Ipswitch, makers of the WhatsUp Gold network management system don’t think so. They claim that their latest version of WhatsUp Gold Premium can make your life a little easier. It will help give you better visibility into your network, making it more reliable and easier to troubleshoot – two goals that are near and dear to the heart of every network admin.
But does WhatsUp Gold Premium deliver?
WhatsUp Gold comes in several flavours: Standard, Premium, and Distributed. Strangely, there are no bronze or silver versions – they’re all Gold. Most network managers will probably want either the Premium edition, for its more capable feature set and WMI and Unix/Server management capabilities, or the distributed edition for managing WAN links. A full feature comparison chart is available on from the WhatsUp website. This review focuses on the Premium edition that we tested.
WhatsUp Gold can use a variety of methods to monitor your network and servers. Major protocols are supported, like WMI and SNMP (versions 1, 2, and 3). WhatsUp Gold will also do ICMP (ping) polling, and has a number of active application monitors built in. For example, an active monitor can test your web server to make sure HTTP is working, or monitor your SQL server for responsiveness.
If the polling cycle detects a device condition has exceeded a threshold, it can send an alert several different ways. For example, via email, SMS text, popup, or by running your own custom scripts.
Network discovery makes finding devices a snap. The discovery process can scan IPv4 and IPv6 ranges that are manually entered, and then inventory any devices found and detect their hardware and settings. Alternatively, a “Smart Scan” feature will start at a router you specify, inventory the device using SNMP, then crawl discovered networks to find more devices.
Reporting is a major strength. A large number of reports cover everything from availability, to errors and inventory. The reporting centre is also where Syslog data and passive SNMP logging is accessed. Network devices can be grouped to make reporting and management easier. For example all of your network hardware could be in a group, while your web-servers are in a different group.
Real-time reports are also available, which are particularly helpful for troubleshooting. For example, the screenshot below shows utilization stats for an interface.
Several add-on plugins are available to expand WhatsUp Gold’s feature set. For example, a netflow collector is available as is a VoIP monitor. WhatsConnected is another nifty plugin: a Layer 2 network mapping application that can inventory and create diagrams of your LAN – all ready for use with your main WhatsUp Gold console.
Does it Work?
The big question is: Does WhatsUp Gold deliver on its promise of making your job easier? Yes it does – and very well! All of the features tested performed superbly and the software was simple to install. Several things that stand out include:
The welcome center helps with initial configuration, but is worth running at every start-up for its snapshot view of new knowledge base articles and discussion forum topics.
Polling dependencies can be configured, which allow devices to be linked together. Devices farther down the tree can be configured to be ignored if a higher-level device is down. So for example, of your firewall fails, all the devices behind the firewall will be ignored for polling until the firewall comes back up – saving you from unnecessary alerts and notifications.
Context sensitive menus can be configured by device, so that customized actions can be launched when clicking on any given device.
But there were a few flaws…
The interface can be clumsy:
This may sound contradictory, because the UI is generally helpful and great summary information can be found for every monitored device. But, I found that I often had to hunt for simple functions, such as reporting on specific elements. Drill-down links never seemed to work quite the way I expected, and it was often difficult to find specific detailed information. The reporting module also suffered from GUI idiosyncrasies.
Configuration requires use of both the web console and windows application:
Some features can only be configured in either the Windows application or the web-console. This could be frustrating if you regularly used the web-console, but then had to configure some other function that required a login to the server.
Reporting had a few drawbacks, despite that fact that it was generally excellent. Strangely absent from any canned reports was 95th percentile reporting – used by a large number of ISPs. It appears that adding the Flow Monitor plugin would add this capability.
Another irritant with the GUI manifested in the reporting module. Available reports are displayed using a folder-style list that expands to show reports under each “folder”. But running a report and then going back to the menu resets the folder list, so choosing your next report required expanding the lists again. Granted, it’s a minor irritant, but something that could be fixed so easily.
SNMP logging can be difficult to use:
The SNMP trap log, which logs SNMP messages sent by devices, is found under the reporting module. But, I couldn’t get the module to display friendly SNMP messages. This was despite following KB article instructions on configuring passive monitors, and loading relevant MIBs from the hardware vendor. There’s probably a fix for this if you’re willing to invest more time into the problem, but it strikes me as odd that a monitoring system like this can’t handle “passive” SNMP logging without significant re-configuration.
Pricing and Conclusions
Unlike most other vendors, WhatsUp Gold is priced based on the number of devices managed, but not the number of interfaces or elements. This can make a true cost comparison difficult, so if you’re evaluating pricing be sure you understand what is included. WhatsUp Gold Premium is priced anywhere from $2695 USD to manage 100 devices, up to $12,995 USD for 2,500 devices. Full pricing for all products, including plugins, is available from their online store.
And this brings me to a word of warning about plugins. It makes a lot of sense for vendors to offer additional features separately. It saves costs on the base product, and allows you to buy only what you need. But, if your purchasing process is a complicated as mine, then make sure you know exactly what features you need before you buy the product since you may not get approval to buy additional necessary plugins later.
Ipswitch has been a player in the monitoring field for years, and all that experience clearly shows. WhatsUp Gold works well, and is easy to install and configure. Like every complex system, there are a few flaws, but in general it performs very well and could do a great job helping to manage your network. And, it proves that network management doesn’t have to be that complicated after all!
Download WhatsUp Gold directly here.
Product: WhatsUp Gold 14.2 ♦ Review Date: April 13, 2010
- Easy setup and network discovery
- Great feature set
- Many notification options – email, SMS, more
- Detailed reporting, customizable, supports custom date ranges
- Initially not very intuitive
- Interface feels clumsy at times
- Configuration requires both Web and Windows consoles
- “Passive” SNMP reporting can be unfriendly