Product Review: PA Server Monitor

Product: PA Server Monitor

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Monitoring the health, status and usage of your servers is important if you value your business. A server that runs out of disk space or loses network connectivity can result in unhappy customers and lost opportunities to make a sale. As your company grows and expands, the number of physical or virtual servers can rapidly proliferate. It’s important therefore that you choose a monitoring solution that can scale easily and provide a simple way of auditing, monitoring and reporting on large numbers of servers.

PA Server Monitor from Power Admin LLC is a solid solution for monitoring both Windows and Linux servers and other types of network devices. After installing PA Server Monitor on one of the servers in your datacenter or server room, you can use the Console User Interface to monitor thousands of servers and network devices from a single installation of the Central Monitoring Service. Because PA Server Monitor is agentless, you don’t need to install any additional software on any of the other servers you want to monitor. This is important for security and stability reasons because servers should only run the services and applications that are required in order for the servers to perform their intended workload in your environment.

If some of your company’s servers are located at remote branch offices, there’s no need to install the Central Monitoring Service on any of those remote servers. Instead, you can simply install a remote monitoring agent called the Satellite Monitoring Service on one of the servers at your branch office, and the Satellite Monitoring Service will collect information from the other servers at your branch office and forward it to the Central Monitoring Service running on one of the servers at your corporate headquarters.

PA Server Monitor includes a wide range of different monitors for monitoring CPU and memory utilization, network usage, available disk space, running services and processes, changed files and directories, even the temperature of your servers and the room where they reside. PA Server Monitor also includes monitors for event logs and other log files, SNMP events and traps, ping response times, and load times for web pages. PA Server Monitor can also create status reports that summarize the uptime and other historical statistics for servers and devices in your environment.

Testing the product

For my review of PA Server Monitor I began by downloading the latest version (Release Candidate of PA Server Monitor Ultra from the Power Admin website. As shown in Figure 1 below, I ran Setup to install the Central Monitoring Service and Console User Interface of the product on a server in one of the test environments set up in my lab. My test environment consisted of an Active Directory domain and a number of servers running Windows Server 2012 R2. All test servers were deployed as virtual machines running on a single Hyper-V host cluster running Windows Server 2012 R2:

Figure 1: Installing PA Server Monitor.

The installation process went smoothly and the Central Monitoring Service started successfully and the Console launched and displayed an easy to use Startup Wizard:

Figure 2: The Startup Wizard.

The wizard prompted me to create a Service Run As Account and it’s a good idea to dip into the documentation at this point to ensure you choose proper credentials here as PA Server Monitor adds several user rights to the account you specify. The product documentation is available as a PDF download from the Help menu of the Console, and I recommend you download this PDF as it makes searching for help easier than browsing the online help. The wizard then guided me through configuring email alert and log file settings.

The Discover option on the Smart Config screen of the Console now automatically runs to try and detect any servers or network devices present and install commonly used monitors on them. PA Server Monitor uses two methods to find computers or other network devices that may be present: performing a simple ping sweep of the local subnet and querying Active Directory for a list of computers in the domain. Figure 3 below shows the Server Discover process underway:

Figure 3: The Discover Server screen

Note that if your environment has servers running Windows Server 2012 or later you will need to enable several inbound firewall rules on these servers before you will be able to monitor them using PA Server Monitor. The firewall rules you need to enable are listed in the PA Server Monitor documentation and these rules should be enabled before you attempt to install monitors for those servers, otherwise you will need to re-run the Smart Configuration Process for those servers.

If any computers on your network are not detected by Server Discovery, you can manually specify their names in the Smart Configuration Process dialog and configure monitors on them as shown next:

Figure 4: Adding some additional servers to configure monitors on.

From this point on my testing of the product went smoothly. I had no difficulties configuring different actions for different types of monitors and the actions triggered successfully when their conditions were met. I also generated various types of reports and these all worked as expected. The screenshots below show PA Server Monitor in action and illustrate some of the powerful capabilities of the product. The first screenshot shows the layout of the PA Server Monitor console. The Servers/Devices workspace is shown on the left and displays various servers and the monitors configured for these servers. The LAB1 network is selected in the Servers/Devices workspace, and the Group Summary page on the right shows the status of monitors for the servers on this network. Note the yellow alert box showing Very Low Disk Space on server SRV-02 which we’ll return to in a moment:

Figure 5: The Group Summary view of the Servers/Devices workspace in the PA Server Monitor console.

The next screenshot drills down to show monitoring details for server SRV-01. Note the informative charts here which display information about processor utilization, pagefile usage, committed bytes, disk space, and network reachability:

Figure 6: Monitoring details for server SRV-01.

The next screenshot shows what a typical Disk Space Summary report looks like. Recall from Figure 5 that SRV-02 raised a Very Low Disk Space alert on the Group Summary page. As you can see below, the reports you can generate with PA Server Monitor can provide valuable additional information concerning the health of the servers in your environment:

Figure 7: Example of a Disk Space Summary report.

Evaluation Summary

PA Server Monitor is a mature, solid product that does exactly what it says it can do. It can monitor key aspects of both Windows and Linux/UNIX servers in your environment, so it’s an excellent choice for enterprises that have a heterogeneous server infrastructure. One more thing I definitely want to mention here is the stellar support that Power Admin provides for their customers. Their online Support Forum is active and helpful–I browsed the forum several times during my testing and found answers to my questions. In addition, when I provided Power Admin with some preliminary feedback from my testing, they actually went ahead and implemented my recommendations in both their product and its documentation.

To conclude then, both PA Server Monitor and their product support met or exceeded my expectations, and as a result my rating for this product is 5 out of 5 i.e. Gold Award.

More Info

For more information about PA Server Monitor and other products from Power Admin, see Rating 5/5

Learn more about PA Server Monitor or download a Free Trial!

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