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As the question states, what are the most commonly used tools used for this task and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

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My servers are running Debian Lenny, but the question is not primarily focussed on UNIX-monitoring alone as many tools will probably have some form of cross-platform support. –  Aron Rotteveel Apr 30 '09 at 8:24
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You might find some answers here: stackoverflow.com/questions/6047/what-to-do-with-a-video-wall –  Sam Hasler Apr 30 '09 at 11:32
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This should be splitted for the main server OSs since they use TOTALLY different tools –  Andrei Rinea May 3 '09 at 23:06

73 Answers 73

up vote 136 down vote accepted

I've used Nagios in the past with success. It's very extensible (over 200 add-ons), relatively easy to use and lots of reports. A negative would be the initial setup.

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Nagios works great to monitor all types of host (Windows, Linux, Routers, Switches, etc.) I recommend using a configuration tool like fruity or Lilacto ease the configuration pain. NSClient++ on the windows boxes and nagios-statd on the linux stuff to monitor running processes, disk usage, etc. –  TonyB May 1 '09 at 23:27
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There is a new nagios fork called icinga. It is nowhere yet, but their goals looks promising. icinga.org –  cstamas Jun 1 '09 at 17:34

Cacti is a very good web-based frontend to RRDTool, providing very handy graphs and stats. RRDTool is the part that gathers data from multiple systems and monitors a wide range of technical data.

We're using that cacti/RRDTool solution to monitor Unix and Windows systems. We get a lot of useful metrics including load, CPU/RAM usage, HD space, users logged in, network traffic, running processes, and so on.

You will find more information on cacti on the What is Cacti? page.

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Solarwinds Ipmonitor in combo with Dell Open manager and MS Scom.

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Please check Verax NMS. Advantages:

  • Service-oriented approach
  • Monitoring servers as well as networks, network devices (e.g. switches, routers), data center infrastructure (e.g. power supply, air conditioning) and applications (e.g. www & application servers, databases)
  • Rich library of plug-ins and SDK for new ones
  • Virtualization support
  • Advanced event correlation rules
  • Advanced reporting (SLA compliance)
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Try Ground work.It uses Nagios. So it has all features of nagios and you can edit monitorings graphically through a webinterface which is not possible by nagios alone. https://kb.groundworkopensource.com/display/SUPPORT/Home

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EventLog Analyzer is a web based, real time, agent less, event log and application log monitoring and management software. The eventlog analyser software collects, analyzes, reports, and archives, Event Log from distributed Windows hosts, SysLog from distributed Unix hosts, Routers, Switches, and other SysLog devices, Application logs from IIS Web server, IIS FTP server, MS SQL server, Oracle database server, DHCP Windows and DHCP Linux servers. The eventlog analyzer application generates graphs and reports that help in analyzing system problems with minimal impact on network performance.

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OPManager (Ports, HTTP Get Requests, ICMP, SNMP (Disk/Memory/CPU)) (personal favourite!) http://www.manageengine.com/network-monitoring/

OpManager is an award winning network monitoring software that helps administrators discover, map, monitor and manage complete IT infrastructure.

Cacti (SNMP Graphing, Traffic, Disk Usage, CPU Utilisation etc) (http://www.cacti.net)

About Cacti. Cacti is a complete network graphing solution designed to harness the power of RRDTool's data storage and graphing functionality.

PRTG (Paessler, no longer available unfortunately)

SmokePing: (packet loss & latency) http://oss.oetiker.ch/smokeping/

Pingdom: http://www.pingdom.com

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I've worked with Pandora FMS, and I like it mainly because it's very flexible and easy con configure for the average sysadmin. Also I like the web interface with all the reports and the extensive documentation. And not very useful for a single datacenter, but very cool is the geolocation interface that shows the position of the agents monitored.

I've also tryed Nagios and I like all the plugins it has, and that it's well known among sysadmins.

Note: I've been one of the developers of Pandora FMS for some time.

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the very VERY excellent multitail to keep an eye on logfiles. nagios to keep my eye on service uptime. rrdtool to keep my eye on bandwidth.

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I use 10-Strike Network Monitor

It works as service 24/7 and monitors all devices in the network by periodc polling each device within lan. Also Ican set up the program's response to particular events for example device or service on/off. Program can display a message, play a sound, run external programs, write a record to log, send SMS, restart/shut down a service or a computer and so on.

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We started using Server monitoring Bijk.com - http://www.bijk.com before several weegs ago.

And we are happy for simple installation and very easy GUI and maintanence - mail & SMS alerts for free is good for us.

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We're using AlertGrid, it's ideal for web apps. Unlike millions of typical dotcom monitors it does not monitor performance (response time etc.) from outside, but it lets you trace the execution of your code and all your custom metrics/statistics by sending events from inside of your app. Once you start sending events from your app to AlertGrid, everything is configurable using nice visual editor (100% web) and non-technical people can easily create their own alerting rules. Email, SMS, phone and webhook alerts are available.

It has a plugin for simple server monitoring (windows), which installs as a service, runs in background and emits events about cpu usage, % free RAM, and processes runing. Takes half a minute to set up, and it works! The only caveat is that the machine must have an internet connection.

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Currently using Groundworks Open Source Community Edition 5.3 - although support has fallen by the wayside on that version now. May upgrade to GWOS 6 or perhaps jump ship to Zabbix or similar Open Source system. I tend to favour those based on Nagios, but wouldn't go for vanilla Nagios due to the nightmare of managing all those interdependent config files.

