17 Alerts, Announcements, Notifications, and Reporting

N2WS manages the backup operations of your EC2 servers. To notify you when something is wrong and to integrate with your other cloud operations, N2WS allows sending alerts, notifications and even raw reporting data. And when something is not wrong, N2WS can send you an announcement of interest, such as a new feature or money-saving promotion.

So, if you have a network operations center (NOC), are using external monitoring tools or just want an email to be sent to the system administrator whenever a failure occurs, N2WS has an answer for that.

Report types include:

  • Audit

  • Backup

  • Protected Resources

  • Resource Control Operations

  • Snapshot

  • Usage

  • Unprotected Resources (Scheduled Report only)

  • Summary Report (PDF)

17.1 Alerts

Alerts are notifications about issues in your N2WS backup solution. Whenever a policy fails, in backup or DR, an alert is issued so you will know this policy is not functioning properly. If there are current alerts, Alerts in the toolbar has a number to show you how many there are. Select Alerts to open the Alerts list.

Later, when the policy succeeds, the alert is turned off or deleted, so you will know that the issue is resolved. Alerts can be issued for failures in backup and DR, as well as general system issues like license expiration, for relevant installations.

Depending on the resolution of the output device, a list of Alerts is automatically shown under the Dashboard. The Dashboard list shows the same information except for an abbreviated message and is grouped by functional categories, such as Backup and Resource Control.

You can manage the number of Alerts shown by selecting alerts to remove in the toolbar Alerts list and then selecting Delete.

17.2 Pull Alerts

If you wish to integrate N2WS with 3rd party monitoring solutions, N2WS allows API access to pull alerts out of N2WS. A monitoring solution can call this API to check if N2WS has alerts. When calling this API, the caller receives the current alerts in JSON format. The call is an HTTPS call, and if you configured the N2WS server to use an alternate port (not 443), you will need to use that port for this API call as well. N2WS requires an authentication key from the caller. Every N2WS user can define such a key to get the relevant alerts. The root user can also get relevant alerts from other managed users, but not from independent users.

To configure an API call:

  1. In the toolbar, select Settings in the User menu.

  2. In the User Settings panel, select the API Access tab.

  3. To enable access and generate an Authentication Key:

    1. Select API Access.

    2. To generate a new Authentication Key and invalidate the current, select Generate API Authentication Key.

    3. Select Save.

  4. After enabling and setting the key, you can use the API call to get all alerts: https://{{host}}/api/alerts

A simple example in Python is:

Python 2.7.2 (default, Jun 12 2011, 15:08:59) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on win32
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import urllib2, json
>>> server_address = 'ec2-54-228-126-14.compute-1.amazonaws.com'
>>> server_port = 443
>>> authkey = 'afb488681baf0132fe190315e87731f883a7dac548c08cf58ba0baddc7006132a
>>> url = 'https://%s:%d/agentapi/get_cpm_alerts/' % (server_address, server_port)
>>> url
>>> request = urllib2.Request (url)
>>> request.add_header("Authorization", authkey)
>>> handle = urllib2.urlopen (request)
>>> answer = json.load (handle)
>>> handle.close ()
>>> answer
[{u'category': u'Backup', u'message_body': u'Policy win_server (user: root, account: main) - backup that started at 07/20/2013 09:00:00 AM failed. Last
successful backup was at 07/20/2013 08:00:00 AM', u'severity': u'E', u'title': u'Policy win_server Backup Failure', u'alert_time': u'2013-07-20 06:00:03',
u'policy': {u'name': u'win_server'}}, {u'category': u'Backup', u'message_body': u'Policy web_servers (user: root, account: main) - backup that started at
07/20/2013 09:20:03 AM failed. Last successful backup was at 07/20/2013 08:30:00 AM', u'severity':u'E', u'title': u'Policy web_servers Backup Failure',
u'alert_time': u'2013-07-20 06:22:12', u'policy': {u'name': u'web_servers'}}]

The JSON response is a list of alert objects, each containing the following fields:

  • category

  • title

  • message_body

  • alert_time (time of the last failure)

  • policy

  • severity

17.3 Using SNS

N2WS can also push alerts to notify you of any malfunction or issue via SNS. To use it, your account needs to have SNS enabled. SNS can send push requests via email, HTTP/S, SQS, and depending on location, SMS.

With SNS you create a topic, and for each topic, there can be multiple subscribers and multiple protocols. Every time a notification is published to a topic, all subscribers get notified. For more information about SNS, see https://aws.amazon.com/sns/.

N2WS can create the SNS topic for you and subscribe to the user email defined in the configuration phase. To add subscribers, go to the SNS Dashboard in the AWS Management console), add a recipient, and choose a protocol (SMS, HTTP, etc.), A link to this console is in the N2WS notifications screen.

