Tag Archives: solarwinds

Free Network Tools for Troubleshooting

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Josh is joining us once again from solarwinds. We always have a great time when we get together to give all of you tips and tricks – not to mention great deals on excellent software! Be sure to check out what’s available on our partner page. Today, Josh wanted to tell us about the top five free network tools that you can use to keep your network up and running. Let’s take a look at what he has for us!

  • Real-time NetFlow Analyzer – Real-time NetFlow Analyzer captures and analyzes this data in real time to show you exactly what types of traffic are on your network, where that traffic is coming from, and where it is going. Real-time NetFlow Analyzer displays inbound and outbound traffic separately for granular analysis that makes problem diagnosis quick and easy. Now you know exactly how your bandwidth is being used and by whom.
  • VM Monitor – Virtual machines and their host servers need performance and availability monitoring, just like their physical server counterparts. VM Monitor is a desktop tool that monitors a VMware ESX Server and its virtual machines, delivering the real-time monitoring that you’ve been missing. You’ll be able to track virtual server health at-a-glance and ensure your mission-critical apps never fail you.
  • Exchange Monitor – Exchange Monitor delivers a clever desktop dashboard that monitors Microsoft Exchange to deliver real-time insight into Exchange services, mail queue sizes, and host server health. With Exchange Monitor at your fingertips, you’ll be able to track Exchange health, and ensure this critical app never fails you.
  • TFTP Server – TFTP Server is a multi-threaded TFTP server commonly used to upload and download executable images and configurations to routers and switches. The free TFTP Server runs on most Microsoft operating systems.
  • Advanced Subnet Calculator – Are you tired of subnet calculators with limitations? Other free subnet calculators only offer one function, do not allow exporting, and usually require a purchase to enable all the features.

Be sure to check out our full solarwinds page for many more tips and tricks you may need. solarwinds has some excellent software, to help make your job easier. Thanks so much to Josh, as usual, for making networking so much fun. Long live the Hulk!

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How Do You Monitor and Troubleshoot Network Applications?

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Josh from SolarWinds joined me again. This time, he was here to discuss ipMonitor. This is geared toward network and system administrators, and is used for pinpointing and troubleshooting application and server issues on corporate networks. You can download your own 21-day free trial of ipMonitor to check it out for yourself. If you enjoy the program, there will be special pricing available for you for a limited time, using that same link.

SolarWinds ipMonitor delivers out-of-the-box, entry-level monitoring that is perfect for keeping up with your network devices, servers, and applications. ipMonitor is a reliable network monitoring software solution that enables system administrators to get a leg up on problems before they get swamped with calls from high-maintenance users.

Plus, ipMonitor includes a built-in database and Web server, so users don’t need to install anything but ipMonitor – making it fast, affordable, and easy to use in any environment.

ipMonitor’s highlights include:

  • Quickly discovers IP-based network devices and automatically recommends SmartMonitor settings for each device.
  • Performs out-of-the-box monitoring of Active Directory®, DNS, Microsoft® Exchange, FTP, Web, IMAP, MS SQL Server™, and SMTP.
  • Creates customizable network maps that enable you to visually monitor network data and to drill down to take immediate corrective actions.
  • Monitors end-user experience with synthetic transactions.
  • Automates recovery and remediation actions to reduce downtime.

According to Josh, there are three basic categories of server-side applications that you could encounter problems with: Web Servers, Exchange/Mail Servers, and File/Print Servers. In most organizations, it makes it hard to get your job done if any of these are not working properly. ipMonitor is a tool that will allow you to keep track of these things at all times, and know instantly if something is out of whack.

When you launch ipMonitor for the first time, it’ll run you through a wizard. It’ll automatically go out and find your routers, switches and servers. It will detect what statistics are available to monitor those. It’ll “talk” to each of them, and will automatically build monitors and throw them into the application. The next thing you’ll see is basically a picture of your network, with the status of all your severs, server-based apps, and network equipment. It’s easy to set up, and will take you less than 15 minutes to get going.

