Net.Medic charts network symptoms

It comes on one 1.44M floppy with a single executable file for Microsoft Windows 95 or
Windows NT Workstation 4.0. It's the perfect tool for troubleshooting Internet and
intranet access problems.

Connecting via modem or network, Net.Medic shows traffic slowdown locations, points out
errors that might contribute to poor access and tells you the best times to surf.

If you're an end user, the $40 tool will make the technical support staff pay attention
when you say the Internet is "acting slow." If you're a network administrator,
Net.Medic will help you manage access needs proactively.

For example, if it indicates that your internal network slows to a crawl in
midafternoon, you can raise bandwidth by rescheduling tasks or simply asking users to
spread out access over the day.

In my tests, Net.Medic not only spotted the times and locations of sluggishness, it
spotted IP and network errors. That's great for mobile users, who usually can't solve
access problems on the road. Its big brother, Net.Medic Pro, gives even more detailed
information for network or systems administrators.

There's more to Net.Medic than diagnostics, though. If you often can't reach an
Internet or intranet site because the target server is congested, now you can do something
about it.

Net.Medic will send a technically detailed e-mail to the administrator of any weak
link, whether that link is to your local domain, your Internet provider or the congested
remote server.

A feature called AutoCure presents several options for optimizing access and keeps a
log for you, showing the error rates before and after a fix. Net.Medic's greatest strength
lies in reporting all sorts of communications data--everything from connect times and
average throughput to a health report that reveals the biggest access delays.

I learned not to get too worried about these health reports. It's best to sample about
seven hours online before making any decisions based on Net.Medic's health report data.

For example, early samplings put the blame for many LAN errors on a bad network card,
but longer use showed the worst slowdowns came from service provider traffic and server
congestion at the other end.

The program needs a better way to view data. Net.Medic does most real-time reporting in
panes, each presenting a specific kind of data. The collection of panes is called the
Dashboard, which is the default view, but each pane can be set to float on the desktop or
to lock down on the menu area of your browser.

VitalSigns should take a lesson from Symantec Corp.'s Norton Utilities. The Norton
System Doctor lets you set the size of a pane and how it collects and presents data.
Net.Medic pane displays are helpful and easy to read, but I wanted either a better display
or a way to get it out of sight when not needed.

I also wished I could view some data as a historical line graph and other data as a
fuel gauge. More options for breaking out data in reports would be helpful, too.

The best thing about Net.Medic is the way it benchmarks your Internet connection with a
minimum of network traffic. There is a small loss in accuracy, but this is an end-user
product for quick troubleshooting, not a replacement for high-end diagnostic tools.

As the Internet increasingly becomes a business-critical tool, utilities such as
Net.Medic are becoming evermore essential. It used to be that only the computer elite had
Norton Utilities or CyberMedia's FirstAid. Net.Medic and its like are bringing diagnostics
to the techno-proletariat.

If your Net connection or modem is slow, or if you'd like to know how easy it is to get
to your agency's Web site, try Net.Medic.

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