Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Network

Monday May 10th 2004 by Dan Muse
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How well is your business network functioning? If you can't easily answer that question, you may want to take a look at the just-announced Ipswitch WhatsUp Small Business. The $295 monitoring tool lets you track 10 key network devices.

When it comes to tools to monitor your business' network, you could pay thousands for products that provide granular details on every packet. However, if you are a 50-person shop, many of those solutions are overkill in terms of expense and complexity. On the other end of the spectrum are a host free or shareware tools. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of options in the middle.

In a move to fill that gap, Ipswitch, a developer of messaging, network monitoring and file transfer software, today announced WhatsUp Small Business. At $295, it's designed for small and mid-size businesses that don't have an IT staff or a large technology budget to, for example, afford buying a dedicated server for network monitoring.

Just the Basics
Ipswitch WhatsUp Small Business maintains a fairly narrow focus, and is built to provide the basic networking monitoring capabilities you need to avoid application crashes, power outages, hardware failures. You are limited to monitoring 10 devices. Those devices can be PCs, servers, printers or anything else connected to your network.

It also is designed to monitor the status of network services such as HTTP, SMTP, e-mail, Internet connections and key applications.

The design goals for WhatsUp Small Business are flexibility, friendliness and scalability, Kelly Anderson, product marketing manager for Ipswitch, said. "All organizations need a solution that will keep them informed as to the state of their network, and communicate when something is unavailable so it can be resolved in a timely manner. Small Business keeps a careful eye on the technology infrastructure and applications that are most important to their business."

Built to provide SMBs with a service that works out of the box, WhatsUp Small Business uses a wizard-driven setup process to automatically identify e-mail servers, Web servers, routers and other key devices residing on the LAN or WAN. It then generates a map of the network.

The software, which supports Windows XP and Windows 2000, also provides visual reports designed to help you perform network diagnostics and track existing or developing trends to avoid network downtime, according to the company. You can also troubleshoot problems using capabilities such as trace route, ping and network scans.

You can set up your policies to notify when certain events take place. For example, you can instruct the software to notify you by e-mail, pop-up or sound if a device has been down for five minutes, and to notify you again once it has been up for five minutes. The Small Business version of WhatsUp doesn't support notification by pager. However, WhatsUp Professional (formerly called WhatsUp Gold) supports that feature. Given the 10-device limit of the small business version, you may find yourself upgrading to the Professional version as your network grows.

The Professional version costs $1,495 and is aimed at businesses with between 50 and 500 employees, Anderson said. It can monitor an unlimited number of devices and also offers resource (i.e., disks, CPU, memory) monitoring via Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). The product "has been rearchitected to implement an ODBC [Open DataBase Connectivity] backend, so business can grow with Ipswitch. To ensure scalability, WhatsUp Small Business is also built on ODBC.

Rounding Out the WhatsUp Trilogy
Ipswitch also today introduced Ipswitch WhatsUp Enterprise. Scheduled for release in the fourth quarter, it is designed for small to mid-sized enterprises (SME). According the company, the SME version can be used either as a standalone product or as a complement to enterprise tools such as HP OpenView, CA Unicenter and IBM Tivoli.

Anderson said Ipswitch decided to expand its WhatsUp line from one product to three because "we identified two gaps — small business with less than 50 people and SMEs between 500 and 5,000. WhatsUp Enterprise is scalable to a distributed network, but it's affordable and doesn't cost hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Anderson said it's too soon to be able to list an exact price for WhatsUp Enterprise, but she expects it to be sub $5,000.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel and EarthWeb's Networking & Communications Channel.

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