Beta Testers Needed for New SMTP Monitor Type

One request we often hear from users is the desire to be able to check the status of email servers. Our backend team has been hard at work, and we are happy to announce we now have support for SMTP monitoring! We are rolling out this new feature, and are looking for customers interested in helping up beta test this new monitor. If you run an email server, and would like to check it out, please get in touch with us at support@vigil-app.com with "SMTP Beta" in the subject line.

How To Add an SMTP Monitor

Once your account has been setup to support the STMP monitor, it will automatically appear as an option when you click on the Add Host button. You will see it on the list as SMTP(S) MONITOR:

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Clicking that menu option will pop up a new creation dialog:

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There are a number of options available depending on how your SMTP server is configured. The first options are for including your server address and port. If your server supports secure connections you will want to select the SSL/TLS option. You can also provide vigil-specific authentication if your server requires it for the monitor to connect. We highly recommend setting up a specific Vigil monitoring account for this purpose with a unique username/password combination. 

You can use the NAME field to spefify a friendly name you would like to give this monitor so you recognize it on the dashboard and in notifications and reports. The NOTIFICATION SENSITIVITY can be used to adjust when we send out alerts.

We support two methods of checking: VRFY and NOOP

VRFY Command Option

The VRFY command is a part of the SMTP protocol, and you can read more about it here. This command sends an email address to the server, and the server will respond with a status code indicating whether that account exists on the system. When you select the VRFY SMTP COMMAND option, you will need to provide an email address. This will cause our monitors to issue a command VRFY <email> to your server on the normal monitoring schedule. You can use the Advanced VRFY tab to adjust which status codes are considered good responses:

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It is important to note that some administrators consider the VRFY command to be insecure, and it is either disabled, or always returns a positive response. If the command still responds, you can still use it to verify the server is online and responding the external requests. If your server doesn't support the VRFY command at all you can use the second option: NOOP.

NOOP Command Option

The NOOP command is spelled out in the SMTP RFC and you can read more about it here. This command sends just the NOOP string to the server, which responds with an OK. If your server doesn't support the VRFY command, you can use the NOOP as a fallback option. This will verify that your server has connectivity to the internet, and is processing at least minimal requests.

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For NOOP, you do not need to provide a recipient email.

Plans and Pricing

When we roll out SMTP monitoring, it will be available automatically for all users at the Business Plan level as a new monitoring option. There will be no additional charge over the regular monthly or annual charge for your plan. If you are not currently on the Business plan, you can upgrade at any time. You can view all our plan options here.

Bug Fixes and New Client Work

This last week was filled with bug fixes and new client work at Vigil HQ. Late last week we discovered an issue with the iOS Client that was causing issues when freshly installed on a new device. We fixed the bug, and pushed a new build to Apple. They approved our expedited review, and we were ablet to get out a new release on Friday (v2.1.4). 

We've also been fixing bugs and improving our backend services. Most people see the clients, but behind the scenes are numerout servers that perform the monitoring, collect statistics, and serve up data to the web and iOS clients. We rolled out a few updates this last week with some small improvements and bug fixes.

Work still continues on the Android client. Hopefully we'll have more news on this front soon. In the meantime, have a great February, and as always—stay vigilant.

iOS Client Issue v2.1.3

UPDATE: Apple approved our expedited review, and version 2.1.4 is now available in the app store. Thank you for your patience while we worked through the issue.


The most recent iOS Client that was released (v2.1.3) has a bug that causes issues with new installations which stops users from logging in or creating new accounts from their iOS devices. We have uploaded a new build and have requested an expedited review with Apple. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. The web client is unaffected, as are any users who had already created an account on their device. Hopefully the fixed client will be available quickly.

Domain Expiration Alerts

We are getting ready to roll out a new Vigil alert: Domain Registration Expiration. Never have to worry about your domain expiring out from under you again! We will be rolling out WHOIS monitoring soon. When your domain registration is about to expire we'll send you a notification. Failing to renew a domain can be everything from a minor inconvenience, to a major headache if someone comes in and buys it. Because domain renewals happen very rarely they are easy to forget. WHOIS monitoring will be a free feature for all Professional and Business Plan subscriptions.

New Timezone Setting

You can now configure the timezone Vigil should use when reporting events. If you visit the Account page in the website client, you will see a new row with your current timezone setting, along with a button 'CHANGE TIME ZONE'

Clicking this button allows you to select the timezone Vigil uses in weekly reports and alerts.

By default we use UTC time when reporting events on your account. If you log in from the Vigil mobile app, your timezone will be set to the configured timezone on your device. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

New Per-Host Notifications

If you are a Professional or Business tier user, you can now configure additional notifications on a per-host basis. This allows you to setup different alerting for each host. Have people in your organization that want to know when a certain site is down, but don't want to get every alert? You can now add those alerts from the notification page on the web client. Custom alerts can be configured for email, sms, Slack and HipChat notifications. You can even specify whether you want to send alerts on down or up separately.

As always, please let us know any feedback you might have!

Stay Vigilant,
The Vigil Team

How Will My Website Go Down?

As you can imagine, we see a lot of website failure scenarios running a website monitoring service. While every website downtime is unique, there are a lot of similarities. We thought it would be interesting to look at aggregate data to see what the most common failure scenarios were. We thought we would first look at the status codes we get back when a website goes down.

Website Failures

As you can see, the largest number of failures don't have a status code assigned at all. This means there was a failure sometime before we were able to get a status code response from the target server. This could mean we failed to look up the server address, there was a network failure somewhere between the monitoring server and the target server, or there was a failure when attempting to open the connection with the server. If we take out this data point, you can see the status code data in more detail.

Status Codes

Looking at just the status code errors we see two broad range of issues. The first fall into the 400 range. 401 and 403 are permission errors, which means either the current user doesn't have permission to access that particular resource, or the web server doesn't have access to the underlying file or service. 404 is the common File Not Found error, which means that the resource may have been moved or deleted. If you see any of these errors on a site that was working fine, you may want to check to make sure something hasn't been changed.

Because this scenario is so common, we've created a tool to help you track down broken links on your site. You can periodically run our Vigil Broken Link Checker to look through your entire site for issues like these.

The second group of errors we see are in the 500 range. A 500 error is an Internal Server Error and is usually indicative of some failure or crash in an underlying component. You will want to check your local log files to see what might be going on. This can also happen if a resource such as a database is not available.

A 503 or Bad Gateway error occurs when your site is sitting behind another service acting as an intermediary. This can be a proxy, or most often a loadbalancer that takes incoming requests and feeds them to a number of backend servers. a 503 error may indicate that there are no backend servers to fulfill a request, or that the gateway itself is overloaded. If you are using a large shared hosting provider, you can see an error like this at times.

Hopefully you found this information interesting. In a future installment we will look into more detail at that "other" category—all the failures that occur before we get a status code.

 

Vigil Web Client Updated

Back when we started working on Vigil it was only available on the iPhone. Over the last year we have been rolling out a Vigil web client so users could access their website status in their browser. We are pleased to announce a major refresh to the look and feel of our web client.

One of our goals with this refresh was to let the browser version of Vigil have its own identity separate from the IOS app. Instead of attempting to copy the flat aesthetic of iOS, we wanted the browser version of Vigil to feel like an app at home on your desktop.

We've worked hard at improving the overall usability of the web client by make more actions visible and explicit. You can now see more information about each host, or collapse all of your entries to see more sites on a single page. We've also improved the account and notification pages to make it easier to manage your subscription and alert options.

Please take the time to check out the new Vigil web client and provide us your feedback.