Analyzing and Fixing Azure Web Sites with the SCM Virtual Directory

There’s so many things you do every day as part of operating and maintaining your Azure web sites.  They’re a common target for developers because you get 10 free sites with your Azure subscription, and if you know what you’re doing you can spin that up into even more applications by using custom virtual directories as I’ve previously explained here:  https://samlman.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/developing-and-deploying-multiple-sharepoint-2013-apps-to-a-single-azure-web-site/.  That example is specific to using them for SharePoint Apps, but you can follow the same process to use them for standard web apps as well.

Typically, you go through your publishing and management process using two out of the box tools – Visual Studio and the Azure browser management pages.  What happens though when you need to go beyond the simple deploy and configure features of these tools?  Yes, there are third-party tools out there than can help with these scenarios, but many folks don’t realize that there’s also a LOT that you can do with something that ships out of the box in Azure, which is the Kudo Services, or as I’ve called it above, the SCM virtual directory.

The SCM virtual directory is present in every Azure web site.  To access it, you merely insert “scm” between your web name and the host name.  For example, if you have an Azure web site at “contoso.azurewebsites.net”, then you would navigate to “contoso.scm.azurewebsites.net”.  Once you authenticate and get in, you’ll arrive at the home page for what they call the Kudu Services.  In this post I really just wanted to give you an overview of some of the features of the Kudu Services and how to find them, which I kind of just did.  :-)  At the end though I’ll include a link to more comprehensive documentation for Kudu.

Going back to my example, I found out about all of the tools and analysis available with the Kudu Services a few months ago when I was trying to publish an update to an Azure web site.  Try as I might, the deployment kept failing because it said a file in the deployment was being used by another process on the server.  Now of course, I don’t own the “server” in this case, because it’s an Azure server running the IIS service.  So that’s how I started down this path of “how am I gonna fix that” in Azure.  SCM came to the rescue.

To begin with, here’s a screenshot of the Kudu home page:

Kudu1

As you can see right off the bat, you get some basic information about the server and version on the home page.  The power of these features come as you explore some of the other menu options available.  When you hop over to the Environment link, you get a list of the System Info, App Settings, Connection Strings, Environment variables, PATH info, HTTP headers, and the ever popular Server variables.  As a long time ASP.NET developer I will happily admit that there have been many times when I’ve done a silly little enumeration of all of the Server variables when trying to debug some issue.  Now you can find them all ready to go for you, as shown in this screenshot:

Kudu2

Now back to that pesky “file in use” problem I was describing above.  After trying every imaginable hack I could think of back then, I eventually used the “Debug console” in the Kudu Services.   These guys really did a nice job on this and offer both a Command prompt shell as well as a PowerShell prompt.  In my case, I popped open the Command prompt and quickly solved my issue.  Here’s an example:

Kudu3

One of the things that’s cool about this as well is that as I motored around the directory structure with my old school DOS skills, i.e. “cd wwwroot”, the graphical display of the directory structure was kept in sync above the command prompt.  This really worked out magnificently, I had no idea how else I was going to get that issue fixed.

Beyond the tools I’ve shown already, there are several additional tools you will find, oddly enough, under the Tools menu.  Want to get the IIS logs?  No problem, grab the Diagnostic Dump.  You can also get a log stream, a dashboard of web jobs, a set of web hooks, the deployment script for your web site, and open a Support case.

Finally, you can also add Site Extensions to your web site.  There are actually a BUNCH of them that you can choose from.  Here’s the gallery from the Site Extensions menu:

Kudu4

Of course, there’s many more than fit on this single screen shot.  All of the additional functionality and the ease with which you can access it is pretty cool though.  Here’s an example of the Azure Websites Event Viewer.  You can launch it from the Installed items in your gallery and it pops open right in the browser:

Kudu5

So that’s a quick overview of the tools.  I used them some time ago and then when I needed them a couple of months ago I couldn’t remember the virtual directory name.  I Bing’d my brains out unsuccessfully trying to find it, until it hit me when I looked at one of my site deployment scripts – they go to the SCM vdir as well.  Since I had such a hard time finding it I thought I would capture it here and hopefully your favorite search engine will find enough of keywords in this post to help you track it down when you need it.

Finally, for a full set of details around what’s in the Kudu Services, check out their GitHub wiki page at https://github.com/projectkudu/kudu/wiki.

