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Geek Speak

48 Posts authored by: jkuvlesk

Previously, we discussed website performance issues related to CSS and HTML. Now, let’s look at JavaScript and identify different problems that occur on websites and how you can monitor them before end-users are affected.

 

If you’re lucky, you can identify the problem and troubleshoot right away. If you don’t yet know what you’re dealing with, you could start here:

Server performance: Momentary server hiccups may result in incomplete code being sent to the browser.

Issues with third-party sites: If you query a third-party site without having it load asynchronously, you will likely have JavaScript issues on your site.

Corrupt cache file: This can cause unstable application performance and random error messages that pop up in the browser. Sometimes it can even make the application crash.

Outdated files: The browser might be using an outdated version of one or more JavaScript files from its cache.

Browser compatibility: Many times, JavaScript features work differently in different browsers.

JavaScript code: There could be a genuine error in the JavaScript code itself. For example, a missing semicolon or brackets, comments within comments, or code with missing statements such as return, throw, break, etc.

Others possible issues: The scripting engine, video card drivers, or Direct X controls could be corrupt or outdated.

 

5 Tips to Monitor JavaScript

1. Test Web pages in the development stage. When you’re building the website, you can monitor the logic of the code by recording transactions that involve JavaScript code and verifying their functionality.

2. Match images. If you have JavaScript menus and complex features on the page, you can use text and image matching to simply validate that the page is displayed as you intended.

3. Monitor load times. Establish an ideal baseline for how long it should take for your application to load. Then monitor the load times of each step in the page. If a step loads slowly, you’ll then receive an alert about the problem in the page or step.

4. Look at browser compatibility. Make sure you do QA testing on multiple browsers to ensure JavaScript has the desired effect on all browsers your application supports.

JS1.png

5. Monitor JavaScript performance. All of your page elements turned out perfectly, but you can tell some of the elements are slow to load. Monitor those sluggish elements so you know whether JavaScript was the real culprit. It could be other elements such as CSS, HTML, DNS Lookup, etc. at the root cause.

 

 

JS2.png

                              Monitor individual page elements to identify what is causing the issue

 

Monitor JavaScript Issues Using Web Performance Monitor

When in doubt, rely on Web performance monitoring software to keep an eye on JavaScript along with other front-end applications such as HTML, CSS, Images, and third-party applications. SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor proactively monitors your webpages and alerts you to any change in the way your sites or elements within them look or renders. Web Performance Monitor also offers:

• Intuitive charts to monitor page elements, their load speeds & timings

• A graphical dashboard that monitors every component of your site

• Drill-down capabilities & isolation of performance issues to quickly determine what’s causing the delay

• JavaScript performance monitoring for multiple locations, to ensure consistent user experience

• Customized alerts based on the severity level

 

 

 

In my last post, we discussed uncovering issues with CSS. Let’s look at another aspect of website performance, HTML, to understand the causes of HTML performance issues, as well as how to identify them.

 

There are a few signs you should watch out for when your HTML page loads:

• How quickly your page responds to requests

• Whether the page elements are loading slowly

• Whether pages simply are not loading at all

 

Whatever the cause, website performance problems are worth looking into before your users are affected and you start getting trouble tickets.

 

What are Some Common HTML Issues?

• HTML Requests: Many times, HTML requests can take longer than usual to process, causing websites to load slowly. This can happen if there are poorly written queries, or if the server does not have enough physical or virtual memory.

• Non-compliant HTML Tags: If there are HTML typos or in cases of non-compliant HTML tags, the webpage would be displayed with errors.

• Missing Links to Files & Images: In many cases, files and images are uploaded but not linked in HTML. As a result, they do not get displayed in the website.

How to Detect an HTML Issue Before End-Users Call the Help Desk

Monitor page element load speeds and receive alerts when they exceed normal rates.

Monitor HTML page elements and their load times to ensure they come up consistently each time. For example, monitor how long it takes for hi-res images or JavaScript within Web pages to load.

html 1.png

                                 Identify which element is causing the issueusing the waterfall chart

 

Monitor images and file load times

To proactively monitor for issues involving non-compliant HTML tags and missing files/images, you can use image matching. Image match monitoring defines the number of seconds it takes for an image to load. Monitoring this will tell you if the image is loaded within the specified time. Then you know if the transaction passed or failed. You can also use this capability to validate if the image is displayed as intended.

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             Image match highlighted in yellow will allow you to edit load times for images in your HTML page.

 

Manage queries and HTML requests

Monitoring response times for SQL queries will show if the query is taking a longer time to process. You should also monitor if your servers have enough memory to handle the site load. Most server monitoring software can be used to monitor issues related to server memory.

