Linux

GFI Network Server Monitor: The Right Tool for the Job?

If you have ever been a system administrator or network manager, you can appreciate a tool that allows you to quickly and efficiently check on the health of the various components on your network. Paul Mah decides whether GFI Network Server Monitor is the Right Tool for the Job.

The Job

If you have ever been a system administrator or network manager, you can appreciate a tool that allows you to efficiently check the health of various components of your network. Receiving alerts to problems the moment they happen lets you solve them as quickly as possible and prioritize your time effectively.

So how can we accomplish this? Well, if you're a Linux guru and have plenty of time on your hands, you can always write tons of custom scripts to do the requisite monitoring. However, if time is at a premium and you want something more complex than a network ping, you need to consider other solutions.

The Tool

GFI Network Server Monitor

Today, we take a look at the GFI Network Server Monitor, software that promises to scan automatically for network failures and irregularities. System administrators can be alerted to problems via email, pager, or even SMS.

The tool can monitor a variety of devices, including Windows and Linux servers, and even routers. You can download it over at GFI, where a 30-day evaluation version is available.

I tested GFI Network Server Monitor, and concluded that it has several strengths and weaknesses.

GFI Network Server Monitor

Pros
  • Easy to setup -- you can expect to be up and running within the hour
  • Good library of built-in checks that you can instantly tap into
  • Simple, intuitive configuration interface
  • Mature product that just works
Cons
  • Cost of product is tiered by number of IP addresses monitored -- can get costly pretty quickly
  • Web interface is pretty limited by current standards
The Right Tool for the Job?

GFI Network Server Monitor is not perfect. Despite the plethora of built-in checks with configurable settings, it is possible to find oneself in a situation where the checks library proves inadequate. Still, GFI has a done a pretty good job of anticipating the most common kind of options. If it fits your budget, it is most likely able to perform to your expectations.

For me, the GFI Network Server Monitor is The Right Tool for the Job.

View my screenshot gallery of GFI Network Server Monitor.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

33 comments
RimieSmith
RimieSmith

It provides instant notification of any problems by email, pager or SMS and can take a number of remedial actions automatically, such as rebooting a machine, restarting a service or running a script. tax relief

fddicent
fddicent

I just recently began using GFI NSM. It does have some good features for monitoring MS Servers. It is also decent at monitoring L2/L3 devices. I have noticed though that the web interface for remote login to check the status of devices is not updating as it should. It has not updated in over a month. I have also used GFI Mail Essentials and Mail Security. Recently the Mail Security software had an issue with the license expiring. It completely brought down our Exchange server's email function. If GFI NSM's web interface would update correctly, I would like the app more. I have it currently running on 2 networks and it doesn't update on either. If I manually sit at the monitoring computer and check the statuses it has been performing checks, it just doesn't update the web page for remote status checks. The email function works great, but if you set the threshold wrong you can easily get thousands of emails in a single day. It can also add a good bit of overhead/traffic on the network.

sarah
sarah

GFI has last month reduced prices to suit SMBs' pockets. Also, report packs are now included free with every product and the software maintenance agreement is included in the list price for the first year report pack etc. GFI Network Server Monitor starts @ $494 for 5 IPs, whilst GFI EventsManager starts @ $768 for 3 nodes.

ijross74
ijross74

So what do you guys think is the best: We've had a look at Argent, MOM, SCOM, ManageEngine Op and App Manager and they all have limitations....

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

I think that you only look at the server.

bbell
bbell

If you are looking for a monitoring solution for a MS environment, ipMonitor by Solarwinds blows the GFI solution out of the water. It is 100% web based, has far better view options (NOC View), and does a very nice job of generating historical reports on system health, uptime etc. I am in no way affiliated with Solarwinds. We just switched from the GFI solution to ipMonitor and are very, very pleased. Xenoss is also a very good option for monitoring MS and Linux systems. Xenoss comes pre-configured as a VMWare VM, so it can be run on a Mac, Linux and MS platform using the VMWare player.

ken.mitchell
ken.mitchell

Maybe I'm a "Linux Guru", but I don't have extra time on my hands as this fellow suggests. I still find Nagios (or Nagios + a gui frontend like Groundwork (for instance)) to be way more configurable for all my monitoring needs, from switches and routers to minis/mainframes and Winboxes. I can query any Windows perfmon or WMI stat I want, on any MS system across my WAN, and have it page me in Hawaii on the beach (not that this is all that desirable). So you can buy what you want, MS products included, but you'll still come up short because you simply didn't or couldn't RTFM.