For the small volume of SNS messages N2WS uses, there is usually no cost or it is negligible. For SNS pricing see https://aws.amazon.com/sns/pricing/.

17.3.1 Configuring SNS

To configure users for SNS:

  1. In the toolbar, select Settings in the User menu

  2. Select the Notifications tab in the User Settings panel.

  3. For each of the boxes, select a value from its list.

  4. Depending on the type of credentials selected in the Authenticate using box, you may be prompted with additional boxes:

  • CPM Instance IAM Role – Requires no additional selections.

  • Account – Select the Account name or add a new Account by selecting New.

  • IAM User Credentials – Enter the AWS Access and Secret keys.

To use SNS:

  • You will need to enter AWS account credentials for the SNS service.

  • There is one notifications configuration per user, but there can be multiple AWS accounts, where applicable.

  • SNS credentials are not tied to any of the backed-up AWS accounts. You can choose a region, and enter credentials, which can be regular credentials, IAM user. See section 16.3. To use the N2WS Server instance’s IAM role (only for the root user), type use_iam_role for both access and secret keys.

  • If you are the root (main) user, you can choose whether to include or exclude alerts about managed users. See section 18.2.

  • Root/admin users, and independent users who oversee managed users, can also configure a managed user to receive alerts directly by selecting the user in the User list and setting the notification properties described in sections 17.4 and 17.5.

  • SNS is used both for push alerts and for sending a daily summary.

17.4 Push Alerts

Push alerts use SNS to send notifications about malfunctions and issues in N2WS’s operation.

To enable push alerts:

  1. In the Notifications tab of the User Settings panel, select Enable Push Alerts.

  2. Define the Alerts Topic by selecting one of the following options in the list:

    1. To create a new topic, select Auto Generate New Topic.

    2. To use a current topic, select Use Existing Topic. Enter the name in the Alerts Topic Name box. Or, you can copy the topic’s ARN from the SNS tab of the AWS Management Console (Open SNS Management Console).

  3. To have the user also receive the alert as an email, select Add User Email as Recipient. The recipient will receive a message requesting subscription confirmation before receiving alerts.

17.5 Daily Summary

The Daily Alert Summary is a message that is sent once a day, summarizing all current alerts, and some policy warnings, in the system. It can be configured instead of, or in addition to, regular alerts. It can be useful for several reasons:

  • If you are experiencing issues frequently it sometimes reduces noise to get a daily summary. Furthermore, since backup is the second line of defense, some people feel they do not need to get an instant message on every backup issue that occurs.

  • Even if there are no issues, a daily summary is a reminder that everything is ok. If something happens and N2WS crashed altogether, and your monitoring solution did not report it, you will notice the Daily Summary will stop.

  • The Daily Summary contains a list of policies that are disabled and policies that do not have schedules assigned to them. Although neither is an error, sometimes someone can accidentally leave a policy disabled or without a schedule and not realize that it is not working.

To configure the Daily Summary:

  1. In the Notifications tab of the User Settings, select Enable Daily Summary.

  2. Define the Daily Summary Topic by selecting one of the following options in the list:

    1. If you want to use the Alert topic for summaries, select Use Existing Topic. Enter a Summary Topic Name.

    2. To create a new topic, select Auto Generate New Topic.

  3. To have the user also receive the summary as email, select Add User Email as Recipient.

  4. In the Send Daily Summary At list, select the hour and minutes to send the notification.

  5. Select Save.

  6. To test the notification, select Test Daily Summary.

There is an advantage of using a separate topic since sometimes you want different recipients: It makes sense for a system admin to get alerts by SNS and to get the daily summary by email only. The display name of the topic appears in the message and in emails, it appears as the sender name. With separate topics, it is easier to distinguish alerts.

17.6 Summary PDF Report

The new downloadable Summary PDF report resembles the Dashboard in layout, with the exception of the Alerts section, and provides historical data for the filtered time period. The PDF includes Dashboard graphics and statistics:

  • Backups, with breakdowns for Successful, Partial, and Failed, for Backups, DR Backups, and S3 Backups

  • Volume Usage Percentage, with breakdowns below, within, and above usage thresholds

  • Statistics for Accounts, Policies, Protected Resources, Managed Snapshots, Cost Savings, and Cost Explorer

You can create the Summary PDF report as follows:

  • As a Scheduled Report, with a filter for user and time period. See section 17.10.1.

  • As an Immediate Report Generation, with a filter for user and time period. See section 17.10.3.

  • When using the REST API, see REST API/SCHEMA DOCS. Report time filters are:

    • period_type: ‘M’ | ’W’ for prior Months or Weeks

    • period_length: number of period_type units

17.7 Raw Reporting Data

You can download two raw data reports in CSV format (Comma Separated Values). These reports are for the logged-in user. For the root user, they will include also data of other managed users. These reports include all the records in the database; you can filter or create graphic reports from them by loading them to a spreadsheet or reporting tool. The two reports combined give a complete picture of backups and snapshots taken by N2WS.

