Windows Advisor

Two Tools for Network Junkies

Tsarfin's IPMonitor makes quick work of monitoring network processes, while NetInfo gives you a nice, formatted view of your network's activity.

I recently evaluated a couple of tools from Tsarfin Computing Ltd called IPMonitor and NetInfo. IPMonitor is a basic network monitoring tool that allows network administrators to monitor a network computer through the Internet or intranet. Among other features, it also supports audible alarms, messages and e-mails for notification in case a monitored computer loses its connection. IPMonitor can keep tabs on up to 500 devices or services simultaneously using Transmission Control Protocol, User Datagram Protocol and Internet Control Messaging Protocol. This product should not be confused with another product bearing a similar name. (The Web-based monitoring tool from DeepMetrix Corp., which renamed itself ipMonitor Corp., has a product that's also called ipMonitor; that product was reviewed by MCP Magazine in 2003.)

NetInfo is a collection of 15 tools aimed at administrators and Webmasters: Local Info, Connections, Ping, Trace, Lookup, Finger, Whois, Daytime, Time, Quote, HTML, Scanner, Services, E-mail, and Web Center. You might ask, why do I need NetInfo when some of these utilities are either included in the Windows OS or they're available as freeware on the Internet? The advantage is that NetInfo provides access to all of these valuable services from one graphical interface. In addition, it presents the information to you in a way that’s much better than command-line utilities. It also adds functionality to the common tools that don't exist in some of the built-in utilities. However, if you prefer command-line utilities, then you may not be too thrilled about these tools. I should also point out that these NetInfo's tools are not the only tools of their kind. Most likely you have already seen or used utilities with somewhat similar functionalities.

The system requirements for both IPMonitor and NetINfo are identical. They require Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/2003 and Internet Explorer 5.5 or later. I evaluated versions 5.8 Build 405 for both these utilities.

Installation and Configuration
Installation is pretty straight forward for both the products and follows the standard installation method used by most vendors.

You can customize the global settings for IPMonitor from File, Options menu, or by clicking the Options button in the lower right-hand corner. The six different tabs offer you plenty of options to customize the software to your liking. In addition, you have the option to save and restore the IPMonitor configuration.

When you add a computer, you can configure several settings, including ICMP settings and alerts (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Computer configuration options.

In situations where the host is configured not to respond to ICMP echo requests, you might want to configure the “Bypass ping” option. When this option is checked, IPMonitor verifies available network service, even if the host doesn’t respond to an ICMP echo request. By default, IPMonitor checks for a service every 10 minutes. You may need to adjust this interval to suit your environment.

To test the utility, you can shut down or disconnect one of the computers that have been added to the IPMonitor console. Depending on how you have the tool configured, you will be alerted either by an audible alarm or by one of the other means that you’ve configured. I configured the audible alarms for all my computers, selected a .WAV file and configured the alert schedule.

NetInfo has its own set of options that allows you to configure most of the tools. You can easily clear a particular view, such as Ping, or clear all the views. Similar to IPMonitor, you can save and restore the NetInfo configuration to a file. NetInfo has the added capability to save the contents of any tool to an HTML file. Make sure you use Internet Explorer 5.5 or newer because that’s the only supported browser. If you are like me and use Mozilla’s Firefox as your default browser, simply add the IE Tab extension to Firefox to use Internet Explorer’s embedded engine within Firefox so you can view the HTML output properly.

The console for NetInfo (see Fig. 2) is easy to use and it also provides quick access to the tabs but the tabs are not configurable. For example, you can’t enable or disable specific tabs, click and drag the tabs to rearrange them, or tile them if you wanted to. Another thing I noticed that’s lacking is the ability to stop a process. Therefore, if you make a typo and start the process, you can’t stop it until it times out.


[Click on image for larger view.]

Figure 2. NetInfo's main console.

Not Wallet Busters
The price for IPMonitor and NetInfo is the same, $39.95 each for home, $59.95 for academic, and $79.95 for enterprise licenses. You can download a free 30-day evaluation copy for both of these products from Tsarfin Computing. The eval doesn’t contain a “time bomb” so you can use it indefinitely. But with the registered version you get additional benefits and features. For example, the unregistered version of IP Monitor only allows monitoring of up to five computers. Register it and you're entitled to obtain free upgrades for one year from the date of purchase. If you purchase a product and decide not to upgrade, you can still benefit from the support because Tsarfin Computing offers indefinite support for their products.

Valuable Additions to My Toolkit
IPMonitor extremely simple to use yet powerful enough to monitor hundreds of IP devices simultaneously using TCP, UDP or ICMP. The alerts, logging, and remote connectivity features further enhance this handy utility. Download the trial version and see for yourself. I found this tool to work flawlessly and have been pleased with its performance.

NetInfo's 15 tools are beneficial to network administrators, and that you can use all these utilities in a single application is not the only thing that makes NetInfo so useful. It is also the way that it formats the information and presents it to the user, coupled with the ease of saving the contents to an HTML file.

Overall, both these tools are a valuable addition to any network administrator’s toolkit. They are fast, simple, easy to configure, and an effective solution to monitor, diagnose and troubleshoot network devices within a single console.

About the Author

Zubair Alexander, MCSE, MCT, MCSA and Microsoft MVP is the founder of SeattlePro Enterprises, an IT training and consulting business. His experience covers a wide range of spectrum: trainer, consultant, systems administrator, security architect, network engineer, author, technical editor, college instructor and public speaker. Zubair holds more than 25 technical certifications and Bachelor of Science degrees in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Information Systems. His Web site, www.techgalaxy.net, is dedicated to technical resources for IT professionals. Zubair may be reached at alexander@techgalaxy.net.

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