I stumbled over an article about a tool called PC Monitor on the PC World web site a while ago. Not that I was really looking for such a tool but the IT-geek in me thought it looked interesting anyway so I had a closer look. After all, since I always have my main PC up and running in case I need to connect to it and also to keep all the file syncing, media sharing and so on going on it, it would be handy sometimes to know (remotely) if there has been a power cut or any other issues when something doesn’t seem to work as expected.
The article said that it was very lightweight so I downloaded it and installed it on a couple of machines. I didn’t install it on my main PC right away in case it would be doing something that I didn’t like though. What I found was that it is a quite functional as well as lightweight monitoring tool and it is free for private use. There are some limitations to the free version of course but it is still a quite functional tool and not at all as crippled as some “free” software. The main limitations are that you can monitor at most 5 machines using at most 3 portable devices. That should be enough for most homes and even some small businesses.
Installation is a breeze. You do have to create a PC monitor account though. Once installed you have a myriad of options of things that you can monitor. With the possibility of creating your own monitoring rules there are literally thousands of possibilities. When testing I choose to monitor, the basic CPU, disk and network parameters and to get alerts when someone logged on, CPU usage went amok, there was less than 15% left on any of the disks, the machine rebooted or the machine failed to ping my NAS storage for more than 5 minutes.
Next you have to install the monitoring app on your portable device. You can monitor your machines from anywhere using their website but if you are really mobile then you would want to have one of the monitoring apps. There’s apps for pretty much any platform, Windows Phone, Windows 8, Android and iOS. I have tried the ones for Windows Phone and Android and both are easy to use and works well.
The mobile app will alert you when any of the alerts are trigged from the machine. You can also receive alerts via email. One drawback with this system is that you wont get any alerts if the machine abruptly goes down or looses network connection. Of course you can solve this by having one or more machines ping other machines but this is not that easy if your not on a corporate network with dedicated IP’s or of you only have one PC that you want to have running at all times.
Regardless of this I would say this is a fairly functional and practical tool for a small to medium business or for a IT-geek that likes to tinker with things…like me!