Best IT Service Management Tools (ITSM Software)

IT service management typically refers to any and all activities related to the delivery of IT services. It deals with the management of people, practices and procedures, and technology. Its goal is to enable organizations to get the most of their investment in various IT resources.

The definition might seem simple but it is actually rather complex. Well, not THAT complex. In fact, it is composed of multiple simple elements that work together. And to make things even simpler, many tools exist that were specifically created to handle one or many of the different components of IT service management. This is what this post is all about, and we’re happy to bring you our best IT service management tools.

IT Service Management Tools

As we often do, we’ll start off with some background information. It will allow you to better understand and appreciate the various features of the IT service management tools we’re about to review. We’ll begin with a deeper look at IT service management and what it is. We’ll then have a very brief look at the various types of tools which are available. Again, we don’t want to make you experts in the field, only to give you enough information. Armed with all the information, we’ll then proceed to the core of our subject, the actual review of the best IT service management tools.

About IT Service Management?

IT service management is different from other technology-oriented approaches such as network management and systems management. Instead of focusing on technology, IT service management is, according to Wikipedia, “characterized by adopting a process approach towards management, focusing on customer needs and IT services for customers rather than IT systems, and stressing continual improvement.”

This approach stems from the fact that some IT managers realized at one point that their teams were not always “in the loop” with every part of their organizations. This brought observations such as the different needs of the marketing team and the customer service team, for instance. Likewise, a travelling employee has different needs from one who works from a desk in the office ad from one working from home.

The ultimate goal of IT service management is to improve the correspondence between what a customer (employee or client) needs and what the IT team can offer. Without that primordial match, many IT team will be left struggling to deliver adequate services.

RELATED READING: The Best Managed Service Provider Software Tools

Different Types of ITSM Tools

IT service management tools come in all shapes and sizes. There are, however, three types of tools that are often mentioned with talking about IT service management: service desk tools, help desk tools, and server and application monitoring tools.

Service desk and help desk tools are not that different and there is often a lot of confusion between the two. The primary purpose of the former is to streamline internal as well as external communication. More than anything, service desk tools are communication tools that provide a single point of contact between an IT team and its customers and/or employees.

MUST READ: Best IT inventory management tools

As for help desk tools, they are somewhat similar, yet they typically have the specific focus of helping resolve issues by providing various incident and issue resolution services. Help desk tools generally include some ticket management features. In fact, it is most often their primary feature. Many also bast additional features combine to generally improve the incident resolution time as well as the time spent by IT teams on incident resolution.

The purpose of application and server monitoring tools is self-explanatory. These are tools that are designed to monitor and manage the performance of your IT infrastructures, systems, and applications. They are your eyes and ears on an otherwise invisible aspect of your network and they can provide data on application dependencies, transaction times or overall user performance.

The best IT Service management tools

Enough theory; the time has come to have a look at some of the very best IT service management tools. We’ve managed to include tools of all three types mentioned above not because we had to but because it just so happened that there were all three types of tools among the six best. All of the products reviewed herein have a free trial available. Your best course of action is probably to have a look at each product’s details specifications and features and try a couple of those that look the most interesting to you before making the final choice.

1. SolarWinds Service Desk (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds is a common name in the field of network and system administration tools. The company’s flagship products, the Network Performance Monitor and the NetFlow Traffic Analyzer are respectively among the best SNMP monitoring tools and the best NetFlow collectors and analyzers. And the company has task-specific tools in most areas of system and network administration and troubleshooting, including many free tools. And when it comes to IT service management, SolarWinds has a few tools to offer.

The first one is the SolarWinds Service Desk. It used to be known as Samanage before SolarWinds acquired it. It is a cloud-based IT service management tool which is just as reliable as it is robust. The product’s feature set ranges from change management tracking to self-generating knowledge bases, making it a great tools for many aspects of IT service management. The SolarWinds Service Desk lets users manage service tickets and company assets from any smartphone or tablet. This is a very useful feature when off-hours support teams are working remotely. Your staff won’t have to lug a heavy laptop around and they can intervene from anywhere using a portable device.

SolarWinds Service Desk Screenshot

A key feature of the SolarWinds Service Desk is its single sign-on (SSO) functionality. Contrary to several other service desks which will support single sign-on either via Google Apps or Microsoft Active Directory, this product supports both. This is a key advantage that makes it quite easy to integrate with various applications such as Salesforce.com or OneLogin, to name a few. This product has all that one would expect from a full-fledged IT service management package. It has incident management, a service catalogue, fully integrated IT asset management, and a service portal where users can submit tickets and requests.

But even more so than its impressive feature set, one of the things that impressed us the most about the SolarWinds Service Desk is how easy it is to install, set up, and customize. In fact, installation is the only step you have to take. The product comes ready to use right from the get-go and chances are that you won’t have anything to do to customize the tool to fit your specific needs. It is that good.

The pricing structure for the SolarWinds Service Desk is a bit complex. It is available in three licensing tiers with increasing feature sets. The bottom level is called Team and will cost you $19/month per agent plus $0.10/month per managed device. This level includes the incident management, service portal, and knowledge base modules. Next is the Business plan which adds the service catalogue and change management modules plus a few other. It goes for $39/month per agent plus $0.30/month per device. Then you have the full-featured Professional package at $69/month per agent plus $0.50/month per device. For your convenience, a free 30-day trial is available on all plans.

30-day Trial: https://www.solarwinds.com/service-desk/registration

2. SolarWinds Web Help Desk (FREE TRIAL)

The second product offering by SolarWinds for IT service management is called the SolarWinds Web Help Desk. Don’t let the name mislead you, though. In addition to automated ticket management and a centralized knowledge base, the tool has excellent change management features too. Change requests with automated approval workflows can be created with the SolarWinds Web Help Desk. The product also has SLA management with timed automatic notifications.

The SolarWinds Web Help Desk will integrate with Active Directory and LDAP as well as third-party asset management systems. Another feature that is quite useful is the automated conversion of emails to tickets. This feature lets you set up a help desk mailbox where any received email is automatically converted into a ticket. But one of the best features of this product is its intuitive dashboard. Navigating between tabs and platforms is easy and users will have to trouble to track a support ticket or checking if an asset is available.

SolarWinds Web Help Desk

Reporting and follow-ups are also some important features of this excellent software. Its built-in reports and dashboards let you track ticket status, technician performance, and customer support needs. There are also automated feedback surveys that you can have users complete upon ticket resolution, allowing you to remain on top of customer satisfaction and help desk performance.

The SolarWinds Web Help Desk is priced based on the number of help desk technicians you have. Prices start at $700 per technician, regardless of the number of end-users. A free 14-day trial can be downloaded from SolarWinds. For more information, a guided tour and a live demo are also available from SolarWinds’ website.

Free 14-day trial: https://www.solarwinds.com/help-desk-software/registration

3. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

Though not technically a true IT service management tool in the real sense of the term, this third offering from SolarWinds is still a very interesting package which addresses an important part of IT service management better than the other tools reviewed so far. This tool is called the SolarWinds Service & Application Monitor. It is, as its name implies a tool that you can use for the monitoring aspect of service management.

The SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications that are running on them. It can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The tool can also monitor cloud-hosted services like those from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Furthermore. The tool’s dashboard, dependencies, and alerts can be fully customized to better fit your environment and specific requirements.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is very easy to set up and its initial configuration is just as easily done, thanks to the help of its auto-discovery module, which is a two-pass process. The first pass will discover servers, and the second one will find applications. Although it can take a bit of time, it can be sped up by supplying the tool with a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and the discovery is complete, its user-friendly GUI will make using it a breeze. You can choose to display information in either a table or a graphic format.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 and vary based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

30-day free trial: https://www.solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor/registration

4. ManageEngine Service Desk Plus

Like SolarWinds, ManageEngine is a well-known name in the field of system and network management software. Its Service Desk Plus package is either available either as a cloud-based service or on-premise software. This lets you pick the installation option that best suits you need and either option offers an identical feature set.

