Spiceworks Community Monitor

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The Spiceworks Community Monitor (accessible without cost) continues the corporate’s lengthy custom of offering high-quality infrastructure administration and community monitoring software program, they usually do it without cost—so long as you do not thoughts some adverts within the UI’s corners. Typically much more beneficial than the Spiceworks software program is the truth that by downloading it, you may signal as much as grow to be paart of the Spiceworks neighborhood. Certain, that may embody excited know-how followers and orange dinosaurs, however it additionally consists of a tremendous and surprisingly responsive community of specialists to assist in case you get into any sort of IT bother or need assistance getting essentially the most out of the Spiceworks platform. (If the orange dinasour remark is throwing you, simply ask the neighborhood about “SpiceRex.”)

In comparison with platforms akin to Editors’ Alternative-winning LogicMonitor, the Spiceworks Community Monitor is not essentially the most full community monitoring product accessible, however it’s remarkably full for a free product. The capabilities are well-chosen, and every thing works solidly for essentially the most half, which is in sharp distinction to among the community screens we have seen just lately akin to Datadog. Better, if you have questions there’s more than just a tech support number: The Spiceworks community is there to help. So is Spiceworks for that matter since the product does get a full range of tech support despite its status as a free software package.

Currently, the primary limitation to the Spiceworks Network Monitor is that it only works with Windows computers. But it also works with a full range of network devices as long as they support simple network management protocol (SNMP) versions 1 or 2. Linux support is planned for late summer 2015 and, apparently, support for SNMP version 3 is also planned.

Network Monitor tracks infrastructure devices such as switches and routers for the basics, including I/O Rate, packets per second and packet loss. It tracks servers (and as a bonus, Windows 7 workstations) for CPU utilization, disk utilization, network data rate and packet loss, and memory utilization. You can also drill down to display those parameters graphically in expanded views. However, Spiceworks Network Monitor does not monitor or manage other devices, most notably mobile devices.

You’ll notice that while Spiceworks Network Monitor provides excellent for basic monitoring, there are features that aren’t present, such as per-port numbers for switches. Spiceworks will sell you add-on products from partner companies (which is how it makes its money) that will integrate seamlessly into the Network Monitor application. But if all you need is the basics, then it’s all free.

Getting Set Up

For this test, I used Spiceworks Network Monitor to watch the activity on the Cisco IOS-based switches in my lab as well as to monitor the health of some Windows computers. While Spiceworks says that Network Monitor works with Windows Server, the fact is that the product is also capable of handling Windows 7 machines. For the monitoring to work in either case, you need to enable SNMP and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) on the machines you wish to monitor. Unfortunately, Network Monitor does not appear to be capable of supporting Windows 10 at this time.

I was also able to have Spiceworks Network Monitor provide information on a Ruckus Wireless ZoneDirector 1200 and a D-Link DGS-3627 switch. Spiceworks Network Monitor will connect with some network devices that may not do you a lot of good. For example, I was able to monitor the health of an APC SmartUPS 1500 uninterruptable power supply (UPS). But, since the Spiceworks Network Monitor doesn’t include the ability to monitor power supplies, the only thing you’ll learn is that it’s still alive.

Adding devices or servers to the monitoring application is simple. To add a device, you need to click Add Switch on the dashboard. Then you need to tell Spiceworks Network Monitor the host name or the IP address as well as the community string which, on most devices, is “public.” Once you tell the software to connect, you’ll see a short delay and then Spiceworks Network Monitor will start monitoring.

Spiceworks Network Monitor - Core Switch

Adding a new server (or Windows 7 computer) is only slightly more complicated. As in the case of a device, you start by clicking the dashboard but this time where it says “Add Server” and then you enter the host name or the IP address. Then you’ll need to provide the login name and password. The servers used in this test were running Windows Server 2012 R2 and connected without a hitch.

As you connect each server or device, a moving graphical display is added to the dashboard under the appropriate heading. For servers, the graph displays disk activity, memory use, CPU usage, and network activity. The switch display shows the input/output (I/O) rate, packets per second and packet loss. This collection of displays is called the Watchlist.

You can choose to look at specific devices in significantly more detail with what Spiceworks calls a Critical Device Widget. You can choose three devices or servers to display more detailed graphs in boxes on the dashboard below the Watchlist.

If you need even more specific details, you can click a specific parameter in the Critical Device window, and the graph for that parameter is expanded and additional details show up on the screen with it. For example, I was able to click the display for one of the Cisco switches and examine the exact numbers for the total switch bandwidth usage, complete with the stats at each point where the numbers changed.

You can do something similar with the Watchlist graphics. Hover your mouse pointer over any of the moving graphs and the graph is replaced by the actual number it represents. Click the name of any device or server and you’ll get a full-page display of detailed numbers of the object’s performance. This can be useful if a graph appears to show a high number or level of activity because you can confirm the actual number. Because the scaling of the graphs is automatic, there can be times when a tiny number seems to generate a large movement on the dashboard’s graphs.

Spiceworks Network Monitor - Monitoring


Despite the impressive capabilities of the Spiceworks Network Monitor, there are some limitations. For example, the alert thresholds are handled on an overall basis but you can’t change individual settings. This means that you may get emailed about events that aren’t actually critical. I noticed a disk activity alert when one of the machines being monitored started doing backups, for example. However, you can control when Spiceworks Network Monitor sends out emails so, while such an alert may show up on the dashboard, you do not need to get emailed about it.

The other notable limitation is that, currently, Spiceworks Network Monitor does not support Linux servers. Support for Linux is due out shortly and Spiceworks told me that an update to reflect this will be available in beta form even sooner.

Currently, you will see a number of references to the beta team displayed on the dashboard and elsewhere in the Network Monitor. This is a released product and came out of beta in early June 2015. However, Spiceworks said that some of the documentation hadn’t been updated to reflect that. Also, while the Network Monitor is a released product, it remains under development so updates are frequent.

I found the Spiceworks Network Monitor to be a well-featured, easy to use product that will nicely meet the needs of most small and medium-sized businesses. You do not need to be a professional network engineer to implement the product and you don’t need to be in the IT department to use it. However, the Network Monitor is watching how your network operates so knowledge of networking and network events is needed to take full advantage of this product, although the graphical displays are intuitive enough that someone who isn’t an IT professional should be able to tell when a server or device needs attention. But the nice thing is, this may be all of the network management you need—and it’s free.

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