Product Review: Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

by [Published on 29 Feb. 2016 / Last Updated on 29 Feb. 2016]

In this review the author takes a look at Paessler PRTG Network Monitor.

Product: Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

Product Homepage: click here

Free Trial: click here

Introduction

PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler is a comprehensive network monitoring solution designed to provide visibility and insight in to the configuration and performance of a wide variety of systems and devices running on your network. PRTG is a software solution that is free for use for monitoring up to 10 devices. Flexible licensing is available beyond 100 sensors, and the solution scales up for large enterprises with native clustering capabilities.

PRTG is easy to install, configure, and use. It is a comprehensive solution designed to meet the needs of network and device monitoring for organizations of all sizes. PRTG features an intuitive web-based management interface and includes helpful out-of-box configuration assistance to ensure that you are up and running in no time at all.

PRTG is agentless and requires no additional software to be installed and/or configured anywhere to support it. PRTG monitors myriad systems and devices using their native management interfaces including WMI, SSH, SNMP, and more. System and device discovery happens automatically after you install the software and takes about one minute per device.

Network Visibility

Being notified of a systems or network outage by end users, the helpdesk, or worse yet, your boss or the CEO, is not a good position to be in for any systems administrator. In most cases, outages don’t simply occur instantaneously. Most commonly there are events that led up to the outage, events that often go unnoticed until it is too late.

Administrators are typically responsible for many, many systems and devices on their network. Proactive system monitoring and alerting is essential for the smooth and continuing operation of any network, and having a solution in place that can provide crucial visibility is essential.

More importantly, a solution that can not only monitor system status, but proactively raise alerts when certain thresholds are exceeded can go a long way to making the life of the systems administrator less reactive and at the same time improving network availability by reducing system downtime and related outages.

PRTG Network Monitor is a solution that is designed to meet the needs of systems administrators for small businesses all the way up to the largest enterprises. Once configured, PRTG has the potential to make the administrator’s life much simpler.

Download PRTG

Installing PRTG is amazingly simple. Even the initial download and trial license acquisition process is quick and painless. In fact, there’s no need to supply any information at all! No need to provide detailed personal information and subject yourself to yet more marketing email just to evaluate the solution. Just visit https://www.paessler.com/download and click on the Free Download button.

Immediately you are provided with an evaluation license key and the download of the software begins automatically. Save the file and copy the licensing information to a location where it can be reached from the server where PRTG will be installed.

PRTG Installation

Installing PRTG Network Monitor could not be easier. It is recommended that PRTG be installed on a Windows Server 2012 R2 system, but PRTG is supported for installation on Windows 7 and later as well as Windows Server 2008 and later. Installing PRTG is straightforward and does not require any additional software such as SQL Server, .NET Framework, Java, etc.

Install the software by launching the executable, then provide an email address and supply the license key. That’s it!

Configuration

After the installation is complete, the web-based management console automatically launches. If you’ve installed PRTG Network Monitor on Windows Server 2012 R2, you’ll quickly find that the console does not work if Internet Explorer Enhanced Security is enabled, which it is by default. You can disable IE Enhanced Security Configuration by opening the Server Manager and highlighting Local Server, then clicking the link next to IE Enhanced Security Configuration and choosing Off for administrators.

If you prefer not to disable IE Enhanced Security Configuration on Windows Server 2012 R2, it is possible to use the PRTG Enterprise Console. Details on that later.

Initial Network Discovery

After the initial installation and configuration has been completed, open the web-based management console and click View Results. PRTG informs you that you are about to scan your network. Clicking Ok will launch a guided walkthrough with a virtual assistant that will gather additional information required to monitor systems and devices on your network.

Image
Figure 1

Following the guided tour will lead you to a page to provide credentials for accessing various systems and devices. Here you will input your credentials for Windows systems, as well as Linux, Solaris, MAC OS and SSH/WBEM systems. You’ll also be asked to provide credentials for authenticated to VMware and XenServer environments, and to provide credentials for SNMP devices on your network including the version, community string, etc. Credentials can also be provided for any database management systems you wish to monitor, and Amazon Cloudwatch can also be integrated. Finally, you’ll provide details for any proxy server settings that may be required, specifying a scanning interval, and optionally define a maintenance window.

