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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

As the year 2008 comes to an end, I would like to thank all ServersCheck employees and contractors for their work performed in the past year.

2008 has been a year of many challenges resulting in new opportunities. The most important milestone of our company this year was certainly the introduction of our Monitoring Appliance. The speed to market we have shown with the Monitoring Appliance has been phenomenal. I am really proud of what and how we did it. We have gone with the appliance in a new direction. The only way we know that the Monitoring Appliance is a right move is by looking at how customers respond to it. Response has been overwhelming, beating our most optimistic expectations.

2009 will see some more investments into our Monitoring Appliance with new hardware versions coming along.

Running a business is a team effort of everyone involved: employees, contractors and suppliers. The only reason they can do this is because of the interest, support and loyalty of our customers. Customers is what our business is about and we should never forget that.

With this message I would like to thank every customer who has supported us in this year by ordering a ServersCheck product. Your trust and support is valuable to us

I send best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and healthy New Year

Friday, October 17, 2008

ServersCheck wins Network Award at ITPro Expo 2008 in Japan


On October 17 2008, ServersCheck was awarded a Best of Show award in the Networking product category at ITPro Expo 2008 held in Tokyo Japan.

ITPro Expo is one the largest tradeshow events in Japan for the ICT industry.

The judges awarded ServersCheck for its Monitoring Software business edition.

More info on http://itpro.nikkeibp.co.jp/article/NEWS/20081017/317219/

Sunday, October 5, 2008

LCD Display launched

We just launched a new feature for the Monitoring Software & Monitoring Appliance: the LCD display.

Too often people walking around in a server room do not have instant access to a browser to view the latest information of their monitoring status. If they want to know it then they had 2 options until now:
- connect to the webserver using a mobile device or PC
- send a SMS message to the software

With the LCD display users of our monitoring solutions can now immediately see the status of their monitoring environment but alsohighest temperature & humidity readings and the most recent error message.

The LCD displays are manufactured by Crystalfontz. They connect through USB to the device running the Monitoring Software. Just configure the USB COM port in the software to which the display is connected to and restart the monitoring service.

More info:
http://www.serverscheck.com/hardware/lcd_status_display.asp

Monday, September 29, 2008

Server Room Monitoring through SMS

ServersCheck was one of the first companies to launch a server and network monitoring system that was entirely web based compared to the full client versions from most other vendors.

Today ServersCheck has innovated again by introducing 2 way sms as part of its 7.14 release. From now on users of the ServersCheck Monitoring Software or Monitoring Appliance can query the monitoring software by sending commands via SMS.

All you need is a mobile phone and a GSM modem connected to the Monitoring Software or Monitoring Appliance.

With this feature the ServersCheck Monitoring Software can not only be accessed through a web browser (HTTP or HTTPS) but also via SMS.

We have made available on our website a free live demo of this new SMS feature:
http://www.serverscheck.be/monitoring_software/2way_sms.asp

Monday, September 8, 2008

Comparing server monitoring vendors

Often we get customers asking us how we compare to competitors. This perfectly understandable as one wants to make the best purchase for his budget.

The good news is that most products that have been on the market for quite some time are very decent. The bad news is that there is no objective comparison.

A good vendor will by nature think that he has the best product in his portfolio. So getting an objective comparison is something that is hard to obtain from a vendor. A vendor will emphasize his best features compared to the specific competitor and not always mention others where he might be weaker.

What is the best way to compare? First make a shortlist of vendors based on published information you can find on the websites of the different players, press reviews etc...

Once your shortlist is made, try them out! There is no better way to know if a product is going to work than by installing it in your network and using it in trial mode to do what you require it to do. This is the only subjective way to compare. Indeed your requirement is subjective as it is specific to your organization, needs etc...

There are 2 ways to trial monitoring software: the do-it-yourself approach or the consultant way.

ServersCheck offers a do-it-yourself trial whereby limited support is available using a built-in link from within the software. Do it yourself results in a lower license fee - similar as to why IKEA is able to offer quality furniture at a lower price.

Having a presales team installing a monitoring software in your organization is another option.

Not so long ago we had a customer asking is we could come to their site and implement the trial edition as a big IT company was doing it for "free". We told them that our business model, and low pricing, is based upon a trial whereby you install ad test the software with remote support available. They were disappointed that we couldn't do it. We told them that they wouldn't when they would get the quote for the licensing fees from the big IT company. Their price was 60 times (!) more expensive for a similar solution.

