Softinventive Lab Total Network Monitor is a sophisticated free monitoring solution that supports numerous probe types based on HTTP, FTP, Event Log, Service State, Registry, log files, and more. The tool has only been released recently as freeware. There is no doubt that Total Network Monitor (TNM) is one of the best free monitoring solutions.
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The user interface
TNM has a well-thought-out user interface that supports two different views: tree view and map view. The map view offers a two-dimensional spatial overview of your network. You can arrange all networking objects according to your liking by simply dragging them to their position. It is also possible to group devices in folders.
TNM's tree view is mostly for configuring the network monitoring tool. The view has three panes: a navigation pane on the left with the devices tree, the main pane which displays the monitors (probes + actions) for selected groups or devices, and the lower pane which shows logs, statistics, and executed actions.
You can either manually add devices (desktops, servers, network devices, etc.) or let TNM scan your whole network. If you don't want to monitor some of the detected machines, you can easily remove them from the navigation pane.
Devices can be grouped in folders and each device can have multiple monitors. A monitor consists of a certain probe and one or multiple actions that will be performed whenever probe conditions are met. The number of supported probes is impressive for a freeware tool. TNM supports three probe types: Internet probes, Windows probes, and file probes.
Internet probes encompass all popular Internet protocols. For most of the protocols, TNM can only check whether the corresponding port is open. Only the FTP and HTTP protocols offer more options. For example, for HTTP, you can specify a URL and search strings that the corresponding web page has to contain. This allows you to verify not only whether the web server is running but also that the CMS is generating the correct web pages.
The Windows probes enable you to monitor event logs, service states, registry states, and system performance parameters. This is probably where TNM beats many other free monitoring solutions that are often only restricted to Internet probes. TNM's Windows probes are easy to configure and cover all important aspects of a Windows installation.
The File probes can test for the following file conditions: existence, size, compare (with a second a file), disk space, CRC (cyclic redundancy check), and file content. The file content probe is certainly the most sophisticated one. It allows you to probe log files for certain contents. You can even use regular expressions to search within files.
Actions and traffic lights
If a probe condition is met, TNM can perform these action types: show message, write to log file, show tray message, play sound, execute application, send email, and send jabber message.
TNM uses a traffic light system with three colors (green, red, black) for managing probe conditions. The "green" and the "red" condition can be configured separately for each probe. It makes sense to use green for successful probes (for example, when TNM could verify that a Windows service is running) and red for failed probes (for example, when a service is down). "Black" means that an error has occurred during testing (for example, if TNM couldn’t authenticate at the Windows machine and, therefore, can't determine whether the service is running or not). You can quickly get an overview of the conditions of all your monitors by clicking the corresponding traffic light folders in the navigation pane.
Journalizing and monitoring statistics
The lower pane offers four different functions:
- All monitors log: Displays all monitor events chronologically
- This monitor log: Displays events of a specific monitor
- This monitor activity: Displays statistics about green, red, and black conditions
- Executed actions: Displays all executed actions chronologically
Together with the aforementioned traffic light folders in the navigation pane, these logs always give you a quick overview of the current state of your network.
Up to now, The Dude has been my favorite free network monitoring tool. Even though, The Dude has more features when it comes to Internet probes, I now prefer Total Network Monitor because of its better usability and Windows integration. Although, TNM has quite a few functions, it took me only some minutes to figure out how to use the tool. I didn't need a manual because its user interface is well thought out and easy to use. And if one of the functions is unclear, you can access the context-sensitive help from every dialog window. Even more important are its advanced Windows-related probes which make it a contender for Windows-based monitoring tools such as the free EventSentry Light. I tested Total Network Monitor 1.1.3 on Windows 7.