New Geographic and Notification Features for Distributed Probes from Office365Mon

We’ve just released a significant update to the Office365Mon Distributed Probes and Diagnostics feature.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this feature, it was originally released a little over a year ago.  From the beginning it was designed to do two things:

  1. Work in conjunction with the Office365Mon cloud service to issue health probes from different geographic regions where you have users. That allows you to check the availability and performance not only from our cloud service, but also from all of the locations where you have users.
  2. When there’s a problem connecting to Office 365, it runs a series of diagnostics on the local network to try and determine if there are any issues. That includes things like checking local network cards, DNS, gateway and a non-Office 365 Internet site.

In addition to the tasks above, it also allows you to set a performance threshold – for example, let me know when it takes longer than x seconds to connect to and get data back from Office 365.  You can set “x” to whatever value you want, so it allows you to set different minimum performance thresholds for each location where you have users.  One of the big reasons we did this is because we got a lot of feedback from our enterprise customers that they had situations where performance may be great in the US for example, but poor or completely down for users in another region, like Europe.

In the previous version of Distributed Probes and Diagnostics, any issues with health probes, performance, or any of the items in the diagnostics checklist was written to the local event log.  You could then monitor the event log in each location where you have it installed to find out when there are issues at a particular location.  That also proved to be pretty helpful if you had to open a support case with Microsoft because of connectivity issues.  They will typically try and triage the issue by looking to see if there are local network issues, versus an issue with the Office 365 service.  By using the Distributed Probes and Diagnostics feature, you can quickly check the event log on the machine(s) where it’s running and if any local network issues were found, it will be logged in there.  That notifies you if an issue is found, saving you a call and allowing you to focus on the real problem, or else validate with support that your local network is fine.

Our new update has all of the same features I’ve described above you’ve come to depend upon, but we’ve also built some very important new pieces to complement it.  Now, in addition to logging data to the local event log, as long as you have a working Internet connection it also reports and sends out alerts through our cloud service.  This opens up some very interesting data points, both from a reporting perspective as well as notifications.

New Reports

When you configure the Distributed Probes and Diagnostics feature now, you are asked to enter the ZIP code where the computer is located on which you installed it.  We use that data for both local and regional geographic data that feeds into the new reports that have been built for the service.  Overall we added 10 new reports to the service to accommodate this new data stream – two Basic reports and eight Advanced reports.

During the beta phase for this release we had the feature running in 8 different countries and more than a dozen locations.  From that data we can create a performance heat map across the globe from all of our customers that are running this service:

 

The picture above shows data from locations in the UK, India and Australia.  You can tell based on the intensity of the color around the push pin which locations are performing worse than others.  For example, Australia has the most intense colors and France has some of the lightest colors, so you can tell at a glance that you have much worse performance in Australia than France.  That’s going to be pretty important to know when supporting your Australian users.

We also create bubble maps to represent the performance in different locations for your Office365Mon subscription.  This gives you another “at a glance” snapshot of what how things are going in different locations.  The key distinction here is that in the report above, you get to see what the data looks like across the globe for all Office365Mon customers; the bubble map lets you see the performance just for the locations associated with your Office365Mon subscription.  That gives you the capability to compare how others are doing in a particular region relative to your users.  If you see a negative difference between them then that may indicate that you have problems in your network in those locations that should be addressed.

Here’s a screenshot of that report, where we’ve drilled down to see just locations in the US:

 

Here we can see that folks out West are getting much better performance than their counterparts in the East.

The graphical maps are a great way to use an “at a glance” view of the performance for your user base, where ever they may be located.  We also offer more traditional views of this data as well though, so you can quickly compare performance on each computer where you’ve installed the Distributed Probes and Diagnostics agent, as shown here:

 

In our case, we had the agent installed in a LOT of locations, so you see a lot of data there.  Again, the number of locations in which it’s installed is completely up to you.

Of course just as important as performance, we definitely have seen scenarios where the service as a whole may be up, but individual regions may be down.  A good example of this is the handful of times a few months ago when there were problems with Azure Active Directory in certain European regions.  Since our cloud service currently runs out of data centers in the US, it did not have any issues connecting to the service because the regional Azure AD services it uses were working.  However, our customers that had the Distributed Probes and Diagnostics agent running in Europe were able to find out first that there was an issue over there, because the probe and authentication process occurred there, where their users are.

