Arranging to be notified when systems fail is often the first piece of network management that organizations tackle--and for good reason. Whether you're big or small, monitoring when your applications, processes, and network switches and routers are going south is basic network management.
Still, it can be difficult to know where to start with network management. The term gets a bad rap for being complex and expensive. To make matters worse, it's inconsistently applied. What it really means is network, systems and application management rolled into one.
Management is a loaded term in itself. The FCAPS (Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security) model is often used to organize and quantify what is meant by "network management." It, along with the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), a best-practices definition and part of the ISO 9000 certification, defines the pieces and processes of managing all things IT.
For this brief tour, however, we're going to cut to the basics: how to find out right away when your stuff stops working.
The process of checking, logging and notifying is generally accomplished using Ping and SNMP. There are proprietary products and clever ways to determine whether a service is up and running, like running telnet into a device to see if it's still there, but the basics shared by almost every network- management tool are these widely adopted and available methods.