The task of managing an IT department is a multifaceted one, revolving primarily around the provision of hardware and software. The most significant (and expensive) of these components is likely to be your company’s server. In order to ensure the best value for money invested into this server, careful monitoring will be required to ensure availability to capitalize upon growth opportunities. What’s more, if you’re at a large organization, your set of responsibilities will extend to an entire cluster of servers.
Towards this end, you’ll need to create a game plan to increase the demand for your company’s servers. At the heart of this strategy are two key growth factors: organic demand for existing services, as well as requests for new applications. To support these goals, it’s important to nail down the availability of server capacity, and also to provide equipment with sufficient CPU speed and memory. This way, you’ll be well positioned to successfully run all the software and storage required by the company’s staff.
The Importance of Well Managed Servers
Cutting corners in the budget for your infrastructure, including servers, will damage the quality of service delivery and just increase the number of calls that your Help Desk receives (thereby forcing up the amount of money that you need to spend on user and customer support). Poorly performing servers also risk losing your company business and reducing the efficiency of its employees.
So, it’s clear to see that getting the capacity of your server right is an essential part of IT management. This task should both ensure the successful delivery of current services at acceptable speeds, and also cater for the inevitable growth in demand.
The Priorities of Server Management
The main purposes of server management can be divided into three categories of tasks:
- The provision of infrastructure
- The monitoring of services
- Planning for future requirements
When your company is small and has few IT requirements, you could get away with keeping track of your infrastructure manually and just relying on the system reporting utilities that are built into the operating systems and firmware of your equipment. However, once your business becomes large enough to need its own server, you will already be managing a system that can’t properly be monitored without the use of automated tools.
The Best Server Management Tools
When you look for server management tools, consider the following critical attributes:
- Covers all physical conditions of servers including rack functions
- Integrates with other infrastructure management tools
- Is able to run on your servers’ operating system
- Includes both monitoring and analysis functions
- Is bug free and supported by the producer
Although there are a lot of server management tools on the market, surprisingly few of them are worth paying for. In this guide you will learn about the best server management tools, which are the leaders in the industry.
Here is our list of the best server management and monitoring tools:
1. SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
SolarWinds is the leading producer of infrastructure monitoring software and if you need to manage servers, you should look into the company’s Server and Application Monitor. The tool, which is abbreviated to SAM, can monitor remote, cloud-based, and onsite servers with equal facility. This extent of visibility is ideal for new companies that wish to avoid investing too much on premises equipment. The SAM also caters to large multinational businesses that want to integrate all of their sites into one, centrally managed WAN.
The Server and Applications Monitor is built on a proprietary platform created by SolarWinds, which is called Orion. This platform is also used for the company’s other monitoring tools, so the SAM integrates easily with the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor and the company’s NetFlow Traffic Analyzer. If you want to guarantee the delivery of applications to your users and customers, you would be well advised to combine these three monitoring packages.
Also included within the SAM is a module called PerfStack. This enables you to group together each application, with the server, services, network and web services, network devices and links that contribute to the delivery of each application. So, combining these three SolarWinds tools gives you access to network performance data as well as server and application metrics. This will enable you to identify precisely where performance damaging problems may arise and head them off before users and customers start calling the Help Desk to complain.
Systems monitors keep a tab on the physical well being of your servers, thereby maintaining their contribution to the successful delivery of your company’s applications. The server attributes that the SAM monitor are:
- CPU capacity
- Memory usage
- Disk volumes and usage
- Power supply
- System temperature
- Fan performance
In order to fully protect servers from equipment failure, the monitor also keeps an eye on the services of racks, where you use blade servers.
You don’t have to set up the monitor with system inventories, because it will assemble a register of all of your hardware for you. This includes your racks and servers. The monitor also logs all of the applications running on each server. If you also run the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, the monitoring tool will plot a map of all of your hardware (including your servers), and map all of the network connections between them (including Internet links out to Cloud servers and equipment on remote sites). The SAM is able to interact with Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS servers.