Yoorix
Yoorix

I have tried many network monitoring tools for several years, including GFI network monitor. Nice tool, however, the right choice is to choose "Advanced Host Monitor" from KS-Soft team. Intuitive and easy to use tool. I am satisfied as well.

tsgthenrik
tsgthenrik

I personally use Tembria Software. It checks server, users, and everything you can think of inbetween.

techratinc
techratinc

I've used the product. I was monitoring 20 servers. I wanted alerts on Disk Storage space at 20% (info), 10% (warning) and 5% (critical). Each trigger for each server had to be setup individually. Which not only took a lot of time but could not easily be copied from one server to another on the interface and had to be renamed and edited manually. Instead each alert should have automatically taken the server name variable from the server to which the alert was assigned. I wrote support an email but never heard back. The product works but if you want any type of customization, you will be taking a few days to get everything setup correctly.

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

You better have a lot of time on your hands to get nagios where it's worth anything to you. I've had a bear of a time with it, which has all been experimental work. I haven't had much luck getting it ready for prime-time. I would pay for a gui for nagios. Not having any windows hosts in any administrative positions on any of the networks I manage, I'm not in a position to use GFI or any similar. The old "wait for someone to port it to Linux" conundrum. It'll only happen when Linux is a big enough market. (demand) And it will never become a big enough market because there's little software of this nature written for it. Chickens, eggs, and catch 22s...

Server Farmer
Server Farmer

1. I had so many issues with GFI NSM as far as it crashing, that I gave up on it. 2. GFI does not mind breaking features out of their products and then charging for them separately - see Event Log manager and the new report pack. Get more bang for your buck by trying IPcheck from Paessler. I've been very happy with their product now for almost a year!!

dawgit
dawgit

It seems me a bit heavy on the MS only concept. That being said I really don't see any advantage of this program over the standard Windows Admin tools that one would already have. So why spend the money on a program that not going to give a good ROI or or statistical advantage? As for the comment: "Well, if you're a Linux guru and have plenty of time on your hands, you can always write tons of custom scripts to do the requisite monitoring. However, if time is at a premium and you want something more complex than a network ping, you need to consider other solutions.". It is an unneccessary, (to the article) unqualified, pompas statement, that adds nothing for the subject mater. And only serves to invite flames. Tsk-tsk. -d

NewBeeAdmin
NewBeeAdmin

I agree with the cost it is quite expensive with their current pricing method. We have been using the product for almost a year and other than initial few issues no problems now. We have been monitoring almost 20 systems from their TS port, CPU usage to hard drive capacity and we do get notified right away if there is any failure of the system. It is a good tool to have for sure.

bernehj
bernehj

op5 Monitor is a bundled Nagios Software containing all that you need for a great Nagios installation, out of the box and fully supported. The whole idea with this bundling is ease of use and ease of installation. Download trial or read more at www.op5.com

kevin
kevin

I would agree for more complex networks it could take a bit of time adding all your services and hosts to nagios. However once you understand nagios the options of what to monitor is endless either via the agent or via a network service or via snmp. So for me it was well worth the learning curve and time invested. There are quite a few gui's available for nagios. Most of the web based ones will still require some Linux, Apache skills as they install as PHP web applications. However there are also some gui's available for the Xwindows System. for a more complete list http://www.debianhelp.co.uk/nagiosweb.htm I have to admit I haven't tried any of these myself yet. ;)

dawgit
dawgit

Over here MS is the one having trouble. I really don't understand why it's slow in seeping into the American mindset. Of course, with that said, you'll find a lot more support, and programs working with Unix/Linux over here as well. I understand your statement, but do not get the 'Why it still comes up. -d

CagedMonkey
CagedMonkey

I would have to agree. I found out very quickly how they treat customers who's support contract has expired. They won't even make an attempt at speaking with you. You don't get any support whatsoever. Unless you can find it in their so-called knowledge base of useless knowledge. You won't get help.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Really? If it invites flames, it is only because Linux advocates are over-sensitive to any perceived attack on their beloved OS. For an MS shop, where the admins place a value on intuitive, robust, GUI based network monitoring solutions that do not require complicated script configuration, these kind of applications have a strong value. Isn't it unneccessary, unqualifed, and somewhat pompas for an admin with a Linux bias to come into a MS Platform oriented thread and start passing judgement???