Monitoring

After the process of network device discovery is complete, there are several ways to get a holistic view of the network. Using the web-based management console, from the Home tab click View Results to view the network in hierarchical form. Here you will see all systems and devices with status for default sensors. You can show or hide different sensors and warnings to drill down to specifically those systems and devices that require attention, if desired.

Image
Figure 2

The items in line with each device are called Sensors and are preconfigured during discovery. You can highlight each to find additional detail. In the example above we see a critical warning noted by a sensor in red. Hovering over the sensor with the mouse provides additional context regarding the alarm.

Image
Figure 3

Clicking on the sensor then takes you to a page where you can find additional detail regarding the specific sensor.

Image
Figure 4

Additional User Interfaces

While the web-based management console is convenient, PRTG also includes a native Windows application designed specifically for large deployments. The Enterprise Console is also an alternative to the web-based management console when disabling Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration is not an option. In addition, there are apps available for a variety of mobile platforms including iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

Image
Figure 5: PRTG Network Monitor Enterprise Console

Configuring Sensor Limits

Many sensors are preconfigured, yet still require additional adjustments to provide relevant and meaningful alerts. For example, here you’ll notice that a sensor is reporting 100% CPU utilization on a host, but the sensor is still green indicating that it is within threshold. This occurs because thresholds have not been defined on this particular sensor.

To adjust this, click on the sensor and then click the gear icon in the Settings column below.

Image
Figure 6

Scroll to the bottom and select Enable Limits. Provide values for the thresholds you wish to be alerted on. Here I’ll define an Upper Error Limit of 90%, meaning that the console will raise an error when CPU utilization exceeds this value. I’ve defined an Upper Warning Limit of 75%, which will result in the console raising a warning when CPU utilization exceeds 75% but stays under 90%.

Image
Figure 7

Now when a sensor reaches a critical threshold as defined by the administrator, an alert will be raised in the management console.

Image
Figure 8

In addition, the sensor will now be shown in red in the main console.

Image
Figure 9

Alerting

Proactive alerting is available through a variety of mechanisms including Email and SMS, as well as through push notifications on mobile platforms. Alerts can be defined on status, limits, thresholds, and much more. Alerts can even be scheduled, for example to prevent low priority alerts during off-peak times.

Reporting

Reports are available in HTML or PDF formats. Reports can be scheduled or run on an as-needed basis. Monitoring of historical data is an option, and reports can be exported in a variety of common formats. There are more than a hundred templates available to choose from, and you can report on pretty much anything you can imagine.

Summary

PRTG Network Monitor can provide unparalleled visibility in to the status and health of a wide variety of systems and network devices on your network. The product is incredibly simple to download, license, install, and configure. You will quite literally be up and running in minutes, no joke! It is agentless, which is a huge plus in my book. Not requiring agents means less moving parts, less maintenance overhead (software agents have to be deployed, managed, and maintained), and provides better security with a reduced attack surface. The product scales easily and is fully customizable.

Product Rating

PRTG Network Monitor is without a doubt the most complex product I’ve had the opportunity to review. Unfortunately, due to the limited space available here, performing a comprehensive review of all of its capabilities is impossible. It would probably be a hundred pages long! I’ve barely managed to scratch the surface here, but hopefully you get a sense of what the product is and what it might be capable of.

Even with my limited exposure to the product, I came to quickly understand that this is a powerful platform that can be leveraged to make any administrators system management responsibilities infinitely easier. The product is highly intuitive and well documented, making the task of coming up to speed on the features and capabilities easy.

I highly recommend this product, and give the PRTG Network Monitor solution the WindowsNetworking.com Gold Award with a rating of 5 out of 5.

WindowsNetworking.com Rating 5/5

Learn more about Paessler PRTG Network Monitor or download a free trial.

See Also


The Author — Richard Hicks

Richard Hicks avatar

Richard M. Hicks (MCP, MCSE, MCTS, MCITP:EA, MCSA, MVP) is a network and information security expert specializing in Microsoft technologies. He is the founder and principal consultant of Richard M. Hicks Consulting and is focused on helping organizations large and small implement DirectAccess, VPN, and cloud networking solutions on Microsoft Platforms.

Advertisement

Featured Links