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Email Dead Man's Switch or Heartbeat monitor

Posted on 2009-02-23
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Last Modified: 2012-11-13
I'm looking for a service that can monitor our email server. Specifically, I'm looking for a service that will receive emails that our server sends out and then trigger an alert if it fails to receive an expected message.

Let me explain the situation a little more fully. We have a server that is critical to our business operations. There are any number of error messages and monitoring alerts that the server will send out when something goes wrong. But, all of these are predicated on the idea of the SMTP service working. If that service fails then no error messages are sent out.

So, my idea is that I write a script to send a heartbeat message every 5 minutes or so. The destination would be a 3rd party server that knows to expect these messages. If there are a given number of consecutive missed emails then that monitoring server would start sending out alerts to email, pagers, cellphones, etc.

Does anyone know of a service that could do this? Thanks for your help.
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Question by:aragorn18
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by:goobergeffer
ID: 23717904
Linux - ha is probably something you could use.. Even to the point of shoot the node in the head in event of failure of service, I presume your running this in a Linux enviroment.
This can use a setup of monitor/kill/restart or even full failover.. Depending how much money you want to spend. You could also setup drbd for this..
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by:goobergeffer
ID: 23717919
Also you could employ remote monitoring services for all your critical ports I.e. 25 (SMTP) 110(pop) 22(ssh) all the critical for stability.. I recommed hyperspin.net/com they are reliable and not to expensive.. That will SMS your phone.. Or multipul phones, plus emails.. And uptime reports weekly
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by:aragorn18
ID: 23719167
No, we're running windows server 2003. But, that shouldn't really matter. I want a service that receives emails and alerts me if it stops getting them. It shouldn't matter what OS is sending them.

Also, port monitoring isn't adequate. It's possible that the port will respond but the service is locked up. The only way to be 100% sure that emails are being sent is to actually send some emails.
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by:goobergeffer
ID: 23719196
ok..

I will help as much as possible but im not sure how much I could help with.. as Windows isn't good with this sort of thing..
My personal experience running mail servers with windows is bad, and I would definitely not recommend it for what your doing (role inside company)
But that's not mine to judge, so moving on :)
You need a script that from the localhost mail box sends out.. and a second box that will receive, and if it stops report.. right?
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 23724081
http://member.dnsstuff.com/info/overview_dns.php

Not sure whether this will do the trick, can't see in detail what it does without subscribing - but I think it will, because there are tests in DNSReport which involve interrogating the mail server.
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by:aragorn18
ID: 23724339
"You need a script that from the localhost mail box sends out.. and a second box that will receive, and if it stops report.. right?"
Somewhat.

I can write the sending script really easily. I have a good number of Windows Scripting Host scripts that send automated emails. What I was hoping for was a third party service that already does the receiving half of things. It seems like a straightforward need to me, to the point that I expected that such a thing already existed.

I'd rather not have to write the receiver myself and introduce my own point of failure. I'd like to pay a service to do that for me.
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by:goobergeffer
ID: 23730065
Okay, I'm not familure with someone offering such a service . But I will look around
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 23811056
What was wrong with this suggestion?

http://member.dnsstuff.com/info/overview_dns.php
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by:goobergeffer
ID: 23813144
Im not trying to point out flaws in your suggestion, But he needs something Specific for Email, And also should be generated on the Local Host email server to an external source, not external source to send to server.

I have not found such a service, but if there are any coders willing to take a business venture this might be worth consideration.
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 23814503
Quite often the best solution to a problem is not the one that was put forward in the question.  
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moorhouselondon earned 1500 total points
ID: 23818651
I attach overview of DNSAlert.  This software prods your mail server at regular intervals and warns you if there any changes from PASS to FAIL occur.  The tests are configurable so that you can ignore whether your website is up, or not for example.
DNSalert.pdf
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by:goobergeffer
ID: 23828564
Coolies, Will read :) I am only trying to suit the question... Tunnel vision :P
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 23830979
I think that my suggestion meets the overall objective of resolving the problem, taking into account external factors not stated in the question, but alluded to in Aragorn18's comment (id 23724339), and therefore feel entitled to at least some of the points on offer.  If so, then the comment ID:23818651 would be an appropriate choice as answer.
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by:DmanHbeat
ID: 38595552
There is a web based SaaS provider called Deadman Heartbeat (http://www.deadmanheartbeat.com) that does exactly what you're asking for.  Among other things, they do have an email flow monitor that allows you to have emails sent through all of your servers on whatever interval you like (e.g. every 5 minutes) and then if an email is not received within the 5 minute interval then you will receive an alert.

Here is an example of how it works in this scenario:

http://www.deadmanheartbeat.com/ms-exchange-email-server-outages/

I hope that helps all of you with similar issues.
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