Paessler PRTG Network Monitor Update Proves Worthwhile

Review: Paessler PRTG Network Monitor V9 shows that it is possible to build a better mousetrap by incorporating new features, capabilities and enhancements-all without increasing the price.

Paessler, with the release of PRTG Network Monitor Version 9, is looking to keep ahead of the competition in the ever-evolving world of network monitoring tools.

About a year ago, I took an in-depth look at Version 8 of PRTG and was quite impressed with the product, which left little room for improvement. While there were some minor nits to pick, I found it to be a solid tool overall.

With that in mind, I approached V9 with some trepidation, wondering whether Paessler did indeed improve the product or if it had fallen victim to the all too common phenomena of software bloat and feature de-evolution. In other words, many software products seem to suffer from the problem where a new release does little to improve the underlying product, and in some cases a product update actually removes features or limits the functionality of the software.

V9 of PRTG Network Monitor proved to be a significant revision of the product, though users of previous versions will find that the overall usage paradigm remains much the same, especially from an operational view, save for the fact that V9 is easier to use and does more than V8 in the form of what is monitored.

A Closer Look

PRTG V9 comes to the table chock-full of enhancements. Some are geared toward usability, others toward enhanced data collection, while still others focus on ease of scale. Paessler has published a short list of enhancements:

  • A completely redesigned, interactive Web interface featuring a customizable tree view display and individual libraries for improved at-a-glance monitoring and drag-and-drop ease for moving and cloning sensors
  • A new Enterprise Console designed specifically for larger installations to monitor multiple PRTG installations, ideal for managed service providers (MSPs) or geographically dispersed operations
  • Simplified user management with Active Directory integration
  • Support for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) across all applicable sensor types, including Packet Sniffer, and the ability to use auto-discovery in IPv6 networks
  • New wizard for manually adding sensors as well as dedicated hardware sensors for selected vendors, such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and APC
  • Automatic download of PRTG updates to ensure administrators can always install the latest release with two mouse clicks.

That short list of improvements hides the real value offered by V9. I found that there are other significant enhancements, which will make an administrator's life much easier.

Perhaps the best place to start is with an explanation of what PRTG is all about, something that should prove to be useful to those new to the product, and also refresh the memories of those who have looked at PRTG in the past.

PRTG is a network-monitoring product that has been optimized to enable administrators to monitor network devices across heterogeneous networks, both large and small. The product uses what could basically be described as a client-server model, where a monitoring (and reporting) application is run from a central console, while sensors connect to the various devices on the network to gather information.

The cool thing about PRTG's sensors is that they require no installation on the endpoint, a sharp contrast to products that use agents, which must be hand-installed on each device to be monitored. Sensors work hand in hand with PRTG's probes, which automatically query the various devices on the network, including switches, firewalls and servers, regardless of whether those devices are physical or virtual. Simply put, sensors monitor the devices without administrators having to install any additional software on the target systems.

That amounts to a management platform that gives administrators insight into how the network is operating, provides them with the ability to take a proactive approach to maintaining network health, and keeps them apprised of any potential problems on the network. Simply put, PRTG is a tool that helps administrators monitor, troubleshoot, manage and balance network operations.