Considering the widespread use of Windows file servers in enterprise settings, every IT professional should have a handle on server auditing, including the use of appropriate tools to get the job done. File server auditing ensures your file server remains secure and verifies your safety measures are adequate and not breached by any malicious actors.
Although Windows file servers contain basic event logging capacity, given the increasing compliance requirements of the modern IT environment, a comprehensive third-party solution is highly recommended. The right file server auditing tools make processes quicker and more accurate, so your server auditing doesn’t take up a large part of your total productive IT time.
Best File Server Auditing Tools
There are numerous Windows file server auditing software and SQL server auditing tools on the market. To help you identify which is right for your business, I’ve compiled a list of the best. Each of the tools comes with a free trial, allowing you to test them out in your business environment.
Of all the Windows server auditing tools available, I consider SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor (SAM) to be the best. SAM includes file server monitoring software designed to monitor file changes in real time, including changes in file age, file count, file size, and title. You can track unwanted changes and determine whether there are too many files in one directory.
SAM’s built-in performance monitoring templates help you get set up quickly to track the file server metrics you need. These monitoring templates can also be customized to fit your specific business needs. Furthermore, customizable alerting thresholds mean you won’t be overwhelmed with alerts.
SAM also contains tools for monitoring SQL servers, so you can ensure capacity constraints are well managed, and expensive queries don’t slow down your system.
The software encompasses a range of additional server and application monitoring tools, as well, and can integrate with other SolarWinds products through the Orion® Platform. You can download a free trial of SAM for up to 30 days.
Another good server audit software is Netwrix, which provides security information about changes made to files, folders, shares, and permissions, plus file access auditing. You can also use it for data discovery and classification and file analysis reporting.
The Windows server file auditing tools contain information about who changed what, when the changes were made, in which files, and the before and after values. In addition to providing reports on successful and failed read attempts for Windows file servers, Netwrix can check on SQL Server configuration changes, check changes to database content, and generate reports on SQL Server auditing and issues.
Alerting capabilities, access rights control, and file analysis reports make Netwrix an effective server auditing tool. You can try it free for 20 days.
Maintaining the health of a file server can also include monitoring and optimizing SQL Server performance. Using SQL Sentry, you can identify performance problems and audit SQL Server database environments more easily by identifying long-running and high-impact queries, so you can resolve issues faster.
SQL Sentry can help you improve and maintain your Microsoft data estate by:
- Identifying statements running thousands of times in a short period of time and subjecting your server to “death by a thousand cuts”
- Finding the top resource-consuming queries over time and tuning them within the same interface
- Tracking new releases or data churn over time to better understand what may have changed the performance profile for one or more queries
SQL Sentry can be downloaded and used free for 14 days.
ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus provides tools for file and folder access management and auditing, including snapshots of user, file, and access activity. It gives you detailed information on which files were accessed, including insight into unexpected permission changes, deleted files, or renamed files. You can also easily see who the most active users are and which files are accessed or modified the most.
If there’s a sudden spike in changes, DataSecurity Plus will alert you in real time. It will flag changes made to critical or sensitive files, folders, or critical user activities.
ManageEngine Data Security Plus offers a free trial for up to 30 days.
Directory Monitor file server auditing software provides real-time notifications on file changes, access, and unusual inactivity on your file system. It can detect user-made changes, giving you information on which users made the changes and whether the changes are local or made through network shares. Automatic configuration makes the auditing process simple, and you can enforce system audit policies even if malicious users try to disable them.
Directory Monitor enables server snapshots during network or power outages, a useful protective feature to help ensure changes are detected even during disaster. It also gives you the option to set up scripts or applications to execute in the case of change events.
You can try Directory Monitor for free for up to 21 days.
Finding the Right Server Auditing Tool
Windows server auditing software should always suit your business needs and goals, so it’s a good idea to test a potential solution before you roll it out company-wide. I have kept this list focused on the best of the best tools, all of which offer free trials. My top recommendation among Windows server auditing tools is SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor, not only for its robust toolset and user-friendly interface, but also due to its ability to integrate easily with other SolarWinds offerings.