David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

March 1st, 2008 at 12:51 pm Print This Post Print This Post

Spotlight: Monitor Windows Servers and Computers Graphically (FREE!)

Spotlight on Windows screenshot from quest.comWhy have I never heard of this before?! It’s called Spotlight on Windows from Quest Software, it’s free, and it’s worth more like a million bucks or so. If you manage a Windows server, or servers, please install and try this software now. I’ve never before seen a free–and easy-to-install–tool that gives such immediate visual, animated and color-coded feedback on all areas of remote (or local) physical system health combined with such extensive and easy-to-use drill-down details. The graphics aren’t just pretty, they’re easy to understand. You can practically take one glance at a server’s overview page and tell whether you need to order more RAM, go Gigabit, or get faster disks (or if a disk is filling up). You may actually want to wait a little longer to place that order so you can watch the trends (or just review the history after it’s been running for a while), but while you’re doing that you can set up your Event Log monitoring and alerts with specific filters. And if you want to know if that network slowdown was due to hardware congestion, yep, I’m going to point you toward the Spotlight on Windows. Thanks to Confessions of a freeware junkie for the pointer to this cool tool.

Packet Trap pt360 Dashboard screenshot from packettrap.comI just found this yesterday, if you can believe I’ve found reason enough to rave already! Earlier this week I also set up the free version of the PacketTrap pt360 Tool Suite, and I’m significantly impressed. While several of the tools are part of a 30-day trial of the $1500 Pro version, the ability to easily map MAC addresses to DNS names and IP addresses is very useful, and the Dashboard, including a widget for viewing the traffic activity levels on switch ports, is nice. It didn’t blow me away like Spotlight on Windows did (and they don’t overlap too much except in some monitoring areas; pt360 is much more network oriented), but I’m keeping it handy in my arsenal for troubleshooting. It’s certainly not worth the $1500 to me for a Pro license, but someone with a much larger network might be able to justify the price tag. Although I believe I’ve run across this before, thanks to Andrew Mitry for linking to this tool in his recent blog post about free tools for IT Managers, where all the links were such high quality (the ones I did and didn’t know about) that I decided this was worth of a test run after all.

(Screenshots are from each products’ respective websites; click for larger versions.)