Windows IT Pro Magazine’s latest issue, the section “CTRL+ALT+DEL” – a section reserved for funny and odd message boxes that occasionally appear in software – features “Top 10 IT Admin Fears”. Number 1 is “Fear of silence in the server room”. Yes that is quite scary. Number 5 is “Fear that the server running your monitoring software is down (or worse, fear that the mail server is down, and the monitoring server is trying to send you an email warning).” That too is frightening, but preventable.
The fear of not receiving an email alert when an outage occurs has some foundation, but can be easily insured against. Here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t use the mail server you are monitoring to send out email alerts. Just don’t do it.
2. Subscribe to a hosted email service that uses basic SMTP to send email alerts through. This type of service is low cost, easy to administer and has virtually no maintenance involved. As long as your connection to the Internet is alive, you should be able to send email.
3. On the machine doing the monitoring, setup and use IIS Virtual SMTP server. It’s free and as long as your network and Internet connection is alive, you will be covered.
4. Use a mail server that is on your network, but not on the same machine as the main mail server or the machine doing the monitoring or any of the machines being monitored. Think of all your servers as boats in a lake. If any one of the boats starts to sink, would you call on that boat to send out the SOS signal?
5. Redundancy: specify two different mail servers to send out email alerts. Monitoring products like WebWatchBot allow you to specify a primary and fail-over mail server for sending email alerts through.
6. Alternatives and going old school: Dial a modem. If network and Internet connections go down, you won’t be able to send email at all. Go old school and dial up a modem to call someone to let them know that Armageddon is here.