At the end of the day when a vendor sends a presales team on site to implement a trial, then the cost of it will be almost always reflected in the license fees. Those presales consultants have to be paid by someone. You can't expect a company offering a DIY approach to offer the same as a company sending a presales team when the license fee is way less.

Seeing monitoring solutions work in your environment is the best way to compare. You will end up going with the product that appeals you most when working with it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Monitoring in an appliance - at last

After a long time of preparation and many hours of overtime we managed to get our newest product out right at the deadline: the ServersCheck Monitoring Appliance. Thanks to everyone who contributed on making this launch. It is a big milestone for us and your help was key to making this possible.

Up until today companies wishing to invest into a monitoring solution had to find a software matching their needs. This task isn't an easy one with all the different players on the market. Once a decision was made for a software, one had to look at the hardware requirements and make the necessary purchases: Operating System licenses and server hardware.

With the ServersCheck Monitoring Appliance you get everything in one price: monitoring software, operating system and hardware.

Size Matters



With rooms lacking space in cabinets we had to come up with an appliance that would easily fit in existing companies. It was obvious that size would become a key focus point: making the appliance as small as possible will still filling it with a lot of hardware (80GB HDD, 1GB RAM ...)

Based on the feedback from customers and partners having seen the first prototypes of our appliance, I think that we reached our objective. Everyone was stunned when seeing it the first time. We have tried to bring that sensation online by having a 360 degrees tour of the appliance.
The device has the surface of a traditional CD and a height of 1/3 of a coffee mug. It is small. We haven't seen anything smaller and probably there is but is definitely amongst the smallest out there.



Monitoring goes green


Another hot topic at this moment is the environment. Everybody is now speaking about green data centers without really knowing what is meant with it. Fortunately spiking energy costs have made everyone aware that energy usage should go down. As eletricity is still made using plants producing a lot of C02, reducing the energy need has a double benefit:
- reduces your energy bill
- reduces your CO2 footprint


Feature rich monitoring

It runs the ServersCheck Monitoring Software which is one of the most feature rich monitoring software solutions on the market. The version on board is the Business 100 edition - it allows you to monitor up to 100 items which is sufficient for most SME server rooms.

You can download a trial version of the Monitoring Software off our website.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why MSN as an alerting feature?

When doing a meeting with partners or prospects, a question I often get is why ServersCheck offers MSN as an alerting feature.

Monitoring becomes less more valuable in terms of ensuring business continuity if one cannot be notified when an issue is detected. Alerting allows the recipient to take whatever steps are required to resolve the problem.

For a monitoring software package being capable to alert is good. Fortunately for all of us I have yet to encounter the first monitoring software that has not alerting possibilities.

In a previous post I have explained the benefit of using SMS alerting as this option uses the phone network rather than the GSM network.

Other alert options offered by ServersCheck are email, MSN, netsend,... Why MSN?

Alerting is about trying to pass-on a message as quickly as possible to the end-user while trying to increase the possibilities that he will read the message fast.

Email used to be the eye-catcher causing people to jump to their mailboxes once a "You've Got Mail" sound rings. Due to the large amount of genuine emails (and SPAM) we receive, watching our mail box has become less of a concern.

MSN has the benefit that it displays a small box on the PC but morehowever that people are paying higer attention to instant messaging tools compared to other types of communication.

From our perspictive we have to try to catch the attention of the end-user. Simple studies have demonstrated us that next to mobile phone, MSN has the highest eye catcher and it's free

To setup MSN alerting you will need to Live Messenger accounts:
- one MSN account for sending the chat messages -> configured on server running our software
- LiveMessenger or similar on your PC to receive the msn messages from our software.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Signal Tower - A new visual alerting feature

With the release of 7.13 earlier this morning, we have introduced a new alerting hardware feature.

The 26cm tall signal tower enables to visually indicate the status of the monitoring tasks performed by the ServersCheck Monitoring Software.

The tower will either show a green, amber or red light. On failure it can also flash a red light to stress on the situation.

On top of that it can also generate an audible alert of 85dbs measured at 1m distance. This will ensure that detected failure will not get unnoticed.

The tower is available in 2 versions:
- CE Certified for the European Union with an European style power plug (220V)
- FCC Certified for the North American market with a 2 pin straight US power adapter (110V)

The towers are available for order. A 2-3 weeks lead time has to be taken into consideration.

Technical information on the Signal Tower can be found on following url:
http://www.serverscheck.com/hardware/signal-light-tower_phe-3fb.asp

Sunday, August 10, 2008

ServersCheck in French Polynesia

Our company's strategy has been since inception is to take care of cultural differences. This resulted in having our software available in more than 30 languages, pretty unique in our market space.

