What is your server doing right now? What is its load like? How much RAM is free? Is it running low on disk space? All of these are valid questions to be asking at any time when running a server, especially during busy periods when resources may be tight. Regularly checking your servers to ensure that everything is running smoothly for your users can become quite time-consuming. Fortunately, there are server monitoring tools to help you with this in the form of observing your server’s actions and alerting you when there’s a problem.
Server monitoring software is designed to watch your server and keep track of what it is doing. Information is collated in a central location where it can be displayed with graphs and visualizations for quick and easy visualization of how your system is performing. Monitoring tools vary in scope depending on what they do, from basic tools such as the top command that just shows live information about how a Linux system is running to complex software like Nagios that’s designed to run on its own server and monitor many others simultaneously while providing a single monitoring location. While monitoring tools only show you live information about the server, others can store historic information allowing you to see how the server has performed in the past.
Alerting software and services are normally linked to monitoring tools. The difference here is that while server monitoring software will show you information about the server, alerting software will look at this information and send a message to notify you when a specific monitoring threshold has been reached. This could be related to system load, running processes, logged in users, or just to let you know that a piece of software has stopped running.
As you can imagine, being alerted to problems with your server can save you a lot of time as it removes the need to keep checking up on your server. It also means you can respond to the problem faster, potentially fixing it before your users may even notice that the problem exists. Depending on the alerting platform that you choose, you could receive alerts via email, text message, phone or computer applications.
Monitoring and Alerting Options
There are many open source and proprietary monitoring and alerting tools available. Some are simply software that you install to the server, such as Monit which is designed to email you when your server meets defined criteria. Others make use of a central server that you set up to monitor your others, such as Nagios or Zabbix. In addition to software tools you host yourself, you can also get monitoring software as a service where another company provides a centralized platform for monitoring your servers. An advantage to using someone else’s platform for your monitoring is that if you are running a monitoring and alerting server for the rest of your servers, and that server goes offline, then you lose the rest of your alerting.
At VPS.NET we work with Server Density to provide you simple server monitoring for your server using their tried and tested platform. You can buy a license from us to install the Server Density agent application on your server. This will run in the background and send details about your server to their servers such as CPU load, memory use, running processes, disk usage, network traffic and server status of software like Apache. You can view the stored data in the form of graphs or as status breakdowns based on time snapshots of the collected data. In addition to monitoring, the Server Density platform allows you to set up email alerts based on the data gathered so that you can be alerted when your server status meets specific criteria that you can define.
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