The old saying that "you can only manage what you can measure" happens to be true, so what can you see inside your network that allows you to manage it properly? If you can't see much, you'll be glad to know network management tools are reinventing themselves constantly. Let's take a look at three options, one traditional (PacketTrap) and two (Paglo and ManageEngine) using the software-as-a-service model.
Why manage? After all, if something breaks on your network the users will let you know, right? Sometimes they'll even yell at you politely.
But if the network's slow, who's to blame? An old switch that's generating errors or the accounting clerk streaming YouTube videos all day? Is one server running nearly 100 percent CPU utilization while another is idling? How many devices do you have on your network? Wouldn't it be nice to know when a new device shows up? Especially if it's a low-end wireless router installed by someone on the sly that is now broadcasting a welcome mat to the world, or at least the part of the world within 100 feet?
Modern network management tools tell you all those details and hundreds more. Even better, information that used to be cryptically hard to read now appears in color graphics and charts that even managers can understand.
I first met PacketTrap before they had a product, so it's nice to see them convert their vision to software that organizes and controls Open Source Software management tools in a slick modern interface. They're following the traditional network management application route of selling software for users to install on their own servers.
Starting at $1,495 for 50 device licenses, PacketTrap hits the middle-range point. While there are many free tools on the low end, the longest running and most successful program I know at an entry point below PacketTrap is What's Up Gold from Ipswitch, which starts at $595. PacketTrap offers their Publisher program that grabs, reformats and reinterprets data gathered by other management software applications, small and large, for $995.
One of my favorite features of PacketTrap is Perspective, including where the company gets the name, which is from the ability to examine how the world looks from any particular networked device. Click and drill down a little, and you can see what devices a particular server or workstation sends packets to, gets packets from, and the applications it runs. If you see a workstation receiving half its packets from a basketball video replay site, you may not need that bandwidth upgrade after all. Reign in streaming media by bandwidth hogs, and your Internet response for everyone will greatly improve.