6 Best Microsoft Azure Monitoring Services And Tools

Cloud computing seems to be getting more and more popular these days. In fact, it has gotten so popular than many of the biggest players in the information technology industry have embarked. And Microsoft, with its Azure line of services, is definitely one of them. But how does one monitor cloud-based resources? The answer is simple: by using the proper tools. This is what this post is all about. We’ve assembled a list of some of the best monitoring services and tools that one can use to monitor Azure cloud environment. With so many products available out there, we hope that our list will help you see clearly through this maze.

We’ll start off by briefly describe what Microsoft Azure is. It will help greatly down the line if we all start on the same page. Next, we’ll discuss the monitoring of Azure resources. The fact that the servers are virtual and hosted who-knows-where doesn’t change that they still need to be monitored. We’ll have a quick look at some of the most important elements that benefit from monitoring. After that, we’ll talk about the monitoring tools. More precisely, we’ll explain the differences between locally installed monitoring tools and cloud-based monitoring services. Finally, we’ll get to the best part, the best Microsoft Azure monitoring services and tools.

About Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is the name of the Redmond giant’s cloud computing service. It can be used for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. Microsoft Azure provides software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), supporting many different programming languages, tools and frameworks, including both Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems.

Launched in early 2010, Microsoft Azure now offers a wide array of services. Some of the most important are its compute services which include virtual machines running Windows or Linux, application services or platform as a service (PaaS) environments allowing developers easily publish and manage websites, and web hosting, to name a few. Microsoft Azure also offers storage services as well as data management services.

Microsoft Azure is probably best described as a “cloud layer” on top of a number of Windows Server systems, which use Windows Server 2008 and a customized version of Hyper-V, known as the Microsoft Azure Hypervisor to provide virtualization of services. The platform’s scaling and reliability are controlled by the Microsoft Azure Fabric Controller, which ensures the services and environment do not fail if one or more of the servers fails within the Microsoft data center.

Monitoring Azure Resources

In a nutshell, Azure services are nothing more than remote virtual servers. Monitoring them is, therefore, quite similar to monitoring other virtual servers, which is similar to monitoring any server. And if your Azure setup includes more than file servers, they too will need to be monitored. Typical setups often include databases and other applications. Let’s have a quick look at the different types of monitoring which can be useful in an Azure context.

Availability

Availability monitoring is the most basic form of monitoring. It is often a simple matter of verifying that a given resource is responding. In an on-premises environment, this is the kind of test which is best done using ping. But with since Azure environments are typically only reachable via the Internet and knowing that ping is not always allowed on the Internet, other means of verification exist. But we want to verify that not only machines are running but that certain specific services are too. For instance, testing for a response on port 80 could validate that the web server component is running.

Operational Metrics

The next things one might want to monitor are the different devices operational metrics. The same basic techniques used of local monitoring can generally be used with Azure. As for what operational metrics are monitored, we can think of things such as CPU load and memory usage, for example. Other metrics that are closer to the physical system—such as CPU core temperature—are often left out as they pertain to the part of the environment that is managed by Microsoft.

Performance

The last element that is often monitored is performance. By that, we are referring to the end to end performance of the system as a whole. Some refer to this as user experience monitoring. The idea is to verify that all the various components are communicating correctly and that each one is responding in a timely manner, offering acceptable end-to-end performance.

Monitoring Services And Tool

Monitoring tools can be differentiated based on several factors. One of the most important is the data gathering method employed. Some tools simply rely on the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to fetch operational parameters from the systems and devices they monitor. Other rely instead on the Windows Management Instrumentation, a somewhat similar technology this is reserved for Windows Operating systems. But for the ultimate in granularity and variety of monitored parameters, agent-based tools can hardly be beaten. They rely on a local agent that is always running on the monitored system and which is in charge of gathering data. There is one major drawback to agent-based monitoring, though. It tends to put an additional load on system resources which can sometimes be limited.

Another common distinguishing factor between various monitoring tools relates to their location relative to the resources they monitor. Some tools are locally installed on a server and will operate their monitoring from within your local networks. Other systems, which, by the way, are getting more and more popular, are cloud-based and offered on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Many people tend to prefer cloud-based monitoring services. In fact, some organizations run complex IT environments without owning a single server by moving all the services—including monitoring and management—to the cloud.

The Best Microsoft Azure Monitoring Services And Tools

We’ve researched the market and came up with this list of some of the best tools you can use to monitor you Microsoft Azure hosted environments. We’ve tried to include tools of different types to give you a better idea of what’s available. Our list has locally installed tools as well as cloud-based monitoring service.

