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PocketProbe packs diagnostic aids in tiny box

PocketProbe packs diagnostic aids in tiny box

I hate resorting to cliches, but it's hard to talk about Bay Networks' Web PocketProbe without saying that good things come in small packages. Even without its extra features, the PocketProbe FE1100 makes for an inexpensive, full-featured 10/100Mbps RMON and RMON 2 monitor.

Then when you consider its built-in Web-based management and monitoring tools and its unique pass-through capability, it becomes a compelling troubleshooting and monitoring tool - in a tiny box.

The PocketProbe is ideal as a mobile or temporary network-monitoring device. It's well suited to both the roving technician who just needs to check on the health of a segment or host and the network administrator who wants to temporarily instrument a particular segment.

For permanent installations, Bay also offers a similarly priced rack-mountable version with one, two, or four ports.

Even if you're not interested in the PocketProbe's snappy Web interface, it's still remarkable to get an RMON/RMON 2 solution for this price - most comparable solutions, such as Hewlett-Packard's Fast Ethernet LanProbe and NetScout's Fast Ethernet LAN Probe, cost twice as much, if not more.

Installation

Installing the PocketProbe was about as easy as it gets with networking equipment. Using a serial link, I configured the unit's IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway. From then on, configuration was entirely Web-based: embedded Java applets provide the rest.

The PocketProbe can measure an individual host's response time, the number of packets going to and from the host, packet size statistics, and much more.

Adding stations for the PocketProbe to monitor was a snap; I just added their IP addresses and gave them names, and they showed up on all of the unit's views.

Graphs

The PocketProbe's graphs were easy to read and informative. The use of Java applets to display the views meant they could be as dynamic as a traditional network-management system. However, even though the PocketProbe's Web interface is great for spot-checking a single segment, network managers who want to keep an eye on overall network health would probably connect to the PocketProbe unit using a full-featured RMON 2 package.

One useful feature was the capability to set a response-time threshold for individual hosts: the PocketProbe not only monitors the host for downtime, it also records when the host's response time falls below that threshold.

One of the PocketProbe's graphs also shows each host's health during the past 24 hours - clearly indicating any downtime or periods of slow response.

The PocketProbe's unique pass-through option allows it to be placed between a switch and a host, or between two switches, to help isolate network issues that aren't apparent from another port. For spot troubleshooting, it also allows you to monitor a host without configuring a switch to send traffic to a monitoring port.

The embedded Java applet provides a small, stand-alone RMON tool that queries the unit using RMON/RMON 2, and maintains statistics and history information on its own. Thus, closing the browser or changing some settings on the PocketProbe erased the history information that had been collected.

Bay also offers the ET1100 model, which has similar features but doesn't support 100Base-T. The ET1100 is even smaller than the FE1100 and would literally fit in your pocket.

The unit's low price and easy portability should make it accessible to smaller shops that haven't been able to use RMON/RMON 2 monitoring tools before, but it also gives larger shops a feasible solution for equipping field technical staff or those who don't have access to high-end management consoles.

The Bottom Line

Web pocketProbe FE1100

A handy tool for measuring server and network performance, the FE1100 is an affordable, easy-to-use, and extremely portable RMON tool.

Pros: Ease of use; low price; pass-through support; 100Base-T support.

Cons: None significant.

Platforms: Not applicable.

Price: Price is available on applicationBay NetworksTel 1800 817 070


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