To download the CSV reports:

  1. In the left panel, select Reports.

  2. For the backup view report, in the Report Types list, select Backup.

  3. For the snapshot view report, in the Report Types list, select Snapshot.

  4. For further details on Scheduled Reports, see section 17.10.1.

  5. Select Run Now.

17.7.1 Backup View CSV Report

This report will have a record for each backup (similar to the Backup Monitor) with details for each of the backups, including backups imported to S3:

  • Backup ID – A unique numerical ID representing the backup.

  • Account – Name of the AWS account if the system has multiple users and the user downloading the report is root.

  • AWS Account Number –ID of the AWS account.

  • Policy – Name of the policy.

  • Status – Status of the backup, the same as in the Backup Monitor.

  • DR Status – Status of DR, same as in the Backup Monitor.

  • S3 Copy Status - Status of a Copy to S3. If Import equals Yes, then backup was imported to S3.

  • Archive Status - Status of a Copy to Glacier Archive.

  • Start Time – Time the backup started.

  • End Time – Time the backup ended.

  • Is Retry – Yes if this backup was a retry after failure, otherwise No.

  • Marked for Deletion – Yes if this backup was marked for deletion. If Yes, the backup no longer appears in the Backup Monitor and is not recoverable.

  • Deleted - Yes if the backup was deleted.

  • Import - Yes if the backup was imported to S3.

17.7.2 Snapshot View CSV Report

This report will have a record for each EBS or RDS snapshot in the database and snapshots imported to S3:

  • Backup ID – ID of the backup the snapshot belongs to. Matches the same snapshots in the previous report.

  • Account – Name of the AWS account.

  • AWS Account Number – Number of the AWS account.

  • Snapshot Account – Name of snapshot account.

  • Snapshot AWS Account – Number of AWS snapshot account.

  • Policy – Name of the policy.

  • Status – Status, such as ‘Backup Successful’ or ‘All Snapshots Deleted’.

  • Region – AWS region.

  • Type – Type of snapshot: EBS, RDS, or EBS Copy, which is a DR copied snapshot.

  • Volume/DB/Cluster – AWS ID of the backed-up EBS volume, RDS database, or cluster.

  • Volume/DB/Cluster Name – Name of backed-up volume, database, or cluster.

  • Instance – If this snapshot belongs to a backed-up EC2 instance, the value will be the AWS ID of that instance, otherwise it will contain the string: None.

  • Instance Name – Name of instance.

  • Snapshot ID – AWS ID of the snapshot.

  • Succeeded – Yes or No.

  • Start Time – Time the snapshot started.

  • End Time – Time the snapshot ended.

  • Deleted At – Time of deletion, or N/A, if the snapshot was not deleted yet.

  • Import - Yes if the snapshot was imported to S3.

Additional columns contain data for tracking changes in storage size for EBS and S3 copies:

  • Volume Size (GB) – Logical size of volume, as specified during creation or resizing.

  • Valid Data Size (GB) – Part of the volume that is allocated and used at the time of the snapshot. From this number, you can deduce volume utilization.

  • Changed Data Size (GB) – If the snapshot is an Incremental, and CPM can locate the previous snapshot, then this is the amount of data in the current snapshot that is different from the previous snapshot, i.e. the size of the incremental snapshot. If ‘Unknown’, the above conditions are not met. From this number, you can deduce the data change rate.

​17.7.3 Keeping Records After Deletion

By default, when a backup is marked for deletion, it will be deleted right away from the N2WS database, and therefore not appear in the reports. There are exceptions, such as if N2WS could not delete all the snapshots in a backup (e.g. a snapshot is included in an AMI and cannot be deleted). Sometimes you need to save records for a period of time after they were marked for deletion for compliance, such as General Certificate of Conformity (GCC). To keep records after deletion, see section 9.4.

17.8 Usage Reports

In addition to the raw reports, you can also download CSV usage reports. A usage report for a user will give the number of AWS accounts, instance and non-instance storage this user is using. This can be helpful for inter-user accounting.

  1. In the left panel, select the Reports tab.

  2. For the usage report (current user), select Usage in the Report Types list and your user name in the Users list.

  3. To get the usage report (all users) for the root user, select Usage in the Report Types list and All in the Users list.

  4. Select Run Now.

17.9 Protected and Unprotected Resources Reports

The protected and unprotected resources reports provide information about the AWS resources with and without backup protection.

  1. In the left panel, select the Reports tab.

  2. For the unprotected/protected resources report (current user), select Unprotected or Protected Resources in the Report Types list and your user name in the Users list.

  3. To get the unprotected/protected resources report (all users) for the root user, select Unprotected or Protected Resources in the Report Types list and All in the Users list.

