When it comes to managing your network infrastructure, server management tools are essential. Any company that maintains any kind of server is almost certainly using a server management tool in order to so. On a day-to-day basis the average server processes so much activity that it would be next to impossible to comprehend manually.
As a result, organizations across the world have turned to server management tools from providers like SolarWinds and Nagios to monitor their servers on a real-time basis. From the beginning, these tools have been designed to increase the uptime of servers. To achieve this they provide an overview of all possible errors and problematic activity which indicate faults or long term threats.
For larger organizations a quality server management tool is the backbone of maintaining a modern IT infrastructure. Without it, organizations would struggle to implement a clearly-defined server management plan. In a nutshell, if you want to ensure the stability and security of a server, you need to utilize a server management tool.
We’ve also included a look at some of the best Server Management Tools:
- SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
- ManageEngine Applications Manager
- Icinga 2
What Does a Server Management Tool Do?
As outlined above, a server management program is designed to help you monitor all of your servers from one centralized location. On most platforms you are provided with a dashboard that provides real-time data on your network and hardware performance while also displaying active processes operating on your server. This is the main function of a server management tool.
Even with all this data in one place, it can be difficult to keep track of day-to-day occurrences. This is why you need a platform that collects live data while generating alerts to prompt the user to act once something significant happens. Without an alerts system, potential errors can be obscured by thousands of other processes.
The Fundamentals of a Server Management Tool
A number of fundamental features are necessary to ensure your servers stay up and running. Above all else, choose a hosted server monitoring solution like SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor that embraces the fundamentals. This way you can ensure you have a product capable of maintaining your servers.
For example, a server management tool that simply displays data is not good enough for managing an active server. You need process automation to take care of server management tasks automatically. This cuts the amount of time needed to manually monitor a server and reduces your time on the program to monitoring logs.
Likewise, customizable alerts and user-defined reports make it much easier to personalize your experience. As a bonus, it’s a good idea to look for a program that lets you customize the dashboard as well. Combining these features with a clear visual data display ensure that you maintain a consistent overview of your server activity.
A good server management tool will have each of the following:
- Process Automation – Part of the reason why organizations adopt server management tools is to achieve infrastructure automation. A tool with process automation will monitor server activity and automatically act accordingly when specific conditions are met. Whether these are based on a template or defined by the user, they help to cut down the manual interaction needed from an administrator.
- Performance Benchmarks – In order to maintain high server performance on a long-term basis, administrators need to be able to track performance. Server management tools with benchmarks allow users to monitor servers efficiently and identify problems. They also make it easier to optimize performance with baseline performance expectations.
- User Alerts – Monitoring server activity is next to impossible without an alerts system in place. A server management tool with an alerts system means that you don’t have to have an employee watching the dashboard display 24/7. User alerts flag problems to be addressed by the necessary staff and reduce the time needed to monitor servers manually.
- Generate Reports – Once you’ve outlined a problem with your IT infrastructure, you need to be able to make adjustments. A server management platform with a comprehensive reports system allows you to highlight the problem and find ways to fix it. After all it’s no good finding you have a problem if you cannot generate detailed information on how to address it.
- Visualize Data – Finally, you need a visual display. While you’re unlikely to be monitoring your servers manually all the time, a visual display can help to show you what’s happening on your network. Without a visual display it is difficult to assess what changes occur on your network and maintain oversight over your servers.
The key to adopting a new server management solution is to match it with your current server monitoring requirements. After all, an enterprise-scale server management solution is unlikely to match with the needs of an SME and vice versa. As a general rule, don’t buy expensive server packages on the basis of features that you are unlikely to use.
Smaller companies in particular would be well advised to look into a leaner version of a larger server management solution. This will make it much easier to upscale your server management abilities as your company grows in size. In the long term, this will minimize the need to retrain with another server monitoring tool.
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is one of the most versatile and scalable solutions available on the market today. Many net admins are initially attracted to SolarWinds on account of its support for Microsoft Azure and AWS monitoring. However, SolarWinds offers a complete bundle of features for its price tag of $2,995 (£2,206). There is also a free trial so that you can practice on Microsoft, Linux and UNIX before buying.
