What is most valuable?
In my opinion, one of the most valuable features of this product is the level of customization. From web interfaces to custom monitors and alarms, this product has a high level of flexibility that can be molded to suit your business needs, regardless of the size of your organization.
How has it helped my organization?
It has helped to provide a user friendly interface for support to drill down and see where the issue lies and remediate issues quickly. We have other solutions that might have features NPM does not but the front end could look confusing to an inexperienced user. With NPM, we are able to fine-tune what the support accounts look like so users only see the things they need to do their jobs effectively.
What needs improvement?
Better offline license management. I’ve had to get in touch with customer support several times simply to remove an expired license from our NPM servers (which have no connection to the public internet). Also, if you add a new license and don’t remove the old one first, NPM will recognize only the expired one and ignore the new one, which prompts an additional call to support.
For how long have I used the solution?
Personally I have been actively using this product for a little over a year but our organization has been using NPM for many years.
What was my experience with deployment of the solution?
We had some issues with getting failover polling engines working properly and were forced to abandon the effort. So we’re currently backing up data to a warehouse database but we currently don’t have any redundancy with our polling engines.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
On the whole, NPM is a very stable product. Occasionally, we might have a poller that stops communicating with the mother ship but usually a little bit of basic troubleshooting is able to resolve the issue with minimal downtime.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
This is one of the strengths of NPM. As our infrastructure grows, NPM is able to grow organically to accommodate it. Scalability is as simple as spinning up another VM, installing the product, and ensuring connectivity to the primary instance of NPM.
How is customer service and technical support?
Customer service at SolarWinds is great. I have had several issues in the past and they were prompt, helpful, and were able to resolve these issues quickly. SolarWinds also cares about what their customers want from a network monitoring standpoint. Rather than release a new version and hope that this is what customers want, they hold regular sessions to show customers what they’re currently working on and can fine tune future releases of NPM based on the feedback. Technical Support
As a company, SolarWinds goes out of its way to put a human face to their technical support staff. The main way they’ve accomplished this is by creating a community out of their customer base. Using their forum, Thwack, customers are able to interact with SolarWinds staff from numerous departments, including from support, development and marketing. I’ve been a member a short while and I’ve already been blown away with how tight knit this forum can be.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup is very straightforward. It’s installed via a wizard and walks you through the steps, installing the extras it needs to function along the way. Then, it’s just a matter of activating your license and configuring the front end web page to look the way you want it. Most of the complexity of the initial setup and configuration is from custom modifications done by us on the back end. We had to modify the database to get NPM to hook into our in-house alert management system. But, for other companies' environments where this level of customization is not needed, NPM has an excellent amount of alerting methods that work right out of the box.
What about the implementation team?
We do all of our NPM implementations using an in-house team. I am one of the engineers responsible for setting up new environments when new data centers come online. I’m not sure if SolarWinds has vendor teams available that can do this function but as I’ve stated, NPM is designed to be unboxed and up and running in an hour or less depending on how much customization is needed.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Due to the large size and scope of our organization, our cost of using this product is comparatively high. Excluding the costs of running VMs and physical blade servers, our licensing costs run around US$200,000/year for over 60 polling engines. Pricing differs if the NPM server is a primary or secondary polling engine and how many elements (nodes and interfaces) will need to be monitored by it (e.g. 250, 2000, or unlimited).
What other advice do I have?
My advice to others before implementing this, is to attend one of their webcasts to get a feel for what NPM can do for you. The presenters are technical people who understand the product well and can answer a wide range of questions. Secondly, I’d make an account on their forum, Thwack, so if you’re ever stumped on an issue, you can pose a question to the community and glean information from other NPM users or from one of SolarWinds’ resident “Head Geeks.” Lastly, from personal experience, I would make sure you’re on good working terms with your network engineers before considering implementation. Like any other network management tool, you will likely run into firewall or connectivity related issues when adding nodes and having a good network engineer on your side can really make a big difference .