Site update and feature releases Oct 2016

We’ve rolled out some UI and feature updates for NodePing today. We hope you find them helpful. I’ll summarize the changes here. Look here for future posts, which will go into more details for each.

Delayed Notifications:
You can now set a delay on ‘down’ alerts. This will help make your notifications more actionable for frequently flapping services. This new feature can also be used to escalate alerts or notify support/management if services remain offline. This feature has been available for a while in our API, but hasn’t been in our documentation, and has now been added to our UI as well. See the ‘Delay’ drop down in the Notification section of your check.

Check Cloning:
You can now clone an existing check, with all its settings, in our UI to create a new check. This will help reduce “clickty-clickty” syndrome when setting up a lot of checks with similar settings. Click on the label of the check you want to clone to display the details to reveal the ‘Clone Check’ link on the far right.

Notification Dependencies:
When an edge router or server fails, it’s assumed that all the services that depend on them will also fail. It’s not helpful to receive hundreds of alerts for dependent services. You can now set another check as a notification dependency on each check. If the dependent check is already failing, notifications will be suppressed. Use this to avoid alert floods when bottleneck services fail. You can find the ‘Dependency’ drop down in the Notification section of each check.

Disable All Notifications:
There is now a link in the Contacts tab to “Disable notifications”. Use this to suppress all alerts until you re-enable them using the same link. It’s another way to help avoid the distraction of alert floods during big outages.

Disable Checks:
Now you can disable multiple checks with one click. You’ll find the “Disable All Checks” link in the Account Settings – General Settings tab. You can also apply filters based on label, target, or check type to, for example, disable all PING checks or all checks pointing to “example.com”. Use this to disable checks during planned outages/maintenance or to quiet down your logs when troubleshooting.

All the above new features, except check cloning, are also available via our API. If you have any questions about these new features, reach out to support@nodeping.com; we’re happy to help.

New Latin America Region

We’re excited to announce we’re adding a new check region and probe servers in Latin America to the NodePing server monitoring service.
The new region will be brought online and available for selection starting April 2, 2014. With this new addition, NodePing now has four distinct check regions, North America (NAM), Europe (EUR), East Asia/Oceania (EAO), and Latin America (LAM).

The new probe servers are located in:NodePing probe map

  • Panama [PA]
  • Curico, Chile [CL]
  • Federal, Argentina [AR]
  • São Paulo, Brazil [BR]
  • Miami, Florida, USA [FL]

Some may be asking “Why is Miami included in the Latin America Region?”. Geography was never our strong subject, but we do understand Miami is in North America. Significant traffic within different parts of Latin America goes through Miami, especially between Central America and South America, so we wanted to ensure that was covered for our Latin American customers.

You can specify our new Latin America region as the default region on your account or select it as a location on individual checks to get results from these new probe servers.

IP addresses for the probe servers can be found in the FAQ. Any questions can be directed to support(at)nodeping.com

[UPDATE – 2014-04-02 08:20GMT-7] – All new Latin America probes are online.

How to integrate PagerDuty into NodePing

Many of our customers are also big PagerDuty fans. What’s not to like! PagerDuty offers great escalation and on-call hand-off capabilities as well as flexible voice, sms, and even pajama alerts.

To make it easier for you to integrate your already existing PagerDuty workflow, we’ve added a new contact notification type to NodePing. The ‘PagerDuty’ type accepts a ‘Service API Key’. You can find information on how to set up a PagerDuty generic API service at their support site.

Our system will send a ‘trigger’ event on each failure and a ‘resolve’ event on each recovery. Add an entry in your contact record by specifying your PagerDuty ‘Service API Key’ (they kind of look like a big random string “47b3a13848514c3fa3def842464eeaa8”) and selecting ‘PagerDuty’ in the notification type drop down. Then specify that contact when you edit or create your NodePing checks.

pagerduty

You can specify as many different PagerDuty contacts as you like. This allows you to use multiple ‘Services’ with NodePing and have full control of your PagerDuty escalations and notifications.

We strive to bring you the best solutions for your monitoring needs. We’ve set our eyes on Android and iOS push notifications next so follow this blog for that notification. We’d also love to hear from you. What notification types or other features would you like to see in NodePing?

If you’re not a NodePing customer yet, you can sign up for a free 15-day trial and kick the tires for yourself. We’re confident you’ll like what you find.

Email monitoring done right

For several years before starting NodePing I worked in a number of different roles in IT, including system administration, project management, infrastructure and network management, and development. A sizable chunk of that time was spent at an organization that ran email servers in a number of different countries scattered around the world. Making sure that all of those email systems were working properly and generating useful reporting was a huge challenge, and involved a lot of repetitive manual steps.

Availability report outputNodePing’s monitoring services were largely motivated by the desire to make widespread monitoring of web sites and other Internet accessible services as simple and automatic as possible. One of the reasons I’m so excited about our suite of email monitoring checks is that I know from personal experience how important these tools are, both from a sys admin’s point of view as well as from technical management roles.

The core of this set of tools is SMTP monitoring. This check has several options that allow you to check the remote SMTP server in a variety of ways. At its most basic, it can be used to check that the server is operating and answering to SMTP connections and is accessible. It can also watch the SSL/TLS certificates, and notify you in advance of when certificates will expire. The check also can be used to monitor if the SMTP server accepts or denies specific email addresses, which can be used for open relay monitoring. Authentication verification can make sure that the server is logging people in properly. This is particularly important when email servers are integrated with separate directory services, such as an LDAP service or Active Directory.

