Software

Review: Foglight NMS from Quest Software

Derek Schauland evaluates Foglight NMS for monitoring your network. With everything but the kitchen sink and a price tag to match, could it be a fit for your organization?

Almost all IT shops today are tasked with getting the most bang for their buck when it comes to managing network resources and ensuring the proper operation of these devices. Many administrators are tasked with keeping tabs on any number of devices and applications — some of which may not be in their target area of expertise. The Windows administrator might also be responsible for the Cisco routers and phones because the recent economic conditions may limit the possibility of hiring technical staff trained for those devices.

Working with vendors to get support on these devices is great and purchasing support as needed can be significantly more cost effective than employing someone specialized, but knowing when problems exist before devices fail entirely is key to this scenario.

Using software to alert your staff and provide information about your environment can save you time and considerable money as networks become larger and the staff used to ensure they operate at optimum levels gets reduced or stays the same.

This is where tools like Foglight NMS can reduce costs and provide an in depth analysis of your environment. In a previous post I checked out Orion from Solar Winds and in this post I am going to look at Foglight NMS from Quest Software.

Note:

Specifications

  • CPU speed: 3.0 GHz
  • Hard drive Space: 20GB
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Operating system: Windows 2003 SP1 or 2008 Server (32-bit or 64-bit)
  • Database: bundled CE, SQL Server 2005 or 2008 (Standard or Enterprise);
  • .NET 2.0 or higher

Who's it for?

Foglight NMS is a tool for IT shops with larger and more complex environments to manage; the single pane of glass that Foglight NMS provides could be just the one-stop shop these administrators are looking for. Because of its Client/Server setup and multiple user login capabilities, administrators can assign certain pieces of the application to different groups of staff. Suppose there are a few on the team that work more with Cisco than with Windows; these users can be given rights to the sections of the tool involving specific devices.

What problem does it solve?

The do more with less campaign that seems to be going around companies in general can be helped with Foglight. Because anything on your network can be managed, with SNMP or an agent deployed to a system, this application really doesn't leave much to the imagination. By allowing administrators to automate alerts and the entire monitoring process, Foglight really takes the people or manpower out of babysitting networked environments.

Standout features

  • Email Alerts: I know that most NMS applications provide email alerts, but Foglight's emails about the status of environment are quite intensive (see Figure A).
  • Standard protocol support: Foglight NMS uses IP and SNMP to monitor devices that support these protocols. It can ping to see if a non SNMP device is alive or not.
  • Agents: Usually I am not a fan of agents floating around the network, but the amount of info the Foglight Agents provide about services like Exchange is very helpful.
  • Device discovery: When using an NMS solution, having to manually tell the solution about the items in your network would not be a very wise use of time. Foglight's discovery process goes beyond just finding devices. If an agent is installed, the application can pick apart a system and determine what applications on the system it can monitor, like Exchange and SQL
  • Blackout Schedule: Configurable schedule when alerts will be silenced. Works great for scheduled downtimes or other periods when you may not need alerts about devices.

Figure A

Foglight dashboard (click to enlarge).

Figure B

Configurable email alerts from Foglight

Figure C

Reporting

Figure D

Ticketing

Figure E

Blackout scheduling

What's wrong?

The cost of the application might put it out of reach for all but the largest of enterprise environments where other toolsets might be a better fit, but beyond price, the feature set it provides is comprehensive. The base price of this application is $10,000 and can increase based on the number of devices you have.

There is a bit of a learning curve with the application, but spending an hour or so playing around with the portions you plan to use as the need comes up will get you up to speed fairly quickly.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Monitoring your network using automation and specific applications is a very good idea and can save you considerable money vs. manually checking out everything. If your IT staff are constantly tasked with more requirements and reporting responsibilities and the complexity of your network makes this a very daunting task, Foglight NMS might be a big leap in the right direction for your organization.

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About Derek Schauland

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

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