Real-time Eventlog Monitoring with Nagios and NSClient++

Introduction to real-time eventlog monitoring

NSClient++ has a very powerful component that enables you to achieve real-time eventlog monitoring on Windows systems. This feature requires passive monitoring of Windows eventlogs via NSCA or NRDP.

The biggest benefits of real-time eventlog monitoring are:

  • It can help you find problems faster (real-time), as NSClient++ will send the events with NSCA the moment it occurs.
  • It is much more resource efficient then using active checks for monitoring eventlogs. It actually requires fewer resources on both the Nagios server, as on the client where NSClient is running!
  • There is no need to search through every application’s documentation, as you can just catch all the errors and filter them out if not needed.

The biggest drawbacks of real-time eventlog monitoring are:

  • As it are passive services, new events will overwrite the previous event, which could cause you to miss a problem on your Nagios dashboards. 
  • You need  a dedicated database table to store the real-time eventlog exclusions. 
  • You will need some basic scripting skills to automate building the real-time eventlog exclusion string in the NSClient configuration file.

General requirements for using real-time eventlog monitoring

NSCA Configuration of your NSClient++

As NSClient++’s real-time eventlog monitoring component will send the events passively to you Nagios server, you will need to setup NSCA. Please read through this documentation for configuring NSCA in NSClient++.

NSCA Configuration of your Nagios server

NSCA also requires some configuration on your Nagios server. Please read through this documentation for configuring NSCA in Nagios Core or this documentation for configuring NSCA in Nagios XI.

Passive services for each Windows host on your Nagios server

Each Windows host needs at least one passive service, which is able to accept the filtered Windows eventlogs. You can make as much of them as you require. I choose to use one for all application eventlog errors and one for all system eventlog errors:

Real-Time Eventlog Monitoring Passive Services

A database to store your real-time eventlog exclusions

If you want to generate a real-time eventlog exclusion filter, you need to somehow store a combination of hostnames, event id’s and event sources. We are using MSSQL at the moment and generate the exclusions with Powershell. This database needs at least a servername, eventlog, eventid, eventsource and comment column. The combination of those allow you to make an exclusion for almost any type of Windows event.

Real-time Eventlog Monitoring Exclusion Database

Some sort of automation software which can be called with a Nagios XI quick action

Thanks to Nagios XI quick actions, you can quickly exclude noisy events by updating the NSClient++ configuration file with the correct filter. With the correct customization and scripts, this allows you to create a self-learning system. For this to work, you basically need one script which will store a new real-time eventlog exclusion in a database and another which generates the NSClient++ configuration file with the latest combination of real-time eventlog exclusions. We are using Rundeck, a free and open source automation tool to execute the above jobs.

Detailed NSClient ++ configuration

Minimal nsclient.ini ‘modules’ settings:

Minimal nsclient.ini ‘NSCA’ settings:

The above configuration doesn’t use any encryption. Once your tests work out, I advise you to configure some sort of encryption to prevent hackers from sniffing your NSCA packets. Please note that at this moment (31/05/17) the official Nagios NSCA project does not support aes, only Rijndael. This GitHub issue has been created to fix this problem. You’ll have to use one of the other less strong encryption methods at the moment.

Example nsclient.ini ‘eventlog’ settings:

This is an example configuration for getting real-time eventlog monitoring to work. Please note that this has been tested on NSClient++ 0.5.1.28. I’m not 100 % sure it works on earlier versions.

