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Coming Home to Windows Home Server Part 36

Feb 7, 2011 11:22 AM, By Eric B. Rux

Monitoring your home network

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The next two network monitors can be considered commercial-class monitors and require a bit more set up to get working correctly.

OpManager is extremely robust and requires a backend database to function. You can use the free MySQL database (included and set up during the installation). You can also use Microsoft SQL Server, but because you will be monitoring 10 or fewer devices, this free database will be more than sufficient.

After OpManager has been installed, point your browser to the server and log in as "admin." The first screen that greets you is the Discovery Wizard. This allows you to configure OpManager to find all of the devices on your network. OpManager can find Exchange, FTP, finger, HTTPS, IMAP, LDAP, NNTP, POP, telnet, DNS, MSSQL, MySQL, Oracle, SMTP, or Web. Most home networks will not have all of these services running, but as I mentioned before, OpManager is very robust.

Depending on the size of your network, the network scan could take a few minutes or a few hours (but probably just a few seconds on a typical home network).

My test network was quickly scanned and all of my devices (two wireless routers, one ESXi server, a PIX firewall, Apple Server, Domain Controller, and Exchange email server) were found.

The final product, PRTG is similar to OpManager, but it does not have any prerequisites, such as a backend database. Because we are running this on our Windows Home Server (again, something that is not supported by Microsoft), this may help you in deciding which product would work best for you.

PRTG can monitor the same kinds of devices that OpManager can, and they both have a web interface that can be accessed from a mobile device (smartphone, iPhone, etc.).

So, how do you choose which one is best? If you need something simple, Servers Alive is the way to go. If you need something more robust, try OpManager or PRTG; they have the most bells and whistles.

In the end, however, only you can decide, so I suggest you fire up an old computer, download these free products, and kick the tires. After all, they're free, right?

What network monitor software do you use on your home network or small business? If you use a free (or very inexpensive) product, I'd like to hear about it!

Eric B. Rux is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro, and he writes a monthly column for Residential AV Presents Connected Home. Rux is the manager of Technical Support Services for Eastern Washington University and teaches the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification program at a technical college.

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