We also saw this occur at times during the beta for this release, and you can see that reflected in the new availability reports.  They show availability based on the agents where the Distributed Probes and Diagnostics feature is installed; here’s a screenshot of that:

 

 

New Notification Capabilities

While we’ve added a bunch of new reports, we’ve also vastly improved upon the notification capabilities.  As I was describing earlier, in the previous release of Distributed Probes and Diagnostics, all notifications went exclusively to the local event log.  We still do that, but now these events are also wired up to go out to our cloud service as long as you have a working Internet connection.  Just like you might expect, you get notifications for the same kinds of things you get from our cloud monitoring service – when outages start and end.  But now you are getting those notifications from a specific location, so you can know right away if the service overall is up, but just one or two locations are down.

We also send notifications when the performance for a health probe doesn’t meet the threshold you had defined.  So for example, you could define a threshold of 15 seconds from Melbourne, Australia and 8 seconds from Glasgow, Scotland.  If it takes longer than the threshold you’ve defined for that location, then you’ll get notifications to all of the “channels” that you’ve configured for your Office365Mon subscription – emails, text messages, and webhook data if you have that configured – that indicate the issue and where it’s occurring.  You really will have an up-to-date, around-the-world view of your users’ ability to connect to Office 365 in a reasonable time frame.

Get Started Now

This feature is available to use now for all Office365Mon customers that are either in their 90-day trial period, or that have the Enterprise Premium license.  We hope that you’ll give it a try and, as always, let us know how we can improve upon it.  The features in this update were all driven by feedback from our customers so it DOES matter when you make suggestions.

To get more information on this feature, see our original post about it here: https://samlman.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/announcing-the-availability-of-office-365-on-premise-health-probes-for-office365mon-customers/.  To get get the documentation and agent, visit the Distributed Probes and Diagnostics configuration page on our site here:  https://www.office365mon.com/Configure/OnPremProbes.

Thanks from sunny Phoenix,

Steve

Preview Now Available to Monitor Skype for Business at Office365Mon

Today is a day that we’ve been waiting on for a while. In the past 15 months we’ve been building out a pretty comprehensive service centered around monitoring SharePoint Online and Exchange Online in Office 365. Thanks to some new APIs from Microsoft, we are now happy to announce that we’re adding Skype for Business (SfB) to the suite of products you can monitor with Office365Mon.

While we’re still in preview with SfB you may notice an occasional glitch here or there, but it’s been running in our labs for well over a month now and we’ve had pretty good luck with it. It fits into the same proven architecture that Office365Mon has been using since launch. That means – as always – that we don’t ask you for a username and password to monitor SfB. You simply log in through Azure Active Directory, and when you’re done it hands off an access token to us that we can use. At this time we will be providing monitoring for Skype Presence and Skype Instant Messaging. As the scope of the APIs that Microsoft has for SfB expands, we will also expand our offering into other features of the service, such as online meetings and voice.

Although we’ve always recommended a separate service account(s) to use for monitoring Office 365, with SfB it’s really a must. Because of the way we use the APIs to check presence and instant messaging, if you try using the same account you use at work every day to monitor these services, you likely will end up with a bunch of “stuff” going on that would be quite annoying, plus it would interfere with our ability to accurately monitor the service. To that end, we recommend you use the same sort of process that we outlined in our blog post for monitoring multiple sites and mailboxes: https://samlman.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/how-to-monitor-multiple-mailboxes-and-sites-with-office365mon/. In short you will a) create a new account for monitoring, b) give it a SfB license, c) add it as an admin to your Office365Mon subscription, and d) log into Office365Mon with that account and enable the Skype for Business monitoring.

Enabling monitoring for SfB is about as simple as it gets; here’s a screenshot from the configuration page:

SfBPreview

As you can see, all you have to do is click the Enable button to get things going – that’s it. This is also in line with how we’ve built our solutions at Office365Mon – as simple as possible, with nothing to download and install. There is one thing to remember when you click Enable the first time – you may get prompted by Azure Active Directory two times instead of the normal one, to consent to allow Office365Mon to have access to Skype resources for the account you are using for monitoring. That’s okay, it’s just because of the way the Skype team designed their service.