We have a "Think Global, Act Local" approach. While having a standard solution almost world wide, different markets ask different approaches. Rather than opening offices in all countries of the world, we rather team up with local players in different markets.


Our market coverage is now almost world wide as through the partnership signed with 17s149w in French Polynesia, we are now represented in the Pacific region. This emphasis our believe in not only the traditional big markets where everyone is active but also the smaller markets.

I was quite surprised to hear that only one of the Big Three had a local presence in French Polynesia while speaking to a prospect. He was quite pleased to hear that ServersCheck took interest in this market as well and had partner with an innovative company like 17s149w.

You can visit our French Polynesian website at http://www.serverscheck.pf

Through our French Polynesian partner, all islands & countries in the Pacific can now turn them to a local contact that is able to assist them regarding the ServersCheck products.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Monitoring a website

A question we often get is: how do I monitor a website.

One has first to understand the different layers involved in a website and to what info he has access.

1. Hardware level:
A simple PING check will reveal if a server is alive or not. Monitor the response times as slower response times might indicate an error

2. OS level:
if you can then you can use the WindowsHealth or LinuxHealth check types to monitor the general health of the host running the site. This may help you to avoid situations like full dis, low memory resulting in a website failure.

3. Web server level:
A website runs on a machine, that hosts an Operating System and that has a web server. The site itself can be static or an application running as a layer on top of the web server.

A web server is typically monitored by using the TCP check to see if the server responds on the defined port (by default 80 or 443 for HTTPS)

4. Web application level:
The fastest check is to perform a HTTP HEADER check that verifies the header data sent back for a specific URL

The best option though is to use the HTTP check. It will load the given page and then scan the content to see if a predefined string is returned. If not, then an error is triggered.

You can also monitor the page download time; this is the time required to download the HTML - excluding images and any other embedded content.


Depending on your level access to your web site and server, you can define multiple layers of monitoring.


With ServersCheck you will know when your site fails before your customer(s) start calling you that there is an issue.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Email as best alerting option?

While getting through our Web Analytics reports, one thing that surprised me is that most people seem to be interested into a server monitoring software or environmental sensors with email as alerting capability.

Monitoring is not only detecting when something goes wrong but also making sure that you receive the alert when something like that happens.

Almost any competitive product on the market supports email alerting as it is the most basic way of alerting.

Unfortunately most customers are happy with this most basic way of alerting without realizing the potential risk of it. Some go a step further by having the email forwarded as a text message or on their PDA / Advanced Cell Phones.

Bottom line remains the same though: email requires network connectivity.

If your network is down, then your email alerts will not help you much. You will not get alerted and know that something serious is happening.

Therefore we stress on the fact that you should consider using SMS alerting using a GSM modem. I want to stress on "GSM Modem". As in the ServersCheck's software, quite a few other players offer SMS capabilities through gateways. ServersCheck uses ClickATell to date as one SMS alerting option. If you use SMS alerting through a gateway, the same critic as for email alerting applies: you will not get any SMS message if your network is down.

GSM modems are modems that are attached to a host computer (in our case the system running our software). They require a SIM card and behave like a cell phone. This means that through these GSM modems the software will send out the text message using the wireless phone network to deliver the text message. Even when your network is down you will get the alert message.

We want to stress on the importance of GSM modems as being one of the best ways of alerting (next to email - one does not replace the other). To emphasise this importance, we have decided to run this month a promotion whereby you get in North America & Europe a free FALCOM SAMBA USB GSM Modem for the purchase with a software license from ServersCheck (Business 500 or Premium Edition).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Impact of temperature on systems

Customers have reported to us server racks having caught fire due to an airconditioning failure resulting in an overheat in the racks.

Fire is not something we hear quite often as a result of temperature increase and the lack of temperature monitoring. Fortunately most servers nowadays have built-in security shutting down equipment when temperature is too high.

One of the issues people least are familiar with, is the effect of too high temperatures on CPU calculations. I am not talking in this article about processors melting down - yes that happens more than you think and way before systems catch fire.

Let's return to calculation errors.

A CPU is made of transitors and when those are becoming hot then they tend to leak current. This leakage causes calculation errors having impact on applications stability. Too many errors can cause a system crash.

The frustrating part of this is that initially errors go unnoticed. Only when applications start to fail, server and network monitoring software deployed will trigger alerts. If you want to act before it is too late, then temperature monitoring should be part of your overall monitoring strategy as it has a direct impact on applications & systems availability.

