NetBrain Review

A time-saving, portable network analysis and mapping tool that does the job you expect it to

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use for this solution is providing services for layer 2 and layer 3 network mapping. We go into companies that have engaged us for some type of network product in the collation and we map out the network to do analysis. Because we are mostly using the product for the mapping feature, we have the Consultant Edition of the program which is portable and fits our needs perfectly for servicing clients.

How has it helped my organization?

We are managed-service providers, so we get engaged at a project level to make network changes on networks that we've never seen before. NetBrain provides us an overview and background on the network as it currently stands so that I can do a security analysis and move the project forward using an accurate picture of the network. It eliminates the possibilities that the picture will be inaccurate and saves time.

The enterprise edition NetBrain is fine. It's gotten a little more complicated in the last few years to use, but I've never had a problem with either version actually not performing its job.

What is most valuable?

The mapping is the most valuable feature for my usage. It saves me time because I don't have to walk the network by hand and figure out the relationship between switches and routers on the network. It automatically creates a map for me. The time savings lets me put my energies toward creating the solution rather than doing the footwork.

What needs improvement?

The product could be improved with easier, better cataloging of the license within a network. Right now it seems a little cumbersome to actually be able to see just a lifting of the devices that are discovered or devices that weren't discovered and why. Better cataloging would resolve that issue.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The Consultant Edition just runs as an EXE so there aren't any stability issues. The opportunity I had to used the installed version the product just seemed to do what it was expected to do. There were a few minor glitches, but I can't really blame the product for lack of stability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The installed or enterprise version scaled pretty nicely. The Consulting Edition, I'm not sure. The licensing seems a little expensive, so sending out multiple systems for utilization seems problematic.

How are customer service and technical support?

We haven't had to use technical support recently as there's really no need for it. When I used the installed product before, I wasn't very satisfied with the support. We had a few one-off problems with the server installation, and it seemed to take an excessively long amount of time — in my opinion — for somebody to come back with an answer for me when I had issues.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We didn't actually have a solution and it seemed obvious that getting one would save time and effort. I used the full version of the product probably three or four years before we adopted it in a six-month proof of concept. At that time the full version was easier to use and friendlier. The full server version has gotten quite a bit more complex. We're using the Consultant Edition now, so there were some learning curves. But previous experience with the product was the reason for its adoption.

How was the initial setup?

As far as the initial setup, there really isn't any for the Consulting Edition. It is just an EXE that you have a license for and you run it on a network to do the mapping. The server edition is a little more complex and we actually used NetBrain system engineers to help us with the installation. I can't really speak to doing the installation on my own.

What about the implementation team?

Again, the Consultant Edition is just an EXE that you run. No installation really occurs. The installed version might require assistance but that isn't the version we use.

What was our ROI?

We have not yet seen a return on investment, but we expect that to come. We do security assessments for companies and this solution will help us deliver our product. We put together a pretty decent product for our clients and the investment in NetBrain should help us make it that more attractive and effective, and in turn enhance our business.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I remember the product being a lot less expensive several years ago when I first evaluated it. The pricing was based on a cost per number of devices. I want to say it was a lot cheaper then it is now. The Consultant Edition, which I originally thought would be more reasonable, quickly became a larger bundle than I expected and more expensive than I thought.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Technically we didn't really bother to evaluate other options when it came time for adoption. We needed a network mapping solution and I had used this solution previously. We went with the Consultant Edition because it made sense and fit our need. The reason I used it initially was, again, proof of concept in which we did a comparison between several different providers specifically to evaluate mapping software. Essentially I'd already done the evaluation.

What other advice do I have?

I would give NetBrain Technologies an eight or seven-and-a-half to eight out of ten. Support can improve response time. Sales engineers will buy their product with a few enhancements. It would help to improve the pricing and make the interface prettier. Right now, it's difficult to use from an engineering standpoint. I'd like to see become a little easier for a nontechnical person to use.  For example, I'd like to be able to send someone to a client who is not an architect — maybe send a helpdesk guy — and tell him to run the executable to gather up the mapping. I would be able to look at the results later and be more efficient.

Other advice to users considering the solution would be: go with NetBrain. It works. It may be expensive, but it's worth it. SolarWinds is a lot more expensive and doesn't do nearly as good a job as NetBrain.

NetBrain will give you the layer 3 and layer 2 network maps. One of the features that I like, but I haven't yet retested in the Consultant Edition, is that within two clicks you can get a fully formatted report of the hardware firmware in a site or company. SolarWinds, by comparison, is a bit of a pain to use for that type of extraction.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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