 

Website Monitoring Simplified

SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor will ensure your HTML pages (and other front-end applications) will not affect your website performance, by letting you:

• Proactively monitor internal (behind the firewall), external (customer-facing) & cloud-based web applications

• Monitor HTML applications & its elements – images, scripts, etc. & their load speeds

• Record, replay & edit each step of a Web transaction

• Monitor HTML performances for multiple locations to ensure there is no drop in performance

• Enjoy a user-friendly graphical interface that monitors all components of your website

html 3.png

 

 

I encourage you to try a fully-functional 30-day free trial of SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor to experience it for yourself in your own environment.

Today, let’s draw our attention to a front-end application, cascading style sheet (CSS), and how it can affect website performance. The objective is to leverage a web performance monitoring tool and continually monitor the end-user experience for each Web transaction.

 

Web designers work extensively to offer great user experience. In doing that, a lot of thought goes behind giving websites a clean look for making it easy on the eye, smooth navigation for seamless transition between pages, and having a usable site ensures continuous traffic. When you’re specifically visiting websites for answers to questions, it’s important that the page elements (e.g. fonts, images, and the page layout) stand out and are inviting enough to pull you in.

 

However, in spite of having all the right credentials, sometimes when a website loads, it only displays hyperlinks and text. This happens when the style sheet fails to load, so images and text elements do not get displayed as intended.  Another potential problem with CSS is that can sometimes take a long time to load for sites with graphic-heavy content.

 

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What’s the Root Cause?

Inappropriate CSS reset: By not doing a proper CSS reset, Web pages are rendered differently, so the layout and format might look different on different computer screens.

Color names cause mix-up: Using color names incorrectly causes a Web page to display text in wrong or different colors.

Long CSS code: Lengthy CSS code will only mean that your website is going to take a longer time to load.

Failure of page elements: Images, graphics, and page layout can sometimes fail to load or takes unacceptable amounts of time to load completely.

Failure of text and image style elements: Failure to set correct parameters for text and image elements in Web pages can cause them to display in smaller fonts and shrunken images.

Location-specific issues: CSS files and its elements look different in depending on physical or geographic location.

 

CSS problems are quickly noticed by end-users, so they need to be fixed immediately to reduce abandonment. So, it is critical to monitor website and Web transactions to be aware and stay ahead of issues like these.

 

CSS Monitoring Tips:

 

Record the Web transaction:  This will establish a baseline for how your applications should perform. When pages (steps) perform slowly, you will get an alert that there is a problem with the specific page/step of the transaction.

Monitor load speeds: Keep an eye on page load speeds and page elements load times, paying special attention to images, Java Script, CSS files, and .aspx framework.

css 2.jpg

o Drill down to take a detailed look at the page elements. Here you will see whether CSS is the culprit or if the problem is related to another issue.css 3.jpg

Monitor Web page behavior and validate content from multiple locations: Since you can’t be everywhere at once, you can play back Web transactions from multiple locations and see if the page is actually loading content as intended.

o When recording the transaction, you can monitor for the image match – i.e., whether the image that is played back actually matches the image that you recorded.  This will validate whether the page is loading content as intended.

o After you record the transaction, you can deploy it to locations where you have players installed. You can always leverage the Amazon EC2 cloud to deploy players where you do not have a physical operation.

 

css 4.jpg

To monitor CSS issues automaticly, test drive a free trial of SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor today in your own environment.

 

Stay tuned to learn more about how web performance monitoring tools can keep an eye on other front-end application issues. In the meantime, keep on styling!

Microsoft SharePoint is a web application commonly used for document and file management, collaboration, search, business intelligence, social networking and other functions.  With its widespread use, internal and external customers are dependent upon SharePoint’s availability to get things done.  Below are the top 5 causes of a slow-responding SharePoint application, and how you can proactively identify these problems and fix them before end users even know there is an issue.

 

1) Network devices and bandwidth:  The most obvious reason for network latency is often bandwidth capacity.  However, latency issues can still exist even in a large bandwidth network, particularly if the *devices* involved in the interconnections – switches, routers, firewalls, etc. are introducing the latency. At its core, these devices are all ‘store and forward’. When the ‘store and forward’ takes longer than optimal, latency is introduced. Locational issues are caused by distance (the round trip takes a while) or due to a location’s network infrastructure where the internal WAN may be slow.
2) Volume of requests/application usage: Each and every click is recorded as a transaction.  If the volume of transactions exceeds the available resources, it causes application latency.  An increase in the number of concurrent users also can cause responsiveness to suffer. A high memory usage, low disk cache memory or a storage I/O may cause latency in loading components required by SharePoint.
3) Load time for integrated components.  SharePoint allows adding widgets, applications like Java, SQL. An issue or delay in loading the components may cause delay and latency issues.
4) Database issues.  SharePoint heavily relies on the database infrastructure. I/O problems could indicate a problem with the disk.  Latency could also be caused by slow queries.

