Product Reviews

Monitoring at Your Service

InfoCare 3.5's hardware/service combination comes with live assitance to help you get what you need out of Web-based monitoring.

On the opposite extreme from VisualPulse is InfoCare from SilverBack Technologies. Unlike the other products reviewed, InfoCare is a service that includes a hardware-based solution (InfoNest), which comes as an attractive dark green 1U rack-mountable system based on Windows 2000 Server Embedded. With the product, SilverBack sends out a technician to help set it up. It sells exclusively through a channel; partners set pricing, which depends on services rendered.

Following initial setup, you can configure additional features or make changes to the configuration—or SilverBack can do it for you remotely. InfoNest, once powered on, also creates a virtual private connection (VPN) connection back to SilverBack to allow technicians to monitor the product, as well as make configuration changes, install product upgrades and so on. If the VPN fails, InfoNest comes with a modem so that SilverBack can dial in to troubleshoot (you provide the phone line and number).

Configuration changes are performed via a Web-based interface. You can configure Assets, which are basically the computers, IP subnets or other network devices to be monitored. If these assets also contain services you want to monitor (InfoCare supports monitoring DNS, HTTP, NetWare, SMTP, Exchange, Oracle and SQL Server databases and so on), you’ll need to configure the assets before configuring services.

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Note: Because InfoCare resides on your LAN but isn’t actually part of your domain, you’ll need to arrange Windows user accounts under which it’ll connect to network resources. I ran across a problem using the NT-style DOMAIN\username combination but was able to configure users properly using Active Directory-style User Principal Names (UPNs) in the format username@domainname.

InfoCare doesn’t require installation of any agents on monitored systems for most situations. I was able to monitor the nodes, all IP services, databases and almost everything I needed without installing any agents. However, if you need to monitor Exchange 5.5 performance (Exchange 2000 isn’t yet supported but may be by the time you read this), Oracle performance, SunOS or Solaris systems, or Linux or HP-UX computers, you’ll need to run scripts or install agents. This isn’t necessarily a problem, as these agents provide additional information that there’s really no other way to get, but I’d prefer to not use them.

InfoCare 3.5
For most situations, SilverBack’s InfoCare doesn’t require installation of any agents on monitored systems. (Click image to view larger version.)

InfoCare is an interesting solution, and having someone there to assist is comforting. One source of concern is that there’s no way to do a clean shutdown of the machine yourself. The power switch on the back will turn the machine off, but, with a SQL Server and other Windows-based programs running inside the box, I was a bit uneasy about it. A shutdown option from the menu would be nice.

InfoCare 3.5, ranges from $300 to several thousand per year, per device (according to the company, partners set the prices based on a combination of solution and services offered); SilverBack Technologies Inc., (978) 670-9944, www.SilverBacktech.com.

About the Author

Damir Bersinic, MCSE, MCDBA, MCSA, MCT, is an independent consultant, trainer and author.

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Wed, Feb 5, 2003 Tim Hebert Warwick, RI

When evaluating solutions to enhance our current monitoring services, we found it very difficult to find one set of tools that provided us with great flexibility, scalability, improved services, and power of performance monitoring tools. We were surprise of all the power wrapped in Silverback's InfoCare. Accustomed to manufacturers of like solutions encouraging significant capital investments in their products, companies like ours were faced with elongated times to reach a break even/profitability point. The "build it and they will come" model has forced many companies to the brink of bankruptcy over the past few years. The Silverback model changes that paradigm to "build it as they come"! Using InfoCare as the engine behind our service offering allows us to economically add small and large clients to our monitoring services easily while hitting a profitability point immediately!

Tue, Jan 28, 2003 Danny Johnston Atlanta, Georgia

Silverback has a great product and is an important component in our managed services product offering to our customer base. The event log monitoring, vulnerability scannning and reporting capabilities provide essential information to our customers in a timely manner. In addition, Silverback's service is both responsive and knowledgable in addressing our customer needs.

Tue, Jan 28, 2003 John Nolan New York City

Silverback is a strategic partner for us here at Pivot Technologies. Their Infocare platform is a "pivotable" part of our overall network and systems monitoring and management services (Pivot Vigilance Services). The Infocare platform gives us a robust set of tools and reporting capabilities which we in turn integrate into powerful solution sets for our clients. We have been very happy with both the product and the support we have been recieving from Silverback!

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