Talking about features, the ManageEngine Service Desk Plus in one of the most ITIL-centric IT service management tool you can find. If you’re familiar with that IT management framework, you’ll feel right at home with this product. Most of its features are ITIL-based and its modules correspond to the various ITIL processes. For example, there are incident management, problem management, and change management modules. The tool also features a service catalogue and a configuration management database (CMDB). And if that’s not enough, asset management and project management complete this already feature-rich service management package.

ManageEngine Service Desk Plus Knowledge Base

Reporting is another of the product’s strong suits. The ManageEngine Service Desk Plus comes with over 150 predefined reports. You can get information on completed tickets based on various parameters or keep tabs on technician performance. Reports can be exported in a variety of formats like HTML, PDF, XLS, or CSV. You can also build our own custom reports in minutes without writing a single line of code.

The ManageEngine Service Desk Plus is available in three tiers with an increasing feature set. The Standard version only includes the help desk software, the Professional version adds the asset management features and the Enterprise version also has project management and all the ITIL features. Pricing starts at $1 195 annually. A free trial is available should you want to test the product’s features

5. Jira Service Desk

Jira Service Desk from Atlassian is available as either a cloud-based or an on-premises IT service management solution. The tool is best known for its efficient self-service feature. It lets customers open tickets by themselves and even lets them self-resolve issues and queries by accessing the tool’s knowledge base. That makes it a unique and very customer-friendly product. The product will suit any kind of IT service management need but it was specifically designed for the support of in-house software. As such, it fully integrates with Jira Software, a project and issue tracking package for software development, also from Atlassian.

Jira Service Desk Screenshot

In addition to its famous self-service features, Jira Service Desk also has automation as well as SLAs and CSAT reporting. One of the primary focuses of the product is on making it simple and quick to set up. Contrary to some competitors, you could be running within just a few days. And if you need to extend the functionality of this already feature-rich tool, there’s a Jira marketplace—which is somewhat like what we have for Android or iOS—where you can find over 800 apps that can interact Jira Service Desk and other Jira products.

One of the drawbacks of the Jira Service Desk is that it does not have knowledge management built-in. However, the tool can interact with Jira Confluence, a knowledge base/artificial intelligence system that can be coupled with the self-service help desk to assist end-users in solving issues with no human intervention.

Considering its capabilities, Jira Service Desk is relatively inexpensive. A flat fee of $10/month will be sufficient for up to three help desk agents. Between 4 and 15 agents, you’ll have to shell out $20/agent each month and volume discounts are available if you have more than 15 agents. A free trial is available but it only lasts 7 days. It’s a good thing that the software installs quickly.

6. Zendesk Suite

ZenDesk Suite is a rather complete IT service management solution. It has several unique features that make it a very interesting option. For instance, ticket forms can be created for different types of request and only include fields relevant to that specific kind of request. They ensure that your help desk agents ask all the right questions and that no time is lost collecting unnecessary information. The forms also support conditional and custom fields, allowing you to gather organization-specific details. One of its most unique features is certainly the live chat. It is deployed through a centralized console and lets agents communicate with their customers more easily.

ZenDesk Suite Screenshot

ZenDesk Suite is a helpdesk-centric package. It makes heavy use of skill-based routing to assign tickets to the proper agent. The system can also initiate customizable ticket workflows based on certain changes or time-based conditions. This tool also supports macros to respond quickly to standards requests with predefined actions. Furthermore, macros can also be used to change a ticket’s status.

The tool has several collaboration extensions available. They allow agents to communicate with other teams and get them involved in ticket resolution as needed from within Zendesk Suite. The tool also has several customer insight features such as CSAT ratings and Net Promoter Score surveys. Plus it has performance dashboards to give visibility into ticket volume, agent performance, and other key support metrics and custom reports to better understand your customers, measure operational efficiency, and improve your team’s workflow.

Zendesk Suite is available in two versions. The feature-limited Professional plan will cost you $89/month per agent. It includes omnichannel support with email, chat, phone, social media, and messaging, knowledge base for self-service, reporting and analytics, platform extensibility with private and public apps, and multiple ticket forms. You can also opt for the full-featured Enterprise version at $149/month per agent which adds several advanced features to the mix. All plans support an unlimited number of end-users and a 30-day trial is available.

Read Best IT Service Management Tools (ITSM Software) by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Oracle Performance Tuning: How to Improve Database Performance

Poor Oracle database performance is quite insidious. It can have various ramifications that will often translate into poor application performance. This can lead a typical administrator on a wild goose chase as he goes looking for a problem somewhere it is not.

There is but one way to ensure that the database won’t be the bottleneck of your distributed multi-tiered applications: tuning Oracle database performance. That will be the topic of today’s post. Our goal is not to provide an in-depth tutorial on the subject but to provide you with enough information to let you pick the best possible tool to help you handle this seemingly overwhelming task.

Oracle Performance Tuning: How to Improve Database Performance

We’ll begin by introducing databases, what they are and how they work. We will, of course, be a bit more specific about Oracle as it is our primary focus today. Then, we’ll tackle performance tuning. We’ll explain what it is and how it works. Our next order of business will be database performance analysis as it is at the core of any Oracle database performance tuning effort. And since that is so important, we’ll finally review the best tools for Oracle database performance analysis.

About Relational Database Management Systems

In its simplest expression, a database is a data structure that stores organized information. Data in a database is stored in tables where each row represent one item of data and each column is a piece of information about this item. For example, an address book could be stored in a database where each entry would be a line and where there would be columns for the last name, first name, address, street, city, state, country, etc.

Database systems—also referred to as relational database managers—offer several ways to manipulate that data. Several tables could be joined, data can be indexed for faster retrieval or manipulated in different ways. Explaining databases would take a whole book. In fact, hundreds of books have been written on the subject. For the purpose of our discussion, the important thing to realize is that databases are quite complex pieces of software. Due in part to that complexity, many factors can affect their performance.

As for Oracle, it a proprietary brand of Relational DataBase Management System (RDBMS). It’s been around for ages and, when initially released back in 1979, it was the first SQL-based RDBMS. It never stopped evolving since and its version 19 was just released last August. Nowadays, the RDBMS market is saturated with offerings from multiple vendors. Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2 are probably the most popular alternatives but free and open-source offerings are getting increasingly popular and they often offer comparable features and performance for most use cases.

What Is Oracle Performance Tuning?

Oracle database performance tuning refers to the process of optimizing Oracle performance by streamlining the execution of SQL statements. In a nutshell, performance tuning simplifies the process of accessing and altering the information contained within the database with the intention of improving query response times and, consequently application performance. No matter how complex some textbooks will make it look, it actually boils down to just that. Doing it, however, is the complicated part. Like many things in life, this is easier said than done.

How Does It Work?

Performance tuning considers the many elements in an RDBMS to pinpoint the source of performance problems. Database Administrators (DBAs) are often faced with a difficult task. On one hand, users report experiencing app delays and slow-loading pages, but on the other hand, administrators cannot pinpoint the source of database bottlenecks. Is it an optimizer issue? Is it the actual coding of query statements? Is it an issue with the server?

Performance-tuning administrators should consider the many elements in an Oracle database to troubleshoot any operation lag. Performance tuning can not only be quite time-intensive but, more importantly, it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. An intensive performance tuning process takes a systems-level approach and considers every Oracle component from top to bottom.

As many database experts will know, tuning individual SQL statements one by one will have little effect unless the administrator has first performed system-level tuning on the server, the database instances, and its objects. Assessing input and output (I/O) measures, optimizer parameters and statistics, and instance settings before tuning individual SQL statements is highly recommended. Otherwise, your SQL tuning efforts may be rendered useless later by the optimizer as it determines execution protocol contrary to designed execution plans.

RELATED READING: 6 Best SQL Server Monitoring Tools

The First Step, Analyzing Database Performance

Analyzing database servers’ performance and monitoring their uptime and other operational parameters is one of the most important tasks of network, system, and/or database administrators. It will help keep your database server software running smoothly and efficiently. Done properly—using the appropriate tools—it can prove to be beneficial to not only your server hardware and software but, more importantly, to your end-users’ experience.

