SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor – Review 2019

We’re living in an era of big data. Consequently, organizations rely on data storage more than ever. Storage environment management and monitoring have, therefore, become an important part of many system administrators jobs. Fortunately, tools exist to make this an easy task. One such tool is the SolarWinds Storage Resource Manager and we’re about to give you an in-depth review of this full-featured product. No matter why you need a storage monitoring tool (to ensure flawless operation or to avoid running into capacity issues) this great product is almost certain to have something you need.

Before we have a look at the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor, we’ll briefly discuss storage resource monitoring in general. We’ll then briefly pause to explain what the SAN and NAS acronyms mean. The difference is subtle but important. After that, we’ll talk about some of the components typically found in storage monitoring tools. Once we’re all on the same page, we’ll have a detailed look at the product. We’ll present some of the tool’s main features and benefits. Next, we’ll talk about the Orion Platform, the foundation on which the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor rests before we discuss the tool’s requirements and pricing

About Storage Resource Monitoring

Storage monitoring mainly serves two purposes. On one hand, it is used to ensure that your storage environment is running smoothly, that all required volumes are available and that all storage resources are performing within their expected range. On the other hand, another typical use for storage monitoring is capacity planning. We all know that 1) storage is not an infinite resource and 2) one will eventually run out of it. Capacity planning is the act—or should I say art—of making sure we never run out of space.

Monitoring storage for availability is relatively simple. Once a tool is aware of where the storage resources are located and how to access them, it is a trivial task to periodically pool them for availability. Monitoring performance can prove to be a tad more complex. It is not really that complex but it requires that data transfer tests be performed. At first glance, it’s easy to figure that all that’s needed is to time the copy of a known amount of data. The downside of this is that copying any significant amount of data—an amount that is large enough to provide meaningful data—can adversely affect performance. Not only can it skew the measurements but it could also impact regular users.

NAS & SAN – A (Very) Quick Primer

Years ago, the storage scene was very different from today. Data was typically stored on large computers called file servers. They had large disks and could hold a lot of data. Technology evolved and RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) arrays started to appear adding some much-needed protection against disk failure. Today, things have changed quite a bit and most storage needs are addressed using either SAN or NAS technologies.

Let’s start with the NAS technology. NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. In fact, it is not much different from the file servers of yesteryear. It is a special computer that is attached to the network—hence the name—and that offers storage resources to remote computers. Contrary to a file server, they tend to run specialized feature-reduced operating systems and they offer no other service besides storing files. Most of them boast some type of RAID disk controller and they have varying expansion capabilities.

SAN technology—which stands for Storage Area Network, a play on word with Local Area Network—is completely different. A SAN has no processing function. It does nothing but store data. As such, it can’t be used by itself. You can think of a SAN as a bank of external disks for remote computers.

In a SAN environment, servers—be they file servers, database servers or any type of servers—have SAN controllers instead of disk controllers. Those controllers connect—usually via fibre optics cabling—to the SAN. Some SAN-based environments have completely diskless servers while others have local disks for storing their OS and used SAN disks to store data.

Components Storage Resource Monitoring Tools

Every storage monitoring is unique. In fact, every software product is unique. Many are similar but they all have little differences. Each one has specific features that no other has. This is also true for storage monitoring systems. Although each tool review below is widely different from the others, they all share a few common features.

The various components of storage monitoring tools are actually not much different from those of any other type of monitoring tool such as LAN monitoring. In fact, many will use similar technologies such as SNMP to poll the monitored devices. So, the first component of any monitoring tool is its polling engine. It is responsible for connecting to each monitored device and fetches its operational parameters. Some polling engines rely on a local agent running on the monitored system to gather information while others are agentless and use standard protocols like WMI or SNMP.

Another typical component of storage monitoring systems is some sort of database. What use would there be in collecting operational data if it were not kept somewhere? For this function, some systems rely on external databases like Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle or MySQL while others use either their own built-in database or a local flat file.

What good is the collection of operational data is it’s not shown anywhere? This is why some sort of dashboard is another essential component of monitoring systems. Most of them use a web interface and the best ones come with a fully customizable dashboard. Some will even allow different dashboard components for different users.

When a monitored parameter goes out of range or reaches a critical threshold, you most likely want to know about it. Storage monitoring systems typically have some form of alerting component that can flash a message on the dashboard or send a notification via email or SMS messaging. Some will even execute remediation scripts in reaction to events.

