Freeware Monitoring for SMBs

GFI targets SMBs with a freeware version of its Network server Monitor.

GFI Software Ltd., a security and messaging software maker in Surrey, England, last week launched a freeware version of its Network Server Monitor, which automatically detects server failures, enabling administrators to catch problems before users do.

ABC Liquors Inc. has been using the monitoring software for about a month, said Brian McConnell, network administrator at the liquor distribution company in Orlando, Fla. The product monitors 15 servers on a LAN, which connects 200 PCs used for inventory control and ordering, among other things.

ABC Liquors 150 retail outlets are connected via a WAN that uses IBM monitoring software, but that product requires separate, powerful hardware, which is more than the company needed for its LAN, McConnell said. The GFI software runs on a standard Windows 2000 system.

"We kind of wanted something a little more scaled down," McConnell said. "For our size network and our size support staff, this is perfect. Its very simple to use. I was up and running in 10 to 15 minutes."

While well-suited to the scaled-down needs of the LAN, GFIs network server monitor nonetheless provides features that can be customized for an enterprises network. McConnell manages a number of Web-based applications, and the GFI software allows him to monitor the companys intranet pages. It also alerts the appropriate manager if a page is not working optimally.

Since using the network server monitor, response time to outages has fallen to as little as 2 minutes, McConnell said. "We are now able to get there before were notified by upper management [about an outage]. It gets embarrassing when theyre telling you that your servers are down," he said.

GFI markets all its products with an initial freeware version, said Nick Galea, CEO of GFI. The companys largest single market is Germany, but its business is roughly evenly split between Europe and the United States, Galea said.

"We think there is going to be increased demand for this type of product from medium and small businesses," Galea said. "High-end network monitoring products are complex to use and very expensive."