Several issues can plague database servers and adversely affect their performance. Among them, here are a few of the most important ones:

Database Size

As the size of a database grows, the server will need more memory and CPU to read and process data from the tables. Increasing the size of an existing table can, for instance, cause a noticeable impact of server performance.

Query Structure

Queries are the commands given to the database to fetch some specific data. The more complex a query is, the bigger its impact on database performance. Identifying the most taxing queries on the database server is crucial to managing servers’ performance. Once the queries that are taking up the most resources are identified, efforts can be put into reducing their load on server cycles and memory usage. Also, finding out which application is causing these expensive queries on your database can help you diagnose the underlying issues behind these queries and fix them quickly and efficiently. Monitoring queries will help you identify which host application is causing issues and potentially help you diagnose other applications issues as well.

Index Fragmentation

Data stored in databases is indexed to make searching the database and retrieving data faster and more efficient. Although Proper indexing will help search and retrieve data faster, when data is modified, deleted or removed, the indexed content gets scattered and the database becomes fragmented which could result in performance degradation.

Hardware Performance

Hardware performance of the server running the database can also have a big impact on database performance. Memory, Cache and paging should be monitored in real-time to ensure your database server software is performing optimally and not experiencing bottlenecks or slowdowns.

The Top Tools for Oracle Database Performance Analysis

Since Oracle database performance analysis is such an important yet complex matter, we’ve scoured the market for some of the best tools available. While each and any of the tools reviewed below is highly recommendable, they are all very different. Take some time to read detailed reviews or take advantage of the available free trials that most of them offer before you finalize your pick of the best tool for your specific needs.

1. SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (FREE TRIAL)

Our first entry is an excellent tool from SolarWinds, the same company that brought us the Network Performance Monitor, regarded by many as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tools. SolarWinds has become a household name among network administrators due mainly to its impressive selection of tools which include some of the best free tools out there.

The SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (or DPA) monitors and analyzes your Oracle database instances to resolve issues. It uses a Response Time Analysis method and focuses on the time between a query requests and the corresponding response from the database and analyzes wait times and events to pinpoint the bottlenecks of databases.

SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer

The tool boasts an easy to use interface that will assist you in finding issues quickly and easily. The main screen will let you view database instances, wait times, query advice, CPU (with warning and critical alerts), memory, disk and sessions.

The Trend dashboard of a specific database instance shows you the total wait times (or, alternatively, your choice of either average or typical day wait times) for the users over the course of a month in a graphical format. Each colour of the graph represents an individual SQL statement, giving you a representation of which statement takes the longest to run.

The SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer is so feature-packed that a whole article could be dedicated to it. Here’s a summary of its most important features.

Database tuning advice

The tool gives you advice for tuning individual database instances and ensure they’re running at their peak performance. It does that by analyzing all parameters of an instance and recommending a course of action to optimize certain queries or whole database instances for peak performance.

Active monitoring of all active sessions

The highly detailed native polling engine records exactly everything that’s happening within your database instances with no additional load to the database themselves.

Tracking, monitoring and analysis of database components

To help pinpoint the root cause of performance issues, the tool automatically correlates queries, users, files, plans, objects, wait times, storage and date/time/hour/minute to accurately discover and diagnose problems on the fly.

Single point of Monitoring for all your Databases

The SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer does not only work with Oracle. It actually supports most major products including Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, DB2, and ASE. It also supports either physical on-premises servers, Virtual Machines (either under Vmware or Hyper-V) and cloud-based databases.

Agentless and Highly Scalable

This product will let you monitor as many database instances as you want. It can easily scale from one to a thousand instances. It also does not require any monitoring or analysis agent to be installed on your servers. There’s no risk, then, that the tool will impact your databases’ performance.

Prices for the SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer start at $1 995 and vary according to the number and type of database instances to monitor. If you’d rather try the product before purchasing it, a fully functional 14-day trial version is available.

14-day free trial: https://www.solarwinds.com/database-performance-analyzer/registration

2. Idera Diagnostic Manager

The Idera Diagnostic Manager offers performance monitoring of Oracle and other databases in both physical and virtual environments. The tool empowers administrators with the ability to see performance statistics, metrics and alerts from physical servers as well as from virtual machines and their underlying host hardware. The monitored metrics include CPU, memory, hard disk usage and space, network usage, and more. The product also provides proactive monitoring of SQL queries along with transnational monitoring and can provide administrators with recommendations for the health of their Oracle databases.

Idera Diagnostic Manager - Central Dashboard

The Idera Diagnostic Manager offers either a web-based interface or mobile apps that are available for both Android and iOS phones and tablets as well as the Blackberry platform. The availability of real-time and historical data about your Oracle server instances lets administrators make changes on the fly right from the mobile app. And although the mobile apps are not quite as feature-packed as the web console is, you can run several administrative tasks from them including viewing and killing processes, starting and stopping jobs as needed, and running queries to help resolve issues.

Other features of this powerful tool include a predictive alerting system which is built to avoid any false alerts and an excellent query performance monitoring function that can pinpoint queries that are not efficient and/or performing poorly. Prices for the Idera Diagnostic Manager start at $1 996 per database instance and a fully functional albeit rather short 14-day trial is available.

3. ManageEngine Applications Manager

While it may not be as well-known as SolarWinds, ManageEngine is another name which enjoys an excellent reputation among network administrators. Don’t let its name mislead you. Although the ManageEngine Application Manager primarily deals with application management, it also includes some powerful Oracle performance monitoring and management features and it is as much a monitoring platform as it is a management tool.

The ManageEngine Applications Manager‘s Oracle database monitor offers multi-dimensional, out-of-the-box Oracle monitoring. It also boasts prompt alerting, and insightful reports. Because of its numerous features, Database Performance Analyzer for oracle by Applications Manager is a powerful Oracle database monitoring tool used by thousands of IT admins. Oracle databases are complex and monitoring is often both challenging and time-consuming. Important parameters can easily slip through the cracks. This tool’s effective Oracle monitoring support makes it easy to track the performance of various facets of Oracle database, especially metrics related to tablespaces, sessions, SGAs, data files, and disk I/O.

ManageEngine Applications Manager Oracle Screenshot

There’s a lot more that can be done with this tool. For instance, you can track application response times with code-level information about your application performance monitoring environment. Its transaction tracing feature will let you detect slow transactions. It will monitor database query executions and track background transactions.

The ManageEngine Application Manager is available in several editions. There’s a feature-limited Free edition as well as a Professional and an Enterprise paid versions. Pricing starts at $945 and details can be obtained by contacting ManageEngine. A free 30-day trial version is also available.

4. eG Enterprise

eG Innovation is a company which specializes in performance monitoring tools. Its flagship product is called eG Enterprise. It is a total performance management solution that provides automated IT monitoring, diagnosis, and reporting to troubleshoot application slowdowns, user experience issues, network outages, virtualization bottlenecks, server failures, storage hot spots, and more.

eG Enterprise uses a combination of agent-based and agentless technologies to monitor the health and performance of your whole IT infrastructure from application code to hardware across any type of environment: physical, virtual, cloud or hybrid. The tool uses a patented performance correlation and root cause diagnosis technology. This simplifies performance troubleshooting and can result in faster problem resolution and increased operational efficiency.

eG Enterprise Screenshot

eG Enterprise includes extensive monitoring capabilities for Oracle databases. A single eG monitoring agent is capable of monitoring all the Oracle database instances being executed on a system. The actual monitoring of the Oracle database instances is performed non-intrusively and administrators have the option of configuring whether the monitoring is to be performed in an agent-based or agentless manner.

eG Enterprise‘s web-based architecture allows for the management and monitoring of distributed Oracle servers from a central manager. Administrators can view and analyze the performance of Oracle database servers in real-time over the web. The tool’s Oracle monitor includes a specialized model for an Oracle database server built to avoid overwhelming the administrator with a ton of performance data. By viewing the layer model of an Oracle database server, an administrator can quickly determine which layer(s) of the database server is causing a problem.

eG Enterprise’s pricing and deployment model is rather complex. The tool is available as a locally installed software either with a perpetual license or on a subscription basis. If you prefer, a cloud-based SaaS option is also available. Prices are not readily available from eG Innovation and you’ll need to request a formal quote from the company. If you can to test the product’s features, a free trial is available from the publisher.