The last major component of storage monitoring tools is reporting. Various reports can be made available that show the state of the storage environment to executives or that demonstrate some type of regulatory compliance to the proper authorities.

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor (Free Trial)

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor (SRM) is designed to provide a vendor-agnostic, agentless NAS and SAN performance monitoring, as well as capacity monitoring and forecasting for your storage devices. With it, one can quickly and easily configure a full range of custom and pre-defined alerts and reports to help get a consolidated view of their storage environment. This can, in turn, help prevent downtime and help ensure that storage infrastructures are running at peak performance.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - All Storage

Problems SRM can help you solve

No matter what issues you may be facing, chances are that the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor can help. Here’s a rundown of a few common pain points which the tool can help you address.

  • You have several storage vendors in your data center and no one tool to monitor them
  • You have a manual capacity planning process
  • You recently had to make a last-minute storage purchase
  • You don’t have easy visibility into the information you need to justify new storage investments to management
  • You experience performance issues on end-user applications caused by storage
  • You don’t have the necessary visibility across your infrastructure—from application to storage—to pinpoint the cause and impact of performance issues

What Makes This Product Unique?

  • Unified storage monitoring: One tool can be used for monitoring storage arrays from EMC, NetApp, Dell, Huawei, and others.
  • Resource savings: You can save time and money with the tool’s automated storage capacity planning feature.
  • Faster time to resolution: Having detailed visibility into storage arrays, RAID groups, and LUNs makes it easy to identify storage issues quickly and react faster.
  • Support for informed decisions: This product offers hundreds of out-of-the-box reports that can help eliminate assumption-driven decisions.
  • End-to-end monitoring: As a component of the Orion Platform, it is designed to provide a comprehensive picture of the overall IT health. In addition, the AppStack dashboard can give you an instant view of your infrastructure, from application to storage.

Main Features Of The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is truly a feature-rich product. It has monitoring (of course) but also capacity planning as well as alerting and reporting, just to name a few. Here’s an overview of some of the most important features of this excellent product.

Unified Storage Monitoring

Understanding the health of your storage devices from different vendors can be challenging. Storage admins need to juggle multiple tools to ensure that the storage devices and systems are all functioning as they should. With a unified storage monitoring tool like the Storage Resource Monitor, you can have visibility into all your storage devices from a single tool. Its home dashboard gives you an at-a-glance view of key storage metrics, such as usable capacity, raw disk summary, and highlights storage with performance risks. It can also provide a list of alerts that need immediate attention and action.

Storage Performance Monitoring

The tool’s primary purpose is to provide SAN and NAS performance monitoring and alerting to help you eliminate performance bottlenecks in your data center. In addition, the unified view into storage performance can help simplify key tasks that are otherwise tedious and complex, including managing storage space consumption on RAID groups, mapping storage volumes back to the host, and understanding how volumes are load balanced across storage arrays. It can help you determine whether all the objects in your storage environment are performing at their best or not. With the help of this tool, you can identify poorly performing LUNs, RAID groups, and disks.

Detailed Dashboards

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor can help you navigate across all layers of storage, including arrays, storage pools, and LUNs. With just one click, you can seamlessly move from one layer to another. Each of these individual storage layers has a detailed dashboard that shows critical metrics indicating performance and health. With these features, you can quickly troubleshoot performance problems by isolating the actual hot spot and reducing unexpected downtime.

Automated Storage Capacity Planning

The storage capacity function in the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is designed to track usage over time to help identify capacity issues in the array. You can also easily view growth trends and receive a forecasted view of when capacity will be reached. This helps administrators to plan when to add and when to re-allocate capacity. The tool can also reduce the complexity of storage capacity planning in both your virtual and physical infrastructure. Go deeper into the performance of datastores allocated to specific virtual machines in your environment. Trace dynamic relationships from apps, virtual machines, LUNs, pools, and arrays to discover capacity issues and whether the latency is really caused by storage performance. Identify which virtual machines are affected by storage issues, and take necessary steps to proactively prevent virtual machine downtime.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - Capacity Planning

Alerting And Reporting

One of the big advantages of monitoring tools such as this one is how they allow you to stop worrying about your infrastructure, knowing that you will be alerted should anything odd happen. This is why alerting is such an important part of any monitoring tool. Likewise, reporting, while not directly related to the tool’s performance is also important as this is the component that will let you demonstrate that everything is running optimally.