After that you’re off and running. We’ll automatically add the data to the reports you see for things like outages and recent health checks. You’ll also see the data show up in your My Info page next to all of the other resources we’re monitoring for you:

SkypeMyInfoReport

Finally, there is one other thing worth pointing out. Because of the way the SfB service is designed, there are times when it will be unavailable for monitoring. As we deploy monitoring for it as a Preview feature, we’re continuing to work on alternatives to minimize the alerting and configuration changes that may be needed as a result of SfB changing to an unmonitorable state. This is something that we’ll continue to work on over time, as well as await changes in the SfB architecture that will eliminate these issues.

This feature is available in Preview now for all of our customers to try. Also remember that all new customers get this along with every other feature we offer free for 90 days. So give it whirl and send your feedback our way.

From Sunny Phoenix,

Steve

 

 

Office 365 Search Monitoring at Office365Mon

Today we’re announcing a new feature at Office365Mon that our customers have been asking about for quite some time.  We’ve added the ability to monitor the Search service in your SharePoint Online tenant using our well-established health probe architecture.  This has been frequently requested because Search in SharePoint plays such a pivotal role in content delivery.  There are many out of the box web parts that depend on successfully executing queries to generate the content for the page.  On top of that there are many, many custom applications that are dependent upon the Search service working correctly.  From a developer perspective this has been an approach advocated by Microsoft for several years (including myself when I was in that role) because of the reduction in load it puts on the SharePoint farm as well the ability to pull data from a variety of sources.

When we were first designing this feature it primarily focused on the query aspect of the Search service.  However, after giving a sneak peek at what we were planning with several of my former colleagues at Microsoft, they felt just as passionate (if not more so) that we should also see what we could do about monitoring crawl performance.  Apparently quite a few of them have had customers frustrated about not seeing the content they expected when using Search and in many cases found out that their content had not actually been crawled yet.  There were some challenges in managing this request, but we found a solution that we’re happy with and causes a minimal amount of friction for our customers.  Best of all, like all our other features, I think you’ll find this extremely easy to set up and use.

 

What Does It Do?

Here’s a screenshot of the configuration page for the Office 365 Search Monitoring feature so you can see just how easy it is to configure what it does for you:

The Office 365 Search Monitoring feature allows you to provide a custom Keyword Query Language (KQL) query that we will execute against the site we’re monitoring for you with Office365Mon.  We have a link to the KQL guide when you go in and configure Search monitoring, and it can be something as simple as querytext=’sharepoint’.  As you’ll see if you look at the KQL reference though, the beauty of this is that you can actually get quite sophisticated in your KQL.  You can do things like control how many search results are returned, select a set of properties to return, use different ranking models, enable stemming, enable phonetics, etc.  One of the big reasons why we chose to use KQL directly is because so many of you have written us about custom applications you have built on Search and you want some means to monitor them.  By letting you use KQL, you can use any query that’s relevant to what your app does, and we’ll use that as the basis for monitoring.

Once you have your KQL, we take over from there.  We really monitor three things around the KQL query you’ve provided, based on the feedback and requests we’ve received the last several months:

  1. Query latency – you define a maximum query time, and if it takes longer than that for us to get results back from running your KQL, we send out a notification to all of your configured notification options. That includes emails, text messages, and of course – now – webhooks.  If you have apps that are based on the Search service it can be critically important to know when queries are running slowly – based on a latency you decide is needed – so you know whether there are issues with your app, or issues with the Search service that your app is using.
  2. Search results change – you can receive notifications when search results change. What this means is that if the set of results changes from the last time we ran your KQL, we’ll send out notifications.  If the only thing that changes is the raw rank value of the items in the search results, we will NOT send out notifications.  However, if all of the search results are the same, but the order of them changes, we DO send out notifications.  It’s also important to underscore that this reflects only on the search results themselves – it has nothing directly to do with the underlying items in the search results.  What that means is that if you change a document that’s included in the search results, we don’t detect and notify for that.  However, if that change caused a change in the search results – either the document no longer shows up, it shows up higher or lower in the search results, etc. – then we would send out notifications.

There are a couple of other things worth noting here as well.  First, we don’t store your actual search results.  This is consistent with how we do things here at Office365Mon – we don’t store usernames and passwords, and we don’t store your data.  What we DO store is a one-way hash of the search results.  When we do another search, we create the hash on the latest results and compare it to the hash we had before, and if they’re different we know the search results have changed.  It’s a one-way hash which means that it cannot be “reverse engineered” or otherwise tampered with to rehydrate the actual search results.

