Nagios Update

Oh how the time gets away from you…
I have Nagios (Refer to the April 15th post) installed and in production. I am still tweaking the configuration and rolling out device monitoring.
Adding anything to be monitored is time consuming. Some might even think it is very time consuming. The three main files are switch.cfg, windows.cfg and printer.cfg and all editing is done through either vi or some other text editor. There are also other configurations and add-ons for monitoring Netware and/or Linux/Unix machines.
Windows server monitoring requires two main parts: installing the NSClient++ on the actual server and adding the necessary configuration to the windows.cfg on the Nagios box. For a clear how-to on installing the NSClient++ refer to this blog post. You may find that additional server config, such as loading WMI or other SNMP reporting may be required to collect the necessary data.
The windows.cfg editing is fairly straight forward. This PDF file on the Nagios website will be very helpful.
1) Add the host definition (insert your values for the bold text)
define host{
use windows-server ; Inherit default values from a Windows server template (make sure you keep this line!)
host_name winserver
alias My Windows Server
2) Add the services or counters to be monitored
define service{
use generic-service
host_name winserver
service_description NSClient++ Version
check_command check_nt!CLIENTVERSION

define service{
use generic-service
host_name winserver
service_description CPU Load
check_command check_nt!CPULOAD!-l 5,80,90

define service{
use generic-service
host_name winserver
service_description Memory Usage
check_command check_nt!MEMUSE!-w 80 -c 90

NOTE: Any time the Nagios cfg files are edited you MUST verify the config and then restart the nagios service. Failure to do this will not show the correct config in Nagios Service Detail or may cause a failure of the nagios service.

/usr/local/nagios/bin/nagios -v /usr/local/nagios/etc/nagios.cfg
service nagios restart

Check this tool out and join the 3 million other users!

Dell Mini 9 Battery Issues

As posted many times before, I purchased two Dell Mini 9’s on September 4th, 2008 which was the first day that they were publicly available. Both units have worked pretty much as expected so far.

I have seen battery run times somewhere between 3-4 hours on a full charge and had been quite impressed. As of last week my Mini running Ubuntu decided that it would no longer accept a charge. I swapped chargers, laptops, and batteries in order to verify that the issue was the battery.

Dell support replaced the battery with little hassle and it was on my doorstep within 2-3 days. I am not aware of any widespread batteries issues, but wanted to post/report about this just in-case others were having a similar issue.


Symantec Backup Exec with B2D Low Space Warning

Using backup to disk (B2D) as a backup destination is becoming more and more common. I attribute much of this to the rock bottom prices of disk based storage as well as simplicity. It is much more convenient to point a backup to device A and call it a day, as opposed to tape and rotations etc..

Lets face it, you need to have that backup data available for as long as possible because end users often tell you about lost data when its too late. I cannot count the number of times I have been asked to retrieve files and email from 3 months prior… So retention retention retention.

Using a high capacity NAS with Symantec Backup Exec is a reliable way to achieve consistent backups and retain them for a long time. Several of the clients that I manage use Symantec Backup Exec and a large NAS for daily backups. Even though most of the NAS’ are 1TB and larger, it is not uncommon to run out of disk space when you are trying to achieve maximum backup retention.

When configuring your media set overwrite protection and append rules, it is pretty easy to make a mistake. These mis-configurations often result in media not be reused properly, thereby increasing the space used on the NAS. This will eventually lead to Backup Exec flagging the B2D device as low on space and cause all of your backups to be missed / failed.

At this point your have probably resolved the media set issues, removed the media from your device in Backup Exec, and physically removed the B2D files from your devices. Most likely, you will also notice that Backup Exec still lists the device as low on space. Restarting services and everything else you try will not clear this flag. The way that I clear this warning is actually very simple. Go to the Devices tab, and right click on your device. Click on enabled or online to set the device to disabled or offline. Secondly, right click again and pause the device. Next, right click and unpause. Finally you need to enable / online the device. At this point you should be good to go.


