REVIEW : NetGain Enterprise Manager BY VINCE WONG  

REVIEW : NetGain Enterprise Manager BY VINCE WONG  
August 12, 2016 NetGain Systems

 PROS:

Immensely flexible and feature-rich – comes with SMS notifications, customisable dashboards, NorthBound Interface, Network Topology and Device Maps as standard.

CONS:

Currently supports only Windows and Linux servers

BOTTOM LINE:

NetGain Enterprise Manager is a full-suite IT monitoring package with more than enough flexibility to cater for both SME and MNC-level infrastructure.

There are many IT monitoring solutions available in the market. Each one has different feature sets, pricing models and target markets, so there’s bound to be one to suit any business’s requirements.

But most of them tend to compromise between one end or the other of a spectrum: either free to use but limited in functionality, or modular in price and hence also in application.

The average IT manager can only try out so many free demos to decide which solution is best for his company’s typical use-scenarios. On top of that, what if you have no “typical” use-scenarios? What if you need your IT monitoring solution to cater to both ends of the spectrum: to have as much flexibility as you can get, without busting your budget?

With the above in mind, I was introduced to NetGain Enterprise Manager, an automated IT monitoring solution that is

touted as an intelligent plug-and-play, scalable solution suitable for both SMEs and MNCs.

How does it achieve that?

Company Background

NetGain Enterprise Manager is one of the enterprise solutions offered by NetGain Systems, a company headquartered in Singapore with an operational presence across Asia.  The company got their big break when they were commissioned by the Beijing Olympic Games 2008 to provide IT monitoring for the over 18,000 devices deployed during that event.

Since then, NetGain Enterprise Manager has become the IT monitoring solution of choice for many major Singapore government institutions and banks.

The software package monitors the performance of routers, computers, servers, databases and networks, notifying you with short text messages (SMS), emails, onscreen popups and sounds if performance falls below acceptable service threshold.

Here are my first impressions of it.

  1. Installing NetGain Enterprise Manager

Installing NetGain Enterprise Manager is a breeze. It is available as a service on both Windows and Linux, unlike most software solutions that only run on Windows. Fans of open-source software, sit up and take note.

There is also the option, if you decide to buy it, to deploy NetGain Enterprise Manager in the form of a blade server sized hardware box that slots right into your server rack.

After installation, click ‘Start server’ to get the NetGain Enterprise Manager up and running.

  1. Discovering and Grouping Devices

After installation, you have to perform some initial housekeeping tasks, such as add devices on your network for monitoring, or (optionally) create custom groups for ease of monitoring and management.

What if you have thousands of devices on your network? Don’t panic, NetGain’s Auto Discovery feature makes detecting devices in your network as easy as 1-2-3. Simply click on the Monitor Tab in the primary selection menu, then Discover in the secondary menu, and fill in the IP range to scan. Ensure that SNMP is enabled and that firewall port 161 is open, and you are good to go.

Each discovered device returns a status on whether its SNMP service is available; you’ll have to ensure that each device’s SNMP is switched on to enable monitoring.

On discovery, NetGain automatically groups devices by type or category, but you can also group these devices manually, for easier display and monitoring, a feature NetGain calls BizView.

The BizView dashboard can be customised based on business units, office locations, or by your hierarchy of mission-critical devices – or really just about any way you like.

For example, you may want to ensure that the computers, printers, apps and switches used by your C-suite executives get special attention. Simply go into edit mode, and create a new device group. Name it “C-Level WatchList” or whatever you like, add the devices, ensure SNMP is enabled on them, and that’s it!

Switching to BizView on the dashboard shows the custom groups you’ve created. You can also create a physical or subnet topology of your devices, and even floor plans of where each device is out there in the real world.

Auto-discovery, customised dashboards, device topologies and maps are typically modular add-ons that cost more with other monitoring solutions, but come free in the standard NetGain Enterprise Systems Essential package.

  1. Setting Alarm Thresholds & Monitoring

Once you’ve added and grouped your devices, you can log in to the system from any mobile or desktop browser, irrespective of your operating system.

The home screen shows you number and colour notifications of alarms that have been generated. These alarms are sorted by by SLA, business, device and elements monitored.

Go to ‘Monitor’ in the primary selection menu, and you’ll find even more details to look at.  Here you can look at the software’s library of pre-set alarm thresholds, or you can create your own.

While each alert threshold is customisable – you can choose from Critical, Major, Minor, Warning, Normal and Disabled; and also decide what events are included under each category – you can also apply overall policies, such as blackout schedules, global rules, and custom SLA levels.

For example, you can set threshold levels based on pre-set service level agreements (SLA), such as bandwidth, device availability, server CPU load and memory, that only apply during certain hours of the day.

Clicking on each notification drills down further into the hierachy of information, allowing you to see more details, such as which devices generated the alarms, and the specific messages they generated.

Everything you see is sortable: you can view the alarms listed by ascending or descending values, by severity, object, IP address, type or count.

You also get NetFlow monitoring, which helps infrastructure management and is useful for your network engineers to optimise traffic flow.

  1. Setting Notifications & Generating Reports

You can notify anyone you like when NetGain generates an alarm, via email, SMS, pop up alerts and sounds. And of course you can choose which alarms get notified.

I like that SMS notifications are included; this is important because there are currently many IT monitoring systems around that only allow email notifications.

Reports can also be auto-generated and auto-delivered on a schedule. These reports can be based on standard templates, but you can also create your own reports based any number of available filters, and have them delivered on a schedule to any email address you want.

Critically, NetGain also has a NorthBound Interface that allows alerts to be linked (via SNMPtrap) to a ticketing system, such as one created by your telecommunications vendor for fault tracking. Some other monitoring solutions either don’t support this feature at all or will charge you extra for it, which adds another feather to NetGain’s hat.

