Network management tools: Page 2

Posted January 1, 1998

David Strom

David Strom

(Page 2 of 2)

Site connections

But these products just deal with monitoring your server. Another part of the overall network management equation is dealing with your physical connection to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This includes your own internal network connections as well as the links and routers to the public Internet through your ISP. These connections can include the equipment, such as a T1, ISDN, or digital subscriber line, that connects your company to the Internet, as well as the routers, hubs, and firewalls used as part of maintaining this connection. This often means providing for back-up power and redundant network connections in case one of these components fails, as well as keeping track of when your ISP link is down or unreachable.

There are several services that use the Internet itself to keep track of your connection to it. The ones I have used include WebPartner from VerticalSoftware.com Inc. and Phil Greenspun's Uptime, both freely available. The way they work is, you first go to their respective Web sites and sign up for the service, which normally takes just a few minutes. You provide the URLs that you wish to keep track of and an e-mail address for the alerts, along with some other information such as how often to check and how often to send you scheduled summary reports, usually on a daily or weekly basis. When the URL isn't reachable for several minutes, an alert is sent to your e-mail address notifying you of the problem. WebPartner requires no additional changes to your Web content, while Uptime requires a single, simple text file to be uploaded to your Web site, which it uses to locate your site. This file will take most Webmasters just a few minutes to prepare, though.

A more continuous service is WhatsUp from Ipswitch Inc., which is a piece of Windows software that does something similar to the two service offerings mentioned above, and can be tailored to send out alerts via a wide variety of mechanisms, including pagers and e-mail. And there is Net Resolve's Site Watch 2000, which has a variety of service offerings to monitor your site, including the ability to report back on overall network latency from a number of places around the Internet.

If you like the tools available from Freshwater on its SiteScope product, but don't want to or can't install software on your Web servers, then consider Freshwater's SiteSeer service. This might be the case because you are hosting your Web site at a service provider who doesn't allow these tools to be installed, or because you are running your site remotely and don't have administrative access to the server itself. Like WebPartner, it is a Net-based service you subscribe to (but is fee-based rather than free). In addition to e-mail alerts you can receive pager notification. A free trial is available at the company's Web site.

Site load balancing

But these tools still don't cover the entire management picture. You also need to handle peak load traffic to your site, and be able to understand how to calculate and anticipate these peak loads properly and how they will affect your various servers and systems. Perhaps the most complete service for this situation is provided by a company called Manage.com, which will set up the appropriate servers, routers, and switches to ensure that your site will be able to satisfy the number of visitors and Web shoppers coming by, even at the busiest of times. The company has test tools to examine your Web storefront and monitor such things as response time, link integrity, and overall transaction throughput. While these services are expensive (typical prices are in the tens of thousands of dollars), if you are running an e-commerce site you can't afford not to investigate them.

Besides Manage.com, there are a number of vendors who offer Web switchgear and ways to balance loads across multiple servers. These products are useful when you have multiple Web servers that make up a single site and want to distribute your visitors across these servers in an intelligent way, such as to send the next visitor to the least busy server or to send secure transactions (like payment and order processing) to a particular set of servers. These include companies such as Alteon Web Systems Inc., Foundry Networks Inc., iPivot (now owned by Intel Corp.), and others. To make use of these products though requires a fairly heavy investment in network infrastructure, often replacing existing routers and hubs with these products to obtain the switching features and intelligent load balancing offered. For example, to handle the increased traffic, you may have to upgrade your network to 100Mb Ethernet or install a switched Ethernet network, both of which will require expensive changes to your wiring, routers, and hubs. Again, any of these products are an investment in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Web Management Technologies
Product, Vendor, URL Price Function
App Manager, NetIQ $2,500+ Windows software monitors NT services only, but includes a wide range of support for Exchange, SQL Server, and connectors to management frameworks such as Tivoli, Unicenter TNG, and Open View.
CompanySleuth free Net-based service that keeps track of stock prices and investor information on a series of target companies, and sends daily e-mail reports.
Manage.com varies Service provider that can manage the entire e-commerce path and processes.
Serversitter $349 Hardware card for NT, Windows 95/98 servers that will automatically reboot a hung server.
Site Watch 2000, NetResolve varies Net-based service to monitor your site from dozens of different locations around the Net.
Sitescope and SiteSeer, Freshtech SiteScope, $495-$1,295 Sitescope is software to monitor NT and UNIX servers. SiteSeer is a Net-based service to keep track of particular servers and URLs. Both provide various kinds of notification.
SiteSeer, $995-$3,495/yr
Tracerlock, Peacefire free Net-based service that looks for mentions of keywords across the entire Web and sends daily e-mail reports with URLs.
Uptime, Phil Greenspun free Net-based service that keeps track of particular servers and URLs and sends notification via e-mail when unable to connect.
Webpartner free Net-based service that keeps track of particular servers and URLs and sends notification via e-mail when unable to connect.
What's Up Gold, Ipswitch $695 Windows software that provides notification and monitors a range of devices, including hosts, servers, and hubs.

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