Network Health Check buyers guide

One good thing about the current generation of network servers is their relative robustness. Servers no longer crash on a regular basis, virtual machines are robust and generally trouble free. But this can lull you into a false sense of security: it may appear as though everything’s fine, but can you show that’s really the case?

The trick is to find monitoring and management software that steers the fine line between giving you enough detail to tell what’s going on, and total information overload. You need to be able to view the network health, check specific devices more closely, and run tests on all the elements in your system. This includes not just servers and desktop PCs, but network hardware such as routers and switches, and non-desktop user devices such as notebooks and smartphones. Some network protection and testing software goes further than the hardware with options to monitor the health of key server applications, such as your database and email servers.

If problems are building – CPUs overloaded, networks clogged with traffic – then the console should highlight the problem and, if thresholds are reached, have the option to alert you by email, SMS or instant message.

It’s important to have a good console that gives at-a-glance displays. It’s even better if you can view the details via the Web or on your smartphone, and not just on a console that is only visible from within the network.

Getting started is one of the biggest hurdles to using a network monitoring package, so it’s important that the software automatically identifies the devices on your network and ideally builds a map showing how they fit together. Depending on your infrastructure, the option of building separate sub-maps showing parts of the network may make life easier.

The software you use may influence your choice of package; Windows systems are supported on all the software, but coverage for non-Windows devices such as Linux or UNIX machines, or mobile devices such as iPhones or Blackberries is something to watch. The checks you can run is another element to check; you should find support for Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), which is used to monitor Windows systems, but it’s worth checking if you can also write your own queries using other methods such as WQL (WMI Query Language).

Read more about network health checks.