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Feel the pulse of your Web Server thanks to Monitoring

Posted at March 25, 2019, by O. QUENUM.

Summary

Feel the pulse of your web server just as you do with your customer relationship, in order to prevent a “careless driving” of your Web Server.

Article

A Web Server is complex

Before to dive into how to actually feel the pulse of your web server, let first take a look what a web server is composed of:

  • One or multiple computers that are thankfully served with SSD hard disk drives, some “well dimensioned” Memory and CPU time to process the web requests within less than 3 seconds. The usage of SSD hard disk drive is key, as a web server is primarily a file server. Also you will get out the “well dimensioned” Memory and CPU time upon the accuracy of the way you feel out the pulse of your web server.
  • An Operating System that aims at consuming as less as resource as possible, that is preferably a Linux operating system. In addition to a firewall, a database manager, an email manager and many more software…
  • Your Business Application Software which implements your Business Rules. Here, you pay a particular attention to guaranty the Business Application Software is well tested up to the level of required quality. By the way, it is strongly recommended to set up a testing environment having the same model as your production environment. Indeed such a testing strategy aims at not to corrupt the Business Software while transferring from the testing environment to the production environment…

As you can see, a web server is a complex environment which pulse requires a reliable Monitoring system in order to be felt. Fortunately, you are provided with many open sources software, where many also have a premium version.

Let compare two of the most used Monitoring Systems brought to you as Open Sources, that are Zabbix (4.0 LTS) and Nagios Core (4.4.3).

Comparison of Web Server Monitoring in Open Source Zabbix (4.0 LTS) Nagios Core (4.4.3)
Providing a feature for Triggering Notifications, which allows to send the webmaster alerts or Web Servers pulse? YesYes
Providing mecanism for Extensions, allowing to extend the out-of-the-box features with scripts (bash, python…) or binaries? YesYes
Providing an out-of-the-box Web Interface for a friendly configuration? YesNo
Providing Templates to standardize the monitoring of multiple hosts? YesNo
Providing a feature for the Configuration Inheritance or the Configuration change propagation wherever it’s applicable? YesNo
Providing a feature that generates an Automatic Graph for each numerical webmaster defined item? YesNo
Allowing the Application Log File Monitoring upon which to trigger key notifications on the running Business Application? YesYes
An Open Source backed by an Active Community? YesYes
Providing an Online Documentation? YesYes
Providing support for HTTP, FTP, SMTP, TLS, SNMP, POP3 and SSH? YesYes
Providing support for Auto Discovery within large environments? YesYes
Providing a high-quality dashboard that can be customized for a better user experience? YesNo
Providing a handy Upgrade Procedure? YesNo

As you can see, my winner is Zabbix!

Furthermore, such a comparison got me having the feeling that Zabbix is much more modern than Nagios Core. Indeed, Zabbix helps to master the complexity of the Monitoring of new generation Web servers without loosing in Performance nor in Stability!
Also, please note that Zabbix uses only few resources to get its job done.

The last but not the least, the whole Zabbix is brought to you for free, while Nagios Core is the freemium part of the Nagios offer.

Some handy screenshots of my Zabbix installation

How to prevent a "careless driving" of your Web Server?

In order to prevent a "running out of fuel" or having a tire burst on the highway, before leaving, a driver takes the time to estimate the required fuel, to check tire-pressure and the level of engine oil, and others.

Similarly, to avoid losing sales or leads, regularly taking the pulse of your web server, goes to prevent its failure. Given that a web server failure may be due to:

  • A bug in the source code (for instance, very often with a Wordpress or Prestashop platform, such a bug is brought by a plugin installed right in the production environment, without tests or prior exams...)
  • Security breach taken by hackers
  • A prohibitive* response time due to a non-optimized source code or images or videos that are too heavy...
  • A prohibitive* response time due to an underestimation of the power required to serve the requests from Internet users.

* The prohibitive response time of a web server is 3 seconds. Indeed, experience shows that beyond 3 seconds the majority of Internet users give up.

Example of Inbound Marketing showcase made with Augmented Press, see its Offer here.

Some handy screenshots of my Nagios installation

Example of Inbound Marketing showcase made with Augmented Press, see its Offer here.

How to prevent a "careless driving" of your Web Server?

In order to prevent a "running out of fuel" or having a tire burst on the highway, before leaving, a driver takes the time to estimate the required fuel, to check tire-pressure and the level of engine oil, and others.

Similarly, to avoid losing sales or leads, regularly taking the pulse of your web server, goes to prevent its failure. Given that a web server failure may be due to:

  • A bug in the source code (for instance, very often with a Wordpress or Prestashop platform, such a bug is brought by a plugin installed right in the production environment, without tests or prior exams...)
  • Security breach taken by hackers
  • A prohibitive* response time due to a non-optimized source code or images or videos that are too heavy...
  • A prohibitive* response time due to an underestimation of the power required to serve the requests from Internet users.

* The prohibitive response time of a web server is 3 seconds. Indeed, experience shows that beyond 3 seconds the majority of Internet users give up.

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