5. Idera Precise Platform

Last on our list is another product from Idera called the Precise Platform. It differs from the Diagnostic Manager reviewed above in that the Precise Platform is designed specifically to keep your Oracle environment available and performing at peak efficiency. The tool captures, measures, and analyzes performance metrics from all critical system components and helps you detect and correct the root causes of problems before end-users are affected. This product provides high-level visibility across multiple Oracle and Oracle RAC instances, providing alerting when problems are detected, offering reports on collected data, and maintaining a warehouse of Oracle database performance information.

Idera Precise Main Window

The Idera Precise Platform continuously analyzes database behaviour to find the poorest performing objects or processes. This can include heavy statements, heavy objects, high I/O, RAC events, storage devices, and more. Historical statistics are stored by instance, by user, and by program to provide the necessary context to see the whole picture. It will quickly analyze SQL statements, database objects, and Oracle instances to uncover specific causes of performance problems. It also presents the Oracle access path in detailed steps and displays the statistics needed to understand each step, letting you isolate problems fast.

The Idera Precise Platform provides DBAs with a library of knowledge and experience designed to help them tune their Oracle environment. It will offer recommendations about SQL statement tuning, database object tuning, index tuning, and index cost. It also automatically identifies problem areas and provides actionable advice on how to address them. Furthermore, DBAs can perform what-if analysis to predict the impact of proposed changes before actually making them, thereby reducing the risk of accidentally making things worse. Finally, this tool makes it easier to align server and storage capacity with the growing needs of your business.

Pricing for the Idera Precise Platform is not readily available and you’ll need to contact the company for a quote adapted to your specific environment. Likewise, a free trial does not seem to be available although a demo session can be arranged, again by contacting the publisher.

Read Oracle Performance Tuning: How to Improve Database Performance by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

7 Best IT Asset Management Software Tools Reviewed

Managing IT assets can be an overwhelming task. This is particularly true if you work in a large organization with hundreds—if not thousands—of devices.

To make our lives easier, a handful of network administration software tool publishers have created either dedicated IT asset management tools or they have integrated such tools into broader, multi-function tools. IT asset management software will be our topic today, and we’re about to review a few of the very best tools for that specific purpose.

IT Asset Management - Best tools

As usual, we’ll start off by discussing IT asset management in greater details. That will help you better appreciate our upcoming reviews. We’ll have a brief look at the various types of tools you can use for IT asset management and finish with the best part: our review of seven of the best IT asset management software tools we could find. We’ll briefly describe each too and explore their main features.

About IT Asset Management

When discussing IT asset management, the first thing we need to do is clearly establish what it is. At first glance, it may look pretty simple. After all, IT asset management is simply the process of keeping a list of every IT asset an organization owns, right? And by IT assets, we are referring to servers, desktop computers, routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, pretty much anything that connects to the network. But there is more to it and this s where it can get more complicated. Along with the list of assets, the idea behind IT asset management is to keep as much information as possible about these assets.

What information we keep is where the concept gets fuzzy. Obviously, we want to keep as much information as possible. This includes the musts such as the device’s brand, model, and serial number but it can also include advanced details such as a server’s internal configuration (amount of RAM, hard disk layout, interface cards, etc). It could also include information such as the equipment’s location and, in the case of a personal computer, who it is assigned to. Device configuration is another item that is commonly part of IT asset management. Also important but specific to computers such as servers, desktops, and laptops is an account of what software is installed on each equipment. Larger organizations where it is often easy to lose track of software licenses will truly appreciate such a functionality.

No matter what reasons you may have to put IT asset management processes in place—and there could be many of them—the most basic reason is often simply that it is such a good practice. And if your organization chooses to follow ITIL best practices, then it’s no longer just good practice; it becomes mandatory. IT asset management could also be mandated by various regulatory frameworks or by local laws.

RELATED READING: The 5 Best IT Help Desk Software

Tools For IT Asset Management

IT asset management doesn’t have to be very complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as keeping a list of assets in a spreadsheet. However, automated IT asset management tools can make the task much easier. These tools will typically provide some kind of store—typically a database—where to preserve information about assets but many of them can do much more. One particularly useful feature of the best of these systems is the automated or semi-automated collection of inventory data. For instance, some systems will automatically discover devices and add them to their database. These systems will often connect to the devices to fetch detailed information about them. They can, for example, scan computers for installed software. Using these tools—especially those with more automation—make it much easier to perform adequate IT asset management.

The Best IT Asset Management Software Tools

Now that we are all on the same page about IT asset management, it is time to have a look at a few of the best tools for IT asset management. There are tools on our list are that are not dedicated IT asset management tools, but they do, however, include IT asset management as part of their feature set along with their primary function. The main benefit of such integrated multi-purpose tools is that they could end up being cheaper than purchasing several individual tools to obtain the same functionality.

1. SolarWinds Server And Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds is the publisher of some of the very best network and system administration tools. The company has built a solid reputation for providing excellent network and systems management tools. Its flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor, is considered by many to be the best SNMP network monitoring tool. But it gets better. SolarWinds also makes an array of free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrator. The Advanced Subnet Calculator and the SolarWinds TFTP server are two examples of these free tools.

As for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor, this tool was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications that are running on them. It can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The tool can also monitor cloud-hosted services like those from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

Since it is on that list, you’ll have certainly figured out that the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor has an IT asset management module which automatically collects and maintains IT asset details, including system updates, server warranty information, hosted virtual machine details, removable media, processors, USB ports, memory, network interfaces, operating system and firmware updates, and software information, such as publisher, version, and installation dates. The tool can also quickly and accurately report on asset inventory with charts and tables. Its built-in reports show current asset usage along with the model number, last update dates, names of admins who installed the updates, total resources used, unused hardware, etc. You can even select a specific server and generate reports on all the software and hardware resources that are associated with it.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 and vary based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

30-day free trial: https://www.solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor/registration

2. SolarWinds Web Help Desk (FREE TRIAL)

Despite its diminutive name, the SolarWinds Web Help Desk is advertised as an affordable help desk ticketing and IT asset management software. Don’t let its name fool you once more, though. This is not a cloud-hosted system. The web part of the product’s name refers to the fact that you don’t need any client software to access it and users of the system need nothing more than a browser to gain full access to the system’s features.

SolarWinds Web Help Desk

As an IT asset management tool, the SolarWinds Web Help Desk enables you to automatically discover your software and hardware assets and manage asset assignments, history, and associated service requests. All this can be done from the tool’s easy to use web-based console. Each inventoried asset is uniquely identified by an asset ID which can consist of an auto-incremented number, a bar code, or any text string. And when using bar codes, you can search for assets using a bar code reader.

The SolarWinds Web Help Desk also has excellent change management features. Change requests with automated approval workflows can be created with the tool. SLA management is just as good with timed notifications. It also integrates with Active Directory and LDAP as well as third-party asset management systems. Another feature that is quite useful is the automated conversion of emails to tickets which allows you to set up a help desk mailbox where any received email is automatically converted into a ticket.

Reporting and follow-ups are also some important features of this excellent software. Its built-in reports and dashboards let you track ticket status, technician performance, and customer support needs. There are also automated feedback surveys that you can have users complete upon ticket resolution, allowing you to remain on top of customer satisfaction and help desk performance.

The SolarWinds Web Help Desk is priced based on the number of help desk technicians you have. Prices start at $700 per technician, regardless of the number of end users. A free 14-day trial can be downloaded from SolarWinds and for more information, a guided tour and a live demo are also available.

