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Ipswitch WhatsUp Professional 2006

Rene Millman delves into the world of network management software and discovers that you can teach an old dog new tricks

Price
£1,141
  • Good reporting functionality; great SNMP network monitoring
  • Would still require other software to remotely deploy software, patch systems and so on for full systems management

Ipswitch products are well known for their ease of use and the latest release of the company's network management tool, WhatsUp Professional, reinforces that reputation. While other products such as Novell's Zenworks go the modular route, Ipswitch keeps all this product's tools corralled neatly in one place, which gives systems administrators an easier time getting around the product.

There are a number of scans the software can perform, the simplest being a scan of our test subnet of IP addresses. We scanned for as many services and protocols as we possibly could - DNS, HTTP, FTP, IMAP4 and also SNMP among others (the results are then stored in an MSDE database). There is also a wizard that helps in the setting up of alerts and policies to enforce on the discovered endpoints.

We found the subnet scan to be pretty quick and the results were displayed on a map within the application. Querying via SNMP builds up the network topography and shows its hierarchy.

The alerts worked particularly well. We set various machines to go down or hibernate and the software duly informed us when such an event happened via a configured pop-up message. It can also be configured to alert you by sending an email or playing a sound.

Discovered devices are displayed on the main console and it is here that you get more information on the nodes within the network and their status. With our test servers set to go down, icons turn first yellow and then red. A couple of clicks then generated a web-based report on the status of the affected devices allowing administrators to take appropriate and informed action.

And there's a whole host of valuable information included in these reports. We were able to track the utilisation of CPUs, packet loss, syslog and even Windows event entries. Particularly handy is the Top 10 reports feature, which lists the most popular metrics for a snapshot view of the health of the network and the devices on it.

You can also use this product to help you keep on top of security. If services, such FTP, appear where you're not expecting them, for instance, this product will show them up instantly. And it is extremely easy to make remote connections to devices via the context-sensitive menu within the map view too.

Overall, this is a good tool for monitoring the health of your network and it is a good first step to knowing what's on your network and how to secure it. But it isn't the be all and end all. There are other products on the market that perform a greater number of functions, such as Vector Networks' PC-Duo (not tested here) for only a little more money.

Verdict

An easy-to-use tool for smaller networks with good mapping features but not the most fully featured

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