Network monitoring and notification

Regardless of a LAN's size, today's LANs require constant monitoring. Customers or employees notifying administrators that a Web or file server is down signals unresponsive network-management policies. Ipswitch's WhatsUp Gold 3.5 reliably detects network problems and quickly notifies administrators.

WhatsUp Gold works with TCP/IP, NetBEUI, and IPX networks. The software defines policies for network components that are addressable entities communicating via supported network protocols. The policies specify parameters such as how often to poll a component, the circumstances under which the program assumes a failure, and the notification option used to address a suspected failure. Notification options include email, voicemail, pager, visual alarm, and audible alarm.

The Map Editor configures policies and places, defines, and organizes component representations. Component representations are graphical icons, interconnected lines, and bounded regions. WhatsUp Gold supports visualization of SNMP values and includes integrated network tools such as Ping, Traceroute, Nslookup, Finger, and Whois. The software lets users view and graph, but not modify, SNMP values.

To evaluate the software, I used a local network of two Pentium machines running Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 95, and one Sun SPARCclassic running Solaris 7. The three machines connected to the Internet through a gateway equipped with a cable modem.

I installed the program on the NT machine, which also served as the local network's gateway. The installation required only a few decisions about where to install the files. You can run WhatsUp Gold as an NT service that provides automatic startup after booting and continuous monitoring in the absence of an active-console session. However, this mode limits you to the Web-based interface, so I ran WhatsUp Gold in normal-application mode.

To build my first network map, I selected Autoload, which uses Registry, HOSTS file, and Microsoft Network (MSNet) information. Although this feature worked as I expected, the MSNet information caused WhatsUp Gold to start resolving all the hosts on the subnet to which I had connected the cable modem. This information was more than I needed. I decided to use an IP scan to define my local network, a HOSTS file to define some external components, and a manual configuration to define some miscellaneous hosts including two DNS servers. WhatsUp Gold also supports component identification through WinNet scans and Traceroute.

Screen 1 shows the map I generated. After completing the map and starting the monitoring facility, I randomly disconnected machines and disabled network services. Without fail, WhatsUp Gold issued visual and audible alarms. As I reconnected machines to the network and restarted services, WhatsUp Gold also detected these actions and correctly updated the network map.

Lastly, I started up the integrated Web server that permits remote administration of WhatsUp Gold via standard Web browsers. After working through the extensive configuration options, I started up a browser on the Win95 machine. The browser let me easily access detailed Help information, modify policies, and detect network glitches.

I found the product to be a solid networking tool. The software should scale well for small to midsized networks because users can adjust the polling rate of network components, which controls the product's traffic. WhatsUp Gold could also monitor critical servers or network segments of large networks.

WhatsUp Gold 3.5
Contact: Ipswitch * 800-793-4825
Web: http://www.ipswitch.com
Price: $695
System Requirements: 486/66 processor or better, Windows NT 3.51 or later or Windows 95, 32MB of RAM (NT) or 16MB of RAM (Win95), Sound card, Modem and phone line, Voice modem (Win95 only)