First look: Checking out the Netbeez cloud-based monitoring service

[Disclosures at the end, as usual. Also, since this post was begun, NetBeez has announced discontinuation of their free tier of service. There is still a 30-day trial, though, so if you’re looking at deploying a paid option, you can still try it out first.]

At Cisco Live last year, I won a NetBeez monitoring agent (in the form of a Raspberry Pi 2 model B). It took a couple months, but I finally got it plugged in and running. NetBeez were kind enough to offer me an expanded license for a couple of devices, so I could run them from my home, my workshop, and possibly even a mobile rig.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely sure what I would do with the agent, but once I got it going, I found a lot of utility in the offering.

Getting Started

If you want an utterly painless way to get started, win a pre-built monitoring agent at an event. The second closest option to that would be buying a preloaded agent from NetBeez.

However, for most of my readers, loading an OS onto a device you’ve had sitting in a pile in the corner of your lab or spare room is going to be as easy and a bit cheaper. NetBeez offers options for Debian Linux, OVA bundles for the virtualization platform of your choice, Raspbian for Raspberry Pi, and an Odroid C2 Debian image. There are probably other options you can work out if you put your mind to it, but it’s not much of a hindrance to getting going.

With any of these options, you’ll run an agent setup script with your secret code in it, given to you in an email (or in their dashboard once you’re set up–click on the gear icon in the top right of your dashboard). Then it should show up promptly in the NetBeez dashboard, and you can rename, configure, add targets, etc.

What I’m Monitoring

The first tests I put in were pointing at my home router (a Meraki MX84, see disclosures), and my remote workshop router (a Meraki MX60).

For my home router, I have a ping to the router’s internal interface, and a DNS lookup for one of the Meraki Cloud sites I would use to manage the Meraki environment. This validates internal connectivity and general DNS availability.

For the remote workshop router, which is connected over VPN, I check ping and http response to the internal interface of the router (which validates VPN connectivity), and ping and traceroute to the external interface (which validates Internet connectivity).After running with these tests, I poked into the speedtest options, and set up two speedtests to run hourly. You can choose to auto-select a speedtest server, which is probably reasonable, or you can choose a specific option from the speedtest.net/Ookla listing (which is available in xml form here). Look for the id=xxxxx field in the server of your choice, and put that xxxxx value into the speedtest server ID in the NetBeez interface.

I chose the auto-selected server as well as one in Tampa, Florida. This gives me a look at my connectivity across the country as well as across the freeway. Here you see the overview, and the fact that you have to unselect the time selector, as the NetBeez interface will happily let you run multiple tests per hour. That makes sense in some cases, but on the “Speedtest from Home” test, I was trying to move it from 00 to 55, not add. Oops.

Caveats

Something else you’ll see in the graph above is that my speeds are consistently under 95mbit. My outbound connection is 250mbit through my cable company, so I was a bit surprised to see graphs peaking at about 93mbit, since on regular speedtests I usually see 150+.

After a few minutes of pondering, and looking up the specs on the the free device I won, I realized that the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is limited to 100mbit Ethernet. So is the Raspberry Pi 3, unfortunately.

Perhaps obviously, if you’re planning to monitor connections that are over 90mbit, you’ll want to run the agent on a system with gigabit Ethernet or better. The Banana Pi, Odroid, and many other options for Debian can cover this. An older Intel NUC might be worth a try also, although it’s a bit more expensive if you’re buying a new device.

For me, I’ll be putting the Pi 2B into my workshop, which is connected with 8mbit DSL for now. I have some other tiny computers in house that can run the home agent with gigabit Ethernet.

As a further caveat, while the Pi 3 has wifi built in, NetBeez recommends turning off wifi on the Pi 3 if you use it as an agent.

You can monitor over wireless, but I expect you will get better performance on the Pi if you use an external/USB wifi adapter. That’s what they do on the agent devices they sell (see photo). Also gives you the potential for higher speeds.

So where do we go from here?

Check out the second part for my Banana Pro and Pi 3 deployment. If you’ve done anything interesting with NetBeez, in a POHO or a regular business environment, let me know in the comments.

Disclosures: While NetBeez were a sponsor and exhibitor at Cisco Live, and I of course am an employee of Cisco and a speaker at Cisco Live, I won through the random spin of a wheel, and my observations are based on my geek/practitioner persona, not my Cisco employee persona.

Also, I use Meraki networking gear at home, much of which is acquired and licensed through the employee purchase program. My use and description of the environment is not meant to represent Cisco Meraki, and I am not promoting it here in a corporate role.

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One thought on “First look: Checking out the Netbeez cloud-based monitoring service

  1. Pingback: Coming back to the NetBeez monitoring service – a gigabit agent and more | rsts11 – Robert Novak on system administration

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