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free server monitoring softwareIf you run any servers – either your own personal home server or for a business – you should be keeping tabs on the health and availability of your systems. A dead server is a useless server, so making sure you are aware of any outages is an important part to running one.

Cloudkick was one of the hottest startups of 2010 and was acquired by Rackspace in December. Their whole business model is system monitoring as a service, with a lightweight client installed on the server reporting back to their monitoring servers operating in several different datacenters in the U.S.


The Cloudkick platform works on Windows and Linux (Ubuntu, CentOS and Redhat) and also comes with easy configuration for several providers such as Amazon EC2, Linode, Rackspace and other VPS/Cloud providers.

Is Cloudkick a good option for you to monitor your system(s)? Let’s go over the setup and what you get from the Cloudkick platform.

Setting Up The Cloudkick Agent

The first thing you will do is sign up for a developer account on the Cloudkick website. They have several paid options available as well but the developer account will allow you to have one server with comprehensive monitoring: CPU, memory and more; and also unlimited basic checks on an unlimited number of servers which include HTTP/S checks, Ping, SSH, DNS and TCP Header check (regular expression check).

free server monitoring softwareInstalling the Cloudkick agent is detailed on their wiki for all platforms. We will go over the Redhat/CentOS platform for the purposes of this article, but it is mostly the same for all other operating systems.

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First add the Cloudkick yum repository to /etc/yum.repos.d/cloudkick.repo:

[cloudkick]
name=Cloudkick
baseurl=http://packages.cloudkick.com/redhat/$basearch
gpgcheck=0

Install the Cloudkick packages:

yum check-update; yum install cloudkick-agent

and then run the configuration utility:

[07:38][root@server:~]$ cloudkick-config 
Welcome to the Cloudkick configuration utility. This will securely 
use your Cloudkick username and password to generate an API key 
for the Cloudkick Agent.

Username: username
Password: **********
Writing configuration to /etc/cloudkick.conf
All done!

You will then probably want to edit /etc/cloudkick.conf to add your server name. Create a new line and add the following text, using your server name in place of serverXX:

name serverXX

Finally, enable the cloudkick agent to run on startup:

[07:41][root@server:~]$ chkconfig cloudkick-agent on
[07:42][root@server:~]$ service cloudkick-agent start
Starting cloudkick-agent: [  OK  ]

That is all you need to do from your end to install and register your system in the Cloudkick system.

Setting up Monitors

The next time you log into the Cloudkick dashboard, you will see that this new server has been added to the system automatically. You will then need to set up alerts (also called Monitors) to go along with your server.

For the free checks, we will add a basic availability check on our server(s). We will check SSH availability as well as PING response times just for demo purposes. You can use any of the ‘basic’ checks or one or more of the standard checks depending on what type of account that you have signed up for.

server monitoring software

After adding these monitors, it will start collecting data for your system. The Cloudkick interface has a lot of graphing options, allowing you to monitor these services over time and give you an idea as to how responsive your server is.

free server monitoring software

In addition to the pretty graphs and charts, you will also have alerts sent to you if any of the services go down. You can set it up so that it will trigger an alert after 1-3 errors and can also have it alert you just once or on a continuing basis. For extra bonus points, you can set it up so that it will text you on outages or also pipe it to a push service such as Boxcar.

Will Cloudkick Work For You?

Cloudkick is great if you have a small number of servers and you are looking for basic monitoring. The pricetag is certainly right for this type of uptime and health monitoring. However once you start adding servers with full checks to your account, the price quickly goes up. There is some great free server monitoring software available out there which are open source and free such as Nagios and Zabbix, and both would be compelling alternatives if you are looking for more detailed checks on multiple servers and are willing and able to set up the infrastructure for doing so. But for a personal home server or even a couple of servers for businesses, Cloudkick is a useful service to sign up for and it is very easy to get started with. Check it out and let us know what you think!

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