NetCrunch Premium v3

Reviewed by: Jim Huddle CNE MCNE MCSE CBS ES-RC P+, July 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Adrem Software, go to the web site
Requires: 1GHz Pentium or compatible, 256M Ram, 40M HD for app, SVGA @ 800x600, IE 5.5. Windows 2K, XP, Server 2003
MSRP: $1,314.00 (single license), $1,248.00 (2-4), $1,183.00 (5+)

I've read about SNMP management software for years. I've also been the target of sales pitches for Unicenter and OpenView and others. At the shop I'm in now, we even took the plunge and bought Unicenter. It's a huge, overwhelming beast, costly to buy, implement and use. It needs a dedicated administrator, and that's just to wade through the multitude of options at the support site in order to try and locate information or the proper support number to call. I won't say how long we've had it, but I will say it still doesn't do much. Not that the product is lousy, it just needs (read: requires) one or more folks who are well trained on the software and do little else but tinker with it.

Adrem's NetCrunch takes a little different approach. The software is reasonably priced, doesn't require agents on the target hosts and is simple enough to allow most administrators to begin getting value out of the product in the first couple of days. It doesn't claim to be SNMP management software but to quote Adrem's marketing lead for NetCrunch, "AdRem NetCrunch will help you visualize, monitor, analyze and report on all aspects of your cross-platform network from one intuitive management interface." It may not be a Unicenter, but what else are you looking for anyway?

I installed the software on a Windows 2000 workstation (note: workstation, not server), and had several of the network segments discovered and mapped in a couple of hours. It does a pretty good job of determining what discovered hosts are active. It has no problems with Netware, Windows and Cisco. HP network printers are also pretty well recognized. My Linux boxes were recognized as servers, but of a generic flavor. When I checked the boxes I found the SNMP had not been enabled. I configured and started the daemons and rediscovered the segment. NetCrunch understood those boxes were Linux after that.

One thing I noticed right away is that the service runs while I go about my normal tasks and I don't notice any impact on the workstation's speed or responsiveness. The workstation in question is a PIII/1GHz with 512M RAM, which is just above the minimum requirements. The basic monitoring tool is ping, but for my Windows and Netware boxes, if the server's SNMP is active, NetCrunch starts SNMP monitoring automatically. I count 56 services that NetCrunch is preconfigured to monitor. For you lucky folks running Netware and GroupWise, NetCrunch fully supports Netware and will monitor your POAs and WebAccess as well. Of course, it also supports eDirectory.

NetCrunch's monitoring is full featured but that's not very useful unless it can do something with the information it gathers. That's where Alerts come in. I've been playing with alerts since I installed the software about three weeks ago. There is a great deal of flexibility in both configuring what to make an alert, and how to deal with the alert once you have it. You can be alerted in several ways including email, cell phone, pager and even ICQ if you're into that whole instant messenging business. In addition, you can define actions for alerts such as triggering a reboot for instance.

NetCrunch includes a Management Information Base (MIB) compiler. It was interesting to open it up just to see what Adrem has included. It comes with precompiled MIBs for sixteen manufacturers though sensibly enough not every MIB for every product the manufacturer might have. You can add MIBs and compile them to extend the specific SNMP traps you can create alerts on. I added a MIB from APC to create an alert to let me know when I have a bad battery in one of the UPSes I'm monitoring. Be advised, I'm no expert in SNMP (half the time I misspell it!), but I was able to import and compile the MIB, create an alert from one of the MIB's specific traps and get the alert online in about twenty minutes.

We're not quite done yet. NetCrunch also has a decent report system. It maintains all the alerts generated and you can execute a report for either a particular host or for the entire map. You can also set up report policies to send configured reports to selected recipients on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Remember, NetCrunch does not claim to be SNMP management software. It just happens to do everything that most administrators buy the "real" SNMP managers for. It just doesn't have the price or the learning curve and you won't need to hire someone to run it for you. Highly recommended.

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