14-day free trial: https://www.solarwinds.com/help-desk-software/registration

3. ManageEngine AssetExplorer

While it may not be as well-known as SolarWinds, ManageEngine is another top maker of network administration tools. The ManageEngine AssetExplorer is a web-based IT asset management tool that can help you monitor and manage assets in your network. It covers all phases of a device life cycle from planning phase to disposal. This tool provides you with a number of ways to ensure the complete discovery of all assets in your network. You can use the tool to manage software & hardware assets, ensure software license compliance and track purchase orders & contracts. The tool is very easy to install and works right out of the box.

ManageEngine AssetExplorer Screenshot

The ManageEngine AssetExplorer can scan and audit all workstations connected over LAN, WAN and VPN across your enterprise. It gives you detailed ownership and assignment information about each asset along with hardware and software inventory information. It will help you get a clear picture of who owns or uses what. It also helps to maintain up-to-date information about each of your assets by periodically re-scanning the software, hardware and other ownership information. The tool can track and manage any workstation or network device on your network such as Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris, and AIX machines, printers, routers, switches etc.

The ManageEngine AssetManager is available in a free edition which is limited to 25 assets. There is also a professional edition which is available in several licensing tiers from 250 to 10 000 assets at prices varying from $995 to $11 995. You can also get a free, fully functional 30-day evaluation version that is limited to 250 assets.

4. Spiceworks Inventory Management

Regardless of whether you need to monitor critical devices, troubleshoot issues, rescue users, or manage your IT assets, Spiceworks seems to always have the right tool. Best of all, these tools are free. This is a community-based effort. The Spiceworks Inventory Management tool features automatic scanning, customizable alerts, software and hardware tracking, and much more, and it has been designed from scratch to integrate with other Spiceworks products. The tool is easy to use, and quick. It takes just a few minutes the finish the initial scan, thanks to pre-configured templates and out-of-the-box support for most networking devices. The software is available as either a cloud-based service or an on-premise installation.

Spiceworks IT Inventory Management

The Spiceworks Inventory Management tool can manage all your IT assets, all in one place. It will automatically discover detailed device information, stay ahead of potential device problems, and be ready for budget and audit talks about your devices. This tool can also automatically update all your software. It will also detect unwanted or troublesome software on your Windows and Mac workstations and servers and allows you to detect and inventory cloud services and generate reports.

Reporting is another strength of the Spiceworks Inventory Management tool. Whether you want data that’s easy to export or an easy-to-use reporting interface with built-in reports that you can schedule, you can quickly generate sleek, custom reports on all your network assets. Another feature we loved about this product is how you can schedule your inventory scans when you want them with the on-premise automated scanner. You can set the time and/or frequency you need to make sure everything is up-to-date while not slowing down your network at inopportune times.

5. Lansweeper

Lansweeper’s tag line says a lot about the product: “IT Asset Management Software That Finds & Manages All Assets Across Your Enterprise” The product is an agent-free network inventory software which boasts over 300 default network reports, integrated help desk, and the capability to scale to thousands of network assets.

Lansweeper Scanned assets overview

The Lansweeper Deepscan engine can easily discover all assets in your network. All you need is simply to point it in the right direction and the tool will take it from there. And with over 15 years of development, there isn’t an environment or an asset that this tool won’t handle. There are also some great advanced features to this tool such as automated software deployment, SNMP network management, active directory management, and license compliance monitoring.

Lansweeper will provide an unparalleled depth of information. As your single source of truthful information on hardware, software, and users, you can rely on a complete and up-to-date overview to lead and support all network-related tasks, projects, and decisions. The product’s pricing is based on the number of managed assets and it is free for up to 100 of them. To manage more assets, you need a yearly subscription. The annual subscription prices start $495 for up to 500 assets and go up to $4 495 for up to 5 000 assets. Larger, custom-sized licenses are also available by contacting Lansweeper.

6. Network Inventory Advisor

The Network Inventory Advisor is a dedicated network inventory software tool as you certainly have guessed from its name. The tool is said to be a good fit for any size of an organization, from small businesses to large enterprises. Its core feature is its ability to gather information about all hardware and software assets on a network.

The information that Network Inventory Advisor can collect includes software titles and executable file names, software versions, licenses, and hardware details. This makes it an indispensable tool when preparing for an audit. One of the tool’s best feature is its ability to collect licensing information for more than 500 independent software vendors, including big names such as Microsoft, Adobe or Autodesk.

Network Inventory Advisor Dashboard

The Network Inventory Advisor features the agentless scanning of Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers as well as SNMP-enabled network devices. Thanks to the option to create multiple network groups, it’s possible to gather scan data from multiple networks with just one installation of the software. Furthermore, you can also configure this tool to send alerts if and when it detects a change on the network.

Price-wise the Network Inventory Advisor is available in no less than eight licensing tiers for 25, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 nodes plus an unlimited node tier at prices varying from $89 dollars for the 25-node version to $989 for the unlimited one. A small additional fee will provide you with lifetime product updates. For testing purposes, the 25-node version can be used for free for 15 days.

7. Open-AudIT

Open-AudIT claims that it is able to tell you exactly what is on your network, how it is configured and when it changes. The tool, which will run on both Windows and Linux systems, is essentially a database of information, that can be queried via a web interface. Data about the network is inserted via a Bash Script (for Linux hosts) or VBScript (for Windows machines). The entire application is written in PHP, bash and VBScript. It is an open-sourced product so making changes and customizing the product to better fit your needs is both quick and easy

Open-AudIT Enterprise - List Groups

Open-AudIT is available in three editions with increasing feature sets: Community, Professional, and Enterprise. The Community edition is free and, as the name suggests, maintained by the community. The Professional edition includes additional modules that improve discovery, simplify administration and increase reporting ability. Its price varies from $249 for up to 100 nodes to $2 500 for 3 000 nodes. The Enterprise version adds even more functionality. Detailed pricing is available by contacting Opmantek, the maker of Open-AudIT.

Read 7 Best IT Asset Management Software Tools Reviewed by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

5 Best Remote Support Software for 2019

For many organizations, the ability to offer remote support is not an option. This is true, of course of large distributed businesses but also of managed service providers, those companies that take over the management of multiple components of their clients’ IT infrastructure.

While the base of remote support software tools is definitely remote desktop control, several additional functionalities are often included. This is where evaluating the different products can become challenging and this is why we’re doing this post about the best remote support software.

Best Remote Support Software

We’ll begin our exploration by having a thorough look at remote support, what it is and how it can help. We’ll then dig a bit deeper and discuss the various components you should be looking for when evaluating various products. Although products vary widely in their respective feature set, some features are a must-have and will be present in most of them. And finally, we’ll get to the core of the matter and review some of the very best remote support tools you can find.

About Remote Support

Remote support is a simple concept. It has to do with supervising and controlling IT systems (such as network devices, desktops computers, servers and mobile devices) by means of locally installed agents that can be remotely accessed. Remote support provides Managed Service Providers with the ability to install new or updated software remotely (including patches, updates and configuration changes), to detect new devices and automatically install the appropriate agent and configure them, to observe the behavior of the managed devices and software for performance and diagnostic tasks, and to perform alerting and provide reports and dashboards.

This is a highly specialized type of software created to address a highly specific need. Although remote support tools are often created with Managed Service Providers in mind, some large organizations use them as well. It makes sense as there are not many functional differences between a Managed Service Provider offering services to several small and medium businesses and a large corporation offering service to several small- or medium-sized branches or units. We’ll keep this dual clientele in mind as we review the different tools. For now,

Common Features Of Remote Support Tools

Remote support tools vary greatly in their feature set. There are, however, some characteristics are present in each one of them. They are the must-haves and they are, therefore, the features you should be looking for—and comparing—when selecting a tool. In the next paragraphs, we’ll introduce these characteristics, tell you why they are important, and explain, when needed, how they can be compared.

