We live in a day where servers are in numbers close to desktops. Every other person we meet have one or two websites or blogs. And these websites and blogs are placed inside servers which run operating systems like the popular linux based or windows servers. Servers manage a lot of tasks. They handle numerous services, jobs and applications inside them.
So much happen inside servers which common users do not have much idea about that they run into serious problems while tweaking inside them. We, at hostcats hire quality support personnel to meet the requirements of the day to day issues appearing in the server. But is this the only way to help our valuable customers and is there something cheaper ?
Hostcats consider monitoring as the most important when it comes to server management. We value up time of our servers to it’s greatest extent. We often love to hear “Hostcats has 100% uptime. The only downtime I had was fixed even before I could finish typing the ticket” . Far less than 2 minutes!!!
Every big hosting firm will have a number of servers spread across the globe. A number of services run inside them like web servers, dns, mysql, mail servers, and so on. The simplest a hosting firm can do is check if these services are running in the respective servers, the servers are up, the loads are not heavy etc. For this a network monitoring (server monitoring ) utility comes handy.
Server monitoring applications run off any server or desktop system and provide status details of the various services running inside the different servers. They generate alerts and notifications when something goes wrong in the remotely hosted servers.
A variety of configuration is possible from basic sound alerts to the support personnel to SMS alerts. Our monitoring system, basically emails our entire support team if the downtime is more than 5 minutes, and if the problem is not fixed in 10 minutes, the technical manager is alerted, followed by SMS alerts our CTO and Directors on their blackberries. Entire technical personnel goes on vigil.
There are lots of server monitoring applications available and some of the powerful ones come cheap ( hats off to the GNU guys ). Notable ones include Nagios, Munin, OpenNMS, Monit etc. Network monitoring takes note of slow or failing systems and notifies the network administrator of such occurrences. Such notifications can take the form of email messages,or even phone messages. No matter what form they take, network problem messages should take the highest priority.
Network monitoring systems are much different from intrusion detection systems or intrusion prevention systems. These systems ( IDS and IPS ) detect break-ins and prevent suspicious activity from unauthorized users. An NMS lets you know how well the network is running during the course of ordinary operations. These monitoring applications come normally in parts with a backend plugin that has to be installed and configured in the remote system to be monitored and the main part in our local server which monitors them.
The Web interface is popular among these as they provide a flexible way of monitoring the servers where ever you want them. This also gives the advantage to the end resellers to get an idea how the server they host on is doing for the last couple of days.
How are the support personnel going to benefit from these tools? Apart from the early detection and logging of the details which lead to certain server issues, these systems provide useful aide while the techs are on duty. There are also many situations where the techs wouldn’t need to do a preliminary checkup of the servers to acknowledge the presence of services. For example the server up status will determine if the server is pinging or not. The techs wont have to try the telneting diagnosis (telnet to a particular IP on a distinct port number) to determine if that particular services is running safely on that port. In the last 6 years of our existence in the hosting industry, there have been experiences where the monitoring utilities never fail in situations where telneting gives a false report.
A favourite among the server monitoring utilities, is Nagios. Nagios is an open source tool specially developed to monitor host and service and designed to inform you of network incidents before your clients, end-users or managers do. It has been designed to run under the Linux operating system, but works fine under most *NIX variants. Nagios can be integrated with other applications very easily – most tasks performed by Nagios are handed off to external commands and third-party applications can send control commands and data to Nagios very easily. In addition, the seperation of the interface from the monitoring logic makes it fairly simple for people to write their own front-ends for Nagios.
This type of modular design gives people a great deal of flexibility when integrating Nagios into their environment. As an example, they can write plugins (check commands) to monitor almost any kind of system or service they might have in production – no matter how arcane or customized it may be. Nagios does not limit what they can monitor.
At hostcats, use Nagios as our prime monitoring utility. It runs a variety of service tests on our servers and VPSes. These tests ensure a safe browsing experience for our end users. As a matter of fact much of our trouble shooting task first starts with the check of the current nagios reports and its logs. We have been able to deliver a better service to our customers since the adoption of Nagios. Not to mention, we have also been able to maximize our support productivity and save a few dollars with its usage.
This should give a brief idea about on how our truly 24/7 customer care is making sure that your website enjoys a 100% uptime through out the year and much about its advantages. Happy Hosting!!