 

To proactively detect these issues, here is some guidance on what to monitor in your SharePoint environment.
Monitor the network.  This includes utilization of each interface as well as the network latency and packet loss for each node. 
Monitor web transaction response times from multiple locations.  With a good website monitoring tool, you can determine if a slow page is locational or if the problem is native to the application. 
Monitor page load times for the entire transaction.  By monitoring all the pages/steps in a transaction is necessary to pinpointing where the user experience breaks down.

sharepoint pages.PNG

 

When looking at an individual page, it’s good to have a waterfall chart to view which element is consuming the most time to determine if the issue is related JavaScript, DNS lookup, etc.

sharepoint waterfall.PNG

Monitor database performance & query times.  Because a database issue can be the cause of a SharePoint performance problem it is important that your server management tool can monitor key performance metrics of your database.   Key metrics include lock wait time, fragmentation, and deadlocks among others.  You also want to monitor how long it takes for SQL queries to perform to get an indication if the query written requires a change to improve performance.

SQL monitoring.PNG

 

Monitor underlying server resources for CPU, Memory and Disk constraints. CPU utilization issues can indicate underperforming hardware or perhaps a virtual machine has insufficient resource allocation.  It is also very important to keep close tabs on disk I/O and disk latency to understand how storage performance is impacting your application.  This is a major issue with heavy data intensive applications like SharePoint.
Monitor specific SharePoint performance metrics such as:
-SharePoint request wait time.  As the number of wait events increase, page-rendering performance will deteriorate.  If wait time is consistently trending up, you should consider adding additional web servers to support your application.
-SharePoint requests rejected.  If there are any requests rejected (showing a 503 HTTP status code), there are insufficient server resources, and you should consider implementing additional web servers.
-SharePoint Worker process Restarts.  Any worker process restarts can indicate a problem such as a memory leak, access violations or process settings.  Investigate process restarts to prevent issues.

-Requests per second.  This provides an indication of current throughput of the application.  If this metrics gets out of a certain range, you will need to add additional resources to cope with the increased load.

 

The SolarWinds Web App Monitoring Pack provides the ability to monitor web application page load times and provides out-of-the-box monitoring for SharePoint 2013, 2010 and 2007. Try it free for 30 days.

Any large enterprise that uses a Windows environment uses Microsoft Active Directory (AD). With just a single sign-on, users can basically access their computers, group accounts, emails, VPN network, share drives, etc.

 

Now, there are issues when it comes to monitoring and managing your AD, linked to users, IT admins, hardware, and applications. Some of the most common AD issues you may encounter include:

Domain Controller: When a drive that contains the New Technology Directory Service (NTDS) files runs out of disk space, the domain controller stops working. This ultimately results in user authentication and access failure. In turn, this leads to applications failing when they are queried against AD.

Log-on: The computer may not authenticate users and services if there is a log-on failure. This restrains the domain controller from registering Domain Name System (DNS) records. It is important to maintain a secure channel between computers and the domain controllers.

Replication: User files and folders can get locked if they are not synchronized with the file servers that use file replication services. If shared folders do not replicate properly, group policy objects and other security policy objects may not be applied to the client systems.

User Account: Users can get locked out of their accounts if the Primary Domain Controller (PDC) emulator is unavailable or if several domain controllers experience a replication failure.

 

7 Metrics for AD Monitoring

To proactively detect performance issues, here are 7 key metrics you want to consider monitoring within your Active Directory domain.

1. Directory Services: Monitoring directory services are critical to ensure addresses, email, and phone contacts are always in sync.

2. Domain Controllers: Monitoring domain controllers will let you know whether the CPU usage has reached its threshold, whether a user account is locked out, or in case there is a log-on issue. Set thresholds and monitor the drive that contains NTDS files; monitoring this prevents the drive from running out of disk space and prevents the domain controller from not functioning.

3. Service Outages: All new alerts in each domain controller have to be monitored on an on-going basis to avoid any type of service outage. This could be within DNS servers and clients, servers and workstations, distributed file systems, intersite messaging, etc.

4. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Client Sessions: Monitoring NTDS object counter will indicate the number of clients connected to an LDAP session. It also provides statistics on other performances such as speed and response times of particular sessions.

