File server monitoring is crucial for organizations everywhere. Not only allows it admins to ensure that the servers and files are available, but that they are also working with the best performance. This way, they know at all times that their data is stored safely and easily accessible. 

Successful admins know that, in order to make monitoring work for them, they need to automate it to the maximum. This way, they free themselves up from time-consuming tasks, enabling them to dedicate their hours to work on tasks where they are actively needed, such as identifying solutions and optimizing operations. 

Whether you want to start monitoring from zero or upgrade your file server monitoring strategies, this article will offer you valuable insights on how to make the most of a file server monitoring software, and ensure that your file servers are always working properly.

What are file servers?

File servers are systems responsible for storing and managing data files. Their purpose is to offer file access rights to other terminals sharing the same network or using the Internet. 

Users that are granted access rights by the administrator may use and share files directly via the server or via its file system access permission function, without needing to actually download and physically transfer documents. This encourages collaboration among team members and the ability to have constant access to data. 

According to the protocols used, file servers may be set up in different ways. For example, some companies choose to continue using FTP protocols that, although quite old, are easy to manage. 

To make FTP servers more secure and harder to break into, IT professionals often use File Transfer Protocol extensions, like FTPS (File Transfer Protocol Secure). This solution supports Transport Layer Security and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). In closed networks with a Windows server, file servers with CIFS/SMB (Server Message Block) are often used and with Linux systems, the network file system (NFS) is usually preferred.

Graph of an FTP server in Checkmk. The FTP monitoring service was critical on two occasions.

One of the most used protocols for file servers, especially since it allows connections and downloads via the Internet, is HTTP. It is as user-friendly as FTP, but offers additional security features. 

Depending on the size of the business, file servers may either be virtual or dedicated on-premises servers. Smaller companies may also use on-premises workstations that satisfy the network’s storing needs. While it is possible to host several file servers on the same hardware server and also install other software servers under the same operating system, it is considered quite risky. In such a case, any form of failure affects multiple application servers that are hosted together, thus increasing the chances of disrupting the business’s operations.

On-premises file servers are easy to use and set up, but maintaining them may prove quite inflexible and difficult. Depending on the size of your company, the number of users and the volume of data, the effort required to maintain the folder and directory structure increases. The number of user shares can also quickly become confusing.

Moreover, if multiple users want file access at the same time, the traffic might generate bottlenecks.

What is file server monitoring?

File server monitoring is the practice of collecting and analyzing data to ensure that file servers function per their optimal parameters and provide their intended functions. This includes aspects of the operating system, but also metrics on CPU, memory, network and disk utilization, as well as network shares, log files and event logs.

Who monitors file servers?

Any company that uses file servers must monitor them because, by doing so, IT professionals may see whether servers are configured correctly and are able to locate issues when they arise. This means that, no matter the size of your business, either an SMB or an enterprise, your IT department must ensure that they have the right file server monitoring strategy in place and that they use the right tools to stay updated on key metrics.

Why is it important to monitor file servers?

Monitoring file servers is important because they are extremely valuable assets for a company’s IT infrastructure, as all data is located in them. When working properly, file servers ensure that users have constant, fast access to files and folders, that they may store new files, and sync with remote access locations. 

On the opposite spectrum, anything that negatively impacts the activity of file servers may generate operational disruptions that cause frustration among team members, partners and customers, affecting the way the company is perceived and its bottom line. Not being able to access documents and resources may lead to delivery delays and business. 

To protect companies against potential crises generated by file server errors and issues, IT administrators need to monitor them, ensuring that hardware resources are sufficient and that their performance is in the optimal ranges. 

In this context, IT administrators need to pay much attention to CPU, RAM, hard drives, and network access. Any issues regarding these components create bottlenecks and affect the activity associated with file servers, thus generating disruptions in operations.

How do I monitor a file server?

Similarly to server monitoring, the best way to monitor file servers is through dedicated file server monitoring tools. These bring significant value to the activity of IT administrators, because they offer an in-depth view of the status of all file servers, while also detecting threats significantly faster than any form of human supervision. 

When it comes to file server monitoring, it is important to focus on 3 key layers: the hardware, the operating system and the specific services and applications you need to check on a file server.

File server hardware monitoring

When monitoring file servers, it is crucial to keep an eye on storage utilization and hardware performance. The first helps you ensure that there is always enough storage available for the files. The second refers to CPU, RAM, hard drives, and network access. Problems in these areas create bottlenecks and prevent file servers from performing optimally.

Still, focusing on the actual values is not enough. Experienced IT administrators know that they need to keep an eye on metric trends and compare them to identify anomalies early on. For example, if the throughput of a hard disk unexpectedly increases significantly, this may indicate a problem. Moreover, checking the network bandwidth of the server is also important to identify bottlenecks, and ensure that everyone has a positive experience accessing the files on the server.

A solution like Checkmk enables you to record performance peaks and be automatically informed about anomalies. For example, if you have unusually high data movements, Checkmk can trigger an alarm if previously requested.

You can also investigate irregularities in detail thanks to the extensive graphing functions in Checkmk and benefit from the automatically generated reports which enable you to investigate issues and errors.