Maximum operating temperature of a CPU is often set around 40°C (104 F). Going above that 40° operating temperature and you are risking big issues rather sooner than later.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Why monitor humidity in computer rooms?

Temperature sensors are our number one selling sensors. No doubt about that.

Last week we tried to explain the difference between ambient temperature monitoring and monitoring the temperature inside a rack, where your systems operate.

The fact that one is doing temperature monitoring is a big leap forward. Temperature is the threat we are most familiar with: entering a boiling server room when the airco unit went down - a familiar sight for many people.

A less visible threat to your equipment is humidity. Less visible also means more neglected; people omit to consider the danger of humidity related to their equipment.

There are 2 threats posed by humidity:
- ESD or Electrostatic buildup and discharge
- Corrosion

Everyone is familiar with corrosion: let metal stay in the rain and you will see it appears. With high humidity levels slowly your components could start showing signs of corrosion resulting in permanent loss of systems and potentially data too.

A low humidity level is a big contributor to the risks of ESD in a computer room, server room or data centre. Industry experts have determined that the risk of ESD increases the lower humidity is and the cooler the room is. Finding the right balance is tricky.

What are the recommended humidity ranges? Most strict ranges advocate humidity between 40% and 60%

Higher than 60% and corrosion may appear. Lower than 40%, ESD is your main ennemy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Temperature monitoring in a server room

A question we often get from customers is: "how many sensors do I need?"

The actual question a customer needs to ask himself is: "how much do I want to spend on environmental monitoring?"

The basic monitoring is temperature. In later posts we will explain the benefits of other types of monitoring.

There are 2 main types of temperature monitoring:
- ambient temperature monitoring
- rack temperature monitoring

Ambient temperature monitoring is capturing the temperature in the room the same way you feel it when you are standing it. It is the temperature reading used by air conditioning units to operate.

However it is not the temperature in which your systems operate. In a number of server rooms we visited each time we could sense so called "hot zones". These are area's in the room where it is much hotter compared to others; often due to either layout of the room (cornered) or type of equipment (ie heavy server concentration in one area).

The problem with ambient temperature is that it takes some time to increase above a treshold when an issue arises in one particular area. If you are sitting in front of a fire place, it will be way warmer than in the rest of the room; especially when the room is larger. Same applies here.

In order to detect issues faster, one solution is to put every 3-5 meter or 10-15 ft a temperature sensor.

Best practice however is to monitor each rack individually with one sensor per rack. Using our IP based sensors, the sensors are positioned at the rear of the rack and near the top. Remember your physics class in high-school: hot air climbs.

The more sensors you deploy the earlier you will detect an issue.

However just one sensor in a room is far better than doing nothing.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Voice alerts & SkypeOut - an industry first

ServersCheck was one of the first server monitoring software providers to provide a full web enabled platform back in 2003 when we started.

As our competitors, we all had nice email alerting features and some like us even had integration with Instant Messengers. In our case this was intially ICQ and then we moved to MSN.

We all overlooked one key issue: what if the network is down? If there is no Internet connectivity, then emails don't get to Blackberry's, instant messages can't be sent. People would not be notified of an issue.

We had to find another way of notifying people and we turned to Text to speech technology. By using a voice capable modem, people can receive notifications through a telephone call. This feature was introduced back in 2004.

As we are not always available to pick up phone call, calls and subsequent alert messges could be missed. To overcome this we integrated the support for SMS messages through GSM modems as an alert option. As SMS messages are almost always received, it is still today one of the most reliable ways of sending out alerts (in conjunction with the other alert options).

With SMS introduced, we decided to discontinue telephone call as an alert option since SMS was so much more robust.

What we didn't realize was that in quite a number of situations, SMS is not an option:
- server room in a cellar with no wireless network
- security guard that needs to be notified
and so many more

With that valuable feedback received from many customers, we decided to reinvest into the telephone call alerting option and make it better as it was before.

It is now powered by a semi automated attendant that allows us to make sure that a call is received and that the alert message is played at the right time. You can now define the number of times the software should retry and with which interval.

We even went one step further and brought a new innovation in the monitoring software industry: alerts via Skype.

ServersCheck can now use Skype's SkypeOut feature to call land line phones without the need of a modem attached to the system running our software. Of course keep in mind that when the network is down, Skype will be unavailable too...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Welcome

Welcome to the new ServersCheck blog.

The purpose of this blog is to share with our users experiences, best practices, tips and tricks regarding our products.

New blog articles will be posted on a weekly basis.