5. Mission Critical Processes: Monitor critical processes to check whether the system/server is able to handle all processing requests.

6. Replication: Monitoring replication shows if there is a failure on a replication link or if there is an issue with the network leading to slow replication rates between websites.

7. Reporting: Generate reports to gain visibility into critical processes in order to consistently monitor the frequent services and alerts that go down over a period of time. Reporting may also include authentication for failed log-ins, number of logged in users for a given period, etc.

 

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Server management software helps you keep a close eye on directories and services in your AD. Working continuously and proactively, server management software will alert you to warnings or critical malfunctions inside AD, its servers, services, directories, and applications. Be sure your AD domain is well covered at all times, with the help of powerful server and application monitoring software.

Dell recently announced end of support for Quest Patch Manager (formerly ScriptLogic Patch Authority Ultimate) to be effective May 31, 2014.  It’s not surprising as Dell’s acquisition of Quest brought duplicative capabilities for patch management.  Dell provides patch management capabilities (based off software developed by Lumension) as part of its Dell KACE product, which provides a large suite of capabilities from patch management to configuration management to desktop virtualization, service desk and a lot more.

 

What is surprising about the end of support announcement is there is no mention of migration strategy.  And from what I hear from our sales team, it looks like Quest customers are on their own when it comes to finding a supported patch management solution to replace Quest Patch Manager.  This is also not surprising because going from a point product to a large solution (KACE) might be cost prohibitive from an upgrade and maintenance pricing perspective.

 

If you are a Quest Patch Manager/Patch Authority Ultimate customer, I invite you to take a look at SolarWinds Patch Manager.  SolarWinds Patch Manager integrates with both WSUS & SCCM.  What customers really like about this offering is its ability to patch at discrete times to support large geographically distributed environments, to automate the patch approval process, its quick delivery of 3rd party update packages and the products function to value ratio (yea, it’s a great bang for your buck). 

 

See what our customers have to say about SolarWinds Patch Manager or try it free for 30 days in your own environment.

Yesterday I had the good fortune to interview Kevin Small.  Kevin is a system administrator for a large bank.

 

JK: Kevin, why did you decide to use SolarWinds for your server monitoring needs?
KS:  In December 2011 I joined the team and was tasked with updating network monitoring.  At that time the bank was using CA Spectrum for server and network monitoring.  Before I joined the team, my predecessor decided to move from CA Spectrum to What’s Up Gold.  I spent a month trying to get it working.  What WUG said it would do, it wouldn’t do.  I finally got a hold of a technical architect at WUG and he said that our company was just too big for them to support.

 

Around the same time I discovered that the network team was using SolarWinds Network Performance Manager to do inventory reporting.  The version they were using was very out of date, but if I wanted to take on the task of updating it, they said I could use it for my network monitoring needs.  So, I got it up to latest version, and now I have 3 pollers, and have set up custom SQL alerts and reports.  The team was doing all their inventory reporting in excel, and now they save 4 hours a week by having SolarWinds automatically email reports to the people who need them.  With SolarWinds the dashboards are out of box, and you can customize with some SQL tweaking, and the reports are very good.  The dashboards are intuitive and you can put reports into the dashboards.

 

In April or May last year we wanted to monitor all our URLs so we purchased the cheapest license of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) just to monitor whether HTTP was http up/down.  Around that same time, the bank was in the process of moving from CA Spectrum to Gomez Server Monitoring.

 

JK:  How was that decision made?
KS:  No one is really clear how that decision was made but the person who made the decision left the bank shortly after signing the contract.

 

Compuware’s product is so cumbersome that you need to have the vendor on site to get it working properly.  We were not able to get what we needed out of Gomez Server Monitoring so we started using SolarWinds’ server management tool to report on our 30 UNIX servers.  We tried for months a bunch of workarounds in Gomez to get this level of visibility that came out-of-the-box with SAM.  Gomez couldn’t even decently monitor RHEL.

 

One of the other disadvantages with Gomez is that if you needed to make a rule change, you would have to go to each polling engine(Control Server).  With SAM, you make the change one place, and it is distributed to your entire environment.  Also, with Gomez, we were unable to provide reports to customers or dashboards that were readily understandable.  With SAM, I can bring one of my customers over to look at my screen and they can immediately figure out what it’s telling them.  Orion Reports are intuitive and straight forward.

 

We now have an unlimited license of SAM with 3 pollers to monitor our infrastructure and applications.  We continue to use Gomez Dynatrace to do deep level code troubleshooting like method tracing.  We integrate Dynatrace alerts into SolarWinds alert viewer to get a consolidated view.  For infrastructure and application monitoring, SolarWinds is just light years better – upgrades are easier, administration is easier, it’s a very intuitive piece of software.  SolarWinds has allowed us to unify monitoring across our entire organization.