Alerting

This product will allow you to receive alerts about performance issues with your storage devices, LUNs, storage pools/RAID groups, CIFS shares, and more. You can also set thresholds and generate proactive alerts that are customized to your business’s policies for usage and status information.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - Alerting Thresholds

Reporting

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor also provides quick and insightful information on your arrays with pre-built and custom reports. You can customize your reporting parameters to provide useful business insights. Out-of-the-box reports include enterprise capacity summary, RAID/storage pool group utilization, thin provisioning, free LUNS, asset information, and more. Reports can be scheduled, emailed, and even exported as CSV files for further processing using a different tool.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - Reports

Benefits Of The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor

Storage Performance Monitoring

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor lets you view the performance and the status of your storage environment. This can help quickly identify potential issues as well as help you pinpoint which physical or virtual resources are at fault. The tool boasts a full range of both custom and predefined alerts, including metrics such as temperature, fan speed, and power supply status.

Automated Storage Capacity Planning

This tool will let you see growth rates and forecast costs and budgetary requirements. It helps with projecting when capacity will be reached allowing you to avoid outages due to full disks. Its centralized monitoring supports tracking performance over time to identify hot spots, peak hours, and potential outages. The easy-to-configure reporting can be used to show capacity trends across multiple vendors without having to resort to spreadsheets.

Increased Visibility Across Your Storage Infrastructure

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor displays both physical and virtual components in a unified view—including all related infrastructure—to help you to diagnose performance issues faster and more accurately. When combined with the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, you can also see the storage under your virtual machine infrastructure with links to the LUN view from the cluster, ESX VM, or datastore view.

End-To-End Visibility Of The Application Stack

AppStack is designed to analyze application performance issues and can help you quickly determine the cause (server, virtual infrastructure or storage infrastructure). It will give you complete visibility of storage across all layers, as well as extended visibility into virtualization and application layers. With AppStack in place, you will be able to drill down deeper across layers and instantly identify the problem root cause and take remedial actions.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - AppStack

PerfStack presents cross-stack performance data and metrics across your storage arrays, virtualization, applications, systems, and network systems, enabling them over time. This integrated view may help you to better predict, prioritize, and resolve issues before they impact end-users.

About The Orion Platform

The Orion Platform is a proprietary platform on which many SolarWinds network and systems management software products are built. The platform provides a unified base that allows seamless integration between different products. The main objective of this platform is to facilitate end-to-end IT monitoring with absolute ease. The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is built on the SolarWinds Orion Platform. As such, you will be able to easily integrate it with other IT management tools from SolarWinds such as the Network Performance Monitor, the Virtualization Manager, the Server & Application Monitor, the Web Performance Monitor, and more.

Benefits Of The Orion Platform

Here are some of the main benefits of using the Orion Platform as the foundation for the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor.

  • End-to-end monitoring of IT infrastructure
  • Single, unified platform supporting the varied needs of multiple IT teams (network, systems, virtualization, etc.)
  • Centralized management and administration
  • Consolidated monitoring data and context across various IT layers
  • Drag-and-discover network performance charts

System Requirements

Like most products based on the Orion Platform, the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor requires two servers in all but the smallest installations. One server hosts the application while the other hosts the SQL database. Although both servers could be virtual and run on a single physical host, the SQL server’s database must reside on a separate, physical drive.

The hardware requirements are relatively complex as they vary according to the size of the installation one is contemplating. Rather than trying to describe every possible use case—and there are quite a few—we prefer to direct you to the SolarWinds website where the requirements are clearly laid out. Optionally, contacting SolarWinds sales would also allow you to ensure you correctly size your servers while accounting for eventual growth.

Pricing

Pricing for the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is based on the total number of physical disks you need to monitor. The product is available in nine licensing tiers that support between 25 and 5 000 disks. Prices start at $2 995 for up to 25 sockets. If you need to monitor a very large environment with over 5 000 disks, custom licenses can be arranged by contacting SolarWinds sales. You can also take the product for a test run before purchasing it as a free fully-functional and disk-unlimited 30-day trial is available.

Read SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor – Review 2019 by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to Upload the Best Looking Instagram Images

Instagram is probably our favorite social network here at How-To Geek. We always want our photos to look their best, so I did the research. Here’s how to make your images look as good as possible on Instagram.

RELATED: Why Your Facebook Photos Look So Bad (And What You Can Do About It)

Instagram, like Facebook, resizes and compresses your images to match their guidelines. While the algorithms seem less aggressive than with Facebook (which makes sense because Instagram is primarily a photo sharing network), it’s still better to do as much resizing and cropping as possible yourself—blunt algorithms tend to be a bit heavy handed.

