FastComet Pro-active Server Monitoring is Here!

They say you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. All of you who are true fans of FastComet, know the story behind the brand. Coming from system administration services for private and business individuals to public cloud hosting service, we have walked a long way to come to the point where we can guarantee that our clients’ websites perform better in all circumstances.

What have we learned along the way?

During the last year, there has been a sharp increase in the number of new cloud hosting accounts opened with FastComet, as well as a threefold increase in the upgrade activity within existing cloud servers for the last half a year. So, we took the time to analyze our users’ behavior and how we could improve our service even more. With our latest release of our completely revamped and improved VPS and Dedicated server cloud platform, we rolled out a dramatic update on space, RAM, CPU, and bandwidth at the same price point.

After the successful launch of the new Observer system, system which expanded visibility upwards to an advanced Resource Monitoring service, providing 360-degree information on all core hosting account resources, it was time to ensure that our cloud plans got some love, too.

Our in-house created Server Monitoring is another piece of art of the FastComet DevOps team. The main idea behind it is to improve awareness of system health and minimize response time when usage is outside of expected levels. With that in mind, we designed Server Monitoring to easily keep up with your server’s performance.

Introduction to FastComet Proactive Server Monitoring

FastComet Monitoring is a free service that provides insight into resource usage across your infrastructure. Monitoring gives administrators greater insight into their infrastructure’s resource usage with graphs specific to the health and integrity of the servers like CPU utilization, data transfer, and disk usage activity. It is extremely lightweight and can check the server status far more often than standard monitoring systems.

To gain access to this panel and many other benefits, simply enter your FastComet Client Area. Select the Observer item on the left-side menu, or click on the Resource Monitoring button next to your Cloud VPS/DS server. This will take you to the Observer Dashboard, where you can use our new Monitoring system.

Application developers and server administrators who manage a lot of services usually need to quickly determine the status of many servers at once. The Observer Dashboard page shows a list of every server currently reporting, along with the three key server metrics (CPU busy, Memory used, Disk space used) and a graphical “traffic light” that tells you at a glance what the overall health of the server is. All three are shown as a percentage, where higher numbers are bad. This makes them easy and quick to compare across different servers.

Real-time Summary Dashboard Overview

To dive into the in-depth reports you will want to click on “Details” button above the breakdown report. In the Overview page, you have a number of different graphs that will display statistics gathered over time from your server. Monitoring graphs are a visual representation of system-level metrics to provide a high-level overview of resource usage. 

  • Server Info

Your summarized server info is conveniently located at the top of the Dashboard to get all of the needed information regarding OS, Processor type, and Disk capabilities, right at your fingertips. See how your server is performing with live statistics of your server’s uptime and the average system load calculated over a given period of time of 1, 5 and 15 minutes.

  • CPU Usage

CPU utilization measures the amount of processor being used at a given time. CPU utilization is expressed as a percentage.

  • Memory Usage

Memory utilization is a measurement of the memory being consumed on the server. This is expressed as a percentage of the total available physical memory.

  • Network Usage

Bandwidth is a measurement of the amount of incoming or outgoing traffic passing through the server’s network.

  • Disk I/O Usage

Disk I/O, or input/output, is a measure of how much read and write activity the server’s disks are experiencing. This is expressed in terms of operations per second.

  • Load

Server load isn’t just a value. It is the number of processes waiting in the queue to access the processor. It is generally in an x.xx format with values beginning with 0.00. Over time, the smaller the number, the fewer processes are waiting thus tying up vital resources. High numbers indicate a significant decrease in server performance.

  • Top Processes

In this panel, you will find the current top processes running on your server. You can see additional details for any process consumption by clicking on Process Explorer.

Triggering monitoring Update

You can choose to view the data in half an hour or 12-hour view for any of your Cloud VPS/ Dedicated Services. Just select any of your desired options from the drop-down at the top of the Monitoring page. Select instant manual update or set a trigger to update in every 1, 2, 5, 10 or 30 minutes. The minimum granularity supported by Monitoring is 1-minute data points.

Once this is done, the statistical information in the graphs below will display the data you’ve selected. On the graphs, you will see a number of plotted points. If you hover your cursor over one of these points it will provide data specific to that point on the timeline.

Digging Deeper

Once an abnormal activity/issue has been detected, it is time to dig deeper. If Disk IO is high, which disk is the one having trouble? If the CPU is busy, what is it busy doing? The starting point for any of these questions should be the Overview page for the server in question.

The purpose of this page is dual. On one hand, it needs to make it clear to the server administrator when something is not right. To accomplish the first goal, we have used a consistent 100% max for the CPU, Memory, and Disk I/O charts, and have tried not to overload the summary dashboard with too many charts.

This page is also the starting point for troubleshooting an issue. To accomplish this second goal, we have a relatively dense right-hand column and have included some context information in addition to actionable performance data. Of particular note is the Processes table, which functions as the “top” command and tracks the top 10 processes in terms of CPU and Memory usage.

Watch server KPI and drill down to details if needed. This can help you understand how your resource usage is changing over time, how different resource levels correlate, and which processes are contributing to those levels. Often we don’t need to go any further than this page when we are trying to diagnose a problem where either CPU or Memory resources are being exhausted. The Disk I/O and Network charts, and the Processes table are also jumping off points to their respective detail pages. On those detail pages, you can see additional details (like disk Reads vs. Writes) broken up by specific disk device or network interface.

