I often use this phrase when referring to how many companies from small to medium to, mind you, very large companies, put their faith in free and inexpensive tools to monitor their network infrastructure. Of course, free and inexpensive catch the eye of everyone and that helps to spread the word everywhere. But are these tools really free or inexpensive in a practical sense, or do they just seem like a good deal on the face of it?
Speaking with prospects and clients, we learn that most of them use anywhere from 5 to 10 of these kinds of monitoring products and some even more than that. Given all the time it takes to manually configure and maintain these tools, the level of reactive management involved, and that most critical problems run deep—then throw in the fire drills that occur when everyone starts pointing at the network (again) as the source of the latest problem—these tools suddenly get very, very expensive.
It’s understandable that in this ever-changing world of IT where every vendor seems to be saying the same thing, it’s hard for customers to know what to believe or which network management product to pick.
It helps to evaluate ahead of time what you need on an ongoing basis then ask the vendor some hard questions. For example, if consolidating tools is a high priority, you might ask: how many products do I need to get started? How many data stores are involved? How are the products integrated? If you have a small network team or limited technical resources, questions might include: Can my system administrator install and deploy the product or do we need programming skills? How do you set up monitoring for routers and switches? Does the product do auto discovery and rediscovery or do we need to manually rescan the network to re-discover devices? Also get to the bottom of what’s included in the price. For example, does the cost of the product include the databases and web servers? If not, what would it cost to purchase these separately?
Questions like these help you find out whether the “great deal” you’re getting really is.