 

Here is the table I used with my management to convince them to move to SolarWinds.

FeatureGomez Server Monitoring (formerly named Vantage
for Server Monitoring)
SolarWinds SAM
ReportingReporting is crap, cumbersome and not user friendly

Reporting is intuitive, out of the box yet customizable and offers drill down.

DashboardsGomez required us to hire a developer to set upSolarWinds is out of the box, intuitive, Dashboards can be converted to reports and reports can be made dashboards.

Deployment


         

Requires tasks and reporting by control server 

Tasks, alerts, rules and reporting are setup regardless of control server across the board 1 time

Community SupportNone

SolarWinds has dynamic community of users, support and developer that answer questions and make enhancements

Alert ViewerRequired hiring developer to integrate the product         

Free Alert viewer that integrates to all SolarWinds products as well as all 3rd party software

UpdatesFew and far between and cumbersome to implement SolarWinds offers updates about once a quarter and they take approximately 30 minutes to apply across the whole foot print.

 

 

by Jennifer Kuvlesky

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Hosting providers, like OrcsWeb, have multiple global clients who require updates at discrete times.  For example, many of OrcsWeb’s clients have web farms and SQL clusters that need to be patched on a staggered basis. “When you’re patching hundreds of servers, it’s important to spread servers across the maintenance window to reduce the workload on the backend infrastructure. Patching everything at once could lead to a boot storm or similar situation,” said Jeff Graves, Director of Technology, OrcsWeb. “We could have tried to manage this with group policy, but Active Directory and our Organizational Unit structure make it difficult to manage patching,” Graves said.

 

OrcsWeb was using Shavlik’s patch product, now part of VMware, but were not successful in deploying updates to certain servers and there were a lot of false positives using the VMware product.  There were also problems with timing of reboots which was due to the Shavlik scheduler.  For instance, a patch would be deployed on a Saturday and then on Monday the server would be rebooted.  When Shavlik was acquired by VMware, the price of the product went up by 50% and after 18 months of using Shavlik, OrcsWeb chose to use SolarWinds managed service provider software for their patching needs.

 

Now OrcsWeb can patch 200 servers per hour with SolarWinds Patch Manger.  OrcsWeb chose SolarWinds for its ability to centrally deploy updates at discrete times.  Updates are scheduled the Saturday after patch Tuesday, with a second maintenance windows on Sunday between 3 and 8 a.m.


by Jennifer Kuvlesky

I interviewed Stefan Gustafsson who works at a large software development company.  He recently deployed Server & Application Monitor (SAM) v5.5 and within a minute SAM identified a failing power supply in his blade chassis that had six production blades.

 

JK:  What SolarWinds products do you use to monitor your environment?

SG:  We have a single instance of Network Performance Monitor (NPM), Server & Application Monitor, NetFlow Traffic Analyzer and Virtualization Manager and are looking at purchasing Web Performance Monitor and other SolarWinds products.  Our global (20 offices) monitoring solution covers 1,100 nodes with 17,000 component monitors spanning applications, servers and network environments in our production environment.

 

We started off with NPM and quite quickly realized we wanted more functionality for monitoring applications.  We did a trial of Server & Application Monitor 5.0 in July last year and started using it to monitor our Exchange and SQL environments.  Quite quickly we started using some of the advanced functionality for process monitoring and we are also using it to monitor various web components by means of WMI, SNMP or whatever is needed.

 

With the introduction of hardware monitoring in 5.2, we realized we were up against a bit of a challenge because almost none of our servers were running the vendor management tools and it took some scripting to install these vendor management tools to get hardware monitoring functioning.  Hardware monitoring opened our eyes to what was really going on in our environment.

 

We also monitor in-house and 3rd party applications by creating our own templates based on processes we discover in the Real Time Process Explorer.  We use all the built in application monitors  but use just as many custom monitors.  Sometimes we download from thwack and customize to our needs.

 

JK:  What did you do before you purchased Server & Application Monitor?

SG:  We used IBM Director, Dell Management Tools, and things like the hardware monitoring in VCenter, and remote management tools (DRAC/iLO/RAC) for each server and the audio-visuals in the datacenter –beeping of the datacenter and flashing of lights.

 

For node, site & process/protocol monitoring, we used OpenNMS which is not very user friendly.  We can do things now in NPM and SAM that would have taken 2 weeks in change controls and hacking XML files using NMS.  For instance, I needed to monitor some HP application sets and it took me 10 minutes to create a custom process monitor and set a custom owner property field so one guy gets the alert.  It would have taken me a week to do that in OpenNMS; nothing is straightforward in OpenNMS.

