Latest posts by Timothy Warner (see all)
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Here's the situation: in the past week, your boss has surprised you by telling you that he was unable to access three internal infrastructure servers and one of your public web servers. Because you looked unprepared, you need to ensure that you always know whether the servers you manage are available so this situation never happens again.
EMCO Software built an entire product on the venerable Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), the go-to utility protocol of the TCP/IP suite. EMCO Ping Monitor is now at version 6, and it sports two standout new features: The Professional and Enterprise editions both run as a Windows service, as shown in the next screenshot.
The good news here is that you can continue monitoring even if your Ping Monitor server is in a logged-off state with no active administrator present. The second new feature is that the Enterprise Edition is now a true client/server application, which means that multiple clients can communicate with the server concurrently.
The new features above may not mean much if you're new to the software, so let's get the product installed and see what it can do for us.
Installation and configuration ^
You can download any of the three editions from the EMCO download page. For this review, I downloaded the 30-day Enterprise Edition free trial. This small-footprint server uses a "thick" client management application and a SQLite database back-end.
Your installation choices are:
- Whether to install the server and client applications on the host
- Whether to install only the client application
- What your environment size is (up to 100, 1,000, or more than 1,000 monitored hosts)
- How you want ping to behave (intervals, ping count, etc.)
- Whether you want to specify a gateway (another host that can validate that the Ping Monitor server itself hasn't lost its network connection)
- Where your e-mail server is and to which accounts to send alerts
After installation, you're ready to verify your preferences and start monitoring hosts! You can access the application preferences either from within the management application or from the notification area as shown in the next screen capture:
You may need to adjust host firewall rules to allow incoming ICMP Echo Request messages. On Windows Server and Client hosts, you can do this from an elevated command prompt with a single netsh command:
netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name="ICMP Allow incoming V4 echo request" protocol="icmpv4:8,any" dir=in action=allow
Performing ping monitoring ^
Now we fire up the EMCO Ping Monitor management application and add some hosts. Check out the Add Hosts dialog in the next figure; I'll explain each step in the process:
- General: Scan either an individual host or an IP address range.
- Monitoring: Accept program-wide ping options or override for this scan.
- Gateway Options: Use a gateway host to "double check" connectivity.
- Intervals: Monitor time intervals. For instance, you may want to monitor on weekends only.
- Automation: Accept program-wide defaults or override monitoring "stop" actions (what happens during the first failure and so on).
- Notifications: Determine how verbose you want the event notifications to be.
- E-Mail Recipients: Self-explanatory.
- Custom Actions: Run shell script(s) automatically when certain events fire.
I show you the EMCO Ping Monitor Enterprise console in the following annotated screen capture.
- A: You can create groups to organize your monitored hosts.
- B: You can filter the view to see hosts that meet particular conditions (response time, outages, etc.).
- C: You can view detailed log data on a per-host basis.
- D: You can generate summary and/or detailed reports to help you pass your compliance audits or perhaps justify infrastructure changes.
It's important to note that EMCO Ping Monitor relies exclusively on the ICMP protocol that is accessible on any TCP/IP host. This means you can monitor Windows, Linux, UNIX, or macOS servers or client systems, mobile devices, switches--you name it.
This also means that no agent software is required (yay!), making for a simpler management experience.
Running reports ^
EMCO Ping Monitor can generate summary or detailed reports. Here are your configuration options:
- Whether to create a summary or detailed report
- Which hosts you want to include in the report
- Which output(s) you want: choices include e-mail or file (PDF and HTML are the supported formats)
Here's a simple summary report as viewed in Adobe Acrobat:
Edition comparison ^
EMCO Ping Monitor is available in three editions (check the feature list for more details):
- Ping Monitor Free: Monitor up to 5 hosts
- Ping Monitor Professional: Monitor up to 250 hosts
- Ping Monitor Enterprise: Monitor an unlimited number of hosts
As I stated earlier, the Professional and Enterprise editions run as a Windows service, and the Enterprise Edition embraces the client/server model.
With regard to pricing, EMCO sells single-installation licenses for $99 (Professional Edition) and $199 (Enterprise Edition). The website also provides quotes for both multi-installation licenses and upgrade licenses.
I think that EMCO Ping Monitor has a lot to offer in a crowded server monitoring space. EMCO stands up well in the face of its competition (such as PRTG Network Monitor and Pingdom) by offering the busy systems administrator:
- low cost
- low management overhead
- dead-simple monitoring model
- reporting capability
The only concern I have with this tool is its reliance on ping and ICMP. This means you must allow incoming Echo Request messages on every monitored node. Because some of your nodes may be Internet-facing, this presents a security concession. On the other hand, we must remember that ICMP is the TCP/IP suite's primary utility protocol, and Request for Comments (RFC) 4890 highly recommends that we always enable incoming ICMP echo requests.
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