As any network admin will tell you, even quite small networks can be a very movable feast - workstations get upgraded or moved, new devices are added and deleted, new network protocols and machine services started and stopped. Often even medium-sized businesses will have multiple administrators who may make changes to segments of the network without documenting it, while lines of communication between various administrators may be interrupted or nonexistent. Producing and maintaining reliable network maps is, as a result, no easy task. Arguably the best network management tool in the Apple Mac arena, LANsurveyor, has at long last been ported to Windows. The new version, 7.1, offers the sort of network tools you'd expect. As well as letting over-worked networked admins accurately map and document their networks, it also alerts them to network problems and lets them manage virtually any IP device connected to a network. Mildly heterogeneous networks are supported, you can use it manage networks with Windows 9x, 2000, XP or MacOS X (and lower) clients. Support for UNIX, however, is conspicuous by its absence. Hoovering up the data
The base price, £340, includes a license for 20 Neon Responders, which are local agents installed on individual workstations. The Responder runs as a service under Windows 2000 or XP and as a background program under Win9x. The Responder lets LANsurveyor hoover up data from the clients or issue commands to them. LANsurveyor can make use of common or garden SNMP agents but the Responders will harvest more data. Once installed, LANsurveyor goes out on the network, detecting and analysing all the attached devices, drawing a network map in the process. This is a core feature of LANsurveyor as all reporting, alerting and management features are based on or stored within the map. It'll draw a hierarchical network map, complete with detailed profiles of each discovered device. Maps can be zoomed, scaled and printed, as well as saved as graphic images. You can annotate each node with a number of notes, such as location or serial number. Even on a small network, scanning can be a relatively slow process but you can break down the task in to smaller elements. Thanks to the Responder, you can exercise a high degree of control over workstations on the network - you can send messages, files or even folders to one, several or all workstations. You can also shut down processes remotely as well as shut down and restart workstations. However, the capability to send Wake On LAN broadcasts to power up workstations has not been included, which seems to be an oversight. It's also possible to actively monitor workstations or segments of your network that you suspect of being troublemakers. You can create a poll list of map objects that LANsurveyor will periodically send SNMP data to and then wait for a response. This response will contain counters that indicate how much IP traffic the device has sent and received and any associated errors. You can set the program to notify you if these monitored objects become unresponsive or if traffic rates exceed a specified threshold. Alerts can be configured as pop-up dialogue boxes, emails if a SMTP/POP mail server is present, or sent to a pager with the installation of a third-party product. LANsurveyor also comes with the open software remote control package, VNC, and so it's possible to take over workstations for troubleshooting, which is a real time saver. Netopia Timbuktu is also supported as well as the Dantz Retrospect backup client. On report
Reporting is well catered for. LANsurveyor can create reports that include more than 100 different pieces of information. Software Inventory and Software Meter are included as standard reports and custom reports can be created for any combination of nodes and report fields. A third report, Backup Profiler, allows administrators to detect which data resides on the workstations - it can track the amount and type of data on client computers and the change rate of that data. All reports can be exported to and viewed in Excel with a single click of the mouse. LANsurveyor hasn't made a perfect transition to the Windows platform. The uninstall doesn't work when run from the Program menu (though works fine when run from the Control Panel 'Add/Remove Programs applet) and reporting for Windows 9x workstations will return incorrect storage data.