IT Toolbox: New Products for IT Professionals
Asset management and monitoring is the name of the game with this month’s tools. You can use these to inventory your network and monitor your connections and servers.
A key part of successful systems administration is staying on top of the hardware and software installed on all your desktops. It simplifies budgets, audits, accounting and security when you know what you have installed and where.
Manually keeping track of network inventory only works for the smallest environments. Even then, why do it manually when there are relatively low-cost network inventory tools out there to take care of it for you? One such tool is Lansweeper from Hemoco.
Lansweeper automatically scans any computer or device connected to your network and gives you detailed information within a Web interface. It doesn’t require an agent, because it uses standard protocols such as remote procedure call (RPC), Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). It uses a SQL Server instance for its data and IIS for its Web console, so the installer will automatically download the free SQL Server Express 2008 R2 and install IIS Express 7.5 if you haven’t already.
Lansweeper integrates directly with Active Directory, although you’ll need to provide an Administrator account. This lets you gather user and computer details pertaining to your domain. Lansweeper also does device change tracking, so you can detect additions and removals, configuration changes or changes to the applications your machines are running. You can also use Lansweeper as a Windows Event Log aggregator. You’ll be able to see events as they happen and delve into any developing patterns.
All this information isn’t much good without aggregation and reporting. Lansweeper can help you stay on top of software license compliance, regulatory compliance and general systems compliance. It lets you create and view reports, as well as set up notifications/alerts. You’ll find the Lansweeper reporting features within the browser-based console.
The Dashboard console categorizes events as high priority, important or informational. You can immediately see and address concerns as they arise. Click on a high-priority event like “antivirus software not installed,” and you’ll see which machines are out of compliance and can take action. There are similar prioritized views for software, hardware, server, Active Directory and network devices. There are also built-in reports, including an event log summary, configuration history, license and OS compliance, software overview and a computer type/model report.
You can configure Lansweeper to scan with specific credentials and IP address ranges, determine how and when your network is scanned and manually trigger scans for new devices. You can extend the “allowed” lists, and define software, device types, vendor links and custom actions you can take on scanned devices. You can even add custom fields to associate specific information to your systems.
There’s also a licensing section in which you can enter the number and types of licenses you need to track. You can also define which reports show up on your dashboard, build custom reports and set up e-mail and event log alerts. There are a number of custom Lansweeper actions you can download from the product Web site. These include deleting old user profiles, seeing a list of processes running on a remote machine, viewing open files on a remote machine, seeing who’s logged on and triggering a remote application uninstall, among others.
The Premium edition of Lansweeper costs $299. The Enterprise license gets you unlimited scanning servers at a single site for $799. There’s also a limited freeware version available for download from the product Web site. One nice feature of the paid versions is that they don’t have limits on the number of domains or the number of clients that you manage with the application.
The free version removes all but the basic hardware and software scanning with their applicable reports and is limited to one domain. You can, however, still manage an unlimited number of clients within that domain. If you don’t have a network inventory tool, get one. A relatively low-cost, but well-featured option is Hemoco Lansweeper.
The sooner you find out there’s a problem with an application, service, network device or server, the better. It’s hard to fix a problem you don’t know about. Proactive monitoring leads to rapid response. Rapid response leads to happier users and happier bosses.
One monitoring tool that will help you track all of your services, devices and servers is ipMonitor from SolarWinds. Once you’ve installed ipMonitor, you do most of your monitoring via the ipMonitor Web console. The Web console is split into tabs for Dashboard, Devices, Reports, Configuration and “thwack.”
The Dashboard gives you an overview of everything you’re monitoring, which includes current status and report summaries. You can configure the Dashboard to give you the view that best suits your needs.
You can use the Devices tab to add, edit and remove devices, as well as temporarily disable or suspend monitoring. You can also kick off a network scan to check for new devices. There’s a link for a network operations view, which shows you at a glance if something is down.
On the Reports tab, you’ll find device and aggregate reports on things such as CPU, memory, disk utilization, ping times, availability statistics and NIC traffic stats. You can also create your own custom reports based on a single monitor or a group of monitors.
The Configuration tab gives you quick links to add and edit devices and alerts, as well as schedule reports. You can customize ipMonitor server settings and manage associated accounts. When you create an alert, you’re taken through the Alert Wizard to configure how you want to send notifications. You can define availability windows for the monitor about which you wish to be notified. This lets you schedule your maintenance window and eliminate false positive alerts.
The “thwack” tab is a link to the ipMonitor online forum. Here you can post questions and comments, and try to find solutions based on other users’ experiences.
Though the installation wizard does most of the setup configuration for you, you can also use the ipMonitor Configuration Program to tweak your installation. You can add additional ipMonitor administrator accounts, define which port or ports the application Web server will run on, restrict access via IP address blocks, assign SSL certificates and configure the Windows service settings used.
ipMonitor is $1,995 for a site license with one year of maintenance. The license has no limits on the number of monitors you can run. There’s also a 21-day free trial and an online demo to help show you how the application works.
Greg Steen is a technology professional, entrepreneur and enthusiast. He’s always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA and development easier for the IT professional.