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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Heads-Up Display for Network Monitoring (Combining Multiple Websites into One)

When I started my new job, one of the first things I did was to purchase and set up Paessler's PRTG network monitoring software. PRTG is a great piece of software for the money. It's VERY worth it to have network monitoring up and running. You get notifications when something goes down and access to the monitoring software via your cellphone (Android or iPhone). On top of that, it can track historical usage data, which I find most helpful dealing with disk space It's nice to be able to know a month ahead of time that you're going to run out of space on a drive and that you need to do something about it.

Another thing I love about having an at-a-glance display of my servers and applications is that when I'm done patching and rebooting tons of servers (I have 60), you can look at a pretty picture and know immediately whether everything's working correctly or not. We have a 50-inch TV in our hallway connected to a computer that is used to display various pretty pictures from our monitoring websites, and I had to learn a little bit (more) about HTML to make it work properly. Here's my HTML code:

<title>This is how we do it......</title>
<frameset cols="65%,35%">
<frameset rows="65%,35%">
<frame src="https://MyPRTGServer/alarms.html" />
    <frame src="http://MySpiceworksServer/tickets/list/open_tickets#" />
<frame src="https://MyPRTGServer/Sunburst" />

The result:

I put a link on the desktop, and after I open the webpage the individual components load. I then press F11 to make it full screen, removing the dozen toolbars that are somehow installed (I kid). One caveat to this is that if you are opening HTTPS websites within your frames, and those pages have a self-signed cert, you will need to open them individually first so that the browser knows that you trust them (I understand the risk!). Only after doing that will your browser allow you to open those pages within an iframe.

So, the webpage. You have two columns. The first column is set up on line 5, and is 65% of the screen. This real estate is then split up 65/35 to show our PRTG alarms on the top, and our Spiceworks helpdesk tickets at the bottom. The second column shows the PRTG Sunburst. The trick with using the frameset tag this way is that you declare the columns, then declare the rows inside of that column, then declare your next column, etc. When I come upstairs in the morning, after I check the server room, I walk past this display and it's the first thing I see. If there's an error, it will be red, pink signifies errors that someone's already acknowledged, and if it's all green, then I go make myself some coffee!

I recommend that every sysadmin learns a little bit of HTML. You don't need to mess with CSS style sheets and Java code (though it might help you more, depending on how "dev" your role is), but it's nice to quickly whip up a page of links, or edit an IIS error page on the fly. One great resources I've found (and use) for HTML coding (by the by, I think programmers in general despise when you call writing HTML 'coding') is the W3Schools website found here. I recommend using notepad++ for any text editing, including HTML and Powershell Scripts, by the way.


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