Keep an Eye on Your Network
Network Analysis with Network Instruments’ Observer 7.1
Do you wonder why your network responds sluggishly at sporadic times?
Have you ever wanted to find out who was hogging all the bandwidth? Has
your network ever been the victim of a broadcast storm?
These are simply a few of the problems that can be solved using Network
Instruments’ Observer 7.1. Not every company can afford to upgrade its
network infrastructure, but most companies can afford to improve network
efficiency using Observer. This software-based tool reveals network bottlenecks,
bandwidth-busting users, traffic patterns, network errors, protocol distribution
and much more.
The install processes for both the Observer console and the Observer
probes are described simply, but adequately, in the quick start guides.
It takes only a few clicks to install both the Observer console and remote
monitoring probes. The Observer User Guide manual thoroughly explains
the purpose, features and setup of each network analysis and trending
tool. Rookie network admins will find the step-by-step instructions in
the manual helpful, while veterans will find the manual useful for reference.
Veterans many not need to spend much time in the manuals because Network
Instruments made Observer easy to use. The Observer interface is aesthetically
appealing, and navigation to each network analysis tool is simply a click
Graphic design and simple use aren’t Observer’s only strengths. Observer
has all the essential network-monitoring tools. With Observer, you can
monitor individual stations, switches and routers on switched, non-switched,
single-segment or multiple-segment LANs. In any of these environments,
you can use Observer to monitor bandwidth use, protocol distribution,
network errors, network names, packet data, pair statistics and more.
You can even monitor the Web sites that users visit or set alarms and
triggers to warn of impending problems.
If all this weren’t enough, you can also purchase an expert extension
that does packet tracing. The expert extension can monitor packet traffic
over a period time and point out potential problems. With the full observer
suite, you also get an SNMP console, an RMON console and the Web Extension.
The Web Extension allows the data to be output to a Web page that can
be used as “mission control”-style monitoring page.
What does it take to run this great network-monitoring tool? Observer
runs on Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0 or 2000 operating systems. These operating
systems will need to be installed on a machine that is at least a Pentium
400MHz (600MHz recommended). My experience showed that even a beefy Pentium
III 600MHz machine with 256MB RAM may occasionally “thrash” under the
weight of Observer’s data collection, depending of course on your network
traffic. Therefore, you’ll want to pick out choice machines to run the
console and probes. High video resolution (suggested 1024x768/ recommended
1280x1024) is also needed to display the bulky all-in-one Observer console.
|The Observer Console provides an easy-to-manage centralized
interface. From the console, all network monitoring tools can be started
with a click. (Click image to view larger version.)
Overall my experience with Observer was extremely positive. Network Instruments
has done a masterful job with Observer 7.1. This product combines a simple-to-navigate
console with a robust network monitoring toolset. The installation process
is simple, the documentation is thorough, and the interface is attractive
as well as functional. The tools included with Observer are enough to
monitor the smallest or the largest networks.
Robert Pfeiffer, MCSE, MCT, works closely with Windows
NT and Win2K. Implementing Win2K in the enterprise is
currently one of Rob's major undertakings, and he enjoys
showing others how to take advantage of Windows networking
technologies. He also occasionally delves into development
work using Visual Basic.