The above configuration template is just an example. As you can see it contains a DUMMYAPPLICATIONFILTER and a DUMMYSYSTEMFILTER. You can easily replace these with the generated exclusion filter. A few examples of how such a filter might look:

(id NOT IN (1,3,10,12,13,23,26,33,37,38,58,67,101,103,104,107,108,110,112,274,502,511,1000,1002,1004,1005,1009,1010,1026,1027,1053,1054,1085,1101,1107,1116,1301,1325,1334,1373,1500,1502,1504,1508,1511,1515,1521,1533)) AND (id NOT IN (1509) OR source NOT IN ('Userenv')) AND (id NOT IN (1055) OR source NOT IN ('Userenv')) AND (id NOT IN (1030) OR source NOT IN ('Userenv')) AND (id NOT IN (1006) OR source NOT IN ('Userenv')) 

Or

(id NOT IN (1,3,4,5,8,9,10,11,12,15,19,27,37,39,50,54,56,137,1030,1041,1060,1066,1069,1071,1111,1196,3621,4192,4224,4243,4307,5722,5723)) AND (id NOT IN (36888) OR source NOT IN ('Schannel')) AND (id NOT IN (36887) OR source NOT IN ('Schannel')) AND (id NOT IN (36874) OR source NOT IN ('Schannel')) AND (id NOT IN (36870) OR source NOT IN ('Schannel')) AND (id NOT IN (12292) OR source NOT IN ('VSS')) AND (id NOT IN (7030) OR source NOT IN ('ServiceControlManager')) 

Only errors which are not filtered by the real-time eventlog filters such as the examples above will be sent to your Nagios passive services.

Multiple NSCA Targets

This is an nsclient.ini config file where two NSCA targets are defined. This can be useful in scenarios where a backup Nagios server needs to be identical as the primary Nagios server:

How to generate errors in your Windows eventlogs?

In order to test, you will need a way to debug and hence a way to generate errors with specific sources or id’s. You can do this very easily with Powershell:

If you get an error saying that the source passed with the above command does not exist, you can create it like this:

Or another way:

(Almost) Final Words

As I can hear some people think “why don’t you post the code to generate the real-time eventlog exclusion filter?”. Well, the answer is simple, I don’t have the time to clean up all the code, so it doesn’t contain any sensitive information. But as a special gift for all my blog readers who got to the end of this post, I’ll post a snippet of the exclusion generating Powershell code here. The rest you will have to make your self for now.

I will open the comments section for now, but please only use it for constructive information. 

Grtz

Willem

Monitoring Windows Scheduled Tasks

Introduction

Tasks scheduler is a Microsoft Windows component that allows you to schedule programs or scripts to start at pre-defined intervals. There are two major versions of the task scheduler: In version 1.0, definitions and schedules are stored in binary .job files. Every task corresponds to a single action. This plugin will not work on version 1.0 of the task scheduler, which is running on Windows Server 2000 and 2003. In version 2.0, the Windows task scheduler got a redesigned user interface based on Management console. Version 2.0 also supports calendar and event-based triggers, such as starting a task when a particular event is logged to the event log, or when a combination of events has occurred. Also, several tasks that are triggered by the same event can be configured to run either simultaneously or in a pre-determined chained sequence of a series of actions.

Tasks can also be configured to run based on system status such as being idle for a pre-configured amount of time, on startup, logoff, or only during or for a specified time. Other new features are a credential manager to store passwords so they cannot be retrieved easily. Also, scheduled tasks are executed in their own session, instead of the same session as system services or the current user. You can find a list of all task scheduler 2.0 interfaces here.

Requirements

Starting from Windows Powershell 4.0, you can use a whole range of Powershell cmdlets to manage your scheduled tasks with Powershell. This plugin for Nagios does not use these cmdlets, as it has to be Powershell 2.0 compatible. Maybe in a few years, when Powershell 2.0 becomes obsolete, I’ll patch the script to make use of the new cmdlets. You can find the complete list of cmdlets here. Failing tasks will always end with some sort of error code. You can find the complete list of error codes here. This plugin will output the exitcodes for failing tasks in the Nagios service description. Output will also notify you on tasks that are still running. We have multiple Windows servers at work with a growing amount of scheduled tasks and each scheduled task needs to be monitored. With the help of Nagios and this plugin you can find out:

  • How many are running at the same time?
  • How many are failing?
  • How long are they running?
  • Who created them?

