Monitor the status of your servers proactively

If you work on a WAN, the bane of your existence is probably ensuring that your servers don't crash. TCP/IP-based networks are inherently volatile: Regardless of how carefully you install and maintain a TCP/IP-based network, your servers inevitably go down when you least expect them to. And if you work in a mission-critical environment, server crashes are unacceptable. Solution Software's IPMonitor doesn't prevent your servers from crashing, but it proactively monitors their status and notifies you when systems go down.

Installation
Downloading the 30-day software demo from Solution Software's Web site was simple--­at 2MB, the program is smaller than some of Microsoft's downloadable hotfixes. Installing IPMonitor can be tricky because the entire distribution process takes place online. To register my evaluation copy of IPMonitor, I had to submit an order code and serial number to the company's Web site. However, the serial number tended to show up as a question mark on my evaluation copy. After I used the scientific method of opening and closing the program a number of times, a serial number appeared and I was ready to go.

After I installed and registered IPMonitor, I added my servers to the software's server list. IPMonitor automatically pulled the IP addresses for my primary and secondary Domain Name System (DNS) servers from the Windows NT Registry. All I had to do was enter the IP addresses for the other systems on the network and for my remote server, which was located off site at a university.

Monitoring a System
I configured the software to monitor individual services on my servers. For example, I configured the software to monitor ports 80 and 21, and IPMonitor kept track of my Web site and FTP daemon. When I shut down my FTP daemon, IPMonitor's alarms went off. When I turned off a computer the software was monitoring, IPMonitor alerted one of the computers that I had set up as a monitoring station for the network. IPMonitor doesn't alert remote computers.

As Screen 1 shows, IPMonitor provides a variety of notification options (i.e., email, window pop-ups, and paging). When you enable the standard window pop-up notification option, IPMonitor sends a message to the computers you specify when it detects a disabled computer.

When I used IPMonitor's detailed logging capabilities, I discovered that my DNS servers crash at least twice a day. I configure my DNS servers so that when one server crashes, the other servers pick up the slack. I wouldn't have known that the servers habitually crash if I didn't have IPMonitor.

IPMonitor uses minimal system resources. According to NT's Task Manager, IPMonitor uses 800KB of RAM (and peaks at 1MB of RAM) and 1 percent of CPU time to work its magic in the background. IPMonitor won't even saturate the bandwidth on a 10Base-T network--­the packets the software sends are so small, you won't notice them. Unlike other service applications, IPMonitor runs discreetly.

Easy on the Pocketbook
IPMonitor's suggested retail price won't deter potential buyers. The software's ability to monitor individual services sets it apart from other automated ping utilities, but individual services typically don't crash without bringing the whole server down. Thus, you can probably obtain the same results IPMonitor provides by using a few batch files to ping your servers occasionally. This solution isn't as high-tech as the software, but it isn't as expensive as the software either. If IPMonitor's price tag doesn't deter you, the software is an excellent purchase.

IPMonitor
Contact: Solution Software * 919-467-7769
Web: http://www.solution-software.com
Price: $99
System Requirements: Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, or Win95, 4MB of hard disk space, Static IP address, TCP/IP-enabled LAN