Ease of Deployment

Although your chosen remote support solution will most likely become your eyes and hands in the environment of your clients, before that happens, you’ll need to deploy the solution. Many remote support solutions are cloud-based so you’d think that you don’t have any software to install. Or do you? These tools often require that you install client apps—called agents—on the computers and servers that you will be monitoring and managing. These agents handle most of the job and take care of tracking, monitoring and allowing you to perform the needed management tasks.

Auto-discovery combined with “push-installation” features should be preferred. With these two, you can simply select a newly discovered system in the management console and begin the remote installation of its remote support agent. Otherwise, you will have to deploy a client installation file using some third-party tool such as Windows Active Directory GPO, scripts, PSA tools, etc. Big MSPs can manage thousands of devices so not having to manually install an agent on each one is more than welcome.

RELATED READING: Best Agentless Infrastructure Monitoring Tools

Remote Desktop Access

When you manage computers located miles away from you and there are issues with them, accessing them in person is rarely an option. This is why one of the most important modules of each and every remote support solution is certainly a remote desktop application. And even if the defective device is located nearby, it could be in some sort of hostile environment—such as a very cold server room—where it is more agreeable to use remote access.

Remote desktop applications let you easily connect to remote systems and perform any necessary action as though you were sitting at its keyboard and monitor. This is far better than giving instructions to someone over the phone, never certain that they are carried out correctly and that you’re getting proper feedback as to what appears on the screen.

Remote desktop systems typically use lightweight technologies to carry only the bare minimum amount of data over the network. They typically only send keystrokes from the local keyboard to the remote system and screen updates the other way around. Sending only screen updates rather the whole screen at every frame (30 times per second) greatly reduces the amount of transmitted data.

ALSO READ: Best IP Scanners for Mac

Dashboard Functionality

It seems like everyone in the network monitoring field is designing their products with “single pane of glass” dashboards. More than just a fad, it is a way of putting as much relevant information on the screen as possible. Rather than manually checking the status of multiple remote systems, you can take a glance at your dashboard and typically see the status of new systems, systems that require actions, the lists of last issues found, etc.

One needs, however, to remain careful when reviewing the actual function of the dashboard of a potential remote support solution. Sometimes, too much information is not any better than not enough. You and your team will spend a lot of time working with the dashboard. It should be adapted—or adaptable—to your needs and your environment. Fortunately, the best tools come with highly customizable dashboards. Some will even let you built different dashboards for different team members.

Alerting And Reporting

No matter how good and uncluttered a dashboard your tool may provide, you possibly have better things to do than sit in front of it and watch it. This is why alerting is often an important component of remote support tools. It is also an area where there are many differences between various products. The simplest ones will simply send out an email whenever something odd is detected. Better systems will have automatic escalation features or even the ability to automatically run remediation scripts.

Reporting a rather important albeit often overlooked element of remote support software. Using your tool’s reports, clients can check their system’s health and whether the service level you provide meets the contracted SLAs. But different clients will often have different reporting requirements. This is why customizable reports are important. You need to be able to build reports containing the information your clients need.

Integration With Other Tools

If your organization is using a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool, you might want to select a remote support tool which can integrate with your PSA. In fact, the deeper this integration the better. For example, wouldn’t it be nice if your chosen remote support tool automatically created trouble tickets in the PSA tool whenever an issue is discovered? It could also create PSA tasks when it finds that some maintenance activity is required.

The level of automation provided by this type of integration can save you and your team a lot of time. Furthermore, it lets you proactively solve issues prior to the customer’s report and it helps to meet your SLA for common issues. You might need to spend some time configuring the integration but doing it will most certainly pay off rather quickly.

MUST READ: Top 10 Intrusion Detection Tools

The Best Remote Support Software Tools

We’ve scoured the market looking for remote support software tools. We’ve found quite a few interesting tools; too many to mention them all in this post, actually. So, we’ve picked the best ones we could find and here’s a brief review of each one.

1. SolarWinds Remote Monitoring And Management (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds is a well-known name with network and system administrators. The company has been making great tools for them for about twenty years. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, is recognized as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tools. The SolarWinds MSP division—created by merging activities from SolarWinds, N-able, and LOGICnow—specializes in building tools for Managed Service Providers. One of its product is a very complete Remote Monitoring and Management tool aptly named SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management or RMM.

The primary purpose of this tool is to let you support and manage your clients’ assets on remote sites, either via direct contact or through automated procedures. Patch management and antivirus update coordination are two strong features of this tool. Furthermore, the Risk Intelligence module greatly improves the security features of the tool, which include malware protection as well as website protection. The system also protects against the possibility of infected websites being used as an entry point to the network.

SolarWinds RMM - Network Discovery

SolarWinds RMM is also an excellent monitoring tool which covers a wide range of devices, both physical and virtual. The tool enables administrators to keep track of system status on client sites from one console. Several built-in reports help you monitor the performance of your staff as well as the condition client’s sites. One of this product’s greatest assets is the simplicity of its interface as it enables support staff to get to the most frequently-used tools quickly.

If you want more info read our full review.

This product is so rich with features that describing them all would require a whole post. To give you an idea of all that’s available, here’s a list many of the product’s features:

  • Remote Monitoring
  • Network Device Monitoring
  • Remote Access
  • Active Network Discovery
  • Automation And Scripting
  • Patch Management
  • Reports
  • Mobile Applications
  • Backup And Recovery
  • Managed Antivirus
  • Web Protection
  • Service Desk
  • Risk Intelligence
  • Mobile Device Management

Pricing for SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management is not readily available but can be obtained by requesting a quote SolarWinds MSP. The good thing about this is that you’ll get a price that exactly matches your specific needs. If you want to give the tool a try and see for yourself what it can do for you, a free 30-day trial is available.

FREE TRIAL LINK: https://www.solarwinds.com/remote-support-software/registration

2. Dameware Remote Support From SolarWinds (FREE TRIAL)

Our next tool is also from SolarWinds. At its base, Dameware Remote Support is a remote control tool but it comes loaded with extended functionality for all sorts of systems management tasks, all in one easy-to-use package. The tool allows administrators and help desk attendants to remotely troubleshoot Windows computers or servers without even having to start remote control sessions. Using the built-in system tools and remote administration capabilities of this powerful tool, you can remotely reboot systems, start/stop services and processes, copy/delete files, view and clear event logs, and more. It is also a remote administration tool that helps you remotely manage multiple AD domains, groups, and users. You can use it to remotely unlock user accounts, reset passwords, and edit Group Policies from a single management console.

Dameware Remote Support Screenshot

Dameware Remote Support also provides remote access to several system tools and TCP utilities such as ping, tracert, DNS lookup, FTP, and telnet. This tool also features a built-in exporter tool to help easily export AD properties, software information, and system configurations from remote computers in easy-to-use .csv or .xml formats.

The Dameware Remote Support is priced per technician and varies between $295 and $370 depending on the number of licenses purchased. The license allows for an unlimited number of managed devices and it includes one year of support. Should you want to give the product a test run, a 14-day trial version is available.

FREE TRIAL LINK: https://www.solarwinds.com/remote-support-software/registration

3. Datto RMM

Datto RMM, formerly known as Autotask Endpoint Management is a well-integrated remote monitoring and management platform. It claims to be “The easiest, cloud-based Remote Monitoring and Management platform for managed service providers who are looking to scale and improve service delivery operations”. The tool features comprehensive auditing to get complete visibility of every device and pinpoint areas for action. It also features patch management to automatically maintain every device with flexible, native OS and application patch update policies.

Datto RMM WebPortal

Real-time monitoring is another important feature of Datto RMM. The feature allows you to implement system-wide monitoring with intelligent alerting, auto-response, and auto-resolution. A remote support and management tool wouldn’t be complete without remote control and this product can provide instant support with one-click access to any of your managed devices. And last but not least, the tool’s flexible reporting features can help you prove the value of your service as well as help your customers make informed decisions with a wide array of fully configurable reports.

Pricing information is not readily available from Datto’s website. A free trial is mentioned but clicking the free trial link seems to take to a page where you can register for a demo.