After launching the program, the user is provided with a detailed real-time visualization of the current IT environment. Server & Application Monitor is designed to monitor Azure and AWS servers. As such it has an incredibly useful AppStack page that provides a visual overview of your servers, applications, and storage solutions. Any problems are denoted with a red circle so they can be easily seen and addressed by the user.
The program embraces all of the fundamental parts of a cohesive server management solution, with customizable monitoring and alerts. For example, you will be notified if your CPU usage is unusually high. In addition, it has over 1,200 application performance monitoring templates. SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is available for Windows 8.1, 10, all production operating systems, Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2 and 2016. You can download the 30-day free trial of SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor from this link here.
When it comes to low maintenance server management solutions, Nagios XI for Windows, Linux, and UNIX come in at the top of the list. With over 1,000 open source plugins in place to monitor your systems blueprint, you can get a plugin for almost every solution. In terms of automation, the user can set the program to automatically measure server performance in a number of ways. You can do this with simple things like disk usage or particular web services like SMTP or POP3.
One of the biggest selling points of Nagios XI is its competitive price tag (starting from a price of $1,995 (£1,545). Despite its low price tag Nagios XI has enshrined data visualization at the very core of its design like many top-of-the-range server management solutions. With Nagios XI you can conduct database, MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server monitoring.
The user can see a variety of graphs and charts to view how the server is performing live. This means that even new users can generate a clear view of any problems or areas to be optimized. Nagios XI can be used to monitor network protocols, servers, applications, and network infrastructure.
In terms of reports and notifications, Nagios XI has all of the features needed to make sure that users and admins stay informed. The platform can create reports on trends, alerts, notifications, and server availability on a 24/7 basis. The only issue with Nagios XI is that it can be difficult for users to use all the features and plugins correctly because there are so many of them. You can download the 60-day free trial of Nagios XI from this link here.
If you’re searching for a solution that embodies an Infrastructure as a Service ( IaaS) approach to server management, then Anturis should be your first port of call for server monitoring on Linux and Windows. This cloud-based server management solution provides real-time analysis on everything from your servers to your network, hardware, and software. When a problem occurs, this makes it incredibly easy to promptly point to a solution. Like many other products on this list, Anturis has a free version available.
Anturis’s diverse approach to server management is very impressive. The platform can be used to monitor physical servers as well as AWS, Azure and Rackspace Cloud Servers. No less impressive is the program’s approach to notifications. The program’s Windows event log monitoring allows the user to setup thresholds, parameters, and events to dictate when a notification is raised. Potential problems are ranked by their severity either by the term ‘error’ or ‘critical’, resulting in efficient responses to rising issues.
What sets Anturis apart from the competition is that it is adept at monitoring IT infrastructure and web services. The inherent scalability of the platform means there is no limit to the amount of components you can add to it. However, if you’re not looking to monitor virtual servers and cloud-based services, you’re probably better off going for another solution instead. Paid plans of Anturis are available from a price of $8 (£6.20) per month. You can also download the 30-day free trial from this link here.
4. ManageEngine Applications Manager
ManageEngine Applications Manager is a mobile web client for Windows and Linux is perhaps the most accessible server management tool on this list. The main user interface is broken down into the Infrastructure view or the Dashboard view. The Infrastructure view provides a blueprint of a collection of systems’ health status and overall availability. The dashboard then provides a visual display of all the live activity on the users’ IT infrastructure.
ManageEngine Application Manager’s notification system is also very easy to use to respond to threats. In the Alarms view the user can see a variety of notifications that detail potential problems. Clicking on one of these icons will provide more details about why the alarm was generated. This is made even more extensive via the use of the search bar, which allows the user to search for the specifics. On ManageEngine Applications Manager you can monitor databases from Oracle to MySQL and application server monitoring with support for Oracle WebLogic and Microsoft .NET.
When it comes to reporting, ManageEngine Applications Manager measures health, availability, connections, response time, traffic, and usage to identify if there are any problems in the network. This information can then be used to compile exhaustive reports that identify problems and help to plan for the necessary changes. ManageEngine Applications Manager starts from a price of $945 (£732). You can download a 30-day free trial version of ManageEngine Applications Manager from this link here.
5. Icinga 2
In recent years Icinga 2 has emerged as an extremely popular server management tools for small to midsize organizations using Linux. As an open source platform created by a group of developers who split from Nagios, Icinga 2 has always had a reputation as a robust server monitoring solution. At a basic level, Icinga 2 allows the user to monitor a variety of servers and devices. This is made possible due to its multithreaded design that enables the program to run thousands of checks per second.