The SolarWinds SAM is able to track virtualizations and map the relationship between servers and the virtual machines that are dependent on each. This monitoring includes mapping and tracking the VM software that underlies the relationship and the network links between servers and VMs. The Server and Application Monitor is able to manage Microsoft Hyper-V and VMWare ESX virtualization software. If you implement a lot of virtualization, then you might consider adding on the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager to get greater insights into your VM system. Other specialized server management tools that can be added on to the SAM include the Storage and Resource Monitor, the Web Performance Monitor, and the Database Performance Analyzer.
2. Paessler PRTG
Paessler PRTG is a unified infrastructure monitoring system with a wide range of capabilities tailored to network devices, servers, and applications. The package also has modules to monitor network bandwidth, along with comprehensive VM monitoring capabilities. Each factor that is monitored by the system is called a “sensor”, and you can tailor the activities of the monitor by activating different sensors. When you buy PRTG, you buy the right to a certain number of sensors. So, you can choose to limit the system to just monitor your servers, or cover servers and add on a few network sensors as well.
The PRTG system monitors the following physical attributes of your servers:
- CPU activity
- Disk volumes and consumption
- Hard disk performance and health
- Memory usage
- Fan health
- Power supply status
PRTG installs on the Windows Server environment, but it can communicate with servers running Unix and Linux as well. The monitor will alert you if the status of any of the servers under its purview approach full capacity. The package also includes specialized sensors that track the performance of storage servers, web servers, email servers, database servers, DHCP and DNS servers, and application servers.
Paessler PRTG integrated network, server, and application monitoring capabilities make it ideal for keeping track of the health of all of those elements that contribute to virtualizations. It is great for monitoring:
- Citrix XEN systems
- VMWare ESX
- Parallels Virtuozzo Containers
- Amazon EC2
Your virtualization components don’t all have to be onsite. PRTG can reach out to servers on remote sites and also managed servers accessed as Cloud services. The tool will build up maps between all of the resources of your VM support, so you can see which VM maps to which servers and how well they are performing. If you implement network device monitoring sensors, then you will also get a network map that shows how your servers connect to the equipment in the rest of the network.
Notifications generated by alerts keep you notified of arising problems and potential capacity exhaustion. These alerts can be customized so that you can nominate to receive notifications by email or SMS. You can also specify which team member receives notifications according to the source and severity of the alert.
Paessler PRTG is available as on premises software or as a Cloud-based service. You can use the service for free if you only need to activate up to 100 sensors. Paessler offers a 30-day free trial of PRTG which includes an unlimited number of sensors.
3. ManageEngine Applications Manager
ManageEngine created a software structure that is very similar to the SolarWinds tool configuration. All of their tools are written on a common platform and they integrate together seamlessly. The server monitoring capabilities of the ManageEngine suite is built into its Application Manager tool.
The monitor tracks the following server attributes:
- CPU capacity and usage
- Real-time application CPU consumption
- Disk volumes and usage
- Server interface activity and network load on the server
- Memory occupation
- Power source health
- Fan behavior
- System temperature
The dashboard visualizations of Application Manager can show you the position of each server in a rack, as well as a representation of your server room with the location of each server cabinet. The monitor keeps track on system health, service availability, and application performance in real time. Threatening and critical conditions are displayed on the dashboard, and can also be sent by email or SMS. The dashboard can be accessed remotely on mobile devices, so you can stay in control of your servers even when you are out of the office.
The system dashboard can be customized and you can assign user roles to each layout. This enables you to create user accounts to access the system and allocate different roles to each use account. Alerts can be customized as well, so you can even combine events and conditions to create composite notifications and rule out run of the mill operating reports.
The ManageEngine Application Manager is competent at monitoring virtualization systems. It is able to communicate with Microsoft Hyper-V and VMWare ESX/ESXi. The tool will trace all of your VM components and map them for you, so you don’t have to get involved in registering all of your virtualization services in the dashboard. That virtualization tracking also extends to Cloud servers and remote network systems. The analytical component of the monitor will let you work out whether any of your servers are overloaded and assist you in remapping your VM to server allocations.