  1. Dashboards & Displays

NetGain’s dashboard presents a lot of information, all of it sortable, database-style.  Yet, I never felt overwhelmed by clutter. It is all easily accessible due to the lean and clean graphic user interface, making it one of the most intuitive and well-thought-out dashboards I have ever encountered.

You can choose between a light or dark theme, for example, to suit the time of day – a thoughtful tip of the hat to us IT managers who often have to log in remotely during the early morning hours.

There’s even a snazzy ‘Plasma Screen’ mode which seems solely designed for mirroring on a large plasma display in your ops room to impress visiting C-level executives. This converts the facts-and-figures dashboard into a visually exciting F-15-style cockpit, complete with animated radar screens and red alerts.

My Second Impressions

Like it says on the label, NetGain Enterprise Manager is pretty scalable, and its features set is astounding for what you pay. While its primary mission, of course, is the absolutely vital task of detecting doomsday scenarios and alerting you before they occur, its flexibility also gives you much more bang for your buck than expected.

In so doing, NetGain Enterprise Manager has created an infinite potential for secondary applications, limited only by your creativity. For instance, you can use NetGain Enterprise Manager to enhance your company’s cybersecurity policies, by creating reminders to change passwords.

Less dramatically, you can amass local data for your IT infrastructure, so you can perform your own data analytics. NetGain Enterprise Manager’s extensive logs let you build heat maps for identifying problematic areas, so you can spend your limited IT budget more wisely by pre-allocating expenditure for high priority issues.

The greatest advantage of NetGain Enterprise Manager however, may lie in its ability to change an IT manager’s mindset from reactive to proactive. Its configurability lets you use it as a system feedback channel that you can constantly customise to proactively manage your IT infrastructure, instead of letting it manage you.

For example, you can perform stress-tests, see the results immediately, and generate reports. With device topology and physical location map as standard, you can find a faulty device easily within the shortest time. You get the option to put the most important and mission critical devices to watch together in a group, or by location, so you know if an alarm generated is happening here or in an overseas office. You can set the software to auto-discover new devices on an hourly regular basis, so you don’t have to (keep forgetting to) manually add or scan for new devices.

In summary, it is an IT system that helps you manage your IT system.

If you need features that aren’t in the NetGain Enterprise Manager’s extensive list, the NetGain Systems team can even custom-create them just for you, at a cost. What more can you possibly ask for?

Perhaps a lower price, but NetGain Systems already charges on a per device basis, instead of by elements-monitored as some of their competitors do. And many of its competitors’ more advanced and expensive features come as standard, for free.

Plus, if you need tech support, NetGain’s team may be local to you. So, no more posting on an online forum and hoping the right person sees your question overnight.

Final Conclusion

Information Technology is becoming ever more complex. According to results from the 2016 Disaster Recovery Survey published by CloudEndure, top risks to system availability stem from human error (22%), network failure (20%), application bugs (15%), storage failures (11%) and external threats, such as a hack (11%).

Over a third of the organisations polled indicated that the cost of downtime is USD$100,000 per day or higher, and almost three quarters (73%) indicated that the cost of downtime is $10,000 per day or higher.

Hence no self-respecting IT manager today who wants to keep his job should be without an IT monitoring system in his or her toolbox.

With its phalanx of premium yet free features, superb flexibility, excellent ease of use and access to a local support team, NetGain Enterprise Manager is certainly one of the best IT monitoring systems you can get.

Figure 1: Features Checklist for IT Monitoring Solutions

NetGain Systems Spiceworks Managed Engine Ruckus Wireless ZoneDirector 1200 Idera Uptime Whatsup Gold Datadog
Best For APM (Selected Applications), Infrastructure Management, Network Monitoring Infrastructure Management, Network Monitoring APM (via Optional Plug-In), Infrastructure Management, Network Monitoring Network Monitoring APM, Infrastructure Management, Network Monitoring Infrastructure Management APM, Infrastructure Management
NetFlow/Sflow Yes Yes Yes No Add-on Plug-in Yes
Auto Discover Yes No Yes Only for Ruckus Yes Yes No
Mobile Device Support Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No
On Premise Deployment Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Version Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Real-Time Alerting Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Application Programming Interface (API) Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes
Agentless Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Multi-Platform Agent Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Custom Dashboards Yes No No No No No No
Custom Reporting Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Role-Based Access Control Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No

Disclosure: This review of NetGain Enterprise Manager was made possible with support from Aaron Koh, Sales & Channels Director (Regional) for NetGain Systems.

 Call +65 9489 4557 or email aaron@netgain-systems.com to discuss how NetGain Systems can help your staff, add more value to your business, increase profits, and bolster the reputation of your company.

Description

NetGain Enterprise Manager is an award-winning, world-class intelligent, plug-and-play scalable solution that pre-emptively monitors IT infrastructure in real time.

Key features

  1. Cost-Efficient – Pay by number of devices monitored
  2. Easy-to-use – Get notifications of impending device failures via emails or SMS
  3. Feature-rich – Device topology maps and graphical interfaces are standard, and free
  4. Unified Dashboard – Monitor all devices and parameters from one browser
  5. Customisable & Flexible – Add custom features or devices with ease
  6. Local Support Team – NetGain Systems is headquartered in Singapore
  7. Instantly Deployable – It only takes up to an hour to discover 1000 devices for monitoring
  8. Free to migrate – Migrate your existing solution to NetGain free of charge

Installation

Software service or hardware appliance (server-rack ready)

Developer

NetGain Systems Pte Ltd
Blk 4012, Tech Place 1 #07-14
Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 Singapore 569628

www.netgain-systems.com
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