Versions

Disabled scheduled tasks are excluded by default from 3.14.12.06. In earlier versions, you had to manually exclude them by excluding them with -EF or -ET. It seemed like a logical decision to exclude disabled tasks by default and was suggested by someone on the Nagios Exchange reviewing the plugin.. Maybe one day I’ll make a switch to include them again if specified. As some scheduled tasks do not need to be monitored, the script enables you to exclude complete folders.

Since v5.13.160614 it is possible to include hidden tasks. Just add the ‘–Hidden 1’ switch to your parameters and your hidden tasks will be monitored.

One of the folders I tend to exclude almost all the time is the “Microsoft” folder. It seems like several tasks in the Microsoft folder tend to fail sometimes. So unless you absolutely need to know the state of every single scheduled task running on your Windows Server, I can advise you to exclude it too. You can find the folder and tasks in this locations: C:\Windows\System32\Tasks
It is possible to include tasks or task folders with the ‘–InclFolders’ and ‘–InclTasks’ parameters. This filter will get applied after the exclude parameter. Please note that including a folder is not recursive. Only tasks in the root of the folder will be included.

Help

This is the help of the plugin, which lists all valid parameters:

You could put every scheduled task  you don’t want to monitor in a separate  folder and exclude it with the -EF parameter. Alternatvely, you can use the -ET parameter to exclude based on name patterns. One quite important thing to know is that in order to exclude or include the root folder, you need to escape the backslash, like this: “\\”.

How to monitor your scheduled tasks?

  1. Put the script in the NSClient++ scripts folder, preferably in a subfolder Powershell.
  2. In the nsclient.ini configuration file, define the script like this:

    For more information about external scripts configuration, please review the NSClient documentation. You can also consider defining a wrapped script in nsclient.ini to simplify configuration.
  3. Make a command in Nagios like this:
  4. Configure your service in Nagios. Make use of the above created command. Configure something similar like this as $ARG1$:

Some things to consider to make it work:

  • “set-exectionpolicy remotesigned”
  • Nscp service account permissions => Running with local system should suffice, but I had users telling me it only worked with a local admin. I found out that on some NSClient++ versions, more specific version 0.4.3.88 and probably some earlier versions too, the following error occured when running nscp service as local system: “CHECK_NRPE: Invalid packet type received from server”. After filing an issue on the GitHub project page of NSClient++, Michael Medin quickly acknowledged the issue and solved it from version 0.4.3.102, so the plugin should work again as local system.

Examples

If you would run the script in cli from you Nagios plugin folder, this would be the command:

If you would want to exclude one noisy unimportant scheduled task, the command used in cli would look like this:

If you only want the scheduled tasks in the root to be monitored, you can use this command:

This would only give you the scheduled tasks available in the root folder. The output look like this now.

Final Words

It seems the perfdata in the Highcharts graphs sometimes contains decimal numbers (see screenshot), which is kind of strange as I’m sure I only pass rounded numbers. Seems this is related to the way RRD files are working. To reduce the amount of storage space used, NPCD and RRD while average out the data, resulting in decimals, even when you don’t expect them.

This is a small to do list:

  • Add switches to change returned values and output.
  • Add array parameter with exit codes that should be excluded.
  • Test remote execution. In some cases it might be useful to be able to check remotely for failed windows tasks.
  • Include a warning / critical threshold when discovered tasks exceed a certain duration.
  • I was hoping to add some more exit codes to check, which would make failed tasks easier to troubleshoot. You can find the list of scheduled task exit codes here. The constants that begin with SCHED_S_ are success constants, and the constants that begin with SCHED_E_ are error constants.

Screenshots:

These are some screenshots of the Nagios XI Graph Explorer for two of our servers making use of the plugin to monitor scheduled tasks: Tasks 01 check_ms_win_tasks_graph_02 Let me know on the Nagios Exchange what you think of my plugin by rating it or submitting a review. Please also consider starring the project on GitHub.

Willem