Product Reviews

What’s Your Network Doing?

Stay alert with MKS AlertCentre 2.0.

Suddenly it happens. You’re bombarded with phone calls on a gorgeous Friday afternoon. Dozens of users call, informing you that the intranet Web server’s down. No one can fill out the online timesheets until you fix the problem.

What could make this situation even worse? You find out the service that runs the timesheet program has been down since Wednesday, but you didn’t find this out until Friday afternoon. Now managers will have to manually approve timecards on Monday morning, and you’re going to be asked why you didn’t have this service operational ahead of time. Forget about enjoying this beautiful summer day—you’re going to be putting in some overtime tonight.

Here’s a better scenario. It’s Wednesday afternoon, and you receive an alert that your TimeCard Service has stopped. You connect to the server and restart the service in minutes. Now you can spend your time researching why the service crashed, rather than explaining to management why you didn’t have it up and running. This scenario can be a reality with MKS AlertCentre 2.0.

Not every situation is this dramatic. However, it could be. After working in several reactive environments, it’s nice to test out a proactive solution—and that’s just what MKS AlertCentre 2.0 is. You can customize the monitors to look for common network problems, and the list of monitor types is vast. AlertCentre 2.0 provides the ability to set up traps for SNMP devices, e-mail services, UDP ports and more. Add that to the detailed reporting provided, and you’ll be impressed. All this also comes without having to install any software on the monitored machine.

How’s that possible? Through AlertCentre 2.0’s agentless architecture. While most monitoring solutions require the installation of agents on all monitored machines, AlertCentre 2.0 doesn’t, freeing up valuable server resources. AlertCentre also uses a “monitor” monitor for redundancy so you know if your monitoring station is experiencing problems.

Rather than set up a generic test environment to put this software through its paces, I decided to go ahead and use it on my personal Web servers to get a true feel for what it could do. I have two Windows 2000 Advanced Servers running IIS 5.0, upon which I host a couple of personal Web and FTP sites. Nothing happened to my servers in the time I was monitoring them; but, when I started breaking them on purpose, AlertCentre 2.0 was there to tell me all about it. The monitors I had in place for the Web and FTP services notified me as soon as they were aware of the problem—and these were just the basic “boxed” templates that came with the software. A more advanced configuration in a larger environment would only prove more useful.

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MKS AlertCentre allows you to designate logging options, such as sending an e-mail and writing to an event log. (Click image to view larger version.)

I found AlertCentre easy to use. Even a new administrator could set up some basic monitoring in no time. The creation of custom monitors is simple.

While there are more versatile monitoring solutions for larger businesses, AlertCentre 2.0 is superb for small- to medium-sized companies.

Note: AlertCentre 2.0 has recently been updated with a patch. Version 2.01 is now available and offers enhanced error reporting and a new SNPP pager action.

About the Author

Ryan D. Misch, MCSA, MCSE, MCT, i-Net+, is a consultant and trainer for STL Technology Partners in Bloomington, Illinois. In addition to his current Enterprise Server Support assignment, Ryan has been training other consultants and technicians on Windows 2000/XP.

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