Sep
5
2013

Server URL Monitoring

I've long used Servers Alive for my URL monitoring. It seems to have occasional application errors when booting from startup on one of my spare staging servers that I almost never keep online anymore. So, it's time to look into some new options.

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My first pick was FAN. Fan stands for Fully Automated Nagios. So, Nagios with some prepackaging to provide a nice GUI with it.

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Provides a snapshot of the features and setup involved.

I started setting this up by creating a snapshot via my staging VMWare Centos 6 environment on my staging server. As we’ll find out, it’s a good thing I did.

Downloaded FAN from here: http://www.fullyautomatednagios.org/wordpress/download/
Installing using this guide: http://www.fullyautomatednagios.org/wordpress/documentation/how-to-install-fan-on-centosrhel-5/

Found out during the “yum install standard” part that I would need to downgrade three or four dependencies for FAN to work. Which is probably why i was seeing so many install guides explaining this with Centos 5. Well, if that’s what you have, FAN looks like a worthwhile venture. I’ve used Nagios before without the pretty interface and while it is a bit intense to configure your first time through, there’s plenty of great documentation to help you setup.

Since I didn’t want to dabble with downgrades and mess with my other software, I opted to do more searching and found PRTG Monitor. Had I not, it probably wouldn’t have been a stretch to setup a new Centos 5 VMware instance and run it alongside my staging Centos 6 instance. I have the RAM to run it, I just wasn’t interested in the extra setup or so stuck into using Nagios that I wouldn’t consider a lighter alternative that did the job just as well.

You can download PRTG Monitor from http://www.paessler.com/prtg

It’s free (up to 8 sensors) and can check the content of a URL to report if it’s up/down. It runs in my base windows environment rather than in Centos 6 via VMWare.

The learning curve (without having to do file configuration like with Nagios) is almost just as difficult to setup. Nothing about this application seemed intuitive at first. But again, a user manual that was only a bit outdated helped to fill in the gaps as I went. Apparently there are only some things the “server administration” local window can do that the web based interface can not. Like change the port that it runs on. There are some minor differences between the app and browser versions that take some getting used to, but it’s stellar there is such a robust web interface to begin with.

Other Resources

It might also be worthwhile to mention I tested a few other tools in the process of this that failed to meet my requirements:

Net Tools – Free and easy to get into/setup in three minutes, though would only do ping checks. I wanted URL based checks that could analyze a page for specific content. My current hosting setup provides a monitor like this by default.
Spiceworks – Free, though misleading in that their tools list in a screen shot included “monitoring” which I did not find upon install. Nor could I find a plugin for one. Seemed to be more focused for a local network. My production servers are hosted externally.

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