Product review: eTelemetry's Locate: DNS for People

It solves the anonymous IP address problem and more

Ever wonder who is using your PC when you leave work at night? Are your users doing something they shouldn't be, such as running peer-to-peer servers or sucking up huge amounts of network bandwidth downloading Internet radio or porn? Are unauthorized users connecting to your network?

Then wonder no more. There's a new tool called Locate, from Annapolis, Md.-based eTelemetry Inc., and it's a dandy way to answer these and other questions. I looked at the production version running on a real corporate network at a midsize hospital outside of our nation's capital, and I could see why Locate has the power it does.

The idea is simple. Put the product's 1U server on your network and have it begin to collect information. The genius behind this product is that it correlates four pieces of data: the computer's physical switch port location, its IP address, its MAC address and a user log-in credential. This means you can figure out who is using which computer in which location. Once it collects all this detail -- and it is a lot of detail -- you can slice and dice the information in all sorts of useful ways. I've taken a few screenshots to give you an idea of its power.

The IT manager told me that, on the production network that I examined, Locate was a big time-saver for both him and his staff. Before he had his hands on the product, he had to spend sometimes 30 to 40 minutes getting answers to the questions mentioned above when he was trying to track down errant users or odd network behavior.

Why so long? It takes time to correlate data using several tools, including a Fluke OptiView meter, and server logs and other reports. Now these answers are forthcoming in a minute or two. "With the Fluke, I could identify the problem, but not find the source or the port number or the particular user [who] was causing the problem," he told me. With Locate, he can get everything he needs on a couple of screens.

This plug-and-play product is useful in several situations. If you have a network of nondesktop PC devices, such as instruments and machines like print servers that run embedded operating systems, then you'll want Locate just because you don't always have a user you can call on the phone and track down. If your network isn't as well documented as you'd like, or if all your connector labels aren't accurate on your ports or wiring closets, then this product will help.

Product review: eTelemetry's Locate: DNS for People

In this graphic you can see how many users have logged into one particular PC in the Patient Financial Services department over two weeks elapsed time. The graphs at the bottom of the screen show by time of day which user used this particular PC.

(Click image to see larger view)

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