Both at work and at home, I often find that I have a need to check the status of my PCs, printers, servers or other network devices. These days, with so many devices making use of home networks, this is something that more homeowners need to do.
A while back, Karl reviewed different things you can do to diagnose network problems. Karl listed all of the commands – like ping, netstat and ipconfig, that you can use to troubleshoot your network devices. Not long ago, I also gave you some Windows Scripts that you could use to automatically ping various devices on a regular schedule.
However, what if you aren’t really accustomed to networking or all of the commands that go along with pinging or otherwise verifying network connectivity? If that describes you, then you may find it useful to use an application with a nice GUI that will do all of the heavy lifting for you. One such application is Ping Manager, a free utility provided by the makers of the commercial product MyLanViewer.
Using Ping Manager to Monitor Your Network
I’m always on the lookout for new and powerful tools that can be used to monitor the health of devices, servers and computers on a network. I need these sort of tools in my day job, but just as importantly I like to use them to keep track of the devices on my home network. There are laptaps, I have a simple home server, my kids each have a Nintendo DS and they use a streaming device to watch TV, there is the Wii, smartphones and more.
While I don’t always care about all of the things being on the network, there are somethings that I need to know are healthy and online, like our phone router, my server, and devices that run the home surveillance network. You may have similar devices that you want to be sure are healthy and online, so once you have your IP inventory ready, go ahead and fire up the Ping Manager.
If you’re just doing troubleshooting and don’t really care to regularly monitor devices, you can do one-off pings by just typing the IP address of the device, and clicking on the “Start” button. This will do a standard ping and you’ll see the four results in the bottom pane.
What I like about the software is the ability to quickly ping a range of IP addresses by clicking the IP Range Ping tab and then typing the IP address at each end of the range you want to check. For example, I know I have everything on my home network set up between subnet 1.100 and 1.200, so by scanning that whole range I can see everything that’s on my network (that’s a fast way to do a quick inventory of your stuff as well!)
The results also get logged to text files in the “Results” subdirectory of the directory where the program is installed. This makes it convenient to review results from past pings, especially when you have them scheduled to take place throughout the day – which I’ll show you below.
Of course, the host doesn’t have to be an IP address within your network, you can use this software to monitor outside websites as well. Another nice feature is the ability to trace the path of a ping, so you can actually see the hops across your network to get from one IP to another. This might include the path through switches, gateway servers, etc.
Or, in the case of websites, you can see all of the IP hops that your computer goes through whenever you access a particular URL. These results are sometimes surprising to people that are unaware just how many systems your Internet traffic hops through as you browse the Internet.
You can configure the program to automatically check IP addresses or URLs at regular intervals by clicking on the “Auto tasks” button.
This will open a window where you can tell the program exactly how often you want it to try and ping. For example, below I’m setting up the software to ping TopSecretWriters (the URL I entered in the window above) every 30 minutes.
As you can see, you can set it up to ping at a certain time every day, or do it every minute, hourly, weekly or monthly. You can also configure how many ping retries and how many minutes to wait between retries. You can log the results to file – I like the CSV option because it offers the flexibility of using the data in other programs or scripts that can import CSV.
Set up multiple IP addresses to monitor by clicking on “Add” under the list of pages on the main screen. You can type a new name in the field above those buttons and click “Rename” to give that page a more descriptive name. Each page or IP can have its own settings, so you can tailor the frequency and ping settings to whatever device you’re monitoring. Maybe in some cases you only care to check every week or so, while for websites you might want to check the online status every 15 to 30 minutes.
When you have everything set up, you can close down the Ping Manager window, but it’ll keep running in your task bar. So long as you have your PC turned on (or you could set this up on a server), it will continue monitoring all of the IP addresses and URLs that you set up, using the frequencies you’ve configured.
I like utilities like Ping Manager because it’s all automated, and I know that all I have to do is review the output reports to catch any problems that might have occurred. It’s helpful when troubleshooting network devices that fail often, because you might be able to recognize a pattern from when it falls off the network. Troubleshooting network issues isn’t always easy, but at least Ping Manager gives you one more tool to use in your LAN management arsenal.
Give Ping Manager a try and let us know what you think. Do you like having a GUI available rather than typing commands to check network devices? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Group of IT Professionals via Shutterstock
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