The Applications Manager installs on Windows Server and Linux environments. Its tracking abilities are not limited to the operating system of the host. It will track Linux systems if it is installed on Windows and vice versa. The Cloud operating systems that the monitor can communicate with include:
- Microsoft Azure
- Microsoft Office 365
- Amazon EC2
- Amazon RDS
- OpenStack systems
You can opt to use the Applications Manager tool as a Cloud service instead of installing it on your premises. ManageEngine calls its online service is called Site24x7. You can get a 30-day free trial of the ManageEngine software whether you choose to access it online or install it on your servers.
4. WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold is an infrastructure monitoring tool that focuses primarily on network devices, servers, and the connections between them. The tool is produced by Ipswitch, which created a modular set of monitoring package. You don’t need to buy any add-on modules in order to monitor servers with this software package.
After you install the package, it will perform an initial system sweep and log all of your equipment. A network map plots the connections between all of your equipment. The continuous monitoring performed by WhatsUp Gold maintains that inventory and the map. Both will update automatically should you add, remove, or move a piece of equipment on the network.
This system monitoring option will track the following conditions on your servers:
- CPU activity
- Memory availability
- Disk volumes
- Storage usage levels
The monitoring capabilities of WhatsUp Gold extend offsite to remote servers and cloud services. Those cloud servers can be Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure systems. If you implement virtualizations on your site, the WhatsUp Gold service can monitor those services. It is able to integrate communications with Hyper-V and VM systems. Although the virtualization features of WhatsUp Gold are sufficient, you can get deeper insights into your VM implementation if you also buy the Virtualization Monitor add-on.
WhatsUp Gold installs on the windows Server environment, but it can also monitor other servers that run Linux or Unix. The system is suitable for middle-sized companies. You can get a 30-day free trial so you can check WhatsUp Gold’s suitability for your business.
5. Logic Monitor
The final option on our list is a Cloud service. Being based online, the software can be accessed through a browser on any device that has an Internet connection. The Logic Monitor system does require you to install a collector program on your network.
The data collected on your network is stored on the Logic Monitor server, so you don’t use up your own storage spce with historical performance data. The tool monitors servers, networks, and applications and can connect performance data from these three sources to give you a drill down perspective on the application delivery stack, which illuminates where potential problems would impair performance.
The Logic Monitor service is offered in three plans, with longer data retention periods available in the higher plans. The Starter package will hold your data for analysis for 3 month. With the Pro package, that retention period is one year, while the Enterprise plan gives you log data storage for two years. The size of network that you can monitor increases with the more expensive plans, so the Starter plan would be suitable for small networks, the Pro version would suit a middle-sized network and the Enterprise version is designed for larger networks.
All data exchange between your network and the Logic Monitor server is protected by encryption, and performance data is encrypted on the Logic Monitor system. The service is capable of monitoring Windows, Linux, AIX, and Solaris servers. It reports on:
- CPU activity
- Memory usage
- Disk volumes and space availability
- Transfer speeds on the server’s interfaces
Logic Monitor is able to monitor virtualizations. It can track VM created by:
- VMware ESX/ESXi
- Microsoft Hyper-V
- Citrix XenServer
The monitoring system of Logic Monitor will alert you to warning conditions. These alerts will be shown in lost format in the dashboard, but you can also select to have notifications sent to team members by email, or by chat messages. The application can also communicate with support and collaboration tools, including Zendesk and HipChat. You can try out Logic Monitor with a 14-day free trial.
The five tools in our list of recommendations are the top server management systems available on the market today. The ability of each tool to run on your servers’ operating systems is a big factor that will narrow down your selection of server management software. The fact that Logic Monitor can be accessed from any type of internet-connected device makes that option viable to monitor any operating system.
Remember that you won’t be able to properly manage your servers or plan for future capacity requirements is you can’t document your current infrastructure and monitor its performance. Get a server management system that will fit your company’s current size and also be able to expand and grow with your business. The offers of free trial periods should also help you assess which server management tool is right for you.
Which service seems best for your business? Are there other key points you recommend for consideration? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.