Alerts you of potential downtime

Do you have multiple servers at your company? Are you spending hours running from server to server checking the event log and looking for potential problems that would cause downtime? If so, Seagate Software's Manage Exec 5.5 can save you time and money.

Manage Exec is a client/server application that monitors standard server health indicators, including memory usage, services, processes, CPU utilization, and network activity. Agent services gather information about individual machines (agent service is available for Windows NT servers and Novell NetWare servers). Agents feed data across the network to the Manage Exec Executive, the software's brain.

Using information the Executive processes, the Manage Exec Alert Server component processes alert conditions you define. You use the Windows Console and Web Console components to configure the program and establish the alerts you want to monitor. You can display alert and system information through a Web interface.

Manage Exec offers a threshold-based exception alerting feature. Using this feature, you can configure the software to alert you of problems with your server. For example, you can configure the software to automatically notify an administrator of a pending disk full situation when the disk containing your company's database reaches 85 percent capacity.

You can set three thresholds for each alert, and you can assign each threshold a priority level (you have five priority levels to choose from). Prioritizing lets you assign greater importance to more crucial alerts.

This multitiered approach to alerting lets you establish different responses to various thresholds, depending on the level of severity. For example, with the 85 percent disk full situation, you might want Manage Exec to automatically send the systems administrator an email message about the problem. When the database disk is 90 percent full, the software might page the systems administrator. When the disk is 99 percent full, you might configure the product to disable future logons to prevent data loss. You can also configure reset levels, so the alert will automatically disappear when the crucial situation no longer exists.

Manage Exec includes an automatic service restart feature. You can configure the software to monitor an NT service, and if the service unexpectedly stops, Manage Exec automatically restarts it after generating an alert. You can specify one of several alert notification actions, such as emailing a message to a recipient (through Simple Mail Transfer Protocol—SMTP, Microsoft Exchange Server, or Lotus Notes) or paging an administrator. Manage Exec lets you set up notification schedules so you can rotate notification among a pool of recipients according to various factors, including time of day and day of the week. The software also features a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) notification feature that will forward traps to your SNMP management console.

Manage Exec's data collection is fabulous, but what can you do with the data, other than monitor it for problems? The software features full statistical charting and realtime trend analysis.

Using the information in the software's database, you can analyze usage patterns on your servers and forecast future computing needs based on those patterns. This analysis feature can be invaluable to systems administrators in rapidly growing shops.

Although Manage Exec is a complex product, it is easy to set up. Installation is a dual-phase process. In the first phase, you install the package, and in the second phase, you configure the software to tell it what to monitor and report on. For my testing, I installed the Manage Exec software on two computer systems—a Micronics-based dual-Pentium II processor running NT Server 4.0 and a Digital Prioris HX dual-Pentium processor running NT Server 4.0.

First, I installed the core product on my Micronics server. The installation process is straightforward—after running the setup.exe program on the product's CD-ROM, you have to answer questions regarding your installation (e.g., license information, license key, types of systems you want to monitor). Although Manage Exec can monitor NT and NetWare servers, I opted to have it monitor only NT servers, because I don't have NetWare servers on my network.

After you answer the questions, the software checks for a functional Web server on your machine, then proceeds to install the software's various components. If you use an alternative to Internet Information Server (IIS), such as Netscape FastTrack, the todo.txt file will guide you through postsetup instructions you must complete manually.

You must install NT agents on all the servers you intend to use Manage Exec to manage. You must also install an NT agent on the server on which you install the Manage Exec Executive. I completed this process on both my servers without difficulty.

After completing the install, I rebooted my machines. I manually installed the software on separate machines, although you might be able to use a software distribution package to push the program down the channel.

After I set up the software, I used the Software Console, which Screen 1 shows, to configure a series of alerts I wanted the product to monitor. These alerts involved CPU utilization, disk-space utilization, and service monitoring, which can automatically restart a service that stopped unexpectedly.

I configured the software to send me mail via the SMTP interface and to send me a numerical page to my pager based on different threshold levels. I then simulated high CPU utilization and disk-space consumption to see if the software would alert me properly. The software performed as the company said it would.

Manage Exec is reasonably priced. You can obtain additional server licenses at various discount levels (you need an additional server license for each machine you intend to install a monitoring NT agent on). You can download a Manage Exec demonstration version from Seagate's Web site; however, the demo is 110MB, so unless you have a T1 line, you might want to take advantage of the free demonstration software CD-ROM Seagate offers.

Manage Exec 5.5
Contact: Seagate Software * 800-327-2232
Price: $895 per server
System Requirements:
Server: 75MHz Pentium processor or better, Windows NT Server or Workstation 4.0, 8MB of RAM, 35MB of hard disk space, SVGA 800 * 600 display adapter, Frames-capable browser, Web server (Internet Information Server, Peer Web Services, Netscape FastTrack, or O'Reilly Website Associates)
Agent machines: Windows NT Server or Workstation 4.0, 5MB of RAM, 10MB of hard disk space per day for historical data