7 free New Relic alternatives for VPS monitoring

Now that you have a VPS up and running smoothly, you want to keep in that way—or, at the very least, know if something goes wrong. Luckily, a huge variety of monitoring solutions exist to help give you a head’s up if an entire server crashes, a webapp is taking too long to respond, or you’re hitting your CPU limits.

Now, there are some truly excellent enterprise-level monitoring suites out there, if that’s of interest to you. We called out New Relic in the headline, as it’s one of the most popular monitoring solutions out there, but the competition is fierce, with other players like PingdomTwilio, and Stackify trying to get some of the monitoring marketshare. But even though many of these solutions have a free tier, we think it’s possible to get much of the same functionality without being boxed into a SaaS application.

With that said, we’re going to focus on open source, self-hosted alternatives that don’t cost you a penny.

It should be noted that not all of these applications perform the same function, or include the same features, so don’t think of this list as a side-by-side comparison between any of these 7 applications, or any of the other ones mentioned above.

Here’s some of our favorites.

1. netdata

The netdata interface
The netdata interface

One look at the live netdata demo and we were hooked—if you want to see every little detail about your server in a relatively nice web interface, netdata has you covered. In fact, it collects more than 5,000 metrics automatically, and comes with 100 built-in alarms to help you get set up quickly.

With netdata, you can monitor CPU, RAM, disk, networks, quality of service, and firewalls, on top of specific performance metrics for whatever you might have installed on that server, like web servers, databases, and more.

Netdata is licensed under the open source GPLv3 license, and has one of the more popular GitHub repositories, with a hair over 22,000 stars.

2. Munin

The Munin interface
The Munin interface

Munin is one of the old-timers in the monitoring space, but it’s still a reliable one. Munin is available for Debian, Ubuntu, and CentOS. For Debian/Ubuntu, installation is as simple as an apt-get install munin-node, and CentOS users just need to enable the EPEL.

Munin allows you to monitor a number of servers simultaneously to keep an eye on potential performance and capacity issues by delivering them into a web interface. The community around Munin has also developed a huge number of plugins that help you connect this monitoring solution to your specific application, or even to yet another monitoring solution. Be sure to check out the repository of plugin contributions.

Source is available on GitHub, but you’ll find more information on Munin’s own homepage.

3. Nagios

The Nagios interface
The Nagios interface

Nagios is one of the industry standards for infrastructure monitoring, so it’s hard not to recommend it. Nagios is split into different packages—one is Nagios Core, which is available for free under a GNU license, and the other is Nagios XI, which starts at $1,995, but offers more features. But we’re guessing you’re more interested in the free part.

Nagios Core offers a number of important features, such as the ability to monitor availability, response times, CPU load, RAM usage, the number of logged-in users, and more. With a number of plugins available, you can set up many different kinds of alerts if things go wrong.

It’s important to remember that Nagios will show you the current state of a huge number of variables, but doesn’t show graphs. If graphs are your thing, you’ll have to connect Nagios to another monitoring solution listed here, or look elsewhere.

Source is available on GitHub, but binary downloads are behind an email form.

4. Zabbix

The Monit interface
The Monit interface

Zabbix is an enterprise-level monitoring solution that can keep track of a single server, or up to 100,000 (but at that point you probably have bigger fish to fry). With it, you can get real-time graphs of CPU, memory, network, disk space, and processes via the Zabbix agent, and then either send that to a monitoring server, or keep it all in one place.

Some unique features include the ability to watch specific files on the servers you’re monitoring and receive alerts if anything changes—relevant, perhaps, if someone messes with the /etc/passwd file? You can also do agent-less monitoring, in that Zabbix will track the availability or responsiveness of a web server, for example, without you having to install anything on that server.

The team behind Zabbix maintains repositories and packages for Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOS, and you can even opt for the Docker-based installation if you so choose.

Zabbix hosts their own SVN repository if you’re interested in the source code, which is licensed under GPL.

5. Graphite

The Graphite interface
The Graphite interface

Graphite was started within Orbitz—yes, the online travel fare aggregator—and was open-sourced under the Apache 2.0 license in 2008. Since then, Graphite has become a popular solution (used in production by GitHub, Etsy, and EA, among others) for collecting monitoring data and displaying it in nice, real-time graphs.

Graphite doesn’t actually do the collection of monitoring data—you’ll need to install other solutions to do that, and send the data to carbon, Graphite’s processing backend. A number of integrations exist to connect Graphite to other collection agents, so you’ll have to be sure you like both Graphite and that whatever you use to collect data before diving in.

Feel free to peruse the source code for the various components of Graphite, and then dive into the installation.

6. Monit

The Monit interface
The Monit interface

Monit rose to popularity along with the Ruby on Rails craze from a few years back, and has managed to stay in the hearts and minds of many since, particularly for its tiny installation footprint (1 MB of RAM and 500KB of disk space).

Monit is capable of monitoring all of a system’s status (the basics, like CPU, RAM, and load), and also brings monitoring to individual files, down to the size, permissions, and UID/GID. This can be useful if you want to monitor your /etc/passwd files, or anything else that might be important to security or the overall function. Monit can also perform some basic repair operations if you set them up beforehand, such as restarting an Apache webserver and notifying you if you’re experiencing a DoS attack.

Monit is actively developed and is open source under the GNU Affero license. You can find the source on BitBucket, although Monit can be quite easily installed with apt/yum on our OS choices.

7. Falcon+

The Falcon+ interface
The Falcon+ interface

Falcon+ is developed by Open-Falcon, a community of developers that started within Xaiomi. It’s a relative newcomer, but has gained a strong GitHub following.

This monitoring package can be installed manually or by using Docker, and offers a rich set of features, including data collection, alerts, and the ability to scale as needed. There’s also a web dashboard that can be installed using Docker.

Installation instructions are available in English, but release notes are in Chinese, which might make it difficult to figure out whether or not you should update your installation or stay where you’re at for the sake of stability.

Falcon+ is open source under the Apache 2.0 license and can be downloaded from GitHub.

Onward

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of the different options out there, but rather just a few that we’ve either tried ourselves or have heard good things about.

Other monitoring solutions:

Have a favorite? Pitch it to us the comments and we just might add it to the main list.

In the end, you should choose a monitoring solution that’s easy for you to install, maintain, and use on a regular basis—even if that is one of the paid SaaS-based applications out there. The more it can stay out of your way, while delivering exactly what you need, the better. Happy monitoring!

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