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F e a t u r e s

Big Brother is designed to let anyone see how their network is doing in near real-time, from any web browser, anywhere.

An experienced Systems Administrator should be able to get the core of Big Brother up in about an hour (less if they read the documentation). Once you've done this, you're a Brother.


Big Brother displays status information as web pages or WML pages for WAP-enabled devices. These web pages have the systems monitored down the left hand side of the page, the tests for each system across the top of the page. This results in a matrix of color coded dots on screen. Green is Good, Red is Bad. In addition, the background color of the status pages is always the color of the most serious condition of any element being monitored at that time.


Big Brother uses a client-server architecture combined with methods which both push and pull data. Network testing is done by polling all monitored services from a single machine, and reporting these results to a central location (the BBDISPLAY). If you want local system information, you can install a BB client on the local machine, which will send CPU, process, disk space, and logfile status reports in periodically. Each report is timestamped with an expiration date (like milk). This lets us know when a report is no longer valid, which is usually an indication of a more serious problem.


It's not much good if your monitoring system can fail and not tell you of the problem. Big Brother supports redundancy through allowing you to run multiple instances of Big Brother in parallel. This means that BB clients can report into multiple Web Displays (BBDISPLAYs) and Notification servers (BBPAGERs).


Big Brother sends all status reports from client to server over port 1984. What other port would Big Brother use? The IANA has assigned Big Brother this port, and the BB protocol itself is open. Limited support for SNMP trap handling is supported using third-party plugins.


The Big Brother servers and BBNET functions run on Unix/Linux, with a scaled-down version for NT/Win2K is also available. Client software is available for Unix/Linux, NT/Win2K/Win2003 while user contributed clients for Netware, Mac OS 9, VMS, AS/400 and VM/ESA at

Network tests

Big Brother includes support for testing ftp, http, https, smtp, pop3, dns, telnet, imap, nntp, and ssh servers. Support for additional tests is easily added.

Local Tests

If you choose to install a BB client on a local machine, it will monitor disk space, CPU usage, messages, and can check that important processes are up and running.


Big Brother has a sophisticated notification ruleset, not for the faint of heart (blame Rob). You can notify based on time-of-day, machine, or the test that failed. In addition we support an initial delay before paging (useful to cut down on late night false alarms), page-only-every defined amount of time, paging groups, acknowledgement, and escalation. Built in support for e-mail paging, alphanumeric paging via Qpage or Sendpage, or numeric and SMS pages via Kermit for the BB Unix/Linux server platform while the NT/Win2K server platform only supports e-mail for now. Under the Unix/Linux server platform, you can even create your own custom notification procedure.

History & Reporting

Big Brother supports reporting, which will allow you to determine whether Service Level Agreements are being met. In addition, we provide access to historical status information so you can see what the problem was at any given time.

Plug-ins & Extensions

Big Brother supports plug-ins. You can write plug-ins in any language, and we include several samples to make it easy. In addition, Brothers from around the world have written hundreds of plug-ins to monitor everything from Oracle Databases to CPU temperature on Solaris machines. You can see the current list at


Big Brother is very flexible. Warning and alarm levels are all easily redefinable. The Web Display can be easily customized. We have hooks into other products, like MRTG for bandwidth monitoring. Since you have the source code, you can easily figure out what Big Brother is doing, and change it to suit your needs.


One of the best things about Big Brother is the community that has sprung up around it. Over 2000 Brothers on the various mailing list provide quick and friendly support and commentary.

Real-Time Diagnostics

Spotlight on Web Servers Beyond monitoring for high availability, you will also need to manage your system for optimal performance. Once Big Brother alerts you of a condition, you can then use Quest Software's Spotlight to gather domain specific information and quickly resolve performance issues. Spotlight is a real-time diagnostic tool designed to diagnose and resolve performance bottlenecks before your users are affected. More information on Spotlight is available here.

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