 

JK:  Before switching to SolarWinds, how long did it take to get all these tools up and running and troubleshoot problems with these disparate tools?

SG:  It easily took twice as long as it does now.  Adding things to monitoring systems, installing different bits and bolts, updating firmware every 5 minutes because something is not compatible, educating people – it took a lot of time with the old tools.

 

With SolarWinds' application and server monitoring software I’m quite quickly able to spot issues in our environment.  We find things 3 to 4 times a week that we investigate and prevent problems - so it’s very useful.  We are definitely stretching the boundaries of the product and are very keen to explore new features.  For example we deployed v5.5 a week before it made general release.  We’ve done a lot with hardware monitoring and I’ve started doing VM host performance monitoring  by querying VMware ESXi host stats that you can’t get out of SNMP.

 

Check out SAM's multi-vendor hardware support in this short video.

by Jennifer Kuvlesky

What are the things that can go wrong with your Exchange Server?  First, there are basic resources that need to be monitored to include:

 

CPU Utilization:  Monitor at the host and the virtual machine level and also monitor % ready to ensure your host is not too busy.
Available virtual memory:  Monitoring for this will let you know when you are about to run out of virtual memory – this can cause a lot of problems to include shutting down the Exchange server.
Disk Space: This is a critical metric to keep a watch on as problems can result in mail store corruption that can take hours to repair.
Hardware health: A problem with the hardware can cause an application failure.  Monitor key components like fan speeds, temperature, and power supply/CPU/memory status.

 

Monitor Exchange Performance Metrics

You also need to monitor Exchange application performance.  Here are a few of the Exchange Performance Metrics you should keep an eye on.  Monitoring Exchange server performance helps you to:

 

Keep mobile devices in sync. The average number of active sync requests per second allows you to verify if your mobile workforce devices, such as Windows, iPhones & Androids remain in sync with the Exchange server. 
Schedule maintenance when it’s least likely to impact users.  Monitor current connections to quickly determine the number of people using Exchange at a given time so you can schedule maintenance at the most optimal time.
Determine when the mail service is slow.  Average response time measures how long users have been waiting for information they have requested.  The slower the service, the more phone calls you will see in the help desk.
Determine if mail is actually being sent.  Messages delivered/sent per second validates that messages are actually being sent.  You can also simulate an email round trip to test the ability of your SMTP server to receive and distribute email, and the ability of your users to retrieve email through the Exchange Web Service.
Ensure security.  Monitoring mail flow will assure you that your Exchange server is not being used as a mail relay or that your users’ workstations aren’t compromised by botnets.
• Pinpoint Active Directory Issues.  Monitoring failed LDAP searches indicates there is something wrong with AD that could negatively impact Exchange.  LDAP searches time out per minute lets you know that you have an issue right away.

 

Monitor Critical Processes and Services

Monitor for specific Windows services to be alerted when they stop.  There are also several Microsoft Exchange services you should monitor to ensure Exchange availability.  These include the Active Directory Topology Service, File Distribution Service, IMPA4 Service, POP3 Service, and the Exchange Service Host service.  Many of these services are dependent upon one another.

When CPU or memory spikes, look at the processes that are causing high consumption of resources.


For more information on Exchange Monitoring, check out this short video or go to this on-line demo to see what can be monitored with Server & Application Monitor.

Jennifer

I just read a story on Neowin.net on Microsoft’s recent online service outages.  On March 12th, a few of Microsoft’s services went down – Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Hotmail and Calendar.  The cause was a rapid temperature spike which was the result of a firmware update failure.  Was this failure preventable?  Yes, with the proper monitoring and reporting, it could have been prevented.  Here is how:

 

When patching updates, you should report on whether the update was successful or not. This can be done with patch management tools that report on success or failure of your patch deployment.

patch updates.png

 

Monitor server hardware.  With the right server monitoring tool, it’s quite easy to monitor hardware across your server vendors.  Just yesterday I was speaking with a customer who just installed blade chassis monitoring and immediately discovered that a power supply was about to fail.  Without monitoring, you have no visibility into temperature spikes, hard drive issues, power supply problems or memory status.

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Checkout this on-line demo to explore how these tools work.

 

 

by Jennifer Kuvlesky

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Lemoine, Senior System Administrator at Guaranty Bank & Trust.  Guaranty Bank is a community bank in South Louisiana with 5 locations, 70 computers, servers, virtual server and ~45 users.