Deep Diving into Monitoring Metrics

Understanding the state of your infrastructure and systems is essential for ensuring the reliability and stability of your environment. Information about the health and performance of your servers not only helps you react to issues, it also gives you the security to make changes with confidence. One of the best ways to gain this insight is with such a robust Server Monitoring system that gathers metrics, visualizes data, and alerts server administrators when things appear to be abnormal.

The resources and services monitored by the Server Monitoring are separated into six broad categories. To see more detailed information about the resource usage, click on the categories. Expanding a category displays all active and former reports about all resources and services included in the category. The beta version of the Server Monitoring system provides up to 12 hours of data retention.

We’ll dive into each section of Server Monitoring and share some examples (and real-world scenarios) of how you can take advantage of these new reports to analyze network fault, availability, and performance issues quickly.

Network

An increase in traffic is usually a positive thing, signaling that your marketing efforts are being paid off and that your brand is being well received. However, when high traffic to a website is sudden and unexpected, this can cause issues with functionality. High load averages imply that a system is overloaded; many processes are waiting for CPU time.

Many variables can cause network issues, often making finding the root cause of problems difficult. Continuous network monitoring helps you to detect bottlenecks and possible failures at an early stage and troubleshoot them before they cause downtimes.

Common issues:

  • Unstable bandwidth
  • Poor response time
  • Intermittent network connectivity problems
  • Poor application or service performance

If you want to dig deeper to discover how quickly web servers are responding, use the network analyzer that tracks and displays current and historical performance metrics in customizable dashboards and charts.

Keep an eye on:

  • Sudden peaks in sent/received traffic
  • Large amounts of sent/received traffic

Disk

As data volume expands, response time can grow right along with it, because applications that are required to read and write data are much less efficient when disk space is low. Low disk space affects your server’s ability to grow the paging file and can negatively impact virtual memory management. These inefficiencies can slow down your entire network, cause transactions to fail, grind websites to a halt and generally result in a variety of headaches.

Keep an eye on:

  • Disk space used
  • The rate of increase in disk space utilization
  • Disk speed per second (reads, writes, and transfers)
  • Average disk queue length

Find out what’s going on under the hood!

  • Disk IO

Disk usage is a measurement of how much disk space is currently being used. This is expressed as a percentage of the total disk space available on the server.

FastComet breaks disk I/O down into read and write operations, which are handled separately. Server monitoring graphs show these as two separate lines within the Disk I/O graph.

  • Disk Space

Disk usage is a measurement of how much disk space is currently being utilized. This is expressed as a percentage of the total disk space available on the server.

  • Disks List

This value takes into account the server’s root storage and any additional attached disks. The values of each disk are rolled up into a single value that represents the total storage space of the server.

  • Inode Usage

Disk input/output (I/O) bottlenecks can occur when an application or service is reading or writing an excessive amount of information to disk and the processor has to wait to process the information. High I/O wait can significantly slow down your server.

Processes

As an administrator responsible for keeping your server systems up and running, you need to know if things are going wrong. Server Monitoring also reports the highest consumers of CPU and memory as a chart within the Processes section graphs. The processes are sorted by the highest consumer of the selected resource first. You can adjust these settings depending on the process value. Just select any of your desired filters from the drop-down sections and resource-intensive processes will be easily identified.

Each process is accompanied by a usage percentage out of the total available resources.

Keep an eye on:

  • Current memory utilization
  • Number of processes and their memory usage
  • Spikes in memory usage

Apache

As your application grows and so does traffic towards it, somewhere along the line, a certain amount of Apache troubleshooting will always be necessary to keep things running smoothly.

Troubleshooting Apache will sometimes require you to fiddle with the Apache configuration parameters. Sometimes it’s a matter of adding system resources. And other times you’ll need to optimize some of the code running on the server. Figuring out what to do is actually the challenging part, and that’s why you need to monitor your Apache HTTP server.

MySQL

The MySQL databases running on your Cloud VPS/ Dedicated server are an integral part of many content management systems, like WordPress and Drupal. It’s also important to monitor the connection to your database. You should not only keep all software up-to-date but also perform regular data hygiene to ensure that no intrusions have been made that may have compromised the security of your database. One of the most common attacks to watch for is the SQL attack. This can be easily avoided through regular maintenance and taking preventative measures, but it’s important to regularly seek out any possible intrusions within your own database. Unusual activity or unfamiliar commands are a great indicator that you may be compromised.

System

Linux distributions are frequently updated to fix bugs, add new features, and patch security vulnerabilities. System monitoring section proactively identifies which packages are up for update, no need to run manual yum update checks.

Free plan/Upgrade plan

Our free plan is exclusively for VPS, cloud and dedicated servers hosted with FastComet and are enabled by default for all existing clients. The beta version of the Observer Monitoring system provides 12 hours of data retention. It is in active development state and may display partial, incomplete or inaccurate data. Stay tuned for additional features and improvements to our monitoring system that will help you monitor any aspect of your service with ease.

Elena

Elena oversees all Marketing, Product Management and Community efforts for FastComet and is in charge of telling the brand's story. Always pitching, she’ll share the FastComet vision with anyone who’ll listen. Elena helps our customers make the most of their web sites' and focuses on our inbound marketing efforts; everything from developing new online growth strategies, content creation, technical SEO, and outreach within the FastComet community. Her background includes Sales and Customer Relationship development, as well as Online Marketing.