CagedMonkey
CagedMonkey

I've been using the GFI NSM for over a year now monitoring 45 Microsoft servers. The main issue I have with the NSM product is that the main service over the course of a week slowly takes up more and more memory to the point that the server service stops responding and alerting. So I've resorted to having a script that restarts the NSM service twice weekly. Never could get any help from GFI on the issue due to a lapsed support contract. When it works it does a pretty good job of monitoring. One thing I discovered very early on with NSM is that if all you want to know about a device is, is it on or is it off this product will do the job. If you want any kind of statistics or good reporting this is not the product for you. We also use MRTG in conjunction with NSM to supplement what NSM can't do/won't do, like seeing trends.

kevin
kevin

Here's my 2 cents. If your not a linux guru with little time but want to appear like you are. Check out http://www.nagios.org. They have a cd bootable version available that can be setup with basics in no time. Various monitoring options including agents for just about any platform. http://www.nagiosexchange.org has plugins to monitor just about anything else that nagios does not monitor standard. As for the cost. A whopping nothing as it falls it is licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"It is an unneccessary, (to the article) unqualified, pompas statement, that adds nothing for the subject mater. And only serves to invite flames. Tsk-tsk. -d" Perhaps it was merely being stated that it could require a lot of time and effort to create the same scans that the product in question already offered. Unless, of course, you are a Linux guru with too much time on your hands to go and gripe about every little thing you read....

wojnar
wojnar

I guess I don't see this as anything but advertising for a specific product. What is the definition of the items to be monitored and how well does this product meet the stated goal ? To simply assert that this product is 'the right one' doesn't help me evaluate the strengths based on objective assessment of the stated need. Going through each of the screen shots gets me a little closer to understanding what functionality the product has but I don't have the time or desire to check though a bunch of images of the install when a few words would be less open to the viewer's own interpretation. Based on the article, I don't have a clear image of what the product does/does-not do. So why did I waste my time reading it ? Am I expecting too much from TR ?

jean_maurice
jean_maurice

Hi, i have used NSM also, to say if its good or bad depends on what you want to achieve or monitor. there are several server monitoring tools. Solarwinds IP Monitor - AdvenNET OPManager or Application Manager or even Solarwinds NPM at larger scales. it also depends on the funds you have available. my company offer NMS ( Network Monitoring Solutions) and we have seen that in many times cost was a factor. if you want ready made solutions try the above vendors but if you can , try linux tools that are pretty good once you have configured them.

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

Linux apache... no problem here. Thanks for the link. If I had just one system to maintain I suppose it would behoove me to get familiar with the configurations. Problem is I have a rather scattered (and dwindling of late) and diverse set of systems I work on. The way I learn best is by doing... I suppose I could pick one and figure it out, but it would all be on my own time. But now that I think of it, the possibility of having a couple of these systems emailing me with any problems is inviting. If that web app is comprehensive I jst might give it a go. Thanks again...

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

...seem to be taking to Linux much more enthusiastically. Might be the high-profile anti trust suits, like advertising for the alternatives! Brazil, too... big time Linux users. Americans are slow... take that any way you want! =) (most of us deserve it)

bobc
bobc

You indicated " I found out very quickly how they treat customers who's support contract has expired. They won't even make an attempt at speaking with you. You don't get any support whatsoever." My first question would be why did you allow you support agreement to expire? If companies provided free support to customer with expired contracts then what message would that send to customers who paid and maintained their support contracts?

bfpower
bfpower

It's nice to hear from someone who actually knows the product and company, rather than a lot of conjecture.=) Thanks.

ccchips9876
ccchips9876

As one of the 3 Admins for 500+ servers, this article was very weak. It's all in the details baby. Work faster and smarter, or get canned! What did I see here...not much and it isn't making my job easier. That's a No-Go in my book. L8R.

CagedMonkey
CagedMonkey

The office I work for is the little brother to the big corporation. So we get to use their software licensing. But when it comes to support contracts they don't maintain those very well on software. They maintain the hardware one's better. I did not know it was a lapsed contract till I called them. Big brother wasn't sure if the contract had expired I guess I had to be the one to find that out.

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