If you think that commercial network management products are too expensive and only occasionally useful, you are not alone. In Techworld's recent survey of network managers, 60 percent of you said that management products were too expensive or too complex, and less than 20 percent rated the vendors' proprietary tools as more than partly useful.

Those vendors could learn a lot from the developers of free management utilities, it seems: more than 80 percent of you use free tools to some extent, with a third of you saying you use them all the time.

By contrast, the best most readers have to say about built-in management tools is that they are 'acceptable'. As Andy Reid pointed out in his Techworld article, the area of network management tools is one where progress has been slow.

But it looks like there’ll be plenty of work for sysadmins. Only nine percent of the respondents thought that so-called self-healing networks were here or nearly here. There was a healthy degree of scepticism about their impact with 83 percent of those surveyed thinking they were some way off or would never happen.

The survey also showed that two-thirds of you use network monitoring tools, but what are the other third doing - waiting for the users to call and complain? Get yourselves over to Techworld's networking reviews section and find something to do the job better!

Half of you use server monitoring software and an impressive 45 percent have LAN analysers in place. Rather surprisingly, a third of all respondents don’t bother monitoring their networks. They must be supremely confident.

There were some interesting observations about operating systems. While Microsoft might be expected to dominate in this space, the relatively slow uptake of Windows XP is noteworthy. Nearly a quarter of you run networks based on XP, but 30 percent or so are still running Windows 2000. It's good to see that 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is alive and well.

Pure Unix (including Solaris) and Linux networks account for only six percent, although these systems will undoubtedly also figure in the 36.6 percent who describe their networks as 'mixed'.

Lastly, we asked you if SNMP had reached the end of its useful life as a network management protocol. It seems we must put away the shotgun and get out the go-faster stripes and nitrous oxide injectors: only 10 percent wanted SNMP retired while nearly 70 percent said it was still useful, even if it does need a refresh.

What do you think? Are we getting a good deal from vendors? Go to our forum and make your views known.