Nowadays, it is common for an IT department to manage server functions, applications, data storage and network management, since all of these functions are co-dependent on ensuring proper delivery of services to end users. In these cases, it is important to have the proper monitoring tools at your disposal, to quickly and effectively handle any potential software issues. In this article, we will explore some of the best monitoring tools for system administrators.
When considering different monitoring tools, there are several factors to bear in mind:
- Scalability – If you are managing a small business, then it makes sense to scaled-down version of fully monitoring software. This gives you the benefit of being able to upgrade the software as the business expands in the future. On the other hand, if you use a software package that is specially tailored for small businesses, you will need to switch to a different package in the future as the company grows.
- Process Automation – Simply having software which tells you how your server is doing is no longer good enough. Server monitoring also needs to automate as many repetitious routine tasks as possible; the benefit of this is that the system administrator will only have to check the logs for any errors.
- Multiple-Vender Interoperability – It is always a good idea to avoid being locked into one provider’s ecosystem, even if you are currently happy with their service. The flexibility of being able to change providers in the future will help prevent any future issues.
- Matching Your Requirements – Although there are monitoring tools available with a very extensive range of features, you should not be tempted choose a package with tools that you are never going to use. If you are managing only a small system of computers, then using a package designed for large-scale team managed departments, you may have to end up scrolling through multiple screens which will result in a frustrating experience.
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor
SolarWinds is one of the leading producers of infrastructure monitoring software. This software is best recommended for use with large corporations.
The software can interact with:
- Dell PowerEdge servers
- Dell PowerEdge Blade racks
- HP ProLiant servers
- HP BladeSystem enclosures
- IBM eServer xSeries servers
- Microsoft Windows Server
- VMware vSphere hypervisor
It can be used to centralize all administration from multiple physical locations and also can integrate cloud server performance management. SolarWinds has the ability to cover more than 1200 different applications with regards to your servers. The server hardware metrics that get monitored by the SolarWinds system include CPU usage, hard drive, array, power supply, fan status and more.
The application monitoring overview is color-coded with green signifying normal conditions and critical issues highlighted in red. This representation makes the monitoring of performance very easy to perform.
The monitoring software has an automatic-discovery feature, which will identify your hardware and applications without any human intervention. This feature is also a key attribute of the company’s network monitoring system. The dashboard includes a series of preset default task templates that will help you automate your regular monitoring and preventative maintenance tasks. There are also pre-written reports and alerts built into the monitoring software.
Site24x7 Server Monitoring
Site24x7 is designed specifically with the management of servers in mind, proving for monitoring both onsite and offsite. The software package includes network, server, and application monitoring modules.
Site24x7 is able to cover more than 30 statuses in realtime, including CPU performance management, memory capacity, disk usage, and potential, network interface activity rates, and software performance. The tool also keeps track of operating system resources, such as ports, file space, and directory creation.
Site24x7 can monitor servers with the following operating systems:
- Windows Server
- OS X
It can also operate with various virtual environments and cloud servers:
- Microsoft Hyper-V
- VMware Virtualization
- Docker Containers
- Microsoft Azure
- Amazon Web Services
The console for the monitor is browser-based and hosted remotely. It gives you instant access to important files and reports on your system, which includes Syslog and Event Log messages.
As the monitor is based online, you don’t need to be physically located at your business premises. You can start or stop the server from the app and also get status alerts forwarded to you as emails or text messages.
You can schedule admin tasks to be performed on schedule out of office hours and also get status and security reports to run automatically.
Atera is a system that is specifically designed for managed service providers. The system is available online, so the MSP does not need to install any software on their premises or host any additional infrastructure.
The main advantages of the Atera system are to enable remote monitoring and management of networks, servers, and applications. Although the MSP doesn’t need to install any software on its site, the client’s site will require agents to be installed on its monitored equipment.
The server supervisor functions of Atera include CPU, disk, and memory capacity and utilization monitoring. The service is also able to perform administration functions; for example, it can list all software installed on a server and enable license management. It can also be used to clean up hard disks, defragment them, and remove temporary files to free up storage space.
Zabbix is a free-to-use open-source software monitoring package. The monitor functions of the system include network and application status checks as well as server monitoring. The software can operate on the following systems:
The key elements that Zabbix can monitor include:
- CPU operations
- Power supply performance
- Disk space
- Memory utilization
- I/O error rates
- Fan status
- Network bandwidth usage
- Network availability
- Packet loss rate
- TCP connection rate
- Router throughput
- Warning conditions
The monitor also keeps track of software, operating system, and firmware statuses for the server and all other devices connected to the network. This includes configuration control and checks for unauthorized software installations or version changes.
Operations are conducted through procedural outlines, called templates. You can use templates that are included with the software, templates created by others in the user community, or you have the option to create your own custom templates.
Zabbix allows system administrators to create custom alerts, which with the severity ratings can be adjusted to your server and network. The alerts generated by the system can be sent to you by SMS, messenger app, or email. It is also possible to create automation scripts and set up workflows to assign tasks and alert responses.
The package also includes a remote access facility to enable you to contact network devices on other sites directly from your central command center.
Cacti is a graphical web monitoring tool that is designed as a complete interface for data storage and graphical utility. It allows for the monitoring of various aspects such as:
- CPU load
- Network bandwidth utilization
- Traffic network
Cacti can be used to configure automatic data collection, by polling the services in the pre-established period and generate a graph of the resulting data. It is mainly used to graphically represent the time series data of parameters such as the CPU load and the network bandwidth utilization. Cacti can be extended to control any source through shell scripts and executables. It also supports plug-in architecture to provide additional functionality, and has a large and active community which has contributed scripts, templates, and tips on creating your own plugins.
Anturis is a cloud-based software monitoring package, and is also free to use. The free version of the software is limited to five active physical factors of your choice, which can include CPU, memory, disk usage, power supply status, fan status and system temperature. There are also paid-for options of the software, which can vary from 10 factor monitoring for $10 per month, through to 1000 factor monitoring for $650 per month.
Anturis can work with any server that runs Windows or Linux, as well as any cloud servers that use AWS, Azure or Rackspace.
Instrumental focuses on application monitoring and also includes server monitoring functions. The status collection system of Instrumental will track the status and usage of your server’s features, including:
- CPU usage
- Disk status
- Load information
- Memory activity
- Network interaction
- Page swapping events
You can watch the response times of applications, such as SQL server, on your server in real-time and then use the drill-down capabilities to look at the activities of underlying services and server features. This enables you to plan capacity for peak loads and distribute work more evenly across your application servers.
A custom query language within the Instrumental dashboard enables you to create customized diagnostic queries and reports. The Instrumental query language can also be used to create custom alert conditions. Those alerts can be sent to you by SMS.
AeroAdmin is a remote desktop software tool which can be of great benefit in the event of needing to access a server for monitoring purposes, from a remote location. A major advantage of AeroAdmin is that the connection is completely secure, so that you can rest assured that your server can be safely monitored.