Product Reviews

Navigate Your Network

WhatsUp Gold maps your network and helps you keep it running smoothly.

WhatsUp Gold 11.0, Premium Edition
Installation 20%
Features 30%
Ease of Use 20%
Administration 20%
Documentation 10%
Overall Rating:

1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

Many networks, including yours, probably grow in a purely ad hoc fashion. You have a simple network spread across a small office that's perfectly easy for you to understand and manage. There's little if any need to document the devices on that network and the services they provide. That information is safely stored in your head, and it does no harm there.

Over time, your business grows. You hire a couple of bright guys to keep the trains running, but they're busy fighting fires and seem to discover new devices on the network almost daily. They find them only when those devices fail and users complain. Now you can't trust the network, and you can forget about migrating to VoIP anytime soon, as least until you get things under control. Now you need help.

Get a Grip
Ipswitch Inc.'s WhatsUp Gold is the cure for what ails your network when it reaches this point. WhatsUp Gold searches out all the IP devices connected to your network so you can map and monitor them from that point forward. In short, it sorts out the mess you and your users have created over the years, and it helps you keep it sorted in the future. You can find out exactly what's happening on your network right now and keep the trains running as you plan for future expansion.

You can install WhatsUp Gold on any system on the network, so you can monitor your network from anywhere. There is also a Web interface for remote access.

WhatsUp Gold uses a SQL Server database to store network devices and network configurations. I tested it with SQL Server Developer Edition. During setup, it asks to search the network in one of several possible ways: SMNP scan, hosts-file import, IP-range scan or Network Neighborhood. My own network only had a few nodes, and it found and mapped all of them within seconds.

You can configure WhatsUp Gold to recognize and map a number of different devices. There are preconfigured devices it will automatically recognize, such as network components from 3com Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., D-Link Corp. and IBM Corp.; database servers; FTP servers; Unix servers; printers and so on. Once it recognizes a device, it will identify it and automatically add it to your map.

Figure 1
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold provides graphical views of device status, resource utilization, ping response and a variety of other measures of performance.

If the software doesn't automatically find all your network devices, you can enter them manually. That might happen in the case of a non-IP piece of equipment, or if the equipment isn't responding to an SNMP scan.

Once the network scan is finished and you have your network map, you can organize your devices by type or by whatever group you'd care to define. You can group all the Cisco network devices together, for example, or devices that collect performance metrics. You can see both groups and individual devices either as lists or visual maps. Of course, this doesn't tell you where the device physically resides, but you'll know how it's connected.

A Bounty of Data
Now the fun really begins. You can monitor the health of every device connected to your network from WhatsUp Gold's interface. If a printer stops somewhere, you may well know about it before your users do. You can track the performance, utilization and status of just about any IP device on the network, from Web servers to routers. Is an unauthorized iPhone bringing down your unpatched Cisco router? You'll know about it before your users start complaining that the network is slow.

WhatsUp Gold generates a broad array of reports, based on its network- and device-activity logs. I counted more than 50 predefined reports and there were still plenty more. It gathers real-time and trending network information across all mapped devices for technical and business reporting. The reports fall into several categories-System, Group, Device, Performance, Problem Areas and General. In addition, you can define your own categories and choose which reports go into them.

The Web interface installs automatically and executes from a local host. You don't have to do anything special to configure the Web interface, but it will only run from that system. The Web interface is what you'll use to define and run reports. You can also perform limited device management via the Web.

WhatsUp Gold also gives you a good set of network and Internet utilities for specific actions, such as graphical versions of ping, traceroute, finger, whois and a few SNMP utilities. These are useful for both problem diagnosis and general information.

My sole reservation with WhatsUp Gold was that I found the user interface a bit clunky at times. New windows opened with different functions, which crowded the look and feel. It sometimes made it difficult to tell where you were in the application. To be honest, I liked the clean Web interface better than the rich one, even though it didn't have as many features.

If your network is haphazard and out of control, WhatsUp Gold is just what you need to help you get your arms around it again. If you're just barely hanging on, WhatsUp Gold will make it easier to support your existing configuration and plan for smooth expansion.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.


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