A network monitoring solution helps you get an overview of your network and it allows you to monitor the availability of devices and services. There are many sophisticated commercial monitoring tools. But The Dude from Mikro Tik is by far the best free network monitoring tool I have ever tried under Windows.
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The Dude has so many features that I can't cover them all in this article. If you are planning to get a monitoring tool, you should definitely have a look at it before you evaluate high priced commercial solutions. This post will help you get started with it. I tested The Dude 3.0 beta6.
After the installation, you have to specify the subnets you want to monitor. If you have a big network, it is probably better to run your tests in a small subnet first. Scanning networks can take a while and the many devices displayed will only confuse you. To set up monitoring for a server, you only need the Probes, the Devices, and the Notification folder. The fact that there are 15 more folders lets you guess that The Dude has countless features to offer.
The Probes folder shows the services you can monitor out of the box. You will find the most famous network services like HTTP, Netbios or SMTP here. But the The Dude also lets you monitor routers, switches, disk space, memory and so on. You can also create your own probes easily. In my test, I created a probe to monitor a MySQL server. You just have to click on the red plus symbol on the toolbar to add a new probe. I configured the probe to connect to the TCP port 3306 only. You could also send a command to the server and let The Dude wait for a certain response (see screenshot). There are other ways to create probes. I am only scratching the surface here.
Next, I created an email notification method in the Notification folder. There are already a couple of preconfigured notifications such as "popup", "beep" or "log to eventlog". Creating an email notification is simple. You just have to specify the address and the SMTP server. It probably makes more sense to use just one SMTP server for all outgoing email notifications. You can configure such general settings by clicking on the corresponding symbol in the toolbar of The Dude. It is possible to create multiple email notification methods.
I, then, opened the settings of my test server in the Devices folder. Under Services, I added the MySQL probe I created and also the preset http and ping probes. You should check out the other tabs of the devices setting. The Outages tabs displays the states of the services (probes) and the History tab shows the response times of the probes on this server. There is more to discover here. To test the monitoring function I shut down and restarted the MySQL server a couple of times. The Dude always notified me reliably about the changes.
Even though I tested only the beta of The Dude, it made a stable impression to me under Windows Server 2003. However, it crashed once on a Vista machine. So far HealthMonitor was my favorite free monitoring utility, but The Dude really plays in quite another league. It might not be a match for Microsoft Operations Manager. However, it certainly can compete with some other commercial monitoring solutions.
The only real downside of The Dude is its meager documentation. It only has 12 pages which is certainly not enough for such a complex program. For example, I wanted to find out how the memory probe works, but the help file doesn't even contain the word "memory". But there is a vivid user forum where you can always get help.