Product Review: Free SolarWinds Tools

by [Published on 2 May 2012 / Last Updated on 2 May 2012]

Although SolarWinds is best known for paid products such as Server & Application Monitor, they do offer some free tools as well. As such, I have written a mini review of three such utilities.

Active Directory Admin Tools

Product: Active Directory Admin Tools:

  • Inactive Computer Removal Tool
  • Inactive User Account Removal Tool
  • User Import Tool 

Product Download: click here

The first of the tools in this package is the SolarWinds Inactive Computer Removal Tool. This tool connects to a domain controller and identifies computers that have not been used since a date of your choosing. For example, if you look at Figure A, you can see that the tool was able to identify lab machines that have not been used in the last month.


Figure A: The Inactive Computer Removal Tool identifies computer accounts that have not been recently used.

As you can see in the figure, you can specify the computer account's idle time. For example, you could search for computers that have not been used in six months and then remove them.

The second component that's included in this tool is the Inactive User Account Removal Tool. This tool works almost exactly like the Inactive Computer Removal Tool, except that it is used to identify and remove Active Directory user accounts that have not been used recently. You can see what this tool looks like in Figure B.


Figure B: The Inactive User Account Removal Tool identifies and removes Active Directory user accounts that have not been used recently.

The third component in the AD Admin Tools is the User Import Tool. This tool automates the creation of Active Directory user accounts and optionally Exchange Server mailboxes by importing a spreadsheet, as shown in Figure C.


Figure C: The User Import Tool allows you to create user accounts and mailboxes from a spreadsheet.

At first I was a bit frustrated by the lack of documentation, and eventually I just created my own spreadsheet to see what would happen. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the software allows you to map fields to spreadsheet columns rather than requiring your spreadsheet to follow a ridged structure. You can see what the mapping function looks like in Figure D.


Figure D: The software maps spreadsheet columns to user fields.

Normally it only takes a couple of minutes to manually create an Active Directory account and a mailbox. This might not sound like a lot, but it can represent a major time commitment if there are a lot of accounts that need to be created. The Active Directory Admin Tools can certainly expedite this process, while also reducing errors. If there are certain items that will be identical for each user then you can use Copy and Paste within Excel to duplicate those items rather than entering them manually for each user.

As a whole, I absolutely loved the AD Admin Tools. All of the tools were useful, easy to use, and it’s hard to argue with the price (free). I give these tools a Gold Award with rating of 4.8.

You can download this trio to tools here.

Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor

Product: SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor

Product Download: click here

The next free utility that I want to review is SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor, which can be downloaded here.

The Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor is a utility that can monitor a server or network appliance's bandwidth usage via SNMP. The process begins by entering the IP address or hostname of the device that is to be monitored. After doing so, you must specify the SNMP version that you want to use, as well as the credentials for the device. By default the Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor is set to use SNMP version 1 / 2C, which only requires a community string for authentication, as shown in Figure E. However, you can use SNMP version 3 and a more full featured set of credentials if you prefer.


Figure E: The first step is to connect to the SNMP host.

Once you have established SNMP connectivity to the host, the next step is to determine which network interface you want to monitor. Although only a single interface is selected in Figure F, you can select any combination of network interfaces.


Figure F: You must choose the network interface that you want to monitor.

After making your selection, click Next. When you do, you will see a screen that allows you to establish a warning threshold and a critical threshold. You also have the ability to limit the chart to a time duration or to a specific number of ports. After making your selections, click Launch Monitor. When you do, the application will display a bandwidth usage chart similar to the one shown in Figure G.


Figure G: The host’s bandwidth consumption is tracked in real time.

All in all I really liked this utility. It is simple to configure, and it does exactly what you would expect it to do. While it is true that SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor is a no frills, this utility does one thing and does it well. I give it a Gold Award with a score of 4.9 out of 5.

VM-to-Cloud Calculator

Product: SolarWinds VM-to-Cloud Calculator

Product Download: click here

Although not exactly practical for every organization, some organizations have begun moving at least a portion of their virtual machines from the virtual datacenter to the cloud. One of the big challenges in doing so however is determining the costs incurred in a move to the cloud.

SolarWinds VM-to-Cloud Calculator is a free utility that can take some of the guess work out of the cloud planning process by doing your shopping for you.

When you initially launch the program, it prompts you to enter the IP address or hostname for your virtualization host. It is worth noting that the software only works with VMware servers. Hyper-V and Citrix platforms are not supported.

After entering your IP address and host name, you must enter a set of credentials for the host server as shown in Figure H.


Figure H: You must specify the IP address or host name and a set of credentials for your virtualization host server.

When you click Next, the SolarWinds VM to Cloud Calculator will estimate how much it would cost to move the virtual machines residing on the specified host to Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, and Rackspace. The prices are calculated based on the number of virtual machines running on the host and on the resources that those virtual machines consume. For example, the lab server that I tested this product against was running two Windows 7 virtual machines, each of which were consuming 25 GB of disk space and 1 GB of memory. As you can see in Figure I, the software had no trouble detecting those virtual machines and calculating a price.


Figure I: Calculations are based on the resources that your virtual machines are consuming.

One of the things that I really like about this software is that the Count field is customizable. That way, if you only want to migrate some of the VMs from a particular host, you can adjust the virtual machine count so as to receive accurate pricing.

All in all, I think that SolarWinds VM-to-Cloud Calculator is a great utility for anyone who is considering outsourcing virtual machines to the cloud. I give this product a Gold Award with rating of 4.8. The only thing that would have made the utility any better is support for non-VMware hypervisors.
You can download SolarWinds VM-to-Cloud Calculator here.

Conclusion

In all the years that I have worked in IT, I think that this is the first time that anyone has asked me to review a series of free utilities, and I really didn't know what to expect. Even so, the utilities were all helpful, intuitive, and stable.

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