Step Up In Network Monitoring

On one edge there's ongoing service revenue from things such as the maintenance and calibration of a customer's on-site monitoring system. On the other, there's the option to offer the network monitoring product's functionality as a managed service.

Singlestep Technologies' recently launched Singlestep Unity 2.0 Adaptive IT Process Automation and Information Management software sharpens each of these opportunities by being proactive with network data, and not just a clearinghouse for network alarms, said Victor Kellan, president of LAN Solutions, a McLean, Va.-based VAR catering to SMBs in the Washington area.

"Monitoring tools in general collect information based on things when they break. So being able to collect information on systems that are working properly was on my wish list, and Singlestep just added that functionality," said Kellan.

With the arrival of Singlestep Unity 2.0, the Seattle-based vendor has added improved management dashboard features and reporting modules that enable administrators to custom-tailor reports to the needs of particular individuals within an organization, said Scot French, director of marketing at Singlestep. For example, reports for IT systems administrators can be fashioned to correlate network instances that may, in some cases, indicate the need to begin petitioning for an increased server budget. Likewise, reports for business executives can be crafted to enable business-level analysis such as the appearance of latency in the supply chain.

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"Now you can control the information you get from the network in a way that helps your business," said French. "It's not just about knowing when something has gone wrong."

Solution providers with even the most basic programming skills can walk customers through the process of customizing dashboards for Unity 2.0 using the product's Dashboard Toolkit. The toolkit offers an intuitive interface to build realtime views of any collection or combination of monitored network components. What's more, practically any critical business service can be reflected in a Unity Dashboard, even if the servers, firewalls and other network components are all monitored by different tools. Such functionality further enables Unity 2.0 in an MSP environment, said French.

Singlestep has also added a feature called Viewpoint, which provides a Web-based reporting module that cobbles together historical and usage trend reports based on Unity 2.0's cache of network data. With Viewpoint, customers or VARs providing managed monitoring services can spot emerging network trends and response patterns that can be applied at the boardroom level to determine ongoing IT support costs, said French.

LAN Solutions' Kellan said Unity 2.0 has greatly improved his ability to offer network monitoring as a managed service to SMB customers. The advantage for Kellan's customers comes from being able to have professional network monitoring without the capital outlay that would come from buying the Singlestep product itself, he said. It also creates long-term service revenue and loads of upsell opportunity, he said.

"With proactive reporting, we can tell if server utilization is peaking past 85 percent, or storage is being strained, and with that data we can go to a customer and say, 'Hey, in a few months you should be budgeting for additional servers, switching, whatever.' It's a great opportunity to upsell," said Kellan. It's not perfect though.

Kellan said he would like to see Singlestep add some form of worm detection and intrusion-detection technology to its software, a topic he has already broached with the company.

"If we could get an intrusion alarm into the Singlestep system, we could program in any type of security escalation system we want. Contact the client, shut off port six, you name it," said Kellan.