How we use SolarWinds NPM, and some of the features you will find helpful
Updated December 08, 2020

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

Dwain Erhart | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)

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.
  • We also like the alerts that le us know when there are upgrades available.
  • 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.
  • Email alerts sometimes go wonky after an upgrade.
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 have multiple service providers and the ability to pinpoint where the failure occurs is great. Sending a screen shot usually lets them know that we are aware of exactly where the packet is dropped.
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 also create a monthly uptime percentage report to show how well we are doing or where there are issues with equipment or with service providers.
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.
We are using FastVue for Sonicwall to monitor end user activity. We use the engineers toolkit for various other issues. Qualys reports for our web sites as well as Trustwave WAF. We do not have many cloud services in house here. Most of our services are on-prem. As such the monitoring we do is internal for the lion's share of the work load. As we transition to cloud based infrastructure.
Well, if we had both it would be very important. However, the ability to get exactly what we need is often not available in a single solution. In order to do this it would have to be really customizable and granular. The problem with that is the complexity of the solution the ability to use the solution effectively becomes cumbersome and involved.
  • 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 really get more information from our firewall and the SEM solution is rather complex to generate simple ndepth reports. There are a few canned reports we use on a regular basis but the granular data is difficult to create.
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.
SonicWall NSA Series, SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM)
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
10
Network monitoring
10
Baseline threshold calculation
9
Alerts
10
Network capacity planning
6
Packet capture analysis
5
Network mapping
4
Customizable reports
4
Wireless infrastructure monitoring
8
Hardware health monitoring
10

SolarWinds NPM Premier Support

We have support with them. However, I will say this - they usually recommend searching thwack or the forums to get answers. Why am I paying for support when it comes down to end users helping other end users. However, if you truly need their help and you have a contract they will work with you. I do not enjoy searching through databases to find the nugget of knowledge that pertains to my situation.
I have had an instance some time ago - we have been using this for 7 years - that required support from SolarWinds and we needed their help. I believe it was an issue during setup and making sure we could use a SQL database. I am not a DBA and I needed hand holding on this one. They setup a time and actually got right back to me and we fixed the issue.

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) Smart Start

I have no experience with "smart start" so it would be impossible for me to recommend this to anyone.
Self-help and virtual training - I feel this survey needs to be addressed. If we don't use it we should be able to say it is not applicable instead of selecting a place holder value here.
Not applicable.
Not Applicable
My experience upgrading NPM was easy. I did not use this "smart start" I backed up my server I also took a vmware snapshot and then ran the update and "voila" all was happy. I will remove the snapshot after a week of running the latest version. The installation is pretty much self explanatory.

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.
5-8 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. It does eliminate the need for monitoring each system manually. It is constantly up on my screen. I also use FastVue reporter. However, this survey has no ability to list that as another software I use on a daily basis.
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. The email alerts are great but the visual dashboard (Summary page) is always up on its own monitor.
Yes. Knowing when a system/switch/firewall is down right away helps us to be timely in our resolution. Reporting on system down times (a report we created in house) also allows us to see potential problem areas. This tool is very robust. It can be difficult to configure certain things we would like (SMS requires a third party tool to accomplish)

Feature Questions

  • Early down time notification for ALL IT staff via email alerts
  • Alerts on issues with disks, fans, and various hardware.
  • Uptime reporting

Using SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)

