by September 6, 2005 0 comments

Every network administrator needs a set of tools for troubleshooting common problems on the network. A lot of them are available in the market, both free as well as commercial. Some of these are powerful and useful, but the trouble is that each offers to do only a particular job. 

So, if you want to keep a check on which machines are up and which are down, you’d go for ping scan tools. If you want to find out which nodes are there on your network, you’ll go for a network scanning and mapping tool, if you need to monitor bandwidth utilization, you’ll find a tool for that. 

While this gives you the benefit of creating your own powerful toolkit, the trouble is that each one has to be installed, configured and maintained separately. This can be a tedious exercise. That’s where this OpUtils fits in. It’s a collection of 43 
different tools to troubleshoot various aspects of a LAN.

These are divided into tools for doing diagnostics, address monitoring, desktop monitoring, network monitoring, Cisco tools and SNMP tools. There’s a free edition of the software also available, which includes 25 tools. This one can be upgraded to the professional edition, which has all the 43 tools. It’s available for both Windows and Linux. 

All the tools in OpUtils are presented through one simple, Web-based interface. This has many advantages. For one, you can access and use this tool from anywhere on the network. Secondly, you can open multiple browser windows to use different tools. You don’t have to wait for one tool to finish its job before you start using another one. 

This can be great if you’re using tools that take time to finish their jobs, such as a Network Scan. So while it discovers nodes on your network, you can open
another browser window and use some other tool. 

We also found some disadvantages in this package. For instance, if you run a network scan once and discover nodes, OpUtils doesn’t seem to record this information anywhere. So if you log out of OpUtils or close the browser window, all this information seems to get lost. You’ll have to rediscover all nodes from scratch after restarting OpUtils. Ideally, the utility should be able to provide the discovered information immediately to the network administrator instead of repeating the network scan. This can become pretty
tedious even for small networks. 

While some of the tools are common, such as different types of ping scans and trace route, there are some that are really good. For instance, we found Switch Port Mapper tool useful. It managed to identify all the active/inactive ports on any switch and also told us the IP address and DNS name of the node connected to each. There’s another good tool that can monitor the bandwidth utilization of any switch or router on the network and show you real-time graphs. 

While OpUtils is beneficial, there were some minor annoyances in the package. For instance, there’s a tool called IP Network Browser, which lets you scan an IP range and then see the details of every machine whose IP address it manages to capture. However, the tool only lets you browse through five IP addresses at a time. Another minor annoyance is in the Network Scan tool, in which you can only specify Class C subnet masks. If you’re on a Class B network, you can’t really use this tool. 
There’s a reporting feature in the package as well, which lets you export results obtained from some tools to PDF, HTML or XLS formats.

This is a good option if you want to create a report of how many nodes are there on your network, their IP address and DNS name. 

A minor issue here is that the export feature is not available for all tools. For instance, you can’t export any of the
results from the IP Browser tool. This tool gives some useful information about specific nodes on the network, such as how many network interfaces they have, and the protocol statistics.

An advantage of OpUtils is that it also has a summary page, which lists all tools that you use frequently, general
tips and all the reports that you’ve created. This way you can quickly access what you need. 

Bottom Line: Barring a few quirks, it’s a pretty good package for network
administrators, and comes for a decent price tag. 

Anil Chopra

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