4. Comodo One

Comodo One is a mostly free remote support, management, and monitoring platform with paid security modules. The system can monitor LANs, Cloud-based services, and hybrid systems. It is also particularly strong at protecting web applications. The key element of Comodo One is the Comodo Remote Monitoring and Management (CRMM). This module offers endpoint access, remote desktop sharing, and professional services automation (PSA) which includes ticketing, task allocation, policy enforcement, and logging. As such, it can be viewed as a combined RMM and PSA platform.

Comodo One Screenshot

The tool’s central console communicates with an agent module which needs to be installed on each remote endpoint. The agent software can be installed remotely. Once a monitored site is connected through its gateway, the network monitor built into the package automatically seeks out and logs all of the assets on that network. The Comodo One system monitors networks, servers, and application performance as well as risks to the network, with 18 different tests to detect security flaws. Once the RMM connection is established, you have the option of adding other Comodo services, such as edge security for web servers. The console also gives access to a task manager for support staff and a patch manager for the systems administrator.

The Comodo One RMM service is cloud-based, but it can monitor on-premises assets that run on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. The service can also include mobile device management and software distribution. If a free RMM from a reputable source like Comodo seems too good to be true, just remember that you will have to pay for some modules in order to assemble a complete MSP system.

5. Kaseya VSA

Our last entry is a remote support platform which excels at task automation called Kaseya VSA. The tool incorporates a remote control module, called Live Connect, allowing you to implement bulk updates as well as remotely connect to and administer any end device. The tool also provides automated network monitoring with built-in alerts, patch management, and service auditing, making it a very complete remote monitoring and management solution.

Kaseya VSA - Live Connect Screenshot

Feature-wise, Kaseya VSA has everything you’d expect. It has remote control, patch and vulnerability monitoring, audit and inventory, network monitoring, virus protection, unified backups and compliance management. The built-in AssetIQ is a contextual documentation management system made to ease the task of managed service providers. It can, for example, be structured as a script for Help Desk agents to work through an incident and eventually direct problems to back-office staff.

Kaseya VSA will cover most, if not all, of your remote support requirements. Pricing for the product can be obtained directly from Kaseya, and both a demo and a 14-day free trial are available so you can see for yourself what the product has to offer.

Read 5 Best Remote Support Software for 2019 by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

The Best Network Troubleshooting Tools and Software

If you’re a network administrator, chances are one of the phrases you’ve heard the most is “the network is slow”. No matter what, it seems like everyone is always quick to blame the network whenever something doesn’t work as efficiently as expected.

There’s a simple reason for that: The network is often to blame. Modern networks are rather complex and there are so many places where things can go wrong. So, when someone complains of poor network performance, what you need are the proper troubleshooting tools to help you pinpoint exactly where the issue lies, what it is, and how to fix it. And if it turns out the problem has nothing to do with the network, those same tools can help you demonstrate it, which is often mandatory to get other teams to even acknowledge the problem.

The Best Network Troubleshooting Tools and Software

However, with so many network troubleshooting tools to choose from, picking the right one for the job can be a challenge. We hope this post can help as we’re about to have a look at some of the very best network troubleshooting tools.

The Top Network Troubleshooting Tools

Let’s dive right into the details of the actual tools. Our list includes both GUI-based and command-line tools. It also has a good mix of local and web-based tool. Some of the tools have a single, very precise purpose while others are complete toolkits. They all have one thing in common: they can help network administrators do a better job. For each tool on our list, we’ll describe its primary features and how it can be used. Let’s go!

1. SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset (FREE TRIAL)

First on our list is an excellent toolkit from SolarWinds simply called the Engineer’s Toolset. SolarWinds, in case you don’t already know, is one of the major players in the field of network administration tool. Their flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor is considered by many as the reference when it comes to SNMP network monitoring tools. The company is also well-known for its many free tools, each addressing a specific task. These free tools include the Network Device Monitor and Traceroute NG are two great examples of those free tools.

As its name implies, the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset is a set of tools. Over sixty of them, to be precise. You can use the included tools to continuously monitor servers, routers, workstations, or other devices to show response time in real-time and display response rates in graphical charts. The toolset, for example, includes a “Simple Ping” tool which is an alternative to the ping that comes with your operating system and can be used to measure a host’s response time and packet loss.

SolarWinds Engineer's Toolset Enhanced Ping Tool

But Ping is definitely not the only tool bundled with this impressive pack, and although some of the 60+ tools that you’ll find in the Engineer’s Toolset are free tools that are also available individually, most are exclusive tools which can’t be obtained any other way. The toolset has a centralized dashboard which allows you to easily access any of the included tools. Among the different tools you’ll find, some can be used to perform network diagnostics and help resolve complex network issues quickly. Security-conscious network administrators will appreciate these other tools that can be used to simulate attacks on your network and help identify vulnerabilities.

SolarWinds Engineer's Toolset - Home Screen

The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset also includes a few more monitoring and alerting tools such as one which will monitor your devices and raise alerts when it detects availability or health issues. This will often give you enough time to react before users even notice the problem. To complete an already feature-rich suite of tools, configuration management and log consolidation tools are also included.

Describing in minute details every included tool would make for a very long—and possibly quite boring—post. Instead, here’s a list of some of the best tools you’ll find in the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset.

  • Port Scanner
  • Switch Port Mapper
  • SNMP sweep
  • IP Network Browser
  • MAC Address Discovery
  • Ping Sweep
  • Response Time Monitor
  • CPU Monitor
  • Interface Monitor
  • TraceRoute
  • Router Password Decryption
  • SNMP Brute Force Attack
  • SNMP Dictionary Attack
  • Config Compare, Downloader, Uploader, and Editor
  • SNMP trap editor and SNMP trap receiver
  • Subnet Calculator
  • DHCP Scope Monitor
  • IP Address Management
  • WAN Killer

The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset sells for only $1495 per administrator seat. If you consider that it includes over 60 different tools, this is a very reasonable price. A free 14-day trial is available from SolarWinds so your best bet is likely to go to the SolarWinds website, download the trial and see for yourself all it can do for you.

2. Wireshark

Wireshark, which was previously known as Ethereal, has been around for 20 years. If not the best, it is certainly the most popular network sniffing tool. Whenever a need for packet analysis arises, this is often the go-to tool of most administrators. Before Wireshark, the market had essentially one GUI-based packet sniffer which was aptly called Sniffer. It was an excellent product that suffered from one major drawback, its price. Back in the late 90’s the product was about $1500 which was more than many could afford. This prompted the development of Ethereal as a free and open-source packet sniffer by a UMKC graduate named Gerald Combs who is still the primary maintainer of Wireshark twenty years later.

Wireshark Screenshor

Today, Wireshark has become THE reference in packet sniffers. It is the de-facto standard and most other tools try to imitate it. Wireshark does mainly two things. First and foremost, the tool captures all traffic it sees on its interface. However, it doesn’t stop there. The product,s real strength is in its powerful analysis capabilities. They are actually so good that it’s not uncommon for users who use other tools for packet capture to run the analysis of the captured data using Wireshark. In fact, this is so common that, upon startup, you’re prompted to either open an existing capture file—potentially created with another tool—or start capturing traffic. Another strength of Wireshark is the filters it incorporates which let you zero in on exactly the data you’re interested in.

While Wireshark has a steep learning curve, it is well-worth learning at it will prove time and again to be an invaluable tool for many network troubleshooting tasks. It is definitely something that should be part of every network administrator’s toolset. And given its price—it’s free—there is no reason why not to use it.

3. Tcpdump/Windump

Before there were GUI-based capture and analysis tools, there was tcpdump. It was created back in 1987, over ten years before Wireshark and even before Sniffer. And although the tool has been constantly maintained and improved since its initial release, it still remains essentially unchanged and the way it is used has also not changed much through its evolution. It is available for installation on virtually every Unix-like operating system and has become the de-facto standard for a quick tool to capture packets. Tcpdump uses the libpcap library for the actual packet capture.

