Tools like ManageEngine’s OpManager can help reduce the time you spend fighting network forest-fires. OpManager is an all-round network management system that includes features like network monitoring, alarm notification, and health reporting.
Like most management systems, installation was fast and simple. A small number of options presented themselves: whether to install as a service, which web port to use, and whether to use the built-in MySQL or a standalone MSSQL server to name a few.
Configuration is the next step, and OpManager presents a helpful list of recommended tasks on startup. First on the list is network discovery – enter your SNMP strings and IP ranges, and away you go.
One of the first things you’ll see in OpManager is the Dashboard, an at-a-glance summary of your network. A nice feature is that several different dashboard views are available, and all can be customized to suit your particular needs. Widgets can be added, removed or customized to show data you find useful.
The dashboard is a great help for troubleshooting. For instance, you could add a real-time chart to monitor key variables – memory, CPU, interface traffic, and much more. Then, you can see instantly if your internet connection is saturated, or if your server is out of disk space.
OpManger does a great job of monitoring devices for potential problems. It can use standard SNMP as a monitoring method, but it can also use WMI to monitor Windows servers and Active Directory. And, it can use SSH/Telnet to monitor statistics for Linux servers.
Device snapshots display current statistics for monitored systems. The snapshot page contains information on response time, availability, and various other key metrics depending on the type of system being monitored.
You’ll also find detailed information on interfaces, as well as trend data through links at the bottom of the snapshot window.
OpManager has a fantastic reporting engine that can generate many different types of reports.
Service level reporting provides a helpful overview of the network’s availability – great for showing the boss what an excellent job you’re doing of keeping the network running.
Health reporting dives a little deeper, and contains statistics for key performance metrics for specific devices. This type of report helps to identify problem devices or circuits in relation to the rest of the network.
Finally, custom reporting allows administrators to query variables for specific devices and date ranges. The only drawback to custom reporting is the limited number of variables that can be selected for the report, which did not include useful items like bandwidth utilization.
Although reporting is a major strength for OpManager, it also is a weakness. The UI designers have done a strange thing. They’ve buried many of the reports in odd places, rather than making them all accessible from the Reporting menu.
For example, the availability report (shown above) is hidden under the Map menu. And, the interface reports mentioned earlier in the device monitoring section? They’re accessed by opening a device’s snapshot page through the Map or Dashboard menus. Then, a user would have to open the device monitoring screen, scroll to the bottom, open up a new screen with Interface data, and finally run an interface report.
The User Experience
Overall, OpManager provides a great user experience. The system allows for creation of multiple users with various levels of access. The UI also supports rebranding – changing the overall look and feel to use your own corporate colors and logos.
Additionally, the entire console is administered and accessed almost entirely via the web-console. This makes management a breeze.
On the downside, the UI has a few problems. It can be very frustrating to use for several reasons.
First off, clicking on “Menu” links at top never seemed to take me to the page I wanted to see. For example, the Dashboard menu has several options, but clicking the menu always takes you to the same default view. A pop-up menu contained more options, but it too was frustrating, using a wide horizontal list that made it difficult to find a specific menu item. A more traditional vertical menu would be much easier to use.
Another gripe – there is no simple navigation system for jumping back and forth in the menus. So, navigating back up to a dashboard or map requires several clicks to navigate the menu system again. At minimum a bread-crumb navigation trail would save considerable time spent hunting for the right pages.
This is made worse by the fact that things weren’t always in a place that seemed logical. Case in point: the previously mentioned reports that were buried in strange places.
Don’t let this put you off an otherwise fine product though. Most admins will quickly adapt to the layout. But, an improved UI would be more user-friendly and reduce the learning curve.
What network management software would be complete without alarms and notifications? OpManager doesn’t disappoint here either, with the ability to set threshold alarms to trigger a range of notification methods. All the usual suspects are here: email, SMS text, run scripts, etc.
Two useful features help to make the alarms well rounded. A downtime scheduler allows admins to set outage windows in the system – perfect for reducing needless notifications during planned maintenance. And, dependencies can be set so that an outage to a key device doesn’t flood admins with alerts – for all of the systems behind that device.
Alarms can also automatically trigger escalations. Admins could receive a notice when an outage occurs. And, the next level of support could be notified if the service isn’t up in a specified time frame.
One missing feature is the ability to set multiple threshold alarms. It would be great if you could trigger a warning at a certain threshold, and a critical alarm at another level. This would be useful for monitoring things like temperature or disk utilization that might creep up gradually – and allow administrators to take action before a critical state is reached.
OpManager really hits the mark for reliable network monitoring. It has a great range of features, and is versatile enough to monitor a wide range of devices. It does a great job alerting administrators to network problems. And, it can provide all sorts of reports to help identify problems, check-up on network health, and manage service-levels. It has some minor niggles, but generally works very well.
OpManager is priced by the device, and a $25-pack of licenses will cost around $1295 (USD). Full pricing is available on their website.
If you’re in the market for a network management system, take OpManager for a test drive. OpManager could be just what you need to help fight network fires, and reduce the risk that they’ll happen in the first place.
Try out OpManager with a free 30-day trial download.
Product: ManageEngine OpManager 8.7 ♦ Review Date: September 10, 2010
- Great feature set
- Completely web-browser based, no client required
- Monitor devices using SNMP, WMI, SSH/Telnet
- Notify admins on alarms, or escalation thresholds
- Quirky UI is hard to navigate
- Configuration can be complex
- No multiple threshold alarms (i.e. Warning, Critical, etc)