For file servers, capacity management is also crucial, since forecasting the development of the disk space can help IT administrators avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure there are no operational disruptions.  

By default, Checkmk uses historical data to create a forecast for the future. Discover more by viewing the forecasting chapter of Checkmk’s manual.

File server OS monitoring

Like on every other server, when it comes to file server operating system monitoring, there are some crucial things that need monitoring, for example, network services, DHCP client / daemon, DNS client / daemon, TCP client / daemon, and services updates.

Moreover, since different operating systems are used in practice, each comes with its particularities. 

For Linux systems, for example, cron jobs are extremely important, as they are responsible for creating backups. During your constant activity of running data backups, a crucial step is to check whether they have been successfully created.

File server services and app monitoring

Monitoring file server services and apps is essential, as they are also installed on the operating system and access hardware components. Excellent monitoring means understanding what resources they consume.

For example, calculating the RAM needed by a certain file server service or app helps IT administrators assess their IT ecosystem, offering them the necessary information for scheduling, decision-making and risk reduction.

Ensuring that the used protocols (such as FTP) are working is also highly relevant.

Getting started with file server monitoring

Since different IT environments and file servers require different approaches, it is best to choose a solution that adapts to your infrastructure, ensuring configuration is intuitive and fast. 

No matter what file servers you are using – Windows or Linux – thanks to Checkmk's rule-based approach, installation is easy even if you have to monitor a lot of servers. With just a few clicks, you can include numerous file servers into the monitoring and monitor them very precisely.

Next, you have to identify the KPIs that are relevant for you. Some metrics that you need to take into account are CPU utilization, memory load, disk utilization, average response time, error rates, disk uptime, IP requests etc. Checkmk automatically detects relevant metrics on your servers and suggests reasonable thresholds for alerts.  

Moreover, the thresholds provided for file server monitoring by Checkmk can be customized to your needs. The admin can choose between various mechanisms for the alerting, and guarantee that the communication flows are effective and generate results. For example, a telephone loop can be initiated if a hard disk of a file server fails or the system is down. The responsible person on-call gets notified immediately. This ensures that the IT team can react quickly to the incident.

Click here, for a step-by-step tutorial on how to use Checkmk to set up comprehensive monitoring of your file servers.

Choose the right file server monitoring software

Choosing the right file server monitoring software is crucial for delivering success and keeping your file servers and IT environment protected. This is why there are several things you need to take into account before making your choice. 

The solution must be able to cover your infrastructure and support all commonly used operating systems and hardware, working for both virtual environments and on-premises servers. 

Checkmk offers you solutions for different operating systems, ensuring trustworthy Windows file server monitoring, as well as Linux.

Combination of data from a monitoring agent and an active FTP check in the Checkmk host view.

Suitable monitoring integrations are available for Checkmk for all common server hardware manufacturers such as Dell, IBM, HPE, Cisco, or Huawei. Checkmk also includes file monitoring plug-ins for management boards of enterprise server solutions, such as HPE-iLO boards. So, with just a few clicks, you can have all the necessary hardware information of your servers in a single monitoring view.

Checkmk additionally comes with active checks for all common file server protocols such as FTP, SFTP, CIFS/SMB, or HTTP, which you can easily set up via Checkmk's graphical user interface. This way, Checkmk actively verifies whether the file server's transfer protocol is working. These active checks are then available as services of the host and thus complement your file monitoring.

Checkmk also includes forecasting, which you can use to predict your capacity usage, for example. Our solution makes predictions based on historical data, taking temporary development into account.

A good file server monitoring software requires an intelligent alarm management that enables you to set thresholds and notification methods in case of abnormal activities. 

Checkmk uses native agents and monitoring protocols to collect data. It also provides default thresholds for alarms, which you can of course customize according to your needs.

Graph of a server file system in Checkmk

Final thoughts

Automated solutions are a must for file server monitoring. Identifying the best one for your IT environment is extremely important, since it ensures that this part of your job is successfully done.

Checkmk is the intuitive, easy-to-use monitoring software that guarantees you know everything that happens with your files servers. The constant, complete visibility into your file servers enables you to make the best decisions, and to secure your IT environment.

FAQ

What is file and folder monitoring?

File and folder monitoring enables you to see, in real-time, when a user accessed and used sensitive files and folders on Windows servers, virtual servers, or in your cloud storage. It also showcases access events, such as file ownership changes, file reading, writing, deleting, renaming, effective permissions, modifications, or attribute changes.

File and folder monitoring may be used for files, folders, and subfolders, as well as selections of files, folders, and subfolders.

How do I set alerts on file server performance?

To set advanced alerts on file server performance, you can use Checkmk. The monitoring solution records performance peaks and automatically informs administrators about anomalies, such as unusual high data movements.

By monitoring performance, IT administrators have visibility over the CPU utilization, memory consumption, disk I/O and network performance of their file servers. They can also keep track of the input/output operations per second (IOPS) of a file server. In this way, they can identify bottlenecks and eliminate them immediately.


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