As networks grow ever-larger and more complex, so does the effort required to manage effectively all the devices connected to today's networks.
After all, today's networks and their related infrastructure are in a state of flux, with new technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT) greatly increasing complexity and affecting network performance.
Hardware abstraction, hybrid cloud environments, software-defined components and IoT initiatives are quickly turning enterprise network environments into something less manageable while making effective monitoring and management a seemingly impossible challenge.
But now, Paessler AG, based in Nuremberg, Germany, is trying to bring a measure of simplicity to the network monitoring and management conundrum with the company's latest iteration of the PRTG Network Monitor.
PRTG Version 16 does a lot more than just monitor networks. It offers easy-to-understand insights into network operations. PRTG accomplishes that with a client-server configuration, where the primary console as well as the associated databases and logic is installed on a workstation or server and functions as the centralized information repository.
All devices on the network report to the management system using a variety of communications capabilities. The primary element used to gather device information is called a sensor. From an operational perspective, PRTG builds a list of devices and then an administrator assigns sensors to the devices.
Each sensor monitors a single aspect of a device. This can be, for example, a Ping time, the CPU load on a server, the traffic on a network interface or the status of a printer toner cartridge. Each defined device can have multiple sensors; on average, there are five to 10 sensors installed on a server-class device.
PRTG offers an extensive list of sensors, including ones for SNMP and others that enable bandwidth monitoring using common protocols such as NetFlow and more. There are sensors for virtual servers, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Secure Shell (SSH), HTTP, SMTP, database servers, file servers, hardware sensors and many more. The sensors allow the product to cover a rich suite of low-level protocols to enterprise-grade servers, across a raft of platforms.
If PRTG does not have a sensor for a given platform or device, administrators are able to create custom sensors. Custom sensors can be based on protocols, on the results of executables, SSH scripts or other custom data streams communicated from a device. Custom sensors can often be the perfect mechanism to deal with the growing IoT device ecosystem that many enterprises have to deal with.
Sensors and devices aside, the primary function of PRTG is to keep administrators aware of the condition of components connected to the network. To that end, PRTG provides several dashboards that give a visual representation of what is happening on the network.
Paired with the dashboards are policy definitions, which can be set up to send alerts to administrators if device activity falls outside a defined range. Smartphone and tablet apps are available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone to allow administrators to follow alerts while roaming the office or travelling to network sites.
Going Hands-on With PRTG Network Monitor V16
Getting started with PRTG Network Monitor proves to be very simple. The company offers a fully functional free copy of the product, which is limited to 100 sensors after 30 days of use.