  4. SelectRun Now.

  5. When you are notified that the report has completed, check your Downloads folder.

AWS resources that are tagged with key:’cpm backup, value:’no-backup’ will be ignored. Also, see section 14.1.5.

17.9.1 Protected Resources

The protected resources report contains information about AWS resources with backup policies.

  • User Name (on all users reports)

  • ID for the resource

  • AWS resource name

  • Region

  • Polices

  • Schedules

The protected resources report is available immediately for the current user or all users depending on the account type.

The protected resources report is also available as a Scheduled Report. See section 17.10.1.

17.9.2 Unprotected Resources

The unprotected resources report is available as a Scheduled Report only and contains information about the AWS resources that do not have backup policies.

  • Resource Type

  • Name of resource

  • Resource ID

  • Region

  • Partial

  • Account

  • User

  • Count of number of unprotected resources per resource type.

17.10 Reports Page

As part of the N2W Software plan of moving toward a robust reporting module, versions 3.x.x have all Reports accessible from the Reports tab in the left panel.

The reports will be available in your Downloads folder. Reports are for the logged-in user. For the root user, the reports will also include the data of other managed users.

17.10.1 Scheduled Reports

Scheduled Reports allow you to create a schedule for each report. To receive a Scheduled Report, configure at least one recipient email address and the SES service for that email. See section 18.7.

You can run reports outside of a schedule and create ad hoc reports for download:

  • In the Scheduled Reports tab, Run Now generates a defined Scheduled Report and sends emails to its recipients.

  • In the Immediate Report Generation tab, you can define a new report for immediate execution and download.

Also, see section 17.10.3.

By default, the Reports page opens with a list of all reports which have been scheduled. To narrow the list, use the search box, or the filters for report type, user, and schedule.

Filters are available based on the chosen Report Type. Depending on the report, you can filter the results as follows:

  • Audit – Filter for User and records for prior days, weeks, or months.

  • Backup – Filter for User, Account, and records for prior days, weeks, or months.

  • Protected Resources Report – Filter for User and Account.

  • Resource Control Operation Report – Filter for Account and records for prior days, weeks, or months.

  • Snapshot - Filter for Account and records for prior days, weeks, or months.

  • Usage – Filter by User and records for prior days, weeks, or months. Select Detailed or Anonymized.

  • Summary Report (PDF) - Filter for User and historical data for prior weeks or months. Information contained is the same as in the Dashboard except that it is historical. Alerts are not included.

17.10.2 Defining a Scheduled Report

Reports are run according to their defined schedule and immediately using Run Now. Schedules reports must include at least one email recipient.

You can create a Scheduled Report without a schedule and edit the report later after creating the schedule.

To create a scheduled report:

  1. Select the Scheduled Reports tab and then New.

  2. Enter a name for the new report and choose the Report Type.

  3. By default, the report is enabled. To disable the Schedule Report, clear Enabled.

  4. In the Schedules list, select one or more schedules. To create or edit a schedule, see section 4.1.1.

  5. In the Recipients box, enter the email address of recipients, separated by a semi-colon (‘;’).

  6. Select from the filters presented for the Report Type.

    1. If Include Records From Last boxes appear, you can select the number (first list) of Days, Weeks, or Months (last list) to include in the report. The default is all available records.

  7. In the Description box, enter an optional informative description.

  8. Select Save.

17.10.3 Running Reports Outside Their Schedule

To run a Scheduled Report and send emails to its recipients immediately:

In the Scheduled Reports tab, select the report in the list and then select Run Now.

To define a new report and download it immediately:

  1. Select the Immediate Report Generation tab.

  2. Select a Report Type and one or more filters depending on the Type selected, as listed above in section 17.10.1.

  3. To filter the report data by date and time, select Calendar and choose the From and To date and time values. Select Apply after each definition.

  4. Select Generate Report. The output will be downloaded by your browser.

17.11 Examples of AWS Alerts

AWS uses SNS to provide a number of N2WS alert services by subscription.

17.11.1 Subscription Confirmation Alert

After subscribing to CPM Alerts in AWS, you will receive an email with a confirmation link:

Select the Confirm subscription link. You will receive a subscription confirmation email:

17.11.2 Daily Summary Alert

Following is an example of a CPM Daily Summary where all AWS functions were OK:

17.11.3 Unprotected Resources Alert

Following is an example of an alert that the unprotected resources report is available:

17.12 Announcements

In version 3.0.0, Announcements were introduced as a method for N2WS to communicate directly to users about non-operational topics, such as promotions and other sales-related information.

In the toolbar, Announcements shows the number of unread announcements waiting in the user’s mailbox. In the Announcements inbox panel, select an announcement to open.

After selecting an announcement, you can reset the message status by selecting Mark as Unread in the upper right corner of the message.