Networking

Get IT Done: Use ipMonitor to alert you to network trouble

IpMonitor keeps tabs on various aspects of your network and sends an alert via e-mail or a pager.


Several years ago I was spending Thanksgiving weekend in the Bahamas, and my company’s network was the last thing on my mind. I knew that everyone on my staff would also be out of the office for the long weekend, but I wasn't really worried about it. After all, the office was shut down until Monday and any problems could be fixed then.

I returned from my trip to find that there had been a catastrophic failure during the long weekend. No one had known about the failure to be able to do anything about it, and now it was Monday morning and there were a lot of irate customers to deal with.

That incident taught me a hard lesson about network monitoring. After that incident, I always made sure that someone was in the office on the weekends and over holidays. I ruined a lot of people’s weekends with my paranoia, but if I still worked at that company today, I wouldn’t have to make anyone work the weekend thanks to a program called ipMonitor, a monitoring solution from DeepMetrix that keeps tabs on various aspects of your network and sends an alert via e-mail or a pager (as well as other communications options) if anything goes wrong. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how to install, configure, and use ipMonitor, and how much it costs.

Installation and configuration
You can begin by downloading the 30-day free trial of ipMonitor. When you download ipMonitor, you’ll receive a single, self-extracting executable file. When the file extraction process completes, you’ll see the end user license agreement. Click the I Agree button, and you’ll be asked for the installation location. Unlike most applications, which allow you to specify the full installation path, ipMonitor only allows you to specify the installation partition. The installation path is hard coded to the \IPMONITOR folder on the partition that you specify.

At this point, the installer copies all of the necessary files to the \IPMONITOR folder. The installer then prompts you for a serial number. The default serial number is TRIAL. This will allow you to use the software unrestricted for 30 days. If you purchase the full version of the software, you can use the Adjust Serial Number option to enter the serial number that is provided to you at the time of purchase.

During the next phase of the installation process, the installer explains that ipMonitor is installed as a Windows service. Like most services, the ipMonitor service is installed using the LocalSystem account. While this account provides adequate permissions for running ipMonitor on the local system, it is insufficient for using ipMonitor to access other machines and devices on your network. Because of this, I recommend clicking the Service Control Panel Applet button to access Window’s Service Control Manager. From here, locate the ipMonitor service and double click on it. When you do, you’ll see the service’s properties sheet. Select the properties sheet’s Log On tab and then select the This Account radio button. You should now specify an account that has permissions across your network. Click OK and close the Service Control Manager to return to the installer.

Click the installer’s Next button, and you’ll see a screen that asks for a new admin account. According to the software’s instructions, you must not use the Windows administrator account for this purpose. Instead, you must use something unique that is used only by ipMonitor. To create this account, click the New Admin Account button. Provide a name for the new account and a password in the space provided. Click OK and Next to continue.

The next step in the installation process is to set the public access permissions. By doing so, you may allow limited access to ipMonitor without a user having to enter a logon name and password. You have several choices here. You can select the No Public Access option, which requires all users to provide a logon name and password. Another option is to Allow Monitor Status Viewing, which allows anyone to view the current network status without having to enter a logon name or password. The Allow Activity Log Viewing option allows anyone to view the list of notifications and security events. Finally, you can use the Allow Status And Log Viewing option, which allows anyone to view the network status and log. I recommend using either the No Public Access option or the Allow Monitor Status Viewing option. Click Next to continue.

The next phase of the installation process asks you for an IP address by which the machine will be accessible. The trick is that you can’t use an IP address that the server is already using to host any other Web services. You are also required to enter a port number. By default, ipMonitor uses port 8080. I should also point out that this is the same port used by Microsoft’s ISA Server (and some other proxy servers). Therefore, if you’re using ISA Server, you might want to consider using a different port for ipMonitor in order to avoid conflicts. If you only want ipMonitor to be accessible from the local computer, then you should use the loopback address (127.0.0.1). Click Next to continue.

The installer’s final screen asks whether you want to allow ipMonitor to control NT Services. If you choose to allow ipMonitor to control these services, you can do things like remotely reboot a server. However, the problem is that this feature isn’t secure. A lot of sensitive information gets transmitted across the network via the HTTP protocol when you use this feature. My recommendation is to use this feature only across private networks where security is not a major concern. Never use this feature on a network that is directly exposed to the Internet. Click Done to complete the installation process.

Using ipMonitor
Now that ipMonitor is installed, you're probably anxious to begin using it. There are a couple of ways to access the main ipMonitor console. To access ipMonitor from the machine that you installed it on, select the All Programs | ipMonitor | ipMonitor 6 commands from the Start menu. To access ipMonitor from another computer, you can simply open a Web browser and enter the following URL: http://ipaddress:port. For example, I installed ipMonitor onto a machine with the address 147.100.100.27 and used port 8080. In this case, I would use http://147.100.100.27:8080.

When you access ipMonitor for the first time, you must log on using the ipMonitor administrator’s account that you created earlier (not the Windows administrator account). Once you log on you’ll see the main ipMonitor console.

The ipMonitor console takes some getting used to, but the first thing that you’ll probably want to do is to set up some monitors. You can do this by selecting either the Add Monitor or the Add Network link from the column to the left. The Add Monitor link will allow you to monitor specific elements of your network, such as the Active Directory. The Add Network link allows you to create a much more comprehensive monitor of the machines on your network.

If you want to add a network, click the Add Network link and then enter the IP address of a machine on your network into the space provided. Next, you must select which class the IP address falls into. There are options that allow you to select which group the monitor belongs to and an option to create the new monitor in a disabled state. You can usually ignore these options, though.

Next, you’ll find a long list of protocols and services to monitor. The first four on the list (DNS-UDP, SNMP, RADIUS, and NTP) can place a big load onto your network, so I recommend deselecting these and then selecting all of the other options. Click Next, and ipMonitor will scan your network. The scanning process can take some time to complete.

When the scanning process completes, you can click the Reports link to build a report based on the information that you’ve collected. Creating a report can get a little complicated. You should select which machines and protocols or services to include in the report. You can also choose whether the report should be based on availability, downtime, or other variables.

Once you've made these choices, specify a name for the report. You may then view your report by clicking the reports link and then clicking the report name. Within the report, you’ll find a link to each machine and protocol or service. You can then click the appropriate link to see the statistics for the related machine/protocol or service.

If you want to be able to generate an alert when a failure is detected, you must create a profile. A profile is nothing more than a collection of machines and protocols or services that are linked to a profile name. Once you have created a profile, you can choose to generate alerts based on several different delivery methods. For example, you can deliver alerts based on e-mail, pager, pop up, or event log entry.

If you’d like to know more about ipMonitor and would like to see some screen shots, I suggest taking a look at this detailed PDF brochure.

Pricing
The ipMonitor Web site contains a free 30-day trial version. If you like what you see and want to purchase ipMonitor, a license costs $695. This allows you to install ipMonitor on a single system and to monitor as many machines and network devices as you like. If you want the instruction manual, plan on spending another $25 plus $40 for shipping and handling.

Summary
I’ve shown you how to accomplish some basic tasks in ipMonitor. This product is packed with too many features to write about in a single article. The strength of ipMonitor is the wide range of services that you can monitor in such a granular fashion—especially in a Windows network. Coupled with the detailed alerting feature, this can allow any administrator—but especially a senior administrator—to be quickly notified when important services fail. This ability can save money and give you peace of mind in knowing that you'll be informed if and when a critical service goes offline.

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