 

JK:  How long have you used SolarWinds Patch Manager, and what applications do you patch today?

BL:  Our bank has been using Patch Manager for 3 months.  We patch all the Windows applications - Office, Server.  Now that we have Patch Manager, we patch Flash Player, Java, Adobe Reader, Firefox, and we also publish the Dell driver updates.

 

JK: Before you started using Patch Manager, how were you patching?

BL:  We had a WSUS server but that didn’t work very well.  It was cumbersome and a pain to fool with. We had some applications that did not get updated at all.  Flash and Java were updated on an as-needed basis if someone called in with a problem.  We had some people who were running Adobe Reader 8, some with Adobe Reader 10 and everything in between.  It was kind of a mess and there was no way to keep up without going to each machine.

 

JK:  How long did it take you to patch your environment using WSUS?

BL:  It was a never-ending process.  Pretty much all my free time was devoted to patching.  Since I’m a one man band, I don’t have much time to begin with.  Being a bank, we have really busy machines and these would hardly get updated at all.

 

JK:  What was the straw that broke the camel’s back that caused you to start searching for a more robust patch management solution?

BL:  In October last year, we had a state regulatory agency IT audit from the OFI (Office of Financial Institutions).  One of the recommendations was to get patch management under control – it was not up to snuff.  At that time, I also worked after-hours for a private school and we were using DameWare for remote administration, which worked really well.  That is how I found out about SolarWinds and Patch Manager.

In addition to Patch Manager, we looked at Kaseya, which our consultant recommended, and we also looked at Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.  We tried out all 3 products and the reason we chose Patch Manager was that it just worked – it was easy to set up, easy to understand - it just worked!  The others were difficult to set up and get going.

Kaseya was too slow because the patch client was on each computer, and we would connect through the Internet to the server at our consultant.  Our consultant has a managed service offering using Kaseya.

 

JK:  How much time does it take to patch your environment with Patch Manager?

BL:  It (Patch Manager) cut it down next to nothing.  I can schedule it to do everything and anything.  For example, today I deployed IE 10 for Windows 7 which came out on Tuesday.  I set up a schedule to deploy the patch and it only took me a couple of minutes.

 

JK:  You mentioned you had an IT audit recently.  How did it go?

BL:  Every year we hire an independent audit firm to perform an IT audit – all banks are required to do this (FDIC/OFI).  This last auditor was out of Texas, and he audits banks all over the country.  He was very, very impressed with Patch Manager.  He made a comment that he has audited banks that have purchased patch management software for $20,000 and it did not work half as well as Patch Manager.  We purchased Patch Manager for $700 – it was a steal.

 

The audit process was really easy.  The reports were already built in – like the update status on machines – and it took just a couple minutes to run the reports.  In the past I would spend hours on producing reports for the auditors.

Jennifer

Ever wondered what would happen if Exchange services are suddenly stopped or rebooted? It could possibly corrupt mailbox stores. Sounds super scary, right? Well, read ahead for a situation that you could face in your wonder days as a SysAdmin.

 

Consider a Scenario
You are the overworked system admin and the lone ranger. Your Exchange server's CPU is running at 100% for a long time, and you’re getting alerts from your monitoring software. ALERT! ALERT!
After some initial troubleshooting, you decide to restart the Exchange services. The restart process fails, and the CPU continues to run at 100%. Ugh.

 

The Reboot Disaster
As the status remains the same, you decide to reboot, hoping this will resolve the issue. After 15 minutes, the server finally reboots and as it restarts, some of the mailbox stores do not mount.


The Bad News
The reboot corrupts several mailbox stores, and you discover that a shutdown or restart of the operating system does not necessarily wait for all services to stop. The Information Store service apparently did not stop completely and after a timed delay, Windows shut itself down. You know that the corruption happened because the Information Store was actively being written to when the service stopped.

When It’s Safe to Stop Exchange Services
When you perform maintenance on your Exchange servers, it’s always best to dismount all of the mailbox stores first. This will assure that all "in flight" transactions are completed before the service is stopped.
For example, to stop Exchange Server 2003 services, you must stop System Attendant, IIS Admin service, ExIFS, and SRS (if this service is running), and all dependent services first.

Service Control Manager: Remotely Start & Stop Services
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor’s new feature, Service Control Manager, allows admins to see all services available on the host, their current state, start-up settings, as well as the services description from within. Stopping, starting, and restarting services instantly is a simple point-and-click affair, all from your Exchange server monitoring tool!

