How we use SolarWinds NPM, and some of the features you will find helpful
Dwain Erhart | TrustRadius Reviewer
Updated January 14, 2020

How we use SolarWinds NPM, and some of the features you will find helpful

Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

We use the Orion Summary page for all senior admins - we get alerts if things are coming down, if servers are running low on disk space, if memory is over utilized. Many different uses. I like the additions of NetPath services. I have also used reports and the network Atlas to create visual representations for our active links. Diving into a node is helpful to establish response time issues, trends and even capacity forecasts. I use this on servers, SANs, switches, Wireless controllers, and alert monitoring services.
  • NetPath services are a godsend when you are trying to explain to ISPs, etc. about where traffic is congested or stopping. Sometimes seeing is believing for them.
  • The other BIG deal is anticipating disk capacity - when volumes get to full, servers crash. With NPM, we can and create set thresholds for warning us before we run into issues, and then we can add storage, memory, and CPU, (especially on our Virtual environment.)
  • Alerts are great - instead of hearing from our users that a server is offline, we are aware of it right away.
  • It would be nice to be able to set up SNMP3 for some of our systems in an easier fashion. But it is not a show stopper.
  • Sometimes the support refers us to the Knowledge base and Thwack. Not a huge deal, but I only end up putting in a ticket when I have spent a great deal of time searching for a solution.
We do use this feature. However, we do not use it as an "always on" feature - rather, when we need to know something, it is VERY helpful. We do run a consistent NetPath service when we have recurring issues - this helps us determine issues with some of our cloud services.
We monitor all of our switches with SolarWinds - we tried a more expensive and dedicated solution, but we found it cumbersome and less of a value than what we already had in SolarWinds. Looking at packet loss, bandwidth charts, response time, etc. is very helpful. We have had instances where our bandwidth was significantly reduced on T1 equipment, and we found that there were issues with ice build up and attenuation. We couldn't explain the causes of the issue, but the chart was instrumental in getting the cable replaced by the provider.
We use the alerts all the time. However, we noticed we have to customize the amount of time before an email is sent - sometimes we can have a virtual machine restart in less than 2 minutes, and at one time the alert for sending an email was set to 4 minutes. Believe me, everyone notices when someone reboots a server for patching and then no alert is generated - so you have to be cognizant of these issues and adjust for your environment. Sometimes we are unaware that a server is down and the alert goes out - when we get in the next morning, our email has been triggered, and we can attempt to rectify the issue before users suffer a loss of service.
  • Once we started using it, it is hard to envision being without it! It is nice to show uptime percentages and the like to the folks who control the purse strings.
  • SolarWinds NPM is not the only SolarWinds product we use, but it was instrumental in making the decision to purchase additional SolarWinds products.
  • We used SolarWinds to build reports, which have lead us to replacing T1 circuits with faster dedicated wireless and fiber optic connections as well. I think our IT group is respected because we tend to be aware of the issues impacting our users on a deeper level than we would have without NPM.
  • Engineer's Toolset
  • SolarWinds Log & Event Manager
I am not as impressed with the SolarWinds SEM (formerly LEM) as I am with the NPM product. The engineers toolset is a real time saver when doing ping sweeps, IP calculations etc. So this is a valuable addition.
We tried Dell OMNM manager suite but it was difficult to clear alerts, to setup, etc. It did more -- allowed us to back up and recover switch configurations etc. -- but it didn't present a very user friendly interface and it was impossible to manage correctly. We spent a lot on the solution because we got it with our new switching equipment and were told it was the best way to manage an monitor our switches. It turned out that we continued to rely on SolarWinds NPM after repeated attempts to configure and make OMNM usable.
If you have a decent sized server farm, you will want to monitor it. If you spend time arguing with ISPs about whether they are at fault, you need NetPath to clarify. If you are a very small business, you may get by without it, but it can really save your team time and effort when you deal with multiple servers. We don't monitor EVERY node on our network - just the high level points - all servers, all network egress/ingress points, keeping ahead of storage space issues, and getting an email if something is happening you would otherwise be unable to check on a regular basis.

SolarWinds NPM Feature Ratings

Automated network device discovery
Not Rated
Network monitoring
10
Baseline threshold calculation
9
Alerts
10
Network capacity planning
6
Packet capture analysis
5
Network mapping
5
Customizable reports
4
Wireless infrastructure monitoring
8
Hardware health monitoring
10

SolarWinds NPM ROI Questions

I can't say that we use the data exclusively for capacity planning. However, I will say that we set thresholds for disk space and memory usage to keep us informed of potential issues and it has prevented problems. One instance where the capacity planning did take place was in the memory on our VMWare cluster. We realized that compute was great but we had slowness issues and NPM showed memory issues on multiple VMs. We expanded the memory for our VMWare hosts and the problem was mitigated. It would have required more digging to find this without NPM.
1 points (e.g. from 98% to 99%) - Again - this is a difficult metric to answer - NPM has been in place the entire time I have worked here. However, our ability to get an immediate alert has proven to be a huge savings in downtime losses. We are able to get to a solution quickly and resolve it. We monitor wireless, server room monitors, SANs, switches, firewalls, vmware hosts, servers, VOIP equipment, power conditioners, door lock automation devices etc. This allows us to determine the source of the issue in many ways rather than looking at each component - we see it on the dashboard and get an email alert. The only time we do not is when the actual NPM server is offline.
0-4 hours time saved per person per week - This answer is - of course - a guess and an average based on this. There are some times where the time saved is far greater and others where there is not a huge impact. I think we are kind of spoiled though because we have used this product for a long time and we tend to take it for granted. Knowing that remote site communications are offline is huge - especially when VOIP is used. Imagine the remote site being offline and the IP phones to call you to inform you of the issue cannot be used! This is a HUGE time saver - especially in some areas where there are only certain days that the site is staffed. We can get alerts before the users ever know there was an issue in some instances.
I don’t know - I can't really say because we have been using NPM for at least 7 years. I know without it we would probably have other solutions but I cannot say for sure.
  • Product Features
  • Prior Experience with the Product
The entire team uses NPM - DAILY! If I am at lunch, I can count on the fact that someone else will get alerts as well. I like this product and for the most part there are few issues. The only thing I am having trouble with is some of the SMS alerts.

Using SolarWinds NPM

ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Consistent
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Familiar
None
  • Adding nodes
  • Using the dashboard
  • I am having difficulty getting the SMS functionality working with Exchange 2016 without using a paid product like NotePage.
  • Figuring out which additional things to monitor on the servers to get a more complete assessment.