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I belong to an independent IT firm that manages and maintains about 50 business clients networks, ranging from small 5 system networks to 200+ systems. Because we are unable to directly monitor each server at these locations (distributed over a very large area) on a regular basis I am looking for a method to monitor and alert us to any problems that may arise so that we can respond quickly with, hopefully, preventative measures.

I'm not sure what solutions are available for this type of situation, but something that utilizes a central server at our business with all client servers sending alerts or logs to it for daily monitoring might work best. All these servers are running a Windows Server OS.

In your opinion, what would be the best course of action to accomplish this?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Magellan, TheCleaner, mdpc, Nathan C, Falcon Momot Sep 5 '13 at 13:17

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Well, you don't mention what OS you hope to run the monitoring system(s) on, so I'll assume that you don't have a preference. My favorite monitoring app is Nagios. Nagios doens't have the same level of eye candy that some of its competitors do, but what it lacks in UI, it makes up for in rock-solid stability and performance.

To your point about receiving notifications from behind firewalls, that's exactly what Nagios's passive host and service checks are for. They allow you to send alerts to Nagios from another application. That other application could be a home-grown script running on your windows servers or it could be another Nagios instance.

As you're doing research on this, you should check out wikipedia's page comparing a bunch of different monitoring systems (both free and commercial). I found it to be very helpful.

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+1 Takes some time to get to grips with at first, but settings can be inherited from generic host templates so monitoring large numbers of servers is no more complicated than setting up a few servers. –  Richard Holloway Mar 24 '10 at 10:28