Review: Monitoring your SharePoint Farms with SmartTrack by BinaryWave

Monday, August 26, 2013 6:32 AM

Recently my good friend Eric Shupps asked me to take a look at a new product his company, BinaryWave, had released. Their product, SmartTrack, aims to help SharePoint Farm administrators gain insight and awareness into their farm. I found it to be a very good concept and solution to a problem most farm administrators have.

In your car, you have little lights that show up on your dashboard when something is not ideal. The engine needs service, you are low on fuel, tire pressure is down, etc. The problem with these indicators is that they all only appear when you are in the car. Some of the newer cars, typically in the luxury lines, phone home to provide proactive service as it notices trends and lets the owner know that certain things should be addressed. We are at that point with SharePoint today. When there’s an issue with your farm, today you usually find out about it from the Central Administration dashboard or when a user calls up saying “this page is broken” or asking “I saw a ‘Something bad happened’ and was told to call you.” Now there’s a way to be more proactive…

SharePoint servers generate a ton of logging & event information. The challenge is to stay on top of all this data. Far too often I see many customers, including me, just jump in when things really break or when users start calling that the farm is down.

SmartTrack changes this by proactively harvesting all the logs from your different SharePoint servers into a central database and then provides insight into this via a centralized web-based dashboard (that is also very mobile friendly). It not only displays all the data being collected, but it also collates the events by source & priority to quickly see where the issues are occurring. Administrators can also setup alerts to be notified when certain things happen giving them the ability to head off possible issues before SharePoint starts to be affected and surface this experience off to the users.

Two of the coolest features in the product are the fact that SmartTrack learns about your farm over time the more data that is collected and when you find an issue, it automatically goes out and finds the top 10 search results for the issue that you are currently looking at… all linked from within the same error window.

Combined with data visualizations, administrators can quickly get a feel for how their farm is performing. This makes for greater uptime, happier users and more rested administrators. So who is this for? Anyone who had deployed SharePoint in a non-cloud, ala Office 365, way. This includes on-premises farms, farms that you host at a place like RackSpace or FPWeb or even farms you are running off virtual machines using Windows Azure VMs or Amazon Web Services EC2. If you fall into this bucket, it’s worth taking a few minutes to investigate SmartTrack. I personally think it’s a great solution to a common need many SharePoint farm administrators have.

Want to get an overview of the product for yourself? Check out these two videos on YouTube that do a great job of walking you through the product from an executive summary or in a feature walkthrough:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe my readers will enjoy. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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