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Toolbox New Products for IT Pros
Greg Steen is a technology professional, entrepreneur, and enthusiast. He is always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA, and development easier for the IT professional.
© 2008 Microsoft Corporation and CMP Media, LLC. All rights reserved; reproduction in part or in whole without permission is prohibited.
Monitor Your Servers
PA Server Monitor Pro
You need to keep tabs on all parts of your infrastructure. Knowing something is awry before your end users do is paramount to damage control and communication. (Besides, having the boss breathing down your neck isn't much fun.) One tool to help you keep tabs on your server infrastructure is PA Server Monitor Professional Edition from Power Admin LLC.
Getting up and running with PA Server Monitor is relatively straightforward, especially with the application's built-in Smart Configuration Process, which can discover machines on your LAN and automatically configure a set of monitors for each. If you are not interested in going through the discovery process, you can import a list of machines for which you want to configure monitor checks. And once you've configured a machine, you can export that configuration via the GUI to reuse it as a template for other machines or as a backup in case you ever need to reinstall.
PA Server Monitor offers 18 different monitors you can assign to each of your servers. These monitors include standard checks, such as monitoring disk space, event log errors, remote script execution, file and directory changes, CPU and memory utilization, Internet Control Message Protocol (ping) response, and Windows® service status.
There are several other particularly handy monitors, including TCP port monitoring, which can check basic port status and also send command text and check its response against a predetermined value. Log file monitoring can check a log file for an occurrence of text that you can define as a regular expression or simple text. A directory quota monitor can help you make sure end users don't exceed their limits, and it will notify users via e-mail when they do exceed quotas. You can monitor script execution for any custom tasks you want to run. And finally, you can use file age monitoring to watch your mail queue and ensure it isn't getting backed up.
After you define a monitor for a server, you need to define an action to take if the monitor's threshold is reached. PA Server Monitor provides 15 built-in actions, including e-mail, event log, message boxes, log files, restarting services, Simple Network Paging Protocol (SNPP), and custom scripts for custom actions. When defining actions, you also can define an action escalation chain, which will perform additional actions if the monitor remains in an error state for longer than a specified amount of time. For example, you could set up an action to first restart your Web site automatically. Then, if after another five more minutes the check still fails, an e-mail message is then sent to your handheld device informing you of the site's status.
Over time you likely will want to see statistics on your configured monitors. PA Server Monitor has built-in reporting features to help you get the information to those who need it. Built-in reports include a server summary that shows you stats and the state of a particular server, a general summary that provides a one-liner about each of your monitored machines, and a graphical status map that shows you status indicators for geographically dispersed setups. Reports are generated in HTML so that they can be accessed with a Web browser, which provides a nice touch in your operations center. In addition, you also can generate ad hoc reports with simple graphs and charts, or export to a CSV file for later use. Reports also can be scheduled, allowing you to have the app automatically e-mail your servers' latest stats directly to you on a regular basis.
PA Server Monitor is agentless. One nice benefit is that you can get up and running quickly as long as the service context for the application runs with enough authority to connect to machines on your network to run via Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and other remote administrative services, such as remote procedure call (RPC). One of the drawbacks, however, is the elevated account level you need for connecting to the remote machines. Of course, there are other types of server protocol monitors, including HTTP and SMTP, that don't require the elevated permissions.
Another potential drawback is that connecting to machines across a complex and dispersed infrastructure and network topology can be difficult and will be dependent upon domain and network trust. So in the end, whether this agentless approach will work for your environment depends on the layout of your infrastructure and what, exactly, you plan to do with your server monitoring solution.
Price: One-server license for $99 or five-server license for $349 (direct).
Keep tabs on your servers with PA Server Monitor Professional Edition (Click the image for a larger view)
Clean Up Duplicate Files
If you work with end users or manage shared user disk space, you have undoubtedly noticed that user space gets very cluttered over time. This often is due to a single user saving the same file in multiple places or even many users saving the same file in multiple locations. To help consolidate and clean out that user space, a duplicate finder can be indispensable. One good solution is dupeGuru from Hardcoded Software.
The tool scans your target folder or drive for duplicates, looking at file names and contents. But dupeGuru goes beyond basic string comparison by using a fuzzy matching algorithm to find duplicates that may be missed otherwise. Once your duplicates are marked, you can choose to send them to the recycle bin, delete them forever, move them into a different folder, or have the default application open them up for a final verification. To review the results later, you can export them to XHTML.
In the preferences, you can decide how hard you want the file name and content filter to act when scanning files; this can increase the number of duplicates found, but it also may increase the likelihood of a false-positive match. dupeGuru also has the ability to mark all duplicates that contain a particular word in their file name. This is very useful for finding all those "Copy of" files accidentally created by your users and those empty folders named "New Folder" strewn about your directories.
Versions are available for Windows 2000 and later, and for Mac OS X. If you are looking to reduce duplicates in your music or photos, tailored versions, entitled dupeGuru ME and dupeGuru PE, respectively, are worth a look.
Price: $19.95 (direct).
Clean up duplicate files with dupeGuru (Click the image for a larger view)
Keep Tabs on Your Environment
pt360 Tool Suite PRO
It can be very advantageous to have a single interface that lets you view and manage a variety of network monitoring and management tools. Besides saving you a lot of time (and desktop real estate), an integrated suite can make it easy to share data among different monitoring tools while allowing you to survey numerous monitors at once, giving you a more complete view of the state of your infrastructure.
