Many small and midsized IT organizations rely on a mix of freeware and open source software to manage their infrastructure. These free tools can be effective and economical choices for smaller networks. But how do you know when it’s time to upgrade to a commercial product?

Scale is one of the first indicators that you need to migrate to a commercial management tool. Maybe you have relied on a free or open source SNMP polling tool for a few years, but suddenly your network has grown by a few switches and you’ve found you can no longer monitor the entire network. There will be only so many probes you can configure on a single instance of a free monitoring tool. To support your growing network, you will need to look elsewhere.

If you discover that it is taking you longer and longer to diagnose and remediate infrastructure problems, that is another red flag. In this case, the root of the problem may lie in the disjointed nature of your toolset, a mix of freeware and open source tools that have no integration points. For instance, you might have a free infrastructure discovery and mapping tool. While you can use this tool to maintain an up-to-date view of your infrastructure inventory with a visualization of device dependencies, it has no monitoring features. To pull information on availability and performance, you have to go to another free tool that offers no dependency mapping. Diagnosing problems more efficiently will require upgrading to a more integrated toolset.

Another issue to keep in mind is organizational continuity. If you are relying on a collection of free and open source tools to manage your network, there is a good chance that those tools have limited documentation and zero support. You might have a savvy engineer who knows how to use and maintain these disparate tools. But when that person leaves the organization, he or she will take that expertise with them. Your organization will struggle to operationalize those tools in the wake of that disruption, especially if your installation of an open source tool includes some custom coding.

If one or more of these issues is affecting your organization, you should consider migrating to a low-cost commercial infrastructure management tool with multiple integrated functions. A tool such as InterMapper from HelpSystems will scale, streamline troubleshooting, and offer a better support model. HelpSystems markets InterMapper as a low-cost tool that is easy to install and maintain. It can automatically discover and map your infrastructure, overlaying availability and performance indicators on the map  to give you a logical view of how the health of an individual device can impact the rest of your infrastructure.

Unlike some freeware and open source tools, InterMapper offers out-of-the-box probes that will support and monitor devices from leading manufacturers. Additional features include bandwidth monitoring with reports on top talkers in your network, which can give you a quick view of the bandwidth hogs. InterMapper also offers Layer 2 connectivity information and custom alert notification. Another advantage it has is multi-site deployment. Unlike many free and open source tools, InterMapper can pull data off devices from multiple locations.

HelpSystems InterMapper is a good example of a low-cost infrastructure management tool that can help a small or midsized IT organization take its first steps toward a mature operational model. When you know it’s time to replace your free and open source management tools, evaluate InterMapper to determine if it meets your requirements.