Instagram supports images that are up to 1080px wide and between 566px and 1350px tall. That is, crop ratios between 1.91:1 (a wide landscape crop) and 4:5 (a square-ish portrait crop).

Instagram landscape image Instagram portrait image

Anything between these two ratios is good too—they’re just the maximum values. If your image is wider, it will be resized to fit 1080px wide. Similarly, if the crop falls outside the accepted ratios, like say, a 2:3 portrait image, you are forced to crop it to 4:5.

Instagram doesn’t publish any file size guidelines but, after playing around, I found that most of my photos were compressed to JPEGs between 150 kb and 190 kb. Again, this kind of makes sense: under 200 kb is a pretty standard file size for web use.

File size

Read the remaining 14 paragraphs

The Best Body Pillows for Easing Your Aches and Pains

Woman sleeping with a body pillow
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Body pillows are great for a number of reasons—from easing back pain to simply making you feel supported and comfortable in bed. We’ve got the best body pillows for you here.

Ever found that hugging a pillow helps your posture in bed? Or that it just feels nice to be snuggled up against a heavy object? That’s where the concept of body pillows comes into its own. Rather than using a conventional body pillow to facilitate such needs, you can buy a dedicated pillow that’s just the right size and weight to support you as you sleep. They’re great for people who struggle with back or neck pain, as well as pregnant women, and those just looking for some comfort. Here’s our pick of the bunch for every scenario.

Best Overall: Snuggle-Pedic Memory Foam Full Body Pillow ($70)

Snuggle Pedic Body Pillow
Snuggle-Pedic

The Snuggle-Pedic Memory Foam Full Body Pillow is the best one size fits all body pillow out there. It’s made from shredded memory foam so it never goes flat and always feels snug to your body. Its cover is extra breathable and micro-vented with 43% viscose of bamboo, 56.4% polyester, and 0.6% lycra to keep you cool and comfy all night long. Its material is hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant too so there’s no worries there.

Size wise, it’s a bulky 20 x 54 so it supports you as you sleep on your side, stomach or even in between. Weighing about 7lb, it’s just the right weight for most people too, without being overly cumbersome to move around. It’s a great all-rounder for most people’s needs.

Best Premium Body Pillow: Moonlight Slumber Comfort U Total Body ($100)

Moonlight Slumber Comfort U Total Body Pillow
Moonlight Slumber

Want a body pillow that covers your whole body? The Moonlight Slumber Comfort U Total Body is that body pillow. It’s far from cheap, but it’s fantastic if you need something huge. It helps align your hips, neck, shoulders, and back, all while regulating your body temperature via the material it uses.

It’s definitely not something you can easily use while sharing a bed with someone, but it is great if you’ve struggled with joint pain. It’s made from premium synergic down and it’s hypoallergenic as well as odorless. Its stuffing is made from a fancy sounding material known as ‘extended polymer’ so that air flows freely through the material without losing its shape. For a premium solution, this is it.

Best For Allergy Sufferers: Aller-Ease Cotton Hypoallergenic ($20)

Aller-Ease Cotton Hypoallergenic Body Pillow
Aller-Ease

Others listed here are good for people with allergies but we reckon the Aller-Ease Cotton Hypoallergenic is the best of the bunch. Aimed specifically at people with household allergens, its materials work hard at preventing the build-up of dust mites. The pillow is stuffed with a hypoallergenic polyester fill that offers complete barrier protection against dust, pollen, pet dander, and other common household allergens.

In addition, it’s made from 100% cotton so air passes through the fabric so you’re kept cool and comfortable at night. It forms an ideal combination of factors that means if allergies are a problem for you then this is the solution. It’s also a sturdy size at 20″ x 54″ so it supports your hips, back, neck, and stomach without any difficulty.

Best Heavy Body Pillow: Triple Cloud Body Pillow ($40)

Triple Cloud Body Pillow
Triple Cloud

A heavier than average body pillow is useful if you’re someone that’s liable to toss the pillow around in the night, or simply want to feel extra secure. The Triple Cloud Body Pillow isn’t quite as heavy as the Moonlight Slumber but it’s a more practical size for moving in the morning. It’s still a hefty 18 x 54 size and it weighs nearly 7.5lb. The pillow is made from shredded memory foam with bamboo-derived rayon so it never goes flat.