Groundworks' WMI Monitoring plugins for NRPE work pretty well. Nagios triggers a WMI service check on a windows box using NRPE, which then does the WMI querying of your other windows boxes. This gets around the requirement to have NRPE agents on your windows boxes, and also the nightmare of trying to get Nagios running on *Nix to authenticate on Windows.

Another nice option is to set up SNMP on your windows boxes as part of your base build. There are some options out there to expose WMI checks via SNMP (SNMPTools) (although you need to install this on each Windows box, making it not agentless).

There are a number of Windows tools which can monitor Windows logs and send an SNMP trap when certain events occur.

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WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch

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Zabbix (http://www.zabbix.com) is good too and easier to setup than Nagios.

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MSP Center (the former OpManager) is really frustrating to use and I can't recommend it. The interface is entirely web-based which means zero feedback and an arbitrarily limited set of choices any time you want to do something. Their website seems full of tips and documentation, but it's a bit like Outlook - it promises a whole bunch of power but is hamstrung by some developer's limited imagination.

If you're looking for a zero-config solution for your helpdesk, well maybe, but it's not any sort of power tool. If you have time to tune your monitoring to meet your needs then there are other solutions that would reward your efforts more.

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ServersAlive is a relatively cheap, simple tool for all sorts of polling, including TCP services, Windows services, your own custom scripts, whatever. The response from the developer on his mailing list is rapid and personal.

I used it at a previous job for service monitoring and it was reliable, customisable and cheap.

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We needed something customisable as we need to monitor some systems which are not online all the time, but can send mail or be dialled in.

We tried nagios (maze of scripts), AppManager (nice, but nonadaptable), Zenoss (nice, but when you mention Oracle, price gets hefty multipliers) and landed on Zabbix which has open protocol, open database structure, heck, I can write a plugin on every level in a hour. It's nicely compartmentalised (server, client, database, ...). And it's web frontend is quite nice and customisable.

YMMV, for us the monitoring of "offline" systems is important and it is usually not covered by such software.

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A new entrant on the scene to check out for competing with Cacti and the RRDTool based solutions is Graphite (http://graphite.wikidot.com/)

RRDTool is replaced with a backing store called Whisper. The docs give a pretty good overview of why it differs and I really like the CLI for ad hoc graphing when investigating something.

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I use Polymon and love it.

http://www.codeplex.com/polymon

It's fantastic for monitoring anything that can be communicated by TCP Port, SNMP, Powershell, WMI, SQL, HTTP, Perfmon, or Ping.

I don't monitor anything *nix, so I can't speak to that. But for the Windows world it's very simple to set up, extremely intuitive, and extremely flexible, It has very nice built-in dashboard display, sms or email notification, etc.

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Nagios and HPOpenview are the two that I am familiar with and have experience in. Both are good choices, although for the latter I'll echo other posters that it needs someone that knows how to do it right. hen again the only place I saw it running was when I was with HP so that might have helped my perception.

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I've been using Sysmon for a number of years. There are a few modern services that it doesn't monitor, but it compiles easily on most *nix platforms, has almost no dependancies, is extremely light-weight, can monitor very large numbers of devices and services with ease, can handle complex network layouts (incl. ring topologies) and failover monitoring. It's basically a config file deal, but the format is pretty easy (based on plist/css).

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We use Ipswitch whatsup gold 12 for monitoring about 2000 devices, both performance and tcp/ip or wmi based monitors and both windows and linux. Good thing about it is that it is easy to use and configure, has bulk change options and autodiscovery, multiple notification methods. The bad side: seems to have had a limit of about 2000 devices, after that performance was getting slow, plus it only runs on windows. The distributed version doesn't really deserve the name and the price tag. We evaluated nagios (setup too complex for a dynamic environment), zenoss (no bulk change or autodiscovery, too limited for dynamic environment) and currently looking at Zabbix, which seems most promising with all the nice features Whatsup has and more, such as fully distributed architecture with probes and server, relatively simple setup, open source backend (mysql, apache)...

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We use IBMs director, Dells Open manage and "whats up gold"

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We've tried Applications Manager Its running on java and mysql. It's really powerful and easy to configure from the browser. It's not that expensive either.

Currently we use SCOM from MS. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone!

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Ipswitch's WhatsUp Gold

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Nagios with groundwork on top of it.

I'm not sure if groundwork helps or hinders, but nagios is definitely good.

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We use AlertFox since a few weeks and are very happy it. It not only checks our uptime and performance, but also monitors shopping cart, user login and other critical parts of the website via transaction scripts (iMacros based).

For our internal monitoring (disk space etc) we use Nagios.

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If you're in a hurry and want a quick tool to monitor your MS server then use performance monitor for windows, set up a counter log with custom monitoring template and a custome schedule (eg: collect data for 5 min every hour). Then download Microsoft's LogParser and Codeplex's Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) Tool (http://pal.codeplex.com/) to crunch your counter log. PAL will generate a great documented report with links to possible issue solving documents/tools.

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I've worked with a lot of monitoring systems at a lot of places. Most of them have already been mentioned. Here are a few that haven't been:

SMARTS - now owned by EMC. Really is the best thing ever for root cause. It's not cheap and support may not be good anymore as it's owned by EMC. We were lucky enough to work with the founders of the company to get it implemented.

Big Brother. Nice and simple, but a bad license. It's also the ugliest web gui I've ever seen, so I had to rewrite it. Never got Big Sister to work.

HP Openview, when engineered, installed and run by a competent engineer can be good. However I've only seen it done right once and wrong more often than I can remember. I would never choose to use it.

BMC Patrol. Just awful. Die, die!

And finally, for logs and tracking down problems you just have to use Splunk. If this had been around 10 years ago I would have saved myself a lot of wasted time.

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