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We do remote dial-ins to the various sites to assist and go on-site if the problems cannot be resolved remotely.

I'm looking for a software package that will help me in monitoring my different clients' network, PC and server health and performance. the package should contain dashboards as well as the ability to view possible bottlenecks, etc.

If the package has an IT Inventory system included it would be an added bonus.

Any assistance/suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think most of the recommendations you'll hear from people on SF will be Nagios or something very similar to it. That's not a bad solution, but I'm going to recommend that you look into something a little more tailored towards consultants.

The advantages of Nagios are that it's free and very powerful. A big drawback, however, is the amount of time and experience it takes to get it setup. As a consultant, you really don't want to be devoting all of that time to each client. Also, there's a few extra features in the RMM solutions that help out your business and make you more productive. Here's a quick list

  1. Remote control at the click of a button. Get a call from a client, be on there system in less than a minute. It's impressive to the client and a HUGE time saver
  2. Scripting engines. They'll all have scripting engines. Some of them are better than others. Being able to write a script to install the latest Acrobat Reader or remove the MSN toolbar and run it on all client desktops in one process is nice. Again, a HUGE time saver
  3. Reporting designed for consultants. Run reports using just about any metrics. Beyond that, customize reports and schedule them to run regularly. Need to email every client a summary of events, disk space, cpu usage, traffic usage, etc. once a month? No problem. Just create the report and have it automatically email the client a fresh report monthly. Clients love this.
  4. Patch management. There's lots of patch management solutions out there, but few of them (nothing I know of aside from RMM software) will let you manage patches easily across multiple domains, sites, networks, and companies. RMM software lets you do just that. Test patches yourself and decide what to deploy. Then, with a click of a button, deploy the patches to all of your clients. It sure beats having to login to each WSUS server and approve patches manually
  5. Easy monitoring. Monitoring is already setup to be easy. You get templates that you can use and apply across clients. You can easily install the agents through group policy (or with N-Able, just install the probe and have it push agents onto every other computer). You can modify thresholds in one location for all clients. It's just simple, so you can get back to running your business

Now that I've gone on and on about that, here's your options:

  1. N-Able - I love this option and that's why I put it first. I don't think anybody has as powerful of monitoring as N-Able does. Agent deployment is a breeze. Package management with the latest version is super powerful and super easy to use. The remote control just works. They also give you an option for non-managed clients to be easily remote controlled. Truly, an awesome solution. This is what I use. Drawbacks: well, the scripting engine sucks. I hear a much better one is coming out Q2 2011. We'll see though. They've been promising me better scripting for a year now.
  2. Kaseya - Kaseya is probably the biggest name in this space. They've got a nice solution. Their scripting engine is really really good. They've also got a built-in ticketing system and client access portal.
  3. Zenith Infotech - My personal opinion on this is to RUN. RUN FAR AWAY. That being said, it's at least worth mentioning and looking at this. They've got a system that is very similar to Kaseya's. The big difference here is that you end up outsourcing work to India. Alerts come in, go to a NOC in India, they fix the problems for you. You can also schedule certain things to be done by the NOC after hours. I personally wouldn't trust these guys further than I could throw them. I've dealt with their NOC on a few occasions. They are the epitome of bad Indian tech support.
  4. Packet Trap - Personally, I've never looked into this. I know it's another popular option though. I've heard they don't make multi-site management that easy. Again, never looked into it, so I don't even know if I have the right to say that about them.

Look into all the options. Do some trials. Figure out what works best for you and your business. They're not free solutions. They can be quite costly. But when they save you a bunch in labor expenses, they're well worth the cost.

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Thanks. I'll have a look at N-Able and Kaseya and get back to you –  Riaan Nov 8 '10 at 6:06

You can use Munin. It's very easy to setup on the clients. You instantly get a large amount of very diverse performance data in a form of hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly graphs. The images are organizes in HTML pages. One page can be one client or a large group of clients.

Performance problems are easy to spot when you have it side-by-side with a history of good performance. Munin sends you an email when a threshold is crossed (default thresholds are there, but you can re-define them).

The shipped set of plugins (data collectors) is rather comprehensive. You got memory (+swapping/page faults), CPU, disk, network, temperature, NTP time drift, logins (break-in attempts), database statistics, web-server statistics and many more. You get that instantly when a client is setup.

It also very easy to write your own plugins. A plugin is just a program that outputs some numbers to standard output (in plain text). I wrote and used many useful plugins for several years. My site is a Bioinformatics cluster at a large University. We have a large amount of Linux compute nodes, databases, web servers, and workstations. Nagios can also plot graphs but it will not have such a diverse set of data collectors for graphing. Monitoring Windows and Solaris workstations should be easy too.

There is also a Munin plugin exchange website.

Munin is not designed to parse or filter log files (like Nagios). But there are some plugins that count various messages in log files (such as logins and break-in-attempts for SSH). You can easily write log reading plugins but keep in mind that you will have to summarize the information in a few numbers which change through time. I think in your case - most of the analysis of log should be done manually after a performance problem has been detected. Since Munin plugins are so diverse, it will usually raise several "red flags" (send you emails) when a problem does occur.

It important to do a good job of adjust the thresholds so that the frequency of false positive alert is close to never.

Alex

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Thanks. I'll have a look at Munin and get back to you. –  Riaan Nov 4 '10 at 19:48

Try Nagios. It supports what you're asking for and probably a lot more and it's Open source.

http://www.nagios.org/about/overview

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Even better, couple Nagios and MRTG. +1 –  John Gardeniers Nov 5 '10 at 8:31
    
Thanks. I'll have a look at Nagios and get back to you –  Riaan Nov 8 '10 at 6:05

The cloud datacenter I currently work at just recently switched from Nagios to Nimsoft. If your company is willing to spend some money to have a quality monitoring system, I would highly suggest Nimsoft. You can even monitor systems in the cloud with Nimsoft. Check it out and comment on your thoughts for future viewers.

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Thanks. I'll have a look at Nimsoft and get back to you –  Riaan Nov 8 '10 at 6:06

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