Oregon city tests intrusion detection tool

Oregon city tests intrusion detection tool

Network administrators for Albany, Ore., are looking for an inexpensive way to nip network problems in the bud, before users start calling to complain.

The city is testing the ReadyArm network security appliance from Avanton Inc. of Manhattan Beach, Calif., which uses intrusion detection and vulnerability scanning to monitor networks. The rack-mounted appliance comes loaded with security software and receives updates through the Internet.

'We'd like to know how things are working on the network as far as the speed,' said Allen Pilgrim, network administrator of Albany. 'Is there a link that's slower than other links?'

If ReadyArm detects a problem, it sends an alert to the systems administrator via cell phone, e-mail or instant messaging service.

ReadyArm also generates graphical reports of network performance in either pie charts or line graphs. Different colors show different kinds of network traffic such as peer-to-peer or Web surfing.

The appliance gives a snapshot of network use. 'You can tell when everybody gets on the servers,' said Avanton president Richard Knapp. 'In the morning, there's low utilization. Then everybody comes in, and the utilization goes up. Then it goes down a little. Then at lunchtime, it goes back up."

ReadyArm also shows network anomalies. 'For example, if you have a lot of traffic in the middle of the night, something is going on,' Knapp said.

The city's network is an Active Directory domain running Microsoft Exchange 2000. All of its client PCs run Windows XP Pro. The city's servers run Windows 2000 or 2003.

'Without having to go look at a log somewhere, ReadyArm will tell me if there is a problem,' Pilgrim said. 'If a mail server goes down, we will be notified immediately. I'd be on it before we got five or six calls.'

ReadyArm shows the network's bandwidth utilization down to the desktop level. For example, ReadyArm can show if a particular PC is being used to listen to Internet radio, which can clog a small municipality's network.

With an IT staff of seven, 'we don't have time to be chasing down all these problems,' Pilgrim said. Pilgrim has one other staff member who helps with network troubleshooting.

'And money is always an issue in a city government,' he said. At less than $10,000 per box, ReadyArm fit into the city's tight budget, Pilgrim said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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