SMTP server monitoring should also be paired with RBL monitoring. This checks the server’s address against a number of different RBL services, and can notify you if the server has been blacklisted. Any experienced email administrator knows that staying off of these lists is critically important, and it is possible to get on a black list without doing anything outside of normal business practices. When it happens you need to know quickly so you can remedy or clarify the situation and get off of the black list before it negatively impacts business.

The IMAP and POP checks go hand in hand with the SMTP check to ensure that your customers and employees can retrieve mail from their inboxes. Like the SMTP check, these checks not only monitor that the server is accepting connections, but can verify authentication and warn you in advance if an SSL certificate is nearing expiration.

The final piece of the email service monitoring tool set is monitoring the web interface. Here NodePing’s HTTP Content check can be used to make sure that the service is responding with the proper web page, and the SSL check can verify that the web interface’s SSL certificate is in place and working properly, as well as warn of a nearing expiration date.

These checks together provide a full complement of tools for monitoring email services. For most systems, we’d suggest a full set of checks:

  • The SMTP service is operating properly on port 25, accept a STARTTLS command, accepts authentication, and accepts a given address for relay from an authenticated user. All of this, with verification of the TLS certificate, can be done with one check.
  • The SMTP service is listening and accepting SSL based connections on port 587.
  • The SMTP service rejects open relay requests.
  • The SMTP service accepts a local address from non-authenticated hosts.
  • The server is not on any RBL’s.
  • The IMAP server is operating properly on port 143 and authenticating properly
  • The IMAP server is operating properly on port 993 and the SSL certificate is good
  • The POP server is operating properly on port 110 and authenticating properly
  • The POP server is operating properly on port 995 and the SSL certificate is good
  • The web interface is operating properly on port 80 (if that is supported)
  • The web interface is operating properly on port 443 and the certificate is good.

This is a long way from a check that just monitors if a port is listening somewhere. It is the full set of checks that together help to ensure a healthy email system. We continue to extend our monitoring service and make our checks smarter, with the goal to take as much of the manual busy work out of the hands of busy administrators and allow them to focus on tasks that use their actual skills.

If you are responsible for email servers and haven’t added NodePing’s monitoring to your tool set yet, sign up for our free trial and give a try!

RBL Monitoring

What better way to top off our email monitoring enhancements than with a new check type! We’re happy to introduce our RBL check.

RBL, or DNSBL, stands for “Real-time Black List,” and is used to publish the addresses of computers or networks linked to spamming, malware, or other abuses which system administrators may want to block from accessing their networks.

There are hundreds of RBLs in existence, which use a wide array of criteria for listing and delisting of addresses. These may include listing the addresses of zombie computers or other machines being used to send spam, listing the addresses of ISPs who willingly host spammers, or listing addresses which have sent spam to a honeypot system.

If the IP addresses of your servers appear on these RBLs, there’s a good chance you’ll have difficulty interacting with networks that subscribe to these RBLs. For instance, if your SMTP server is listed, you’ll likely be unable to send email to the systems that use the RBL you are listed on.

You can use our new RBL check to ensure that your servers aren’t listed and to receive notifications if they do get listed, allowing you to quickly take steps to remove your addresses from those RBLs. You can find more details about which RBLs we check and how to set them up in our RBL Check documentation.

Adding RBL checking to our already robust email monitoring checks for SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 will help you sleep at night knowing that email is flowing as it should be.

RBL monitoring checks are available to all NodePing accounts. If you don’t have an account yet, you can sign up for your free 15-day trial of our server monitoring service.

SSL Check Now Supports SNI and UCC Certificates

We’re happy to announce a couple of enhancements to our SSL certificate check. We now support SNI and UCC certificates

SNI (Server Name Indication) passes the hostname to the server when we request the certificate. That allows you to serve multiple SSL certificates on a single IP address.

UCC (Unified Communications Certificates) allow you use one certificate for multiple hostnames. Unlike wildcard certificates, which NodePing has supported from the beginning, UCC certificates can cover multiple hostnames on multiple domains.

As IPV4 addresses keep getting scarcer, the ability to monitor your SNI and UCC certificates for validity and expiration dates will become increasingly more important. NodePing is glad to be able to offer reliable monitoring for these SSL types.

If you’re not already a NodePing customer, please sign up for our free trial and see how SNI and UCC certificate monitoring can be easy and economical.

Twitter Notifications

NodePing is happy to announce our newest notification method – twitter direct messages.  The ability to receive a twitter direct message is a great addition to our current notification system that already includes unlimited email, international SMS, and voice calls.

Twitter notifications are in testing at this point.  They are available on all accounts so please do kick the tires and let us know how things work for you at support@nodeping.com.

You’ll need to follow @NodePing in order to get direct message alerts.  Then add your twitter handle in your contact record and in your check’s notification section and we’ll send you a private and discrete ‘direct message’ (not an embarrassing public tweet) when that check goes down and again when it comes back up.

Let us know in the comments how this new notification type is working for you and what you’d like to see added next – instant message (IM), HTTP POST to url, carrier pigeon, etc?