These answers are in light of me joining a new company that had many SolarWinds products installed but have not fully implemented them or and have not necessarily been following best practices.
1. What was life like before using SolarWinds? (Include what you were using and why you decided it was time for a change)
I primarily came from an APM background. I would use system, network, and/or environment monitoring to support the application, using those metrics secondarily to what APM was monitoring and alerting on. My "before" Solarwinds experience is having the SolarWinds products installed but having minimal implementation of it. Meaning we had the tool but we might as well not have. Outages would occur (servers not available, services crashed, memory running out, etc.) and we would say to ourselves, "We could have caught this if 'this was monitored' or if we setup an alert for 'that'."
2. Which SolarWinds product(s) saved your bacon?
NPM, for monitoring our network devices, has been the most fully implemented product. SAM, especially AppInight for Active Directory would have saved our bacon, but we were slow to upgrade and didn't have it implemented when an outage occurred. We have upgraded and rolled it out and won't let that happen again. DPA is also relied upon by our DBAs, but I don't have in depth background on it. Pingdom has also been essential to our monitoring plan.
3. Did you consider other options, and why did you choose SolarWinds?
SolarWinds is the premiere network monitoring tool in my opinion. With SolarWinds already on premise fulfilling our network monitoring needs, it was a natural fit to start utilizing the other SolarWinds products and having one place to go look at all the essential information on the state of our systems and environment. I'm aware of and have used the competition at previous jobs. The ease of use, flexibility, and holistic capabilities of SolarWinds would make me choose SolarWinds over the alternative solutions, if I had to make that decision today.
4. How has life been since you've rolled out SolarWinds in your environment?
As we started to match the capabilities of SolarWinds to our environment we have been able to be more proactive in preventing incidents and more capable of responding to incidents when they do occur. It has lowered our overall stress level and have given us a greater peace of mind. We have a long way to go to reach our monitoring vision or end goal, but we know we can get there with SolarWinds being at the core of our plan.