Outsource Hardware Monitoring

SilverBack's Datacenter 3.8 addresses customer needs.

August 5, 2003

4 Min Read
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1-GHz Intel processor and 1 GB of RAM, and runs Windows 2000 Server. Datacenter keeps a VPN and PPP active to the device for monitoring and remote administration and to perform software upgrades.

SilverBack's Interfaceclick to enlarge

Unfortunately, after a planned power outage, the device couldn'tre-establish a VPN connection. SilverBack had to do so manually.

Whatcha Got There?

Device discovery can be accomplished by adding individual or a range of devices, or loading a comma-delimited host file with IP address, subnet mask and read community strings. Datacenter then does an initial scan using ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) pings. If a device is found, Datacenter will initiate a SNMP query in to capture the system OID (Object Identifier).

I decided to discover our entire subnet and later add individual devices. Because SilverBack charges users on a per-asset basis, applications on servers are not identified and populated within Datacenter's app section, so they must be added manually. The initial discovery took 10 minutes and identified all devices running in our subnet. Datacenter does not include a scheduled rediscovery of discovered assets.During the process, some routers and switches from Alteon WebSystems, Cisco Systems, Extreme Networks and Hewlett-Packard were typed as Hubs or Other assets. When I edited the assets and instigated a rediscovery, the devices reverted back. To view alerts by these devices, you must categorize assets in a category besides Other, which doesn't display faults on its Web dashboard.

Dashboard Data

The SilverBack GUI is a Web interface accessible via Internet Explorer 5.5 or greater browser. When you log into the device, you find an easy-to-navigate Web dashboard, where faults are associated with the appropriate category: network, system or application. In each section, there are four bar graphs providing statistics on total assets by group, performance, security and percentage availability.

Datacenter includes many canned threshold variables for network performance, Cisco devices, server monitoring, Exchange, SQL Server, Active Directory and application monitoring such as POP3 and HTTP. By applying Boolean logic, I set thresholds such as CPU utilization for Cisco routers, POP3 latency and SQL Server transactions per second.

When the threshold hits its peak value over a defined time period, an alert is populated in the Web dashboard under the appropriate section.Datacenter also includes event log monitors for 23 applications, such as Citrix MetaFrame and MS Internet Information Server (IIS), with a host of filters for each. In the event-log monitor section, you can generate customized monitors and filters.

Security Measures

Datacenter 3.8's vulnerability scanning is provided by McAfee Security's CyberCop ASaP scanner. Patch assessment on any Windows asset is powered by Shavlik Technologies' HFNetChkPro. Both services are predefined to run Sunday morning from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., but they can be run anytime by clicking the Scan Now button in their respective sections. There is, however, no information on a scan's progress.After the scanning, a summary report lists the number of vulnerabilities and patches to be addressed for each individual asset. Within the reports, you can drill down to a detailed description and a fix.

The patch report lets you view Microsoft's bulletin and download the appropriate patch locally; deploying patches to remote servers is up to you. Datacenter offers no way to skip certain patches or vulnerabilities.

Scheduling Reports

New to v.3.8 is the ability to schedule reports from any section. Select the Schedule Report icon, choose the granularity and set a schedule. Seven canned monthly reports cover areas such as network and system performance. Each report can be changed to fit your scheduling needs.

Once the report has run, you can view it from within Datacenter or add a bookmark to the latest report run in IE.SilverBack does a good job of addressing most IT monitoring needs, such as accurate device discovery and basic performance, fault and security monitoring. And for an outsource service, the customer service is top-notch.

Andy Woods is a computer scientist for a federal law enforcement agency. You can reach him by e-mail at [email protected].

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