Whether you have been a part of the networking community for years or are stumbling across this post in a search for a way to identify how much traffic your server or network connection is using, Paessler Router Traffic Grapher is for you. Historically if your were trying to get a handle on traffic, CPU utilization, Memory utilization, Process Count and countless other SNMP counters over a historical period you would use MRTG, HP OpenView, WhatsUP, Orion or CiscoWorks. But with all those solutions you run into one or both of the following problems.
- MRTG: Free, nuff said.
- HP Openview: Very costly both in terms of management, hardware, software and support. This product is geared for the Enterprise network.
- WhatsUP: While not huge in Software or management costs its should be deployed on a dedicated server for network management and with an entry cost of around $1900 its not something small shops or home gear-heads can afford.
- Orion: This package has the same hardware deployment strategy as WhatsUP but can also extend into much more complex hardware configurations in large environments. However with an entry cost of $2400, again its not exactly the cheapest to leverage for basic statistics.
- CiscoWorks: What more is there to say but Cisco. Call your local Cisco VAR or drop me an email if your want a quote but this is not a cheap proposition.
- MRTG: Historically this is the way to accomplish your short and long term analysis of SNMP statistics. its free as we mentioned above and its output of elegant and tweakable graphs makes it almost perfect. The quirk is how complex this product is to manage. Originally designed for UNIX and ported to every OS that has ever had an IP stack it is not intuitive at all to deploy, update or manage. Many opensource projects have tackled this problem by doing everything from fully scripting the Win32 install to creating GUI front-ends for managing it. I wont go into detail here (look for a future post) but in the end for rapid deployment and ease of use MRTG doesn’t cut it. As we all know time = money.
- HP Openview: Unless your were born with Vi commands imprinted into your reflexes and you love a GUI that makes the movie WARGAMES look modern then I dont need to say more. This product is very mature which is both good and bad. It is not the tool for SNMP graphing. Often HP Openview will be augmented with MRTG anyway.
- WhatsUP: Once installed on the server this product is a breeze to configure and start polling. For long term traffic analysis though the current revision of this product doesn’t cut it. Graphing is basic line graphs with few options for output and long term trending.
- ORION: Honestly I cant say one way or another yet. I hope to be installing an ORION system in the next 6 months. If you have real concerns about this product I can put you in contact with an ORION admin who does nothing but sing its praises.
- CiscoWorks: Not intended for basic monitoring. If you need visibility, config management, reporting and alerting go for it. If you need trend analysis of SNMP move on. Ciscoworks 2000 was a product worthy of a BETA tag at best. Check out the about page for this blog and you’ll see info on the state network I managed. We used CW2000 and it did nothing but make life harder than having no GUI management at all. However the current rev of Ciscoworks appears to be a total re-write of the product and performs with the grace of a well polished management application.
With all that said PRTG is the answer to all these problems. With an entry cost of free for up to 3 sensors (1 sensor = 1 interface/MIB) $99 for 25 sensors and a reasonable graduated cost from 100 up you cant beat the cost. With a setup time of less than 5 minutes to install and have your first sensor gathering data (not counting download time) and roughly 15 to 30 seconds per each new sensor if configured manually management and complexity are almost nil. Add to that a network discovery option, per sensor custom settings, email notification, SNMP/PacketCap/Latency/Netflow acquisition, internal web server with Multiple Access classes and customizable views and reporting this product cant be beat. Since discovering the product six months ago I have deployed it at 4 clients and seen 8 other large network shops deploy it as a replacement for MRTG. So go ahead download the freeware version, install it on your management workstation run it for a few days. I can almost guarantee you’ll keep it if not upgrade it within your first month to cover you primary network links and or Servers.