Keeping a server running optimally on a consistent basis involves managing multiple system elements simultaneously. Automated scripts and specialized software can handle the tasks your server needs to complete on a daily basis—but when one of these experiences an error, it can throw the entire system off.

 

Monitoring makes up for other programs’ error-handling deficiencies by passing important information along to human administrators who can then choose when and how to intervene as needed.

 

Learning precisely how to monitor server performance is crucial for keeping servers online, functional, and secure. In this article, we cover a number of common obstacles administrators can run into when monitoring a running server and handling automated performance alerts. Read on to learn more:

Configuration Concerns

The importance of server monitoring should be clear enough at this point, but the way your server and monitoring solutions are configured can make or break your efforts. The following pitfalls are worth preparing for to keep your server secure when you first begin monitoring performance:

DNS Monitoring

Although monitoring your internal network may seem like an obvious security tactic worth adopting, extending such vigilance beyond the bounds of your own servers to your chosen DNS provider’s name servers may seem unnecessary. However, DNS providers are the ones responsible for directing visitors to your registered domains and their failure to do so consistently could cause costly unexpected downtime.

 

Tools such as Power Admin’s DNS Monitor can handle reverse DNS lookups in addition to resolving hostnames. Results are cross-referenced with a list of expected values to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Error Auditing

Errors need to be caught and analyzed to be of any use to you. Properly configuring error auditing processes on your server accomplishes this and ensures the issues your server experiences are ranked and described with an appropriate degree of detail.

 

Solutions such as Power Admin’s Server Monitor help to simplify error auditing by reporting on a range of associated processes when a given error surfaces, providing much-needed context to basic error messages.

Scheduling

Scheduling is equally important for both IT maintenance and monitoring automation. Avoid relying on manual queries and human scheduling to keep up with server performance, whenever possible, to reduce the potential for operator oversights to occur.  In other words, automate all server monitoring checks.

 

Fail-over contingencies and standby server systems are fully accommodated in PA’s Server Monitor solution. Additionally, scheduled status reports are available to regularly keep your team abreast of system performance fluctuations.

Multiple Locations

To best monitor your server’s up-time, it is imperative that you leverage the flexibility that multiple access points can provide. The logic behind doing this centers on network stability and outage concerns.

 

Server monitoring solutions that use a single access point can potentially run into difficulties accurately differentiating between your server suddenly going down or otherwise becoming unavailable, as opposed to an internet service provider suffering an outage in the same area.

 

The use of multiple access points located in different geographical locations can mitigate this issue and provide more trustworthy up-time monitoring results. If a single access point goes down, the remaining access points can provide a full picture description of the problem. If all of the access points in use are unable to contact your server, it is a lot more likely to be down or otherwise in need of human intervention.

Alerts

Finely tuned alerts are a major part of any advanced network monitoring system. The main obstacles to avoid in setting up alerts revolve around testing and enhancing visibility.

 

Testing your alerts before allowing them to run unperturbed provides you with proper insight into their effectiveness. You can keep alerts from displaying unimportant information, ensure they are firing at the right triggers, and more.

 

Boosting alert visibility involves pushing them to relevant channels. Alerts should be sent to places where they are most likely to be seen. Email is the default recommendation; however, depending on the importance of your server and the capabilities of your chosen monitoring solution, it may be more advantageous to send alerts via SMS or an app.

Real-Time

Implementing real-time alerts on your server is likely to lead to more alerts being sent overall, should you choose to measure all important metrics. To cut down on the noise, it can help to limit the total number of alerts to be sent in a given time period. Keep alerts consistent, but avoid limiting them too much in this way to keep important information from getting lost.

Dashboards and Reports

Having access to a unified dashboard where all relevant metrics can be assessed at a glance goes a long way in simplifying the monitoring process.

 

Power Admin’s monitoring solutions present relevant information in such a way that your server’s status can be assessed on a single screen at any given time, saving you frustration and reducing the chance of important elements being overlooked.

Structured Logging

Log files form the backbone of most server monitoring operations, providing detailed information on service outages, suspicious network activity, and more for administrators to take further action on.

 

Unfortunately, most standard approaches to logging have a significant caveat—they are largely unstructured, complicating the retrieval of relevant information when it is most needed. A developer can have a tough time manually digging through hundreds of lines of data to unearth important hints at the cause of a recent service interruption.

Structured logging centers on automatically storing information in machine-readable formats to make it scannable, organizable, and—ultimately—more useful to administrators in a hurry to solve sudden problems. Consider adopting structured logging to save time in parsing log file data for clues about each crash.

 

Common logging formats include XML and JSON. The latter of these options is widely cross-compatible with most operating systems and programming languages, allowing you to quickly import data into a variety of tools and dashboards as needed. To mitigate issues with log files occupying excessive space, many solutions offer automatic purging options to periodically clean out particularly old logs that are no longer needed.

 

Power Admin’s Log File Monitor tool keeps track of specified text files and scans for predefined text, notifying you when it appears.

Remote Access

Administrators and teams in charge of handling multiple servers at once may not be able to be physically present on the premises where such servers are running at all times. In such cases, remote monitoring techniques are employed to keep responsible parties informed from afar.

 

Although this approach to server monitoring is highly efficient, it is important to pay special attention to security concerns when monitoring critical resources remotely. The following elements are common stumbling points worth carefully preparing for:

Access Control

Controlling the users who can see certain files helps in managing tiers of customers while allowing administrators to retain full viewing access to the server’s file system.

 

Power Admin’s File Sight solution offers this kind of functionality with settings that can be easily configured on the server where the software is installed. Users can be given specific file system viewing capabilities to match their needs without coming into conflict with other users.

Monitoring Agents

The monitoring agent—the code that needs to be executed on your server to capture and transmit performance data to your team—can morph into an obstacle should your team need to use an agentless approach. Agents such as Power Admin’s satellite monitoring program can keep tabs on multiple servers and send relevant information back to administrators. There are a few alternatives available depending on your server’s architecture.

 

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is the more widely compatible counterpart to the Windows-standard WMI. SNMP also allows information to be received from remote servers without additional agent software needing to be installed.1 The use of strong passwords to authenticate users accessing such information is pivotal to using SNMP safely. Power Admin monitoring tools make extensive use of SNMP, and our SNMP Monitor solution supports versions v1, v2c, and v3 of the protocol.

 

WMI security is handled based on user privileges; members of the administrator user group can run scripts with elevated privileges to access more sensitive data as needed.²

 

Leveraging standard Server Message Blocks (SMB), Power Admin monitoring solutions can securely access server file systems remotely.

Cloud Insecurity

Opting for cloud-based monitoring solutions can open the door for bad actors on the web to gain access to your server’s data in a large variety of ways. By hijacking a chosen monitoring service provider’s connection, sensitive data can be sniffed and authentication information extracted for illicit use.

 

Avoiding such cloud-based monitoring tools can keep your servers safe from data breaches and API insecurity mishaps, simplifying administration efforts considerably.

Keep Your Servers Secure at All Times

Guaranteeing consistent up-time and fast response times makes real-time server monitoring a must for any administrator.

 

Power Admin is the enterprise-grade cybersecurity partner you need, offering powerful server monitoring solutions built with simplicity in mind. Handle file access auditing, agentless server monitoring, and more, easily and securely, with our purpose-built toolset. Reach out to us here at PowerAdmin at 1-800-401-2339 Monday through Friday for more information.

Sources:

 

  1. https://www.techopedia.com/definition/5473/simple-network-management-protocol-snmp

2. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/win32/wmisdk/user-account-control-and-wmi

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