There are many different protocols that are used in discovery and configuration. The best part is that as a user, you don’t necessarily have to know about protocols, it’s done behind the scenes. There are many ways to go out and discover your applications and servers. We used those things to build the monitor that will help you keep an eye on everything.

With ipMonitor, each particular type of device on the network is going to get a different type of view, and different tools to monitor and measure it. A printer will have a printer icon, and so on. The characteristics used to track devices will be different, based on what is being looked at. This just makes it so much easier on the Network Administrator. They will know there’s a problem even before someone is calling or emailing them to complain.

Any type of server platform can be monitored, no matter what platform or Internet service you are using. Anything you can think of is supported out of the box. SolarWinds is dedicated to providing software that is vendor-neutral, and that anyone can use. Your particular skill-set shouldn’t have to be that of a genius. You should be able to do your job, and do it well. Using software like ipMonitor will help you do just that.

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How Do Network Admins Troubleshoot Traffic Problems?

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It’s always a fun time when I get together via video with Josh from SolarWinds. We hooked up this month to talk about NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, which will help you easily monitor your network traffic.

Real-time NetFlow Analyzer unlocks the power of NetFlow on your network. This new free tool determines the types of traffic on your network, where it’s coming from, and where it’s going. Real-time NetFlow Analyzer takes the guesswork out of diagnosing traffic spikes and stores up to one hour of NetFlow data – giving you X-ray vision into what’s on your network!

Put an end to complaints about the network being slow! With Real-time NetFlow Analyzer, you’ll get the visibility into NetFlow data that you’ve been waiting for. This free tool will enable you to

  1. Investigate, troubleshoot, and quickly remediate network slowdowns.
  2. Easily identify which users, devices, and applications are consuming the most bandwidth.
  3. Isolate inbound and outbound traffic by conversation, application, domain, endpoint, and protocol.
  4. Personalize NetFlow data displays to view traffic by specified time periods (up to 60 minutes) and by traffic type.
  5. Customize refresh rates and display units for NetFlow traffic.

This is an excellent way to figure out where everything is going (and coming from!), without much “Geekitude” involved. In many situations, you may not have access to a connection to show you this information. Routers have a ‘probe’ of sorts built into them. NetFlow will allow you to access that ‘probe’, and keep track of what’s going on at all times.

The more troubleshooting issues you have at your disposal, the easier it is to manage your network. Even for a home network, using a tool like NetFlow makes your job as a network admin much easier. You may have traffic generating from your network that no one knows about. You could have picked up some type of Malware, or someone could have hacked in through your firewall and be accessing your files.

When it comes to network traffic for a newer System Administrator, what should they look out for? According to Josh, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to be able to use tools, such as SolarWinds’ Engineer’s Toolset. Use this to monitor the traffic going in and out. As long as you’re not over-subscribing your use, then it’s not so important how you’re using it. It’s a matter of understanding when you start to reach a threshold and you need to start budgeting your bandwidth. Once you reach that threshold, the first key is to be sure you have hardware that is manageable, and will allow you to grow as your needs grow.

NetFlow Analyzer is another excellent tool to keep in your arsenal, courtesy of our friends at SolarWinds. Thanks to Josh, as always, for taking time to talk with us.


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Troubleshooting User Network Performance Issues

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We all have networks of some kind. No matter whether you have two computers or 2000 on your network, you’ll need tools to manage it. This is why I love talking to Josh Stephens from SolarWinds. In the recent past, Josh and I got together to discuss Exchange Monitor. Today, we talked specifically about troubleshooting user performance on a network. I wanted to get his take on this, as I know it’s something he deals with on a daily basis.

According to Josh, networks today are more complex than they used to be. We’re using them for far more than we have in the past, and many of the things are bandwidth intensive. When he has to start narrowing down a problem, the first three rules of troubleshooting a network is check the cable, check the cable, check the cable. It sounds silly, but it happens much more often than you would think.

