTP).
  • Lacks diagnostic capabilities. It can tell you that a service has failed and even run a script to restart the service, but it doesn't tell you why the script failed.

 


Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, CNET, ZDNet, TechTarget, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at www.brienposey.com.

This tip originally appeared on SearchWinSystems.com.
 

This was first published in August 2005

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