SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor 12.2 review

Great value for SMBs and packed with features, SolarWinds NPM is the perfect network monitoring tool

Editor's Choice
Price
£2,195
  • Simple to use; In-depth web console; Excellent analysis tools
  • Licenses can get used up quickly if you're not careful

SMBs with a keen eye on value will love SolarWinds' Network Performance Monitor (NPM) as it offers a remarkable range of troubleshooting and monitoring tools for the price. The well-designed web console keeps your finger on the network pulse while NPM's integral PerfStack Performance Analysis, Quality of Experience (QoE) and NetPath tools add that all-important wow factor.

This latest version adds support for Cisco ASA firewalls and tightens security between the NPM server and back-end SQL database. Other new features include a global navigation bar for easier device discovery, more custom options for the dashboard and even a facility to deploy a Linux agent to Raspberry Pi devices.

Installation on a Windows Server 2016 host took 90 minutes where the routine downloaded the latest version and ensured all necessary Windows components (plus the SQL database) were installed for us. Our first network discovery was swift, as a wizard asked for IP address ranges, Active Directory server details plus Windows and VMware credentials, scanned the lab network for 10 minutes and found every SNMP- and WMI-enabled device.

NPM also offers free Windows and Linux agents for monitoring remote systems. Communications are securely encrypted, so you can easily use the agents to keep watch on cloud hosted servers from providers such as Amazon EC2, Azure and RackSpace.

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Licensing is based on monitored nodes, interfaces and volumes, with an SL100 license enabling 100 of each type. Keep a close eye on their use from the console's Details page as we found they get consumed very quickly, but it's easy enough to delete those you don't need from the Manage Nodes page.

The web console provides quick access links to dashboards, alerts, reports and settings. Along with customisable distribution maps, the dashboard home page shows at-a-glance views of all network activity and uses colour coded icons to highlight problems.

It's capable of presenting a huge amount of information which we refined with customised views. Using the new Pencil tool, we found it easy to modify dashboards by adding and sizing extra columns, choosing resource views and placing them in the order we wanted.

NPM discovered our VMware vCenter and Hyper-V systems and presented a wealth of information on the hosts and all their associated VMs. We could easily see which VMs were running and view graphs of virtual memory, CPU and network interface utilization.

NPM's Quality of Experience (QoE) provides even greater insight as can identify over 1,200 predefined apps. With a sensor loaded on the NPM host and linked to a switch mirror port, it showed graphs of traffic volumes plus response times, along with pie charts of business, social and potentially risky activities.

NetPath probes external locations and provides complete hop-by-hop maps. NPM displays latency and packet loss details for each hop making it easy to pinpoint cloud service performance issues and problems with your Internet providers.

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NPM's PerfStack dashboard adds extra versatility as it compares ranges of metrics to help diagnose more complex problems. From the Performance Analysis dashboard option, we created correlation projects by adding nodes, viewing available metrics and dragging them across to the right-hand side to create new PerfStack charts.

To compare multiple metrics, we dragged across those we wanted and dropped them into the same chart. Project charts use a common timeframe - making it easy to match up problems with solutions - and they can be shared with other support staff via a project URL.

With SolarWinds NPM on their side, network troubleshooting for SMBs simply doesn't get any easier. Combining this ease of use with the huge range of features included as standard makes it our monitoring tool of choice.

Verdict

With SolarWinds NPM on their side, network troubleshooting for SMBs simply doesn’t get any easier. Combining this ease of use with the huge range of features included as standard makes it our monitoring tool of choice.

Windows Server 2012 upwards

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