The lowdown: network management software

What are they? Network management software tools help managers assess the condition of applications, systems and the network infrastructure, and help keep them running efficiently. Some new products automate administrative tasks such as user account provisioning and network router configuration.

What do they cost? Major enterprise frameworks can cost from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for large deployments. But new tools from smaller vendors can provide 90 percent of the functionality of these major systems for a fraction of the price, providing as much as a 70 percent savings on deployment alone.

Why do we need them? As more of your applications become Web apps, ensuring availability and performance of network resources becomes mission-critical. And as these tools become more automated, they can save you work hours that can be dedicated to other IT tasks.

What should I look for? Look for tools that provide a unified view of application, system and network health and performance. Watch for support of standards such as the Simple Network Management Protocol, but be sure security issues surrounding SNMP have been addressed. And look for software that doesn't require extensive customization'or consulting time'for efficiency.

Must-know info? SNMP, a standard for communication between network devices and management tools, can provide information on the health and performance of network components, applications and servers themselves. It has had some problems lately, though, and could be exploited in denial-of-service attacks if not properly secured. See the CERT Coordination Center's advisory at

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