WhatsUp Gold v11: Gain Control of Your Network Now

by Joseph Moran

With a starting price tag flirting with two grand, WhatsUp Gold certainly isn't for every business, but there's no question that those willing to pony up the cost will get an enormously powerful and flexible network management utility in return.

"What's Up?" is a pretty common casual greeting in the vernacular, but for an IT administrator those words are loaded since they just as well may mean "What's down, why and for how long?"

IpSwitch aims to help network admins answer these questions — hopefully, before they're asked — with WhatsUp Gold v11, the newest version of its venerable network monitoring tool. (This version software returns to its original "Gold" moniker, after dropping the "Professional" used in several recent versions).

Voyage of Discovery
The first step in using WhatsUp Gold is to start the wizard-based discovery process, which polls the network looking for active devices and/or services. There are several ways to conduct the discovery, including via SNMP if you have a SNMP-enabled router. Otherwise, you can simply scan specific IP address ranges, limit the scan to just a Windows network (i.e. Network Neighborhood), or import a hosts file that contains all the name and IP address information for your network.

WhatsUp Gold will automatically check devices for network availability by monitoring ICMP (ping) responses regardless of the discovery method used. But you can also choose from a variety of active and passive service and performance counters to monitor specific device functions — say, HTTP or POP3 traffic on a Web or mail server or the CPU utilization of a key system.

Once WhatsUp completes the discovery phase (our scan of a class C subnet with just over a dozen devices took just over a minute), you can view the detected devices in either a list or map view. The latter provides a graphical look at your network, which you can customize as needed. For example, you can access a library of descriptive icons to denote devices, and organize them on the map (including dragging and dropping them) to indicate any relationships and dependencies between them.

Don't Just Stand There
Using WhatsUp Gold to monitor your network doesn't do much good if the information it gleans isn't quickly passed along to a human charged with keeping things running smoothly. Therefore, you can specify what actions Whats Up Gold should take in response to various device events (typically, when one stops responding). The most common type of action is the alert, which can take many forms, from a sound playing or WinPopUp notification window to an e-mail, pager or text message. Helpfully, you can define blackout periods to reduce the likelihood of sending a notification to someone who might be on vacation or otherwise unavailable.

Aside from alerts, WhatsUp Gold actions can also be configured to take steps designed to potentially remedy a problem without human intervention, such as attempting to restart a service, run a script, or launch an application. Because a single action may not always be sufficient, multiple actions can be assigned to a single event, if desired. To simplify the editing of actions, you can group them together into customized "action policies" so that changes to the policy will automatically be reflected on all the devices that use it.

WhatsUp Gold also offers predefined intervals (immediately, along with 2, 5 or 20 minutes) so you can tailor your actions to the duration or severity of an outage. For example, an e-mail alert may be sufficient for a two-minute outage, but after 20 minutes, you may want to make sure an administrator is contacted on his or her mobile phone. If the default intervals aren't sufficient, you can edit them or create your own.

Choose Your (Interface) Weapon
Administrators are given two ways to interact with the WhatsUp Gold software — a Windows-based console, or a browser-based one. When a product offers a browser-based interface option, it's not unusual for it to be an adjunct to or poor facsimile of the primary interface. Fortunately, that's not at all the case with WhatsUp Gold.

Thanks to the copious use of AJAX and JavaScript underpinnings, WhatsUp Gold's browser-based console has substantially the same look, feel, and capabilities of the traditional Windows interface. This includes not only the ability to view data but make configuration changes as well. We expect most administrators will prefer to work within WhatsUp Gold's browser interface predominantly, if not exclusively, because doing so enables access to features not available through the traditional console.

One example of this is Whats Up Gold's extensive logging and reporting capabilities, which are specific to the browser interface. There are over 50 built-in reports covering the network as a whole or that focus on specific devices or groups of devices.

Another especially useful aspect of the WhatsUp Gold's browser interface is the concept of a workspace, which will be invaluable for organizations that have multiple IT personnel with different areas of responsibility. After setting up unique user accounts for browser-based access, you can then create customized workspaces that focus only on the areas of the network the individual is tasked with keeping up and running.

System Requirements and Pricing
WhatsUp Gold will run on Windows Server 2003, 2000 Server or Professional (with SP 4), or XP Professional (with SP2). Windows Scripting Host 5.6 or later is also required to use many product features, including the Web-based interface and active monitors. WhatsUp Gold provides browser support for both IE 6 and Firefox 1.5x (and later versions).

The $1,995 purchase price for WhatsUp Gold Standard Edition includes a year of software updates along with unlimited phone support (albeit, not toll-free and only during EST business hours) and e-mail support. Although the Standard Edition of WhatsUp Gold doesn't allow for monitoring of enterprise applications, an extra $600 steps you up to the $2,595 Premium Edition, which does include templates for both Microsoft SQL and Exchange servers, as well as WMI applications.

Organizations that expect to bump their heads against Whats Up Gold's 100-device ceiling can opt for packages that support a larger number of devices (for example, a 300-device version of the Standard Edition can be had for $2,495, and even larger ones are available).

With a starting price tag flirting with two grand, WhatsUp Gold certainly isn't for every business, but there's no question that those willing to pony up the cost will get an enormously powerful and flexible network management utility in return.

Pros: Excellent scalable network monitoring suite, full-featured browser-based interface, remote notification abilities, extensive feature-set

Cons: Hefty price tag is cost prohibitive for smaller networks, application monitoring requires Premium Edition

Adapted from winplanet.com.

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This article was originally published on Monday Apr 9th 2007
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