In terms of customization, Icinga 2 affords the user a number of options. Its rule-based configuration allows the user to define the server monitoring parameters. Through the REST API the users can change the configurations anytime they need. This customization also extends to alerts. The user can not only dictate when alerts occur but decide whether they will be sent by email, text message, and/or mobile applications.
One of the most interesting features provided by Icinga 2 comes from its unique approach to performance monitoring. Performance data gathered in Icinga 2 can be sent straight to third-party tools for further analysis. While this won’t suit every organization’s needs, it provides an extra layer of depth for those looking for specific changes. Icinga 2 is available for Windows, Debian, RHEL, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE and SLES. You can download Icinga 2 from this link here.
As one of the few free open source platforms available on the market, Zabbix is an attractive competitor. The platform has all of the standard server management functions of a mid-level package, plus network and application status checks. In terms of customization, users can change the user interface according to their requirements. This can be done through the use of PHP. Similarly, users can set their own alert parameters including whether they receive alerts via email or pager.
Zabbix boasts a number of templates to enable the user to monitor popular servers on Linux, Mac, and Windows. Each of these templates comes with its own unique triggers, applications, screens, discovery rules, and graphs. Some of the templates include Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Lenovo, Dell, Linux, and Solaris. You can monitor metrics such as high CPU, memory utilization, network bandwidth usage, free disk space, temperature and fan status.
Unfortunately Zabbix’s support is quite lacking and the supporting documentation is quite complex. Zabbix can be downloaded for CentOS, Debian, Oracle Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu. If you’d like to download Zabbix you can do so for free from this link here.
Monitis for Windows and Linux is one of the leading entry-level server management and application performance management solutions available on the market. Users can monitor their entire IT infrastructure on a real-time basis with check intervals as short as one minute. In addition, the program also provides the user with access to up to two years of historical analysis.
The Monitis platform has been built with user customization firmly in mind. The program has a unique application programming interface, command line, and hierarchical access privileges to control user access. The user can define customizable alerts that can be sent to an email address, pager, SMS, Twitter account, phone number, or Google Talk account. It is worth noting that the notification messages themselves aren’t customizable.
One of the more advanced features offered by Monitis’s Premium version comes in the form of APIs. Two types of APIs can be used to monitor the user’s infrastructure. The REST API lets users monitor servers without signing in to the dashboard. The custom monitor REST API enables users to design their own monitors through Java, Perl, Python, PHP, Ruby, and C#. Monitis operates a custom pricing structure based on your unique requirements. You can start the 15-day free trial via this link here.
Finally, we have OpenNMS, one of the most popular free, open source server monitoring platforms available. The platform was designed for Linux but is available for Windows and Mac OS as well. In terms of visual display, the home dashboard is quite barebones, only breaking down statistics on outages and availability. A Notifications tab details whether any alerts have been raised.
When it comes to reporting, OpenNMS can generate graphs from SNMP data collated across your network. The only issue with this is that the report can only focus on a 24-hour window. The user can customize whether alerts are sent via email or SMS. This ensures problems are dealt with efficiently. You can configure OpenNMS to SNMP monitor servers and notify you when disk usage has reached problematic levels.
One of the main drawbacks of OpenNMS is that the user interface is quite patchy and hostile to newer users. If you take the time to get through the learning curve, it has more than enough functionality to stand amongst the more expensive packages on this list. OpenNMS is available for Cent OR RHEL, Debian, Ubuntu, Windows Server and Docker. You can install OpenNMS through this link here.
Server Management: Run Your Servers and Stop Letting them Run You!
No matter what size your company is, server monitoring is an essential task if you have any kind of server presence. Don’t be fooled into thinking you must spend a fortune to find the right product for you. So long as you take the time to research the available products and pick one that encompasses the fundamentals we listed above, you will end up with a high-quality product.
By managing your servers on an ongoing basis, you can minimize your risk of downtime and make sure your IT infrastructure is optimized for high performance. It is next to impossible to manage a server reliably without a cohesive management tool. As outlined above, you need a server management solution with a clear dashboard, process automations, custom reports, and alerts to maintain a clear overview.