12 - IT Tech support. We use this extensively - those of us who use the product to troubleshoot issues get notifications and the help desk people use it to inform users that we are aware of a situation - even when the end user calls support. It makes the help desk people sound like the professionals they are. Getting a call and saying "yes, we are aware that your switch is down. We have someone working on it." or "the link to the internet is offline, we have contacted the ISP and are working with them on a resolution" sounds so much better than "yes, we are down and are working on it."
2 - We are systems administrators with years of experience. The reason we have 2 of us is for redundancy. We ensure someone is available when the other may be out of office. We also have a dedicated DBA to handle the backend database on Microsoft QL server. The skills to manage NPM are not extensive, a basic knowledge of SNMP, IP networking, SMTP setup and network topology are relevant.
  • Netpath has been very helpful - we have a complex setup for ISP and the ability to use this has helped a great deal.
  • Reporting on uptime. We didn't have a metric to show the leadership how our uptime percentage played out. We were able to create a monthly uptime report for our SLA.
  • The ability for our help desk to be proactive about issues when senior technicians are out in the field.
  • If they can get NPM to use SMS easily, we can get text alerts on weekends etc.
  • Volumes getting to close to capacity. This alert is a bit difficult to use. It is easy if it boils down to a percentage but if you have disks/volumes that are very large, the percentage can skew you results dramatically - so for now it is cumbersome to get granular alerting.
  • High traffic performance issues that need to be tracked in order to ascertain quality of service.
The entire IT staff relies on NPM in its daily operations. It would be impossible for us to maintain our level of service without it. If SolarWinds gets to proud of their product and begins to over charge for it, we would be forced to reconsider and use a different product. But as it stands it is worth the price to renew it.

Do you think SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) delivers good value for the price?

Yes

Are you happy with SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)'s feature set?

Yes

Did SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) live up to sales and marketing promises?

Yes

Did implementation of SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) go as expected?

Yes

Would you buy SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) again?

Yes

Evaluating SolarWinds NPM and Competitors

We looked at Manage engine. We selected SolarWinds due to the price difference. We ran the product in demo for about a week. We needed some hand holding during the setup and we created some installation cheat sheets to assist. We used SNMP and polling and we manually added devices because we were not buying a license for every workstation on our network - only the things we wanted monitored. It was nice to be able to do this and save some money.

SolarWinds NPM Implementation

Make sure your inventory is accurate. Stand up some virtual machines for testing prior to installation. Make sure your database and its credentials are setup. Think about things you want to monitor that may not be obvious - UPS units, Door hardware, PBX systems, Fabric Channel switches, firewalls, routers, switches. Try to setup SNMP on these devices and have an IP that you will assign to the new server. If you do that it will go well.
Yes - 1) We gathered the monitored items first - Servers, switches, routers, SANs, door hardware, wireless controllers, firewalls, phone equipment and UPS equipment.
2) we created a visual map of our network for the atlas that displayed the buildings/sited for our network.
3) we created a database on Microsoft SQL server to house the data, created a virtual machine to house the software, created an SMTP receiver on our mail server to allow us to get alerts via email.
4) we installed the product and began the setup for all of these preparations
5) we added test nodes to see alerts for the first time and then decided on what to monitor within the nodes.
6) we tested the email alerts, created down times on dummy servers, test switches and our backup firewalls.




Change management was a small part of the implementation and was well-handled - We were starting from ground zero and it was minimal because of the extensive pre-planning on this project. We had the IP addresses/FQDN's of the equipment we wanted to monitor already in place. We created all of the requirements prior to launch so it was a very successful transition for us. Using Virtual machines to test was an awesome way to ensure things were setup properly in a minimal amount of time.
  • Getting SNMP setup on all of the servers was time consuming. We could not get SNMPv3 to work at all.
  • Disk thresholds were set for 15% in the beginning. However, on large multi terrabyte volumes this was not feasible - we ended up having to manually set these up for server OS volumes and start with critical servers first and then work through the rest.
  • Again - I keep coming back to an issue we have never been able to resolve SMS notifications.

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
  • NetPath is easy to use and read
  • 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.
  • SMS notifications are difficult to setup without using another vendor to accomplish it.
I would give it a 10 if it was easy to setup SMS or the tool to get it working was built in. But this is a serious detriment to the product. IT is 24/7 for us and having a node down during off hours can be critical. We have users in our organization who work differing hours and we have some critical departments every day 24 hours. Having an IT staff that is only working on a day shift requires the on-call person to be able to get notifications via SMS