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Pros: Support for almost all major Linux flavours used on servers, a very well thought out user interface, ease of installation and the price all make Bijk a good choice for server monitoring
Cons: A lack of the ability to customise the interface; the order of graphs is perhaps the only thing we’d want to change in Bijk’s service. Also, perhaps some documentation
Bijk is a web service offering a whole bunch of server monitoring capabilities with a simple setup and at no cost. It supports most of the popular flavours of Linux used on servers. And it creates neat-looking graphs from the data.
If you have a Linux server with a static IP that is using a compatible flavour of Linux, you can start using the service within minutes. First you’ll need to visit the service’s website (www.bijk.com) and sign up for an account. After clicking on your Linux distro’s logo, you get the relevant installation instructions. Once you are done, give Bijk a few minutes to gather data. Then log into your account and start watching your server’s performance data. Bijk supports many popular Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Red Hat Linux and CentOS (support for Fedora and others is expected soon). It also supports the Rackspace Cloud offerings.
One blocking point in the setup of Bijk that we came across was that it asks for a ‘Client hash’ to activate a server. After some digging we noticed that during the installation of the client-side software, Bijk created a directory ‘/etc/bijk’. Under this directory you’ll find a file called ‘client_hash’. The string in this file is the ‘Client hash’ that you need to activate a server.
If you have used monitoring software such as Nagios or Cacti, you’ll know how complex it can be to even just get started with the software, let along tweak the configuration. It was such a relief to be able to run some simple, mechanical steps and get started with Bijk. Quite impressive indeed.
When you log into your account, you’re presented with five tabs on the main landing page: Dashboard, Alerts, Favourites, Uptime and Servers. There’s also a tab that allows you add new servers to your account. The landing page for the account is also the one for the Dashboard; this shows you a summary of the state of all the servers configured in your account. This approach is very effective, because when you log in you immediately get an idea of what’s happening on your servers. You can see what issues are being faced by the servers, and graphs for the important parameters on your server.
One feature we particularly liked is a kind of floating graph at the top of the page, which shows you a graph for the parameter of a server that you are hovering over. The overall interface for Bijk is quite well designed. It is as easy on the eye as it is to navigate around. You don’t have to be technically advanced to get the information you are seeking. Most of the information can be accessed with one or two clicks on the mouse, which is very handy, especially when you have many servers on your hands and are debugging issues.
Once you have activated a client server, the server’s monitoring data is shown in the Dashboard. The latter contains a list of all the client servers configured in your account. You can also view the most important graphs for each server on the Dashboard’s landing page. You can click on the server name to view a complete list of graphs for a server, containing data from the 60 parameters being monitored. The time period of the data shown (eg last hour) can be altered. This page shows way too much information, so it’d be nice to have some filtering options and the ability to drag and move the graphs to change the order in which they are displayed.
The Alerts tab has three main options: ‘Alerts setup’, ‘Alerts status’ and ‘Alerts history’. You can choose one of these, or just click on the main tab button to view the landing page of the Alerts section. The latter presents you with a status report of all the alerts currently configured in your account. The information is split up nicely for each server. There are a lot of alerts to choose from, categorised by the parameter to which they apply: CPU, memory, Apache, netstat etc. Once you know which alert you want to activate, you can check the ‘send alert’ box. You then have to configure the range for which the alert should be sent, along with the email address Bijk should send it to. You can even opt to receive the alert via text message on your phone. Bijk provides both of these alert types for free, which is fantastic . Using the ready-made options, you can set up an alert in under a minute with such a simple interface. On the downside, it might be useful for some advanced users to be able to configure some custom alerts.
The other tabs – Favourites, Uptime and Server – are limited in features compared to the first two, but can be just as useful. The Favourites tab lets you create a custom page with the graphs that you want for different servers. The Uptime section monitors the load times and availability of your servers. You can add URLs that you want monitored at the bottom of the page. The data is displayed in the form of a graph. Bijk mentions on this page that the uptime and load time information is gathered from four independent data centres, so it should be pretty accurate.
The Servers page is the simplest of all. It is a clean summary of all your servers, without any jazzy graphs. You can click on the server link to go into the detailed graphs page for a particular server. The Servers page shows you the IP address, state and the time of the last download of monitoring information for each server.
Bijk consists of two parts: the client side and server side. After you install the client-side software on a server to monitor, it gets associated with your account on the Bijk server. You then have real-time access to about 60 sensors for each client server, which Bijk automatically monitors after it establishes contact with the client on your server. Bijk communicates with clients using the SSH protocol.
Considering what it offers – a great user interface, up-to-date monitoring data, email and SMS alerts – Bijk is a very good option. On top of that, it’s free. The only thing we’d really like to see is some more customisability to the interface.
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