If this sounds good, check out pt360 Tool Suite PRO from PacketTrap Networks. This application offers an integrated UI for the PacketTrap Networks tools, with the addition of centralization and consolidated reporting capabilities. You can create and organize your tool view into a custom dashboard for instant access to your most-used tools and infrastructure status information. The pt360 dashboard also has the ability to pop into full-screen mode. This is great in your operations center, allowing anyone on the team to glance at a screen quickly and see the status of different network and server resources. The application supports multiple dashboards, so you can create various views in your environment according to your needs.
To set up a dashboard, simply select a number of gadgets from a dropdown and click each gadget to configure it. The gadgets are grouped into five categories—Application, Networking, Devices, Availability, and Other—and rely on Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and WMI to monitor your servers, applications, and network devices. The Application gadgets give you hooks into Active Directory®, Microsoft® Exchange Server, and SQL Server® and also provide a browser tool. The Networking gadgets give you insight into device interfaces and provide Top 10 views of average packet loss, highest latency, and interface usage per client. Device gadgets provide performance indicators about CPU and memory usage, available disk space, volume listings, network interface utilization, and more. These are great for keeping tabs on how your servers are performing in real time via their configurable WMI queries. The Availability monitors show you uptime in chart, gauge, text, or list format for your machines. And, finally, Other has a large digital clock.
In addition to the dashboard, the pt360 tools suite gives you networking tools. For example, you get a Cisco Configurator. This lets you archive, modify, upload, download, and compare configuration files from your Cisco equipment. You also get three different ping tools—one that gives you a sortable table view, another that shows you a graphical view, and a third that lets you quickly ping-scan a group of IP addresses. Other types of scanning tools you have at your disposal include a MAC address scanner, a port scan tool, an SNMP scanner, and a WMI scan tool.
The tools suite also can act as a syslog server and send, receive, log, and display syslog messages from and to any device on your network that supports syslog. The display also supports filtering, so you can quickly isolate messages of concern, speeding up the troubleshooting process.
The suite functions as a Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) server, letting you quickly move files to and from devices around the network. Other tools include trace routing, Whois, and wake-on-LAN capabilities. Of course, since it is a centralized-management solution with connections to your hosts via WMI and SNMP, how the suite stores its credentials for connection is critical. Fortunately, the suite uses a 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-encrypted credential store to which you can add, update, and delete the information needed to monitor your infrastructure.
Price: $999 (direct) for a single license.
Figure 36 Monitor your systems with pt360 Tool Suite PRO
Manage Disk Usage
"What is taking up all the disk space on that server!" Is this a familiar cry? Your monitoring application has just sent you an e-mail message notifying you that a low disk space threshold has been hit. OK, so how do you go about cleaning up that machine, you might ask. And how can you quickly judge the best culprit to "Shift-Delete." (That's the quick shortcut for skipping the recycle bin.) One tool that may help you in your quest for the green light in your host monitor is TreeSize Professional from JAM Software.
The application runs on Windows 2000 and later for both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows, and it gives you an in-depth view of what files are taking up the space on your drives. All you have to do is select the drive to interrogate and the application scans the folder structure automatically. Once that action is complete, you have access to seven different views of the drive. The first is a Chart view, which in turn gives you three different charts to parse: a pie chart, a bar chart, and a relative-size box graph. Each of these charts lets you drill down into the different folders so you can identify the space hogs quickly. You also can customize coloring and style on the charts.
Next is a Detail view that gives you a sortable table view of files, and within this view you can choose from a number of different columns to display. The most notable choices among users include author of Microsoft Office files, the average file size in a folder, the percentage of the parent directory that this file or folder occupies, and hard links.
The Extensions view indicates which types of files are taking up the most space in each directory as you drill down through the folders. The Users view shows the composite view of how much space a user or system account's files are occupying, which is essential in helping you isolate problem users. The File Ages view gives you a graphical view on the percentages of files that have been modified, created, or accessed in the past day, month, year—whatever time frame you prefer—allowing you to identify old files that can be archived or deleted safely. Then there is a Top 100 view, which identifies the 100 biggest files on the drive. And finally, there is the History view, which provides usage patterns on the drive over time.
Each of the seven views can be printed, saved, and copied to the clipboard for later use. Also, TreeSize speeds up common cleanup maintenance tasks via the toolbar by letting you quickly isolate the biggest files, oldest files, temporary files, Internet cache files, and duplicate files with the File Search capability. TreeSize Professional also can scan over the network via UNC shares, but there is a significant performance penalty due to the network overhead involved.
The app also supports a command-line mode. This is great for scheduling and overnight runs. You also can create a Scheduled Task scan, configuring it to scan a path and having it produce a set of reports on a standard schedule. This is useful for monitoring shared user space each night and keeping a close eye on how disk space is being used.
If you are pondering how it is possible that your entire terabyte of user space already has been gobbled up, perhaps TreeSize can help you see how your disk space is being used and start managing it more effectively.
Price: $49.95 (direct) for a single license.
Manage disk usage with TreeSize Professional (Click the image for a larger view)
© 2008 Microsoft Corporation and CMP Media, LLC. All rights reserved; reproduction in part or in whole without permission is prohibited.