GJdeBoer writes "The book is aimed at people who are managing a network and would like to get insight into the performance of that network. It covers the installation and configuration of the Cacti application. In the preface the book states that it's not necessary to be a Linux Guru to use the book and that exactly is the case. The book builds up your knowledge about Cacti and the necessary steps to configure it for your network, and it teaches you about Net-SNMP and RRDTool, the building blocks of Cacti." Read on for the rest of GJdeBoer's review.As I've been working with Cacti for several years now, my aim was to get a book that describes the best practices for Cacti installations and to get a reference guide for myself. My hope was to get some more knowledge about the inner workings of Cacti and I think although meant for Cacti beginners, the book did a good job at that. I got a more clear idea about the architecture of Cacti which helps me with the integration of Cacti in my client's networks.
The book starts off with an introduction to Cacti. It explains what Cacti is, how the global architecture is and for what purposes it can be used. It also explains the basics of the prerequisite RRDTool. In the next chapter the book explains the installation of the prerequisites. The book then progresses on the installation, configuration and tasks like authentication and authorization of users. We then learn to add devices and assign templates to them.
The last chapters end the book with advanced topics for Cacti users such as Data Management and Cacti Management. It explains how to create your own data and snmp queries to be able to monitor custom devices. Personally, I found these chapters to be the most educational part of the book.
As for this book no advanced knowledge of Linux is needed. It explains the installation steps of Cacti and its prerequisites clearly and with a lot of exemplary screenshots. As Cacti is managed by means of an web interface it is the most clear way to make a point in a book about Cacti. The book is easy to read and I think the book covers the theory needed to install and operate a Cacti server perfectly. As it explains the use of Templates in Cacti and why you should use them, the book helps people build scalable and neat Cacti setups.
As a downside of the book I have found the clear focus being on the Debian side of Linux distributions. All the installation done in the book is by using apt-get, Debian and Ubuntu's package management system, but in the professional Linux world you are seeing more RedHat based distributions then Debian. I would have liked a couple of tooltips on how to install the prerequisites on RedHat or CentOS with the yum package manager or maybe by using source packages for installation. It's not a big downside for more advanced users but for the Linux novices, at who the book targets on, it could be a bit hard to find out the right way to install Cacti on a RedHat or CentOS box. Since the configuration of Cacti is the same on every platform this is only applicable for the installation chapters.
In general the book does exactly what the cover says: "Monitor your network with ease" although I found it a bit short. The book consists of a hundred and ten pages, but since there are a lot of screenshots on the pages there is less text. The book doesn't dive very deep into the inner workings of Cacti. One could argue that is exactly the point of the book: most people don't use that kind of knowledge. I would have liked a bit more insight into the MySQL database behind Cacti and troubleshooting steps for when your graphs stop working.
I think the book is great for people who want to start with Cacti because they want to monitor their network. They can install and operate a Cacti instance very quickly with help of this book without having previous knowledge of Linux. In my field of work I often come in contact with customers who have problems in their network. I always advice them to install a network monitoring appliance like Cacti. Since most of them use Windows networks they often have no experience in configuring a Linux server for Cacti. I think I will recommend this book in the future to these people.
Gert-Jan de Boer ia a self-employed IT Consultant with a company that specializes in Networking, Voice over IP, Storage and Virtualization.
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