FrameFlow MSP is a Windows-based server monitoring solution that is aimed at managed service providers (MSPs) in multi-site environments. By leveraging standard ports and industry standard protocols, FrameFlow enables network managers to centralize and report on administrative data from Windows servers, Linux servers, and SNMP-compatible routers and switches.
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This post was sponsored by FrameFlow.

FrameFlow is a Canadian solutions provider that makes an enterprise server monitor application called, reasonably enough, FrameFlow Server Monitor. FrameFlow Server Monitor is a compact ASP.NET Web application that provides systems administrators with the following server monitoring features:

Dashboards: These are easy-to-read data summaries that provide at-a-glance insight into system status. You can see a representative FrameFlow Dashboard below.

FrameFlow MSP - Dashboard

Dashboards provide at-a-glance status info for entire sites or individual servers.

Event Monitors: FrameFlow includes over 65 different types of event monitors that run the gamut in aspects of system performance. Some representative categories of FrameFlow server monitors are the following:

  • Web site monitoring
  • Active Directory monitoring
  • Disk and file monitoring
  • Virtual machine (VM) monitoring
  • CPU and process monitoring

Because FrameFlow uses Windows authentication and Windows Remote Management (WinRM) among other standard protocols, you can easily perform remote management on connected agent systems. For instance, the screenshot below shows you the Virtual Command Line feature in action:

FrameFlow - capture a remote command prompt session

FrameFlow enables you to capture a remote command prompt session directly from the Web console.

Reports: FrameFlow gives administrators wide latitude in generating report data. In addition to simply scanning the intuitive Web-based interface, you can also generate PDF or HTML reports for offline analysis.

Alerting: In my opinion, a systems monitoring application is only as good as its ability to proactively alert you when something goes wrong. FrameFlow provides a wide variety of alerting options, including:

  • SMTP e-mail
  • SMS text message
  • Telephone voice mail

About FrameFlow MSP

Wikipedia defines a managed service provider, or MSP, in the following manner:

A managed services provider (MSP) is typically an information technology (IT) services provider that manages and assumes responsibility for providing a defined set of services to their clients either proactively or as they (not the client) determine that the services are needed. Most MSPs bill an upfront setup or Transition and an ongoing flat or near-fixed monthly fee, which benefits their clients by providing them with predictable IT support costs.

To that end, FrameFlow extended the functionality of their FrameFlow Server Monitor for larger shops and MSPs. This version of the software is called FrameFlow MSP.

Here's the point: if you are a managed service provider, you are providing IT services for your customers. To that end, you are bound by service-level agreements (SLAs) that incur penalties for system downtime. If you don't have a solution in place to give you immediate insight into monitored servers, then your business model is at grave risk.

All of the core functionality in FrameFlow Server Monitor is contained within FrameFlow MSP. However, MSP includes features intended for multi-site organizations with potentially thousands of monitored systems.

As you can see in the screenshot FrameFlow MSP operates by using the following workflow:

FrameFlow MSP is the multi-site variant

FrameFlow MSP is the multi-site variant of FrameFlow Server Monitor.

Master Console: This is the primary installation of FrameFlow software, and is normally placed in a headquarters location. It's important to note that the resources footprint of FrameFlow is so low that you can install the software on your administrative workstation.

Monitoring Node: The idea is to install a local instance of FrameFlow MSP at each remote site. The monitoring nodes then gather data locally, and then periodically forward the data to the master console for aggregation.

Protocols/Firewall Rules: FrameFlow operates over the standard HTTP and HTTPS ports (TCP 80 and TCP 443, respectively). Thus, you should not have any problems with firewall rules and FrameFlow-related traffic.

Agent Status: One thing I really like about FrameFlow is that the application and its technology are so lightweight. Specifically, there is no agent component with FrameFlow. Instead, the FrameFlow server uses your administrative credentials and industry standard management protocols such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to gather data.

As we'll see in the next section of this review, the FrameFlow Web management console is exceedingly well written and is blazingly fast.

Using FrameFlow MSP

Once you install FrameFlow MSP on your management station, you fire up the Web console and step through a setup wizard that consists of the following steps:

Define your sites. Remember that the MSP edition of FrameFlow is intended for multi-site architectures. It doesn't matter whether your sites are physical, virtual, divided along geographic lines, or separated only organizationally.

Add your network devices. A "network device" is a node that will be queried by the FrameFlow management server(s). FrameFlow includes built-in support for Windows, Linux, and router/switch hardware.

Set up event monitors. You can see what this interface looks like in the next screenshot. FrameFlow makes it simple to get a grip on any aspect of device status by using over 60 pre-defined templates.

Predefined event monitor packages

FrameFlow includes a whole bunch of predefined event monitor packages.

Part of the Event Monitor setup involves configuring alert thresholds and actions. As I said earlier, you can have FrameFlow send you an SMS text message or even call your telephone and leave you a message. Pretty cool!

Tweak your reports. In addition to the HTML and PDF reports, you can download the free FrameFlow Mobile iOS app for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. This app presents most of the full Web interface in a pint-sized package.

FrameFlow Mobile for iOS.

FrameFlow Mobile for iOS.

Learning more

The FrameFlow license model is based upon the number of devices you wish to monitor with FrameFlow. Here are the quick details for those who are interested:

  • MSP 50 Edition: $1,995
  • MSP 100 Edition: $3,995
  • MSP 200 Edition: $5,995
  • MSP 500 Edition: $8,995
  • MSP Unlimited Edition: $14,995

I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but the 50, 100, 200, and 500 in the previous licensing model refers to 50, 100, 200, and 500 managed systems. Just wanted to be as explicit as possible. 🙂

You can (and should) download a fully functional 30-day demo of FrameFlow MSP and try the software out for yourself. I will leave you with some hand-selected links that should help you in your due diligence process.


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