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Proactive monitoring using alerts

Earlier we discussed different ways to collect key metric data points from a service and its underlying infrastructure. This data gives us a better understanding of how the service is performing. One of the main objectives of monitoring is to detect any service degradations early (reduce Mean Time To Detect) and notify stakeholders so that the issues are either avoided or can be fixed early, thus reducing Mean Time To Recover (MTTR). For example, if you are notified when resource usage by a service exceeds 90 percent, you can take preventive measures to avoid any service breakdown due to a shortage of resources. On the other hand, when a service goes down due to an issue, early detection and notification of such incidents can help you quickly fix the issue.

An alert notification received on Slack

Figure 8: An alert notification received on Slack

Today most of the monitoring services available provide a mechanism to set up alerts on one or a combination of metrics to actively monitor the service health. These alerts have a set of defined rules or conditions, and when the rule is broken, you are notified. These rules can be as simple as notifying when the metric value exceeds n to as complex as a week over week (WoW) comparison of standard deviation over a period of time. Monitoring tools notify you about an active alert, and most of these tools support instant messaging (IM) platforms, SMS, email, or phone calls. Figure 8 shows a sample alert notification received on Slack for memory usage exceeding 90 percent of total RAM space on the host.