GFI MAX RemoteManagement works a bit differently than most of the system monitoring solutions I’ve looked at in the past. Instead of being a server-based application that you install on a system inside your network, GFI MAX RemoteManagement is a hosted solution. With this product, the server doesn’t query each monitored node at specified intervals. Instead, each monitored node has a software agent that’s configured to report back to the GFI MAX RemoteManagement system with its current statistics, alerts, and a detailed hardware inventory.

Although the product could be used by an internal IT department to keep a handle on minute-by-minute network or system conditions, its main intended use is as a management solution for independent consultants who support several companies. Having a software agent on each computer gives GFI MAX RemoteManagement an advantage in managing a very mobile workforce because the software agent can check in with the system from behind firewalls and wherever the computer gains Internet access.

To deploy the product, you log on to the web console and create a hierarchy of businesses and business sites, as Figure 1 shows. Each site is associated with one business, and each server or workstation is associated with one of the business sites. Then you add servers or workstations to each of the sites by installing the software agent on each computer in either server or workstation mode. After the software agent is installed, the computer quickly shows up in the GFI MAX RemoteManagement web console. From this console or software agent interface you can create an installation package that can be deployed to other computers through a Group Policy Object (GPO) or other means. Keep in mind that whatever computer this installation package is installed on will show up in the same company hierarchy as the computer it was created from.

Figure 1: GFI MAX RemoteManagements web interface
Figure 1: GFI MAX RemoteManagement’s web interface

During the installation process, the wizard walks you through a process of choosing which Daily Safety Checks will be tested and reported on. The Daily Safety Checks options for software agents in server mode include:

  • Antivirus—Checks whether the antivirus software is installed and running the latest updates. (Most major antivirus software packages are supported, but you should check the product’s documentation before making a commitment.)
  • Backup—Alerts you if a supported backup product fails. (Check product documentation for specific information about supported backup products; currently supported products include Acronis, ARCserve, GFI Backup, Microsoft backups, Veritas, Symantec, and VaultLogix.)
  • Drive Consumption (workstation also)—Measures how much disk space is still available.
  • Exchange (if applicable)—Verifies that the size of any of your information stores is less than the configured limit.
  • WSUS (if applicable)—Checks that the Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) database is updating with its source and identifies the current critical update status of computers on the network.
  • File Size (workstation also)—Checks the actual file size; would likely be used if you needed to monitor the size of a database file or database log file. Abnormal growth in a database could indicate a problem or unknown change that should be investigated. Sudden growth in a log file could indicate that a particular process is failing.
  • Event Log (workstation also)—These alerts can be configured for the Windows event logs based on event ID, source, type, and text contained in the message area.
  • Scripts (workstation also)—You can upload custom scripts from the web console and assign them to individual computers. Supported script types include VBScript, DOS Batch, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, PowerShell, Ruby, and Python.
  • Critical Events (workstation also)—Similar to the Event Log check in the sense that it looks at the Windows event logs; however, its purpose is to provide a daily report of either the 10 most frequent or 10 most recent events in whichever log you specified when you configured the check.
  • Hacker (workstation also)—Number of failed logon attempts.
  • Physical Disk (workstation also)—If any of your attached disks is a Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART)-type disk and reports errors, GFI MAX RemoteManagement can collect and report these errors.
  • SNMPv1/v2c (workstation also)—Allows reporting of any information available via the SNMP protocol. If installed in server mode, the check can be directed at other devices on the network. For example, I had the agent installed on a Windows server in server mode and I was able to receive information about the bandwidth usage of my SonicWALL firewalls. However, when the GFI MAX RemoteManagement software agent is in workstation mode, this check can report only on the local machine’s SNMP database.