Read the remaining 5 paragraphs

What To Do When Your Chromebook Reaches the End of Its Life

Chrome

Chromebooks are great for anyone who uses them: they turn on in an instant, have great battery life, and updating them is a breeze. But, the day will come when your Chromebook stops getting updates from Google. What do you do then?

Google is upfront with its update policy: you can see the exact month and year a Chromebook or Chromebox will stop receiving updates. Most Chromebooks still have a long life ahead of them, but Google has started cutting off some of the oldest models already. If you have one of the older Chromebooks, you’ll need to start thinking about what to do when the updates stop coming.

Option One: Buy a New Chromebook

This one’s a bit obvious, but it’s worth stating: when your current Chromebook stops getting updates, the best thing you can probably do is buy a newer device. In addition to getting security updates for the next several years, you’ll also make a big leap when it comes to processing power, memory, and battery life, meaning your new Chromebook will be more enjoyable to use.

Chromebooks made in the past two years also have access to Android applications through the Google Play Store, as well as Linux applications. Of course, you can keep using the new Chromebook as a simple web browser, but newer models give you a few more productivity options. Here are our favorite Chromebooks.

RELATED: The Best Chromebooks You Can Buy, 2018 Edition

Option Two: Install Other Linux Distributions

Ubuntu running on a Chromebook

Chrome OS is built on top of the Linux kernel, which is why newer models can install Linux applications. It also means that users can install Ubuntu and other Linux distributions. There are a few problems you may run into with installing other versions of Linux, but overall, it’s a great way to give your Chromebook a new life.

RELATED: How to Install Ubuntu Linux on Your Chromebook with Crouton

Option Three: Install CloudReady by Neverware

Read the remaining 8 paragraphs

Are IR Scanners in Phones Bad for Your Eyes?

a woman's face being scanned by an iPhone
Maxim P/Shutterstock

New Apple and Samsung phones use infrared light to verify your identity. It’s like a hands-free version of the fingerprint scanner. But can the infrared lights used for Face ID and Iris Scanner hurt your eyes?

It’s a fair question. People don’t know much about infrared light, and it’s hard to find information that explains the potential risks of infrared in layman’s terms. Not to mention, Samsung’s safety disclaimer for the Iris Scanner makes infrared sound kind of scary. But what is infrared, and should we be worried about it?

What is Infrared?

Infrared (IR) is a form of invisible radiation, and it occupies the lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Like visible light, microwaves, and radio waves, IR is a form of non-ionizing radiation. It doesn’t strip molecules of their electrons, and it doesn’t cause cancer.

It’s important to know that IR radiation can come from a lot of places. In some ways, you could consider IR a natural byproduct of heat production. Your toaster emits IR light, the sun emits IR light, and campfires emit IR light. Interestingly enough, 95% of the energy produced by fluorescent bulbs is translated into IR. Even your fleshy, disgusting body emits IR light, and that’s how the heat-tracking cameras in spy movies work.

graph of the electromagnetic spectrum. far infrared is close to microwaves, and near infrared is close to visible light

The IR-LED that’s built into your phone is classified as near IR (700–900 nm). It straddles the line between the visible light spectrum and the IR spectrum. Near IR is very similar to visible light, it’s just a lot more difficult for you to see.

The radiation from both visible light and near IR light can heat objects, depending on light intensity and exposure time. Prolonged exposure to high-intensity IR and visible light (staring at the sun or a bright lightbulb) can cause your photoreceptors to bleach and your lens to develop cataracts. To experience vision loss with a low intensity visible or IR light, you would need to keep your eyes open within a millimeter of the light source for almost 20 minutes. This could happen with a light bulb or an IR-LED.

The main concern with near IR is simply the concentration of your exposure. With visible light, it’s easy to tell when you’re being exposed to a blinding amount, and your reflexes cause you to squint or look away. But your eyes aren’t built to see IR light, so it’s impossible to tell when you’re being exposed to a dangerous amount. You know how you’re not supposed to stare at an eclipse, even though it doesn’t seem that bright? It’s kind of like that.

Far IR radiation (25 – 350 µm) is invisible, and it isn’t used in your phone. Far IR radiation overlaps with microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum, and like microwaves, far IR radiation causes water molecules to heat up. As you can imagine, prolonged exposure to far IR radiation can cause burns to the eyes and skin, but we don’t need to worry about that, because your phone only uses near IR radiation.

IR Scanning is Very Simple

Read the remaining 22 paragraphs