Monitoring app WhatsUp Gold helps keep your network from going down

Monitoring app WhatsUp Gold helps keep your network from going down

By Carlos A. Soto

GCN Staff

WhatsUp Gold may sound like something Bugs Bunny would say, but it's actually a program that monitors your network and lets you know when a network resource such as a fax server or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server goes down.

The network utility tool from Ipswitch Inc. sends alerts to wireless phones, pagers, fax machines or e-mail in-boxes. It also can map a network and show up-to-date performance information remotely through a Web browser.

WhatsUp Gold 5.0 monitors any TCP/IP, NetBios or IPX device and runs in the background of any operating system with a 32-bit TCP/IP stack. The company says the product works best under Microsoft Windows 9x, Windows NT and Windows 2000.

The NeoTrace map traces in detail the route of a ping searching for the target node anywhere around the world.

The utility continuously polls each network device using the Simple Network Management Protocol address table on the main router. SNMP, adopted as a standard in 1988, sends packets called protocol data units to SNMP-compliant devices on a network.

The SNMP devices that receive these units store information about themselves in packets called management information bases, or MIBs. The devices send MIB updates to the computer that dispatched the protocol data units.

Even though it uses some SNMP services, the $695 WhatsUp Gold lacks the ability to receive MIBs. But you can download a free NT plug-in that will let WhatsUp Gold read them.

This is a good value because MIBs can reveal a lot about an SNMP device. The type of information depends on the vendor and the configuration. If a server is configured properly for it, you could have a MIB display, the processor speed, for example. Should CPU speed plummet, you could have WhatsUp Gold notify you in time to prevent a calamity.

The program's functions are complex, yet it's easy to set up and use.

The interface resembles that of a Microsoft Corp. application. You can create a map from scratch using the bundled tools or set the program to detect and map devices automatically.

It graphically displays every device as an icon. Administrators can replace the default icons with their own, which can make a network map considerably easier to understand.

Small and big

Box Score

WhatsUp Gold 5.0

Network monitoring utility

Ipswitch Inc.; Lexington, Mass.;

tel. 781-676-5700

Price: $695

+ Good mapping of network

+ Good problem notification

+ Downloadable plug-ins read MIBs

+ Easy to set up and use

Real-life requirements:

Win9x, NT or Win 2000; 8M of free storage; network and Internet connections

The mapping pseudo-wizard works well and gives you a choice of Ipswitch's SmartScan technology to map through SNMP or Internet Control Message Protocol. ICMP doesn't look for subnets and therefore works best on small networks. For large organizations, the SNMP option provides more detail and maps the entire network hierarchy, including subnets.

By typing in the IP address of a network device such as a printer remotely on a Web browser, you can check on its status and that of the network in general. You also can make extended performance graphs based on polling statistics.

Older versions of WhatsUp Gold experienced problems sending User Datagram Protocol queries through firewalls, but Ipswitch fixed the problem in the new version. The program also shows a list of commands each time you right-click'a small improvement that keeps you from getting lost.

WhatsUp Gold is one of the few programs I've tested that needs little or no improvement. It does much more than Microsoft Visio Enterprise 2000 and similar programs that map a network manually. It automatically will show and tell you what needs to be done to improve your network and resolve problems. Few programs have WhatsUp Gold's functionality at a comparable price.

Unfortunately, it's less useful on networks that have Unix or Novell NetWare backbones. I suspect Ipswitch will eventually enable WhatsUp Gold to work its way to them. Until then, that's all, folks.


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