I asked Josh if turning on wireless actually impede the wired connections between computers on the network. Josh indicated that you can use some of the tools from SolarWinds to measure performance of your network both before and after you make any changes. If you’re having trouble with performance and you have wireless… check first to make sure if there’s a firmware update available for your access point. That can make a tremendous difference. There are many little things that could cause you to have issues with a wireless network, so using tools like SolarWinds has available can certainly help diagnose and manage it.

Another question that came up was wondering what Josh believed the greatest threat is to networks in the coming years. Josh tends to think that as far as things like viruses go, the network gear today is very well equipped to handle them. He doesn’t see threats like that as much of an issue. What he does feel that Network Admins should be aware of is the idea of having real-time collaborative conferencing. It’s really just barely starting to take off, and will likely grow very quickly. You need to stay a few steps ahead of the users you are providing support to.

I get a lot of people constantly asking me about tweaks. I wondered if many of the “popular” tweaks are actually valid. Josh stated there truly is a lot of things that can be tweaked in order to enhance your network performance. You definitely want to make sure you know what you’re doing before diving in to make major changes, and always back up everything you can before beginning.

The Engineer’s Toolset Engineer’s Toolset includes 49 powerful network management, monitoring and troubleshooting tools to easily and effectively manage your network. Some of the key features are:

  • Monitors and alerts on availability, bandwidth utilization, and health for hundreds of network devices
  • Provides robust network diagnostics for troubleshooting and quickly resolving complex network issues
  • Offers an array of network discovery tools that facilitate IP address management, port mapping and ping sweeps
  • Eases management of Cisco devices with tools for real-time NetFlow analysis, configuration management and router management

Please leave me your network optimization tips, so that everyone can learn. And be sure to check out everything SolarWinds has to offer.

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Free Exchange Monitor Tool

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I have mentioned many times that I have an Exchange account that is hosted through Rackspace. I’m very happy with it. There are times, however, when Exchange isn’t too happy and I don’t have the right troubleshooting tools. Thankfully, the people over at SolarWinds live for making network tools to help people like me. They have released a new piece of freeware that is a desktop dashboard that continuously monitors Microsoft Exchange servers to deliver real-time insight into Exchange services, mail queue sizes, and host server health.

Exchange Monitor knows when there’s a problem. It can:

  • Quickly identify and troubleshoot Exchange server problems.
  • Stay on top of growing mail queues that can indicate bigger issues.
  • Leverage out-of-the-box settings to start monitoring Exchange immediately.
  • Spot performance issues with built-in red, yellow, and green health indicators.
  • Monitor critical server health stats, including disk space, CPU utilization, and memory utilization.

Josh Stephens from SolarWinds has joined me for this video. The company was founded to help Network Engineers and System Admins, by giving them tools that will help them do their everyday jobs. The reasoning behind the creation of Exchange Monitor is that there just aren’t many tools out there that will do this, at least not without a huge cost. Exchange Monitor can alert you of issues, or even situations that could become an issue later on so you can hopefully head it off.

Email servers are one of those things that if it is working right, they are happy with it and don’t think about it. But there are a lot of things that can affect the performance and health of that server though. As an Administrator, you don’t want to always have to monitor your server. But you do need to know when a problem is coming, or there is something that just isn’t quite right. You need a tool that lets you know what and where these problems are before users notice them and start to complain.

Josh is a member of the Thwack community. Thwack is a community site designed by network engineers for network engineers. It’s a place where they can go online and share troubleshooting tips and information. There are user forums and information on troubleshooting routing issues, network traffic issues and even maintaining Exchange servers.

I asked Josh for recommendations for people like me who have an Exchange account with other providers, full of Geeks who may be sensitive to outside suggestions. They may not like me telling them we should be using something like Exchange Monitor. Josh indicated that instead of saying the company “should” try or use something like this, I should say something about how I have tried it, and found it to be a huge help.

Thanks so much to Josh for joining me. I was happy to be able to pass along a great new free tool, and I’ll definitely be passing it on to Rackspace, as well.

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