Tcpdump screenshot

The default operation of tcpdump is relatively simple. It captures all traffic on the specified interface and “dumps” it—hence its name—on the screen. You can pipe the output to a capture file to be analyzed later using the analysis tool of your choice. In fact, it’s not uncommon for users to capture traffic with tcpdump for later analysis in Wireshark. One of the keys to tcpdump’s strength and usefulness is the possibility to apply filters and/or to pipe its output to grep—another common command-line utility—for further filtering. Anyone mastering tcpdump, grep and the command shell can get it to capture precisely the right traffic for any debugging task.

As for Windump, it is a port of tcpdump to the Windows platform. As such, it behaves in much the same way. What this means is that it brings much of the tcpdump functionality to Windows-based computers. While Windump may be a Windows application, don’t expect a fancy GUI. This is nothing more than tcpdump on Windows and as such, it is a command-line only utility.

Using Windump is basically the same as using its *nix counterpart. The command-line options are just about the same and the results also look almost identical. And just like tcpdump, the output from Windump can be saved to a file for later analysis with a third-party tool such as Wireshark. However, with grep not usually available on Windows computers, the filtering abilities of the tool are more limited although still impressive.

Another important difference between tcpdump and Windump is that it is readily available from the operating system’s package repository. You’ll have to download the software from the Windump website. It is delivered as an executable file that requires no installation, making it an ideal portable tool which could be launched from a USB key. However, just like tcpdump uses the libpcap library, Windump uses the Winpcap library which needs to be separately downloaded and installed.

4. Ping

Although it comes fourth on our list, ping is likely the best-known and most-used troubleshooting tool. It came to life back in 1983 when a developer who was seeing an abnormal network behaviour couldn’t find the right debugging tool. He then decided to create one, calling his tool ping which, by the way, refers to the sound of sonar echoes as heard from inside a submarine. Nowadays, the common utility is available on virtually every operating system with IP networking and although individual implementations vary slightly in their available options, they all serve the same basic purpose.

Differences between various ping implementations are mostly related to the available command-line options which can include specifying the size of each request’s payload, the total test count, the network hop limit of the delay between requests.

Here’s a sample run of the ping command:

Ping Sample Run

Ping is a clever and powerful yet simple utility. It works by sending a series of ICMP echo request packets to the specified target and waiting for it to send back ICMP echo replies. The process is repeated a certain number of times (by default, 5 times under windows and until it is stopped under most Unix/Linux implementations.), allowing the tool to compile statistics. Ping measures the time between the request and the reply and displays it in its results. On Unix variants, it will also display the value of the reply’s TTL field, indicating the number of hops between the source and the destination. In fact, what is displayed in the command response if another place where various implementations differ.

Ping operates under the assumption that the target host follows RFC 1122 which prescribes that any host must process ICMP echo requests and issue echo replies in return. Although most hosts do, some disable that functionality for security reasons. Firewalls will also often block ICMP traffic altogether, preventing ping from doing its job. Ping accomplishes two important diagnostic tasks: it validates that there is communication between the test device and the target and it validates that the target is responding.

5. Traceroute/Tracert

Traceroute—or tracert if you’re coming from the Windows world—is, along with ping and a few others, one of the most basic network troubleshooting tools. As its name suggests, traceroute can trace the route from one network-attached device to another. It’s a pretty useful tool that will not only test the connectivity to a host—as ping does—but it will also reveal a lot about the path to get there and issues that may be plaguing it. In a nutshell, traceroute will return the IP address of every router encountered between the source device and the target device but it will also report on the response time of each of these routers.

Tracert Sample Run

Traceroute is another old tool which dates back to 1987. This is over 30 years ago; an eternity in computer years. It is also a very common tool. First introduced on the Unix operating system, it is now present on every Unix-like OS including Linux and Mac OS X. It even eventually got ported to the Windows platform where it was renamed to tracert, possibly due to the eight character filename limitation that once plagued Microsoft’s operating systems.

Traceroute is definitely a tool that every network administrator should understand and use. It is not perfect, though and it has a few pitfalls that one needs to be aware of. For example, a path could be asymmetrical with traffic to the target taking a different route than traffic back from it, something that traceroute wouldn’t see and that could be the cause of many hard-to-troubleshoot issues.

6. Ipconfig/Ifconfig

Although ipconfig and ifconfig are two widely different tools, we’ve elected to discuss them together as, in a network troubleshooting context, both serve a similar purpose.

Ipconfig is a command-line tool that is built into the Windows operating system. It is used to display information about the IP protocol stack of the local computer. Various switches or command-line options let one display more or less details. By default, it displays the IP address, subnet mask and default gateway associated with each network interface installed on a computer. Adding the /all option will display considerably more information. It will, for instance, display the MAC address of each interface. It will also indicate if the IP address and configuration was done manually or through DHCP. And in the case of DHCP, it will tell you the details about the DHCP server and lease.

Ipconfig Sample Run

But ipconfig has another utility beyond providing information about the local machine. Some of its command-line switches give you control over certain aspects of the IP stack. For instance, DHCP leases can be modified by using the commands ipconfig /release and ipconfig /renew. Another example is the ipconfig /flushdns command which can be used to clear the DNS name resolution cache.

As for ifconfig, it is a system administration utility on Unix-like operating systems. It is used to configure, control, and query TCP/IP network interface parameters from a command line interface. Its parameters and options are different from those of ipconfig but, overall, it can be used in a similar context to verify the parameters of a suspicious network interface.

7. Netstat

On a typical computer, you can have dozens of active network connections at any given time, making it much harder to troubleshoot connectivity issue. This is precisely why netstat was created. The tool can be used to help identify the status of each connection and which service is using each one, potentially helping to narrow down your search. Netstat, which is available on most—if not all—operating systems, can quickly provide details about client services and TCP/IP communications.

Netstat Help Screen

Launching netstat from a command prompt displays all active connections on the local computer, both incoming an outgoing. Actually, it won’t just list active connections, it will also list idle ones. Furthermore, netstat can also display listening ports on the computer where it’s run. Netstat is a command that accepts many options, giving you more control over what information is returned. This can lead to some confusion as the available options differ between platforms. For instance, netstat -b on Windows would display the name of the executable associated with each connection whereas on OS X or BSD, it is used in conjunction with -i to display statistics in bytes. The best way to learn about all the available parameter of your specific version on Netstat is to run it with the -? option, displaying the tool’s help screen.

8. Nslookup/dig

Nslookup and dig—we’ll see in a minute how they differ and how they are similar—are tools used to verify/test/validate DNS resolution. The Domain Name Service, or DNS, is a network service used by computers to resolve hostnames—such as www.microsoft.com, which is easier to use for us Humans—to IP addresses—such as 23.50.228.154, which is easier for a computer. Incorrect DNS resolution—where a DNS server will return an erroneous IP address or fails to respond in a timely manner—is a common problem despite being often overlooked.

Nslookup Sample Run

The nslookup command is usually followed by a hostname and it will normally return the corresponding IP address. There is one major drawback with this tool. Although it does, by default, interrogate the locally configured DNS server, it uses its own name resolution routines rather than calling the operating system’s name resolution libraries. Consequently, nslookup could return the correct information even in a situation where the computer’s name resolution doesn’t work.

Dig, a similar tool, was created in part to address this issue. Although it uses a very different syntax—especially when using advanced options, dig serves essentially the same purpose as nslookup but uses the operating system’s libraries. And since nothing is perfect, dig’s primary drawback is that it’s not included in most operating systems. It does come bundled with Bind—the ISC DNS server software—which can be downloaded from the ISC’s website.

In Conclusion

No matter what your exact troubleshooting need is, there are plenty of tools available to assist you. We’ve just given you a few examples of the most common ones. The tools outlined herein for what should be the basis of any network administrator’s toolkit. Most of the are available at no charge and your only investment is to learn how to use them. As for the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset,  the only paid tool on our list, it is well-worth its reasonable price. And since a free trial is available, there’s absolutely no reason not to give it a try and see how useful it is.

Read The Best Network Troubleshooting Tools and Software by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter