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Network Management On the Cheap

Most inexpensive network-management tools are simply monitoring tools. They provide information about the network via displays ranging from simple, system-tray pop-ups and blinking lights on a desktop to complex graphs showing minimum, maximum, average and threshold values over time. The less information you receive, the less you typically pay for the tool.

If you're looking for inexpensive network-monitoring and -management tools, consider offerings from the freeware and GNU communities, such as NetSCARF, Ethereal, Thingy, Tailinator and Cricket. Also, most commercial management vendors offer free product downloads for trials. Don't part with any dough until you have a good idea how much help a particular utility provides.

The range of inexpensive management tools available is as wide as the range of tools in a megasize Swiss Army knife; but do you need the saw blade with the toothpick, or will the tweezers and the can opener do? Luckily, these products come with just about every combination of features imaginable. You'll find inventory helpers, DNS managers, IP address figurers, switch and router watchers, event alarms, SNMP MIB everything, network diagrammers and full-blown packet analyzers.

From the Inside Out

Discovering a network is normally one of the first tasks network-management products attempt. Only after examining the network layout and the devices used on the network do they try to diagnose network problems. But getting the topology and inventory correct can be tricky.

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