1- SolarWinds Server And Application Monitor (Free Trial)

SolarWinds is a well-known publisher of some of the very best network and system administration tools. It’s been around for about twenty years and its flagship product, called the Network Performance Monitor, consistently scores among the top SNMP monitoring tools. Like if this wasn’t enough, SolarWinds also makes a handful of great free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrators. The Advanced Subnet Calculator and the Kiwi Syslog Server are two examples of those free tools.

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications that are running on them. It can scale easily from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The main reason why this tool made it to our list—other than being so feature-packed—is that it is perfectly suited to monitor cloud-hosted environments such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

Among the best features of the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is the tool’s ease of setup. The initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of a two-pass auto-discovery process. The first pass discovers every server and the second one will find applications on each discovered server. Although this process can take time, it can be sped up by supplying a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and running, the user-friendly GUI makes using it a breeze. The tool’s dashboard can be personalized and it will let you display information in either a table or a graphic format.

Price for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor starts at $2 995 and is based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

2- SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor (Free Trial)

Next on our list is another product from SolarWinds called the Server Configuration Monitor or SCM. The specific type of monitoring it performs is quite unique: it monitors devices and applications configurations for changes and for compliance with various standards. It is also a powerful troubleshooting tool which can give you the necessary information about configuration changes and their correlations with performance slowdown. This can help you find the root cause of some performance problems caused by configuration changes.

SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor Screenshot

The SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor is an agent-based tool, with the agent deployed on each server being monitored. One advantage of such an architecture is that the agent keeps gathering data even when the server is disconnected from the network. The data is kept locally and then sent to the tool as soon as the server is back online.

Feature-wise, this product leaves nothing to be desired. The tool’s auto-discovery feature will automatically detect servers that are eligible for monitoring. It also comes with out-of-the-box configuration profiles for the most common servers. It can be used as a basic asset management tool and it will let you view hardware and software inventories and report on them. The SCM can be integrated into your system monitoring solution thanks to the Orion Platform on which most SolarWinds monitoring tools are based. It is a great tool to use in conjunction with the previous one for the ultimate monitoring of your Microsoft Azure environment.

Contrary to most other SolarWinds products, pricing information for the Server Configuration Monitor is not readily available. You’ll need to contact SolarWinds’ sales. However, a 30-day evaluation version is available for download.

3- AppDynamics IQ

The AppDynamics IQ platform provides cloud-based monitoring tools that you can use for integrated monitoring of several Infrastructure or Platform as a Service (IaaS/PaaS) from Microsoft Azure as well as most other providers. It provides real-time application and business visibility as well as actionable. It is made of six highly intelligent performance engines—called iQs—each lending its specific talents.

AppDynamics iQ Screenshot

The Map iQ helps you see and understand the complete customer journey. The engine will automatically create and dynamically update visual flow maps. The Baseline iQ engine lets the AppDynamics monitoring platform automatically establish dynamic baselines your business transactions and metrics using self-learning, rather than static thresholds. The next engine, called Diagnostic iQ, isolates and resolves application performance issues efficiently by monitoring every line of code while activating deep diagnostic capabilities. The Signal iQ engine correlates massive amounts of metric data gathered from the performance monitoring solution and delivers an end-to-end view of application performance. The Enterprise iQ engine is used for application deployment and performance management. Last but not least, the Business iQ engine links all the other modules with the business requirements.

Pricing for the AppDynamics IQ platform is not readily available. You’ll need to contact AppDynamics sales for more details. However, a free 15-day trial and an online demo are available.

4- New Relic

New Relic offers a suite of several different monitoring tools which could satisfy most monitoring needs. Of particular interest in the context of this post are two products, New Relic APM, an application performance monitoring tool and New Relic Infrastructure, a more “traditional” infrastructure monitoring module.

New Relic APM Screenshot

When using New Relic APM and Infrastructure together, what you get is a comprehensive view of the health of your servers and hosts as well as the applications and services they depend on. As your applications scale and infrastructure changes, you can easily track the inventory configuration state and correlate changes with potential impacts on your system and application performance.

The New Relic platform is offered on Software as a Service model and it is particularly well-suited for the monitoring of cloud-based infrastructures such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. The infrastructure monitoring component of New Relic is available in an Essentials version and a Pro version, the latter allowing integration with other New Relic modules. Prices are as low as $0.60/month per instance for the Essentials version and $1.20/month per instance for the Pro version. The pricing structure is actually rather complex but the New Relic website features a very good quote building tool.

5- LM Cloud

LM Cloud from LogicMonitor is a cloud-based service which provides in-depth monitoring of Microsoft Azure resources while providing comprehensive coverage for existing on-premise infrastructure. The strategy behind LM