The second thing worth noting here is that in our experience, you may see the search results change quite frequently, even if there have not been any changes to the site content.  This is not a bug or issue with the Office365Mon Search Monitor feature.  We find that there may be hours and sometimes days when the search results come back exactly the same.  Then there are times when you may get different search results on five or six queries in a row.  Again – using the same KQL and the site content has not changed – but the search results ordering changes.  This is something you should be aware of when developing your applications based on the Search service.  If you need to know when it happens, now you can use our Search monitor feature to be alerted to it.  To help you parse through the changes, you can also elect to check the box to Include results in notifications when results change.  When that option is selected, you’ll get the actual search results we received in both emails and webhooks – just not text messages.  Again – these results are not saved anywhere, we are simply forwarding to you what we received.

  1. No search results – the other option you have is to get notified when no search results are returned from your KQL. Again, whether you’re using out of the box web parts or a custom application, if you have content in your site that’s dependent upon getting search results, this can be a critical notification to have.

Finally, as described above, the other thing we monitor is content indexing.  With a simple checkbox, you can have us monitor your search index to see how long it is taking to crawl new content.

With all of the features described above, there are several reports that you can also use to stay on top of how things are doing.  More details regarding the reports are described below.  Also, if you want detailed step-by-step instructions for configuring Search monitoring you can get them from our site at https://www.office365mon.com/configuresearchmon.pdf.  One final point worth making – you can also do all of the configuration programmatically using our Subscription Management API.  See our latest API documentation for details and code samples.

 

How Does It Do It

The Office 365 Search Monitor uses the same super-scale health probe infrastructure that Office365Mon has been using since Day One.  That enables us to issue and track query responses to your tenant.  To support crawl monitoring though, we had to come up with something a little different, and here’s why.  The monitoring applications we use are all defined in Azure Active Directory, and as part of that definition we describe what rights our applications need.  We always use the least invasive permissions possible to get the job done, so all of our apps are configured with the smallest amount of Read Only rights that we can get away with.  To do crawl monitoring though, we needed a way to determine how long it takes to get new content indexed – so how do we do that?  Well, we need to write a small amount of data to the site we’re monitoring, and then start issuing queries for that content.  We look at when we wrote the content into the site, and how long it takes until it starts showing up in search results, and that’s how we calculate the time it takes to index the content.

As described above though, all of our applications are configure to only have Read rights, so how can we write content to a site?  That’s where we had to add a new item to our toolbox to make it happen, and what we decided to do is to write a SharePoint App.  Yes, the same SharePoint Apps many of you develop to bring your site to life, we built one as well.  We wanted to limit our scope as much as possible, so the app only has rights in the current site it’s installed in – not any other site (i.e. SPWeb) in the site collection, nor any other site collection in the tenant.  When you first configure the Office 365 Search Monitoring feature, if you elect to Monitor search index freshness, the first check we do is to ensure the application is installed in the site being monitored.  If it’s not, we let you know so you can go install the app and try saving your Search monitoring configuration changes again.

The SharePoint App is in (or soon will be in) the Office Store under the name Office365Mon Search Monitor.  You can install it from there into the site being monitored.  In addition to that, since some folks turn off access to the Office Store, when you go to our Configure Office 365 Search Monitor page, we have a link you can use to download a zip file containing the SharePoint App.  If you go that route you’ll need extract the .app file out the zip file, upload it to the App Catalog in your tenant, and then you can install it in the monitored site.

When the app is installed and you save your search monitoring configuration, we’ll look for a custom list we use to store the data used for monitoring the search index freshness.  If it doesn’t exist, we’ll create it.  After that we use the app to create new content in the list so we can monitor how quickly it’s being indexed.

 

Reporting on Search Monitoring

We’ve built a half-dozen new reports based on the Office 365 Search Monitoring feature.  We have a very full list of Advanced Reports now with your Office365Mon subscription, as you can see in the Report Gallery here:

You can get recent data (i.e. from the last few hours) on query and crawl latency.  Here’s an example of the recent crawl latency report:

You can get daily stats on query and crawl latency – here’s an example of the daily query latency report:

Don’t be fooled by the numbers either – they show exactly why you want to monitor your query latency.  You can look at the graph and see overall the queries are returning data in sub second time.  However, it’s not uncommon to see this, yet still get notifications about queries that have taken 15 or 20 seconds or longer.  That’s what you want to know – your queries normally perform one way, but when they are significantly different it may be impacting the content and performance in your site.