The installation wizard goes through another screen, from which you can select what the computer will test every 5 or 15 minutes. Some of these checks are the same as the Daily Safety Checks; the difference is that they’re checked much more frequently. The 24/7 Checks options for software agents in server mode include:

  • Bandwidth Monitoring—Uses SNMP to query network interfaces on the network, such as an Ethernet switch, to identify current throughput and possible performance issues. If a configured threshold is exceeded, an alert can be triggered.
  • File Size (workstation also)—Checks the actual file size; would likely be used if you needed to monitor the size of a database file or database log file. Abnormal growth in a database could indicate a problem or unknown change that should be investigated. Sudden growth in a log file could indicate that a particular process is failing.
  • Event Log (workstation also)—These alerts can be configured for the Windows event logs based on event ID, source, type, and text contained in the message area.
  • Scripts (workstation also)—You can upload custom scripts from the web console and assign them to individual computers. Supported script types include VBScript, DOS Batch, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, PowerShell, Ruby, and Python.
  • Drive Space (workstation also)—Verifies that the amount of available drive space is greater than the specified minimum.
  • Server Performance—Measures processor utilization, processor queue length, memory usage, network interfaces, and physical disk statistics to generate reports and alerts.
  • Ping—This check verifies that the monitored machine can still ping other interfaces on the network.
  • TCP Service—Checks whether services are still accepting connections correctly, whether the correct ports are open, and whether ports that shouldn’t be opened are closed.
  • Web Site—Verifies that correct text strings are returned from web servers.
  • Windows Service (workstation also)—Verifies that services necessary to the Windows OS are up and running.
  • SNMPv1/v2c (workstation also)—Allows reporting of any information available via the SNMP protocol. If installed in server mode, the check can be directed at other devices on the network. If installed in workstation mode, the check can report only on the local machine’s SNMP database.

During installation of the software agent, you can select which version (workstation or server) is installed. It doesn’t matter which version of Window is installed on the computer. For the server version of the software agent, you can use the network-based alerts to monitor other devices on the network. The SNMP options include several metrics for major vendors (e.g., Adaptec, APC, Dell, HP Jetdirect, HP Compaq, Linux, Cisco, Intel, NETGEAR, SonicWALL); in addition, you can manually add the SNMP settings for other devices. If the software agent is installed in server mode, you have much more than just a set of single host check options—you can use a single software agent to look at potentially every addressable device on the network. If the software agent is installed on a workstation, only the localhost can be monitored with SNMP. These reports can go out as scheduled status updates or triggered alerts. There’s also a mobile version of the GFI MAX RemoteManagement web console that gives you a quick run-down of any outstanding alerts from your smartphone.

Several reports are available that you can configure the system to automatically send to administrators or customers via email or SMS, as in the case of an independent computer consultant. The report templates can be customized to display the appropriate branding, support numbers, hours of operation, sales promotions, etc. GFI recommends that you send some type of status update to your customers on a regular basis, not only to show them that they’re actually getting something for their monthly payment (typically $1 a day per device), but also to help establish you as the logical point of contact for future problems.

In addition to monitoring, GFI MAX RemoteManagement has the ability to run some basic computer maintenance tasks. From the web console, you can add scheduled tasks to the software agents. These tasks can include disk defragmentation, clearing the event logs, and clearing the temp files. Tasks can be assigned to the entire site or individual computers. For this reason alone, you might need to set up additional sites to keep server and workstation task management separate. Patch management and remote control are also available, but these features were still in beta at press time.

GFI MAX RemoteManagement is very easy to use and deploy. It’s completely reliable and flexible enough for the most distributed of environments. Future console additions include data leak prevention, managed antivirus, mail archive, and mail security. If your company or client is already paying for these features in separate products, GFI MAX RemoteManagement could come in at a very competitive price point. A free trial version of the software is available from GFI Software’s website.

GFI MAX RemoteManagement

PROS: Fast, easy, flexible deployment; no large up-front starting costs; intuitive web interface

CONS: Doesn’t include a multiple administrator communication mechanism or network map view

RATING: 4.5

PRICE: Typically less than $1 per day per software agent; contact GFI for details

RECOMMENDATION: This product would be a great addition for anyone working at multiple non-networked locations, such as in a single-company distributed network environment, or in an independent computer consultant capacity.

CONTACT: GFI Software • 888-243-4329 • www.gfi.com