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                    The new Service Control Mangaer feature in SAM 5.5

 

The very same interface also provides a quick method for monitoring new or problematic services – it’s as easy as clicking a button! The service remediation for any Windows service currently monitored by SAM subtly changes and reduces mean time to resolution when application issues occur by ensuring what you need is readily at hand. So, keep a tab on all those critical Exchange services and control them at the click of a mouse.

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Being a SysAdmin, you might have to deal with unexpected requests and situations day in and day out, making your life quite challenging at times. In addition to dealing with haywire user requests, there are certain recurring system issues which do not help the situation. One issue you may have faced often is dealing with annoying zombie processes. So, what exactly are these so called zombies?


Zombie Processes are Not Flesh Eating Monsters
This might be old school but it doesn’t hurt to learn again. A zombie process is one that when finishing execution will have an exit status to report to its parent process. As a result, the process will remain in the operating system’s process table as a zombie process, indicating that it is not to be scheduled for further execution but cannot be completely removed until it has been determined that the exit status is no longer needed.
So basically, these zombie processes remain in the process tables even after they have fully executed and no longer use up processing power.

Zombies are Not Destructive, But…
Generally zombie processes don’t cause performance issues on the servers. These are just leftover bits of dead processes that haven’t been cleaned properly by their parent process (i.e. when these processes were killed, the parent process didn't correctly collect the processes exit information). That being said, if the number of zombie processes is exceedingly larger than the process limit on the server, serious problems can occur, such as:
• The application hangs and simply stops responding.
• You receive a warning from the OS that the application is unresponsive.
• Too many zombie processes would stall the system and lead to rebooting.


Going for the Kill
Some of these options can be tried to kill zombie processes:
• The first option is to wait. It is possible that the parent process is intentionally leaving the process in a zombie state to ensure that future children it may create will not receive the same PID (Process ID).
• The other option is to identify the parent process and kill it.


Monitoring & Managing Processes in Real Time
Keeping track of your server and application farm has never been this easy. With SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor’s Real Time Process Explorer (RTPE), you no longer need to physically or remotely log in to a particular machine and run the Task Manager to retrieve that machine's vital statistics. Information for both monitored and unmonitored processes is displayed directly through the RTPE and with the additional command line option, you exactly know from where the process is running.
You can kill rouge processes that are eating your server’s CPU and memory directly from the RTPE.  Check it out in the latest release (v5.5) of SolarWinds' server monitoring tool.

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                                SolarWinds all-in-one process monitoring & management tool

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Monitoring the performance of business critical apps is a necessity, there is no denying that.  It’s equally important to have a hawk eye view on the performance of the hardware on which these critical apps run, as failure of any of the server’s internal components can negatively impact application availability. Servers can develop critical problems without prior warning and eventually results service downtime.  So, you’re not really monitoring your server if you can’t see into the hardware.

 

Your server hardware is the backbone of your critical business services. To avoid any server downtime, it’s really essential to have a system that monitors the health and performance of your critical server hardware components for optimal performance.

 

But, it’s complicated

The biggest complexity in effectively managing hardware is the diverse nature of the IT infrastructure which typically comprises of equipment from multiple manufacturers. Each manufacturer provides their own solution for monitoring and managing their hardware such as:

• Dell provides Dell OpenManage for its servers

• IBM System X provides the IBM Systems Director for managing its hardware

• HP provides HP Insight Manager managing their servers

 

If you have multiple hardware vendors, then you have multiple monitoring consoles.  Add to that additional consoles or scripts for monitoring operating system performance, virtual machine performance and application performance.  Monitoring all these components is quite important such that sysadmins can narrow down issues in the case of a service failure. Any delay in identifying hardware malfunctions can cause damage to your hardware, resulting in a halt to all the applications running on that specific server.

 

To effectively monitor your server environment, sysadmins require a single integrated console from where they can monitor the diverse hardware components, all from an interactive dashboard.

A server monitoring tool should keep tabs on the following key hardware monitoring metrics such as:

• Hard drive status

• Array status

• Array controller status

• Power supply status

• Fan status

• Chassis intrusion status

• Chassis temperature and/or status

• Chassis fan speed and/or status

• CPU temperature and/or status

• CPU fan speed and/or status

• Memory module status

• Voltage regulator status

 

 

Hardware health doctor

With so many various parameters to be monitored, it’s quite important for you to look for an easy-to-use and cost effective server monitoring for your multi-vendor environment, providing expert guidance on what to monitor, why to monitor it, including customizable dashboards & reports showing trends, capacity, & performance all in no time.

 

Want the complete server monitoring software that makes sure your Servers, Applications & Hardware are performing optimally? Check out SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor – it’s the only game in town that provides multi-vendor hardware monitoring that won’t cost more than the hardware you’re monitoring.

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