We also have reports that show your monthly query and crawl latency averages, and they are overlaid on top of our service-wide averages so you can see how your performance is compared to your peers that are being monitored by Office365Mon.  In addition to that, in the Basic Reports you can see data just on the average crawl and query latency across our entire service:

In addition to our out of the box reports, you can also use our Report Data API to programmatically retrieve this data via our REST endpoints.  For those of you using our Power BI integration, you will also automatically see monthly crawl and query freshness data show up in Power BI after you refresh your data in there.

How Do I Get It

All existing Office365Mon customers always get all new features free to try for 90 days; everyone has had the feature turned on.  In addition, all new customers also always get ALL our features free to try for 90 days.  The feature is currently in beta, but rolled out now so everyone can begin using it.

That’s it – a quick run-down on a feature that we believe many of you will find extremely useful.  It has great value whether you are using out of the box web parts, or you’ve developed your own custom applications built on Office 365.  As always, if you have suggestions or ideas on how to improve this or any other feature at Office365Mon, please just drop me a note at support@office365mon.com.

From Sunny Phoenix,

Steve

The Office365Mon REST APIs Continue to Grow

At Office365Mon we love, love, love developers, so we continue to invest in growing the APIs we provide.  As we noted last month, we added support for webhooks to our notification pipeline.  That allows you to receive a JSON payload in your own web site and kick off your own workflow when outages occur or an Office 365 service changes status.  It’s this second scenario where we’ve done a little more work with our REST API this month.

To briefly recap what we mean by an Office 365 service changing status – at Office365Mon you can choose to monitor for service status changes.  That means a service – like Exchange Online – has several sub-services or features, such as “Sign-in”, “E-mail and calendar access”, “Voice mail”, etc.  Each of those sub-services has a service status.  The status can be one of these values:

  • Investigating
  • RestoringService
  • VerifyingService
  • ServiceRestored
  • PostIncidentReviewPublished
  • ServiceDegradation
  • ServiceInterruption
  • ExtendedRecovery
  • Scheduled
  • InProgress
  • Completed
  • Canceled
  • ServiceOperational

So being able to monitor a change in the service status means that you can get notified when a sub-service enters the “Investigating” state, or “ServiceInterruption” state, etc.  This has in fact been an extremely popular Office365Mon feature for our Enterprise Premium customers.  Until now though, you had to manage the statuses that we monitor in the browser.  What we’ve just released are some additions to our Subscription Management API to allow you to manage this programmatically as well.  Given the popularity of this feature, as well as the desire of most of our Partners to be able to script everything, this was a natural fit to add to our API.

Here’s a brief rundown on the new APIs we’ve added in support of this:

  • Get Service Status Values – Use this method to get a list of all of the possible service statuses that can be monitored.  You can use this to allow your users to select the service statuses they want to monitor, or as values to send to the Subscription Management API to set the statuses that are being monitored for a subscription.
  • Get the Monitored Service Statuses – Use this method to get the service statuses that are being monitored for a subscription.
  • Set the Monitored Service Statuses – Use this method to set the service statuses that are being monitored for a subscription.

All of these new APIs have been fully documented in our SDK, which you can download from here. We’ve also added code samples for each of these new APIs to our Subscription Management API sample code that you can download from here.  We hope you’ll find this APIs a nice addition to your developer tool belt at Office365Mon.

From Sunny Phoenix,

Steve

Office 365 Outage Notifications the Way You Want Them – Announcing Webhooks at Office365Mon

From day one Office365Mon has made short work of letting you set up monitoring for your Office 365 tenant in a couple of minutes and notifying you by text and email when an outage occurs. Today we’re happy to announce that we’re taking the next step forward in keeping you in the know by releasing support for webhook notifications. Now you can decide exactly what processes you want to kick off whenever your Office 365 tenant experiences an outage, or even when the status of one of the Office 365 features change.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a webhook is, it’s worth a short explanation. A webhook consists of a web site that you host, and that site includes a “place” where another application can send it data. You can then configure another application – in this case Office365Mon – to send data there so that you can process it. With the Office365Mon webhook that’s exactly what we do – when there’s an outage starting for example, we send over a JSON payload that describes what Office365Mon subscription is being impacted, what type of webhook it is, and what resource is being impacted; for example, your SharePoint Online site.

