Product Reviews

A Server Room with a View

ELM provides flexible real-time Windows monitoring.

ELM Enterprise Manager is a rules-based management system that gives systems administrators monitoring and notification for Windows environments, and introduces new depth to traditional monitoring. With just a few clicks, an administrator can see the entire enterprise and spot problems.

Installation is a simple, straightforward wizard. In order to use Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle, a blank database must be set up ahead of time. Alternatively, Microsoft Access can be put to work.

The ELM front end is clean and easy to use. It comes as an MMC snap-in so it integrates easily with other Windows management utilities.

Once installed, the administrator sets up Agents (systems) to monitor. You can set up many different Monitor Items for each agent and monitor a wide array of items: ping response, SQL queries, FTP servers, files, SMTP, Exchange Server and Windows Services, among others.

Enterprise Manager’s power comes in its ability to set up rules and event filters. Event filters identify one or more specific events on which to take action. By using wildcards, the administrator doesn’t need to know all the specific events that could be generated by a particular resource; he or she can manage by exception. For example, an event filter could be built to take actions on all event log errors containing the text “SQL”. Later, as errors surface, the filter can be modified to exclude informational errors or errors from a specific database.

Rules tie together specific event filters and decide when to send a notification. Ping monitors, for instance, have historically been unreliable in terms of detecting an actual system outage, which causes a lot of unnecessary paging of administrators. Using rules and event filters, Enterprise Manager can page an administrator only if a ping fails and the system can’t reach a file on the server. The big picture is that an entire series of events can be tied together so the system makes better decisions on whether or not to notify a human.

On the Web front, a link monitor goes out to a URL, such as a company’s home Web site, and checks for broken links. Administrators can learn of broken links to internal or external pages. If an external Web site to which the company’s Web site links goes down, the bad link can be fixed, keeping customers from seeing the dreaded 404 error.

The SQL Server monitor also provides deeper monitoring ability. Because Enterprise Manager monitors SQL Server by running a query, an administrator isn’t limited to monitoring the SQL Server services—he or she can monitor anything queried from a SQL database. For example, using a SQL stored procedure, IT could run a query that looks for unusually large or frequent orders in an e-commerce database. The results of the stored procedure could trigger a notification to the accounting department to look into the issue further in case it’s fraudulent activity.

With Enterprise Manager, flexibility is the rule, and the available methods of notifications are no exception. The most basic notification is a simple alert; they’re stored in the database and displayed in the Enterprise Manager application. All the standard methods of reporting are available: e-mail, pagers, net send, and SNMP traps. Enterprise Manager also offers more creative methods of notification. It can play a sound file from speakers hooked up to the ELM Server, send an instant message via MSN Messenger, display information to a marquee device or even talk to users. This text-to-speech notification is right out of the movies: “Dave, there is a problem with the SQL Server.”

ELM Enterprise Manager’s Text-to-Speech notification
TNT Software’s ELM Enterprise Manager’s Text-to-Speech notification can literally tell you when there’s a problem. (Click image to view larger version.)

Another area where Enterprise Manager stands out is in command scripts. When Enterprise Manager receives an alert, it can run a script based on parameters from the alert. With the right scripts, Enterprise Manager can react to problems and attempt to fix them on its own, before bothering an administrator with a page.

One item ELM Enterprise Manager lacks is ticketing system integration. However, with its ability to run scripts and an available software development kit, handcrafting such integration is possible.

With its standard Windows MMC interface, anyone can learn how to set up and run the software. The depth of monitoring rivals any Windows monitoring suite available and allows for monitoring that would otherwise be difficult. ELM Enterprise Manager is an easy-to-use, flexible tool that would greatly benefit any admin’s monitoring strategy.

About the Author

Eric Johnson, SQL Server MVP, is the owner of Consortio Services in Colorado Springs providing IT systems management and technology consulting. He is also the President of the Colorado Springs SQL Server User Group. He can be contacted at

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