MySQL – Poor Man’s Database

MySQL is a relational database management system that runs on a wide variety of platforms including MS Windows. There is an estimated install base of over 11 million. Practical operation is the same as other SQL server applications, whereas multi-user sessions can simultaneously access stored data.
Previously owned as a subsidiary of Sun Microsystems, as of April 20th, 2009, Oracle has announced intentions to purchase Sun. Oracle Buys Sun
One of the most popular uses of MySQL is for web applications and is used by many high transaction websites such Facebook. MySQL is fully OBDC compliant as well.
MySQL has consistantly be shown to be very fast performing and highly reliable, both critical to use in a production business environment.
Currently MySQl is available in two license formats: Community Server and Enterprise Subscription.
For the minimal annual fee of $599/server/year Enterprise offers a consistent monthly and quarterly release schedule. Compare to other sql server apps and you will quickly appreciate the value.
Community Server is available for download at no charge and has sporadic updates.

Open Source Advertising

Have a need to host your own ad server? Don’t want to pay a lot? OpenX Ad Server makes this possible.

“OpenX Ad Server is a powerful open source platform that manages advertising for more than 150,000 websites in over 100 countries. More than 300 billion ads run through OpenX Ad Servers each month. And since it’s available as a software download or as a hosted service, you can decide to run it yourself or let us take care of managing the infrastructure for you.” from

OpenX Ad Server is fully supported on Apache web server in a Linux environment and is very flexible in terms of implementation. System requirements are fairly common, the main requirement being PHP support. MySQL and PostgreSQL are supported for database connectivity.
There is also full community support for this product with the usual forums and blogs. Version 2.8 has just been released.
For IT shops not wanting to host this, there is of course and hosted version available which includes up to 100 million ad impressions per month for free.

Just released yesterday, OpenX Market is a new platform to maximize your ad content and ad space. The idea is to bring advertisers and publishers together in an ad exchange. While this is not a new idea, it is becoming more relevant as advertisers move more from offline to online.
OpenX News Article

Nagios Enterprise Network Monitoring

Large IT shops use enterprise-class network and application monitoring on a daily basis. Implementations of suites such as HP OpenView, CA, and others can run in to hundreds of thousands of dollars and required expert knowledge. While it will meet your every need, smaller shops typically cannot afford this kind of investment.
There are also many mid-sized IT management applications targeted toward the MSP model. Kaseya is one that is excellent. There are also strong offerings from Microsoft.
However, what can you do if you have zero budget? Its time to turn to Open Source…
Nagios is an enterprise-class network and application monitoring solution that runs on various Linux platforms and Apache webserver. Installation and configuration, while well documented, will be challenging for novice Linux users. However, once installed and working, this package will cover your needs out of the box. If not, there is a large community developing plugins of every flavor, including environmental monitoring device support. Nagios also has hooks that can be connected to other packages suck as Splunk for advanced indexing, search, etc.
Nagios runs very well in a virtualized environment, just one more reason to check it out (no need for additional server hardware!).

Spiceworks – Free IT Management Software

Do you have an outdated helpdesk ticketing system? Need to add costly licenses for additional IT staff? Throw that system out the door and check out Spiceworks.
Spiceworks is a free web-based IT management system that has many features such as helpdesk ticketing, networked device inventory, asset reporting, ticket reporting, change tracking, Exchange monitoring. All of this is packed in to a 17MB download. Spiceworks is supported by inline ads in the Dashboard only. Users adding tickets do not see the advertising. The benefits and features of Spiceworks far outweigh the minimal advertising impact.
Spiceworks must be installed on a Windows server or desktop. For more than a few users, load on a server. It works very well as a virtual machine on an ESXi box. The hardware requirements are fairly basic: 1GB RAM, 1GHz Pentium III processor.
Active Directory integration provides easy user set up. There is no need to create multiple login lists. When a user needs to place a ticket, Spiceworks will pull the account info that is logged in to the PC and autofill email and other contact info. IT staff is added in the Spiceworks Dashboard and login with email address and Spiceworks-specific password.

My IT department has been using Spiceworks for over a year, when our previous vendor stopped returning calls to purchase more licensing. We are a small company with seventeen locations and 200 employess (four IT staff) and approximately 350 network devices. At this time, Spiceworks provides everything we need to support this company. Senior management likes the reports that can be generated as well.

Give it a shot and you will be pleasantly surprised!!!