As noted above though, we do this for more than just those times when an outage starts. We send notifications to your webhook under the following conditions:

  • When an outage starts
  • When an outage ends
  • When an Office 365 feature enters one of the following states (NOTE: you control which of these states you want monitored when you configure your Office365Mon subscription):
    • Investigating
    • RestoringService
    • VerifyingService
    • ServiceRestored
    • PostIncidentReviewPublished
    • ServiceDegradation
    • ServiceInterruption
    • ExtendedRecovery
    • Scheduled
    • InProgress
    • Completed
    • Canceled
    • ServiceOperational

If you compare this to how notifications are handled today, you can quickly see the power of the webhook. When an outage starts you get an email and/or a text message; then what do you do? You pull up a laptop or get on your phone and start emailing people, start updating your service status on internal sites, let your help desk know there’s an issue, maybe check in with your Technical Account Manager (TAM) at Microsoft, etc. You probably have a whole checklist of things to do.

Now imagine this same scenario with a webhook. You automate everything. You’re no longer manually working through a checklist of tasks. You can create your own workflows that take different actions depending on the information you get in your webhook. For example, you can have it automatically update an internal Help Desk portal with an alert status that SharePoint Online is currently experiencing an outage. That informs users, reduces Help Desk phone calls, and keeps your team focused on fixing issues. Your workflows can automatically send out an email to your Help Desk organization letting them know an outage is occurring. It can fire off an email to your TAM letting him or her know that you have an outage going on so they should be prepared in case you need to open or escalate a support case. You can kick off a triage process with your engineering teams to start assessing the impact. You get the idea – you can do whatever you want – because now its notifications the way you want them.

To get started creating your webhook you should download our developer documentation for our Subscription Management API from here: https://www.office365mon.com/DeveloperInfo/subapi. It explains the particulars around what data is sent to your webhook, the requirements that your webhook needs to support, how to process the webhook data that is sent to you, etc. We’ve added support for webhooks in both our website and through our Subscription Management API. That means that you can add and remove a webhook, as well as test a webhook entirely using our Subscription Management API. You can also do the same thing when you go to configure your Office365Mon subscription in our site. In the Notification Info section you can add or remove a webhook, as well as send a test webhook right from that page:

NotifyWebhook

As a developer, I love the possibilities that a feature like this opens up. I hope that you’ll find many useful ways to take advantage of this for your own organizations. This is also a good time to point out that this is yet another example of a feature that we added based on suggestions and feedback from you, our customers. Please keep them coming, we love hearing them.

From sunny Phoenix,

Steve

New Year-Over-Year Reporting at Office365Mon

We just released a mini-feature that our long and loyal customer base will appreciate.  For those of you not following closely, we opened the doors to our service just about a year ago.  One of the things that means is that for customers who have been with us since the beginning, you will be able to take advantage of new Year-over-Year data in your My Info reporting.

For those of you not familiar with the My Info page at Office365Mon.Com, it’s what we call the 360° view of your tenant.  You get the basic info we know about you, the absolute latest status for your tenant resources that we are monitoring for you, the recent status of all of your features and feature services as reported by Microsoft, the latest messages that Microsoft has sent to your Office 365 Service Health Dashboard, a chart with your availability info for the month, and a Tweet link to share with the world exactly how you’re doing.

What we’ve done is to update the charting feature on the My Info page so that you can compare your up-time data for the current month with what it was one year ago.  It’s always interesting to see how things compare over time, and this is a really nice quick snapshot of what things look like side-by-side.  Here’s an example of how your chart will look once you’ve been a customer for a year:

YoYMyInfoStats

As you see, if you really only want to see the data for the current month then it’s easy enough to click the box and turn off the data for the prior year.  We thought it was kind of a neat feature though, and a nice little reminder of how far we’ve come.  We hope you’ll enjoy this little feature, but remember – you can always get:

  • LOADS of reports in the Basic Reports and Advanced Reports options
  • Download raw report data as a CSV file so you can open it in Excel and create your own reports like this or anything else you want
  • Programmatically retrieve data with our Report Data REST API endpoints and create your own dashboards or pull the data into your own reporting systems
  • Use Power BI in Office 365 for the ultimate in reporting power and customization

That’s all for now.  We’re busy working on some great new features as we speak, but as always, please send any ideas, suggestions and feedback to support@office365mon.com.  We love to hear from you!

From Sunny Phoenix,

Steve