UNIX, LINUX, and other derivatives, collectively referred to as *NIX, are amazingly powerful and flexible operating systems. These OSs are widely used to run servers which are deemed to be critically important to the maintenance of an organization’s most valuable infrastructure requirements including Web servers, Directory servers, E-mail servers, Database servers, Applications servers, and Terminal servers, among others.
That’s why it is critical that network managers have the ability to monitor a UNIX server’s health and keep their finger on the pulse of the configured application services that these UNIX servers run.
Although UNIX and LINUX comes with an array of tools, they do not offer a homogenous monitoring, reporting and alerting system that is capable of staying on top of the most common problems that can occur over time and without notice.
Some of the most common conditions needing to be monitored, besides hacking and penetration attempts, include:
Availability and performance of memory
Running services and in-process jobs
Various Network interface statuses
To compensate for the missing built-in network monitoring and reporting functionality, professional network managers turn to network monitoring software to mitigate the risk of a server going down when the NOC is not staffed and no one can respond.
Although there are plenty of UNIX network server reporting packages to choose from, it is wise to limit your candidates to those packages which are capable of operating without creating security conflicts. For example, process and diskspace checking routines should be able to use PRIVATE KEY authentication so that passwords, even if they are encrypted, are not sent out “over the wire". It makes no sense to tighten up your monitoring capabilities at the risk of weakening your security protection.
Of course, if you are running Web servers, there is a whole other level of monitoring and reporting that you need to consider. Many managers feel that monitoring the site by pinging it periodically is sufficient. That strategy is weak in that it ignores all of the other server dependencies that must also be monitored.
After all, your web server might be responding to ping, but your site or server could be experiencing other problems, such as:
DNS Server failure
FTP Server failure
Database Server failure
POP3 and SMTP Server failure
As well as a host of other problems that a simple pinging strategy would never discover.
A network monitoring software package that is designed to monitor any of the UNIX or *NIX servers is your safest choice for ensuring trouble-free operations even when your NOC is not staffed.
Of course, monitoring and reporting is not enough. You need a flexible notification system as well. Don’t settle for anything less than a network monitoring system that has these notification protocol capabilities:
SMTP mail - With or without authentication and with fall-back to a 2nd mailserver if needed.
Message on your cellphone - Via a connected modem send a message to your cellphone (SMS) using the TAP or UCP protocol.
Paging - Send via the network using the SMPP or SNPP protocol a paging message
NotePager - Lets NotePager deliver your paging message
Instant Messaging – Provides an alert via ICQ or MSN
Popup message - for those times when the NOC is staffed
And finally, consider the fact that even if you do have a robust and flexible notification system on top of a good network monitoring and reporting system that may not be enough.
There will be times when an incident occurs that is of such a magnitude that immediate action must be taken to mitigate extensive damage or service disruptions. That won’t be a problem if you choose a UNIX network monitoring package that gives you the ability to script your own rules and set the software to take default actions, like rebooting or shutting down as server, when certain alarms are received or specific thresholds are crossed.
Choose a networking monitoring solution with ALL of these features and you can take the weekend off secure in the knowledge that you’ve left your organization is good hands.