Raffle: PA Server Monitor – Easy Windows server monitoring

Power Admin Server Monitor is an easy to use monitoring tool for your Windows infrastructure.

Justin Shin By Justin Shin - Wed, April 4, 2012 - 0 comments

I have been a Windows administrator for eight years and currently focus on Group Policy, backup, and IIS/Apache administration.

Power Admin raffles off a 500-server PA Server Monitor Ultra license (retails for $5500). The deadline for this contest is May 8, 2012. If you want to have a chance to win this license, please send an email with the subject “PA Server Monitor” to .

In a monitoring space dominated by Linux-oriented offerings like Nagios and Icinga, it’s difficult to find Windows-oriented monitoring products that combine flexibility with ease of configuration. It’s safe to say that Power Admin has a winner in PA Server Monitor, a GUI-based monitoring solution for Windows that allows you to set up a wide array of actions, monitors, hosts, and satellites across your Windows infrastructure.

The PA Server Monitor interface

The PA Server Monitor interface

A tour of PA Server Monitor

The first thing you will typically do with any monitoring solution will be to add monitored hosts. Adding hosts is relatively painless with PA Server Monitor. You can enter hosts manually, in bulk, or by using the smart configuration tool that locates all hosts on your monitoring server’s subnet. Depending on your network and Active Directory topology you may need to enter credentials for some or all of the added hosts. These credentials are used to connect to and audit the hosts. You can also choose whether or not to use WMI to retrieve host information. After hosts are created, you are prompted to create default monitors for ping, disk space, services, and other system performance indicators added.

PA Server Monitor - The smart configuration tool in action

The smart configuration tool in action

Additional monitors can be created after your hosts are added. PA Server Monitor includes most of your typical monitors, like Event Log, Disk Space, and SNMP. It also includes novel monitors like the Citrix host monitor, which can audit connections, login attempts, and procedures on a Citrix Server. Each monitor can be configured to run on a specific schedule and with particular host/monitor dependencies. Monitors can also be “trained” over a time interval so that they can learn to ignore excessive warnings or other false positives. This helps to reduce the high noise ratio that can render even well-tuned monitoring systems useless.

PA Server Monitor - Configuring a directory contents monitor

Configuring a directory contents monitor

Per each host-monitor, you configure actions that are performed upon an “error” or “resolved” monitor state. PA Server Monitor features many common notification actions, such as emailing a message, writing to a log, starting a service or application, or writing to the Event Log. Additionally, administrators can configure mobile-aware actions like SMS messaging or even iPhone notifications so their team can be notified of critical issues via their mobile devices.

PA Server Monitor - You can configure Error and Resolved actions with great granularity

You can configure Error and Resolved actions with great granularity

PA Server Monitor does not restrict you to hosting the monitoring service on a single, monolithic server. You can install “satellite services” that report to the central hub on other hosts, reducing the workload for the central monitoring service and allowing for more complex network topologies. In addition, you can enable remote access to the monitoring service, allowing you to connect to the monitoring service using the PA Server Monitor software on your local PC. This is valuable in segregating duties.

Administrators can configure the built-in web server to allow interested parties to download the reports they need. The web interface is easy-to-use and available out of the box, so there is no need to configure IIS or a similar web server product. It serves up summary views of hosts, monitors, and provides an executive-style dashboard for a quick overview of hosts and issues. Charts, graphs, tables, and other widgets are available for rapid dissemination of information. An option for export to PDF is also available for a quick and dirty hard copy of all reports.

PA Server Monitor - A sample of web server report output for “Status Overview”

A sample of web server report output for “Status Overview”

Observations and Conclusions

PA Server Monitor is not going to please everyone. If you have already invested your time and effort in setting up a monitoring solution like Nagios or Icinga and it is working for you, PA Server Monitor is probably not going to blow you away with functionality you do not already have. Also, if you need to monitor Linux, FreeBSD, or other non-Windows operating systems, you will not be impressed by the built-in options available in PA Server Monitor. Plus, there is some benefit to using widely-accepted monitoring solutions in lieu of proprietary ones: it is often easier to find help online, knowledgeable hires, and a community of users who are advocates for their respective solutions.

However, most of these concerns are going to persist with any proprietary Windows focused monitoring product. Power Admin has done much to alleviate these concerns by providing top-notch documentation, updates, and the ability to extend monitors and actions using scripting. PA Server Monitor is a polished Windows infrastructure monitoring solution that can help you keep your Windows hosts in check and under control “out of the box.” It’s worth a look for almost any Windows admin.

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