AdRem NetCrunch Standard 3.1 review
Network-monitoring and troubleshooting tools for small to medium-sized businesses are now ten a penny, so it takes something special for a particular product to stand out from the crowd. NetCrunch aims to do this by offering a range of affordable network-management tools. These are backed up with extensive network mapping, alerting and automated troubleshooting facilities.
NetCrunch takes three steps to network nirvana by building atlases and maps, monitoring nodes and providing warnings when problems are detected. It starts with an automatic discovery of the local network and populates a map with the nodes it locates. It did a fine job on our test network, spotting all our Windows and Linux workstations and servers, managed Ethernet switches and network printers. During installation, it loads its own web server, allowing many features to be accessed remotely over HTTPS. You don’t even need to have a mail server running if you want email notification, as one is installed as standard.
The interface is well designed too. A Network atlas view in the left pane provides a tree showing all discovered local and remote IP networks, physical segments with connections between nodes, Windows domains and custom network views. The main screen offers a quick insight into the status of monitored networks by providing a summary of node states, alerts generated over the past day and a graph showing those nodes with the longest response times to NetCrunch’s pings.
NetCrunch can gather plenty of information, so long as SNMP services are running on each monitored node. The mapping facility is NetCrunch’s biggest strength, since the detail provided puts many competing products to shame. Furthermore, the maps and node-summary screens use colour-coded icons to show the status of monitored nodes, so you can see at a glance if any are unavailable. Usefully, the map will also assign a counter to the icon, showing how long it’s been down for. Web access is easy enough to control, as you create a list of NetCrunch users that are allowed to use it. From the browser interface, you can see all information as supplied in the central console, but you only have access to basic functions such as reporting, adding nodes to a map and viewing alerts.
The basic NetCrunch can monitor hosts for availability and up to ten of the most common network services, including HTTP, POP3 and FTP. Four severity levels are provided, and actions can be assigned to individual alerts. These range from displaying a warning message, notifying a specific user and playing a sound file, up to sending warnings via pager, email, email SMS and SMS to GSM phones. Reporting is also well above average. NetCrunch can create a range of reports on nodes or complete networks, and these can be scheduled to run at regular intervals.
The Standard version of NetCrunch is aimed at administrators who want basic network-monitoring functions, along with simple reporting and alerting capabilities. If you require more, check out the Premium version, as it supports multiple atlases and can run manual discovery routines that include NetWare eDirectory trees. It monitors a lot more network services, and can access both Windows and NetWare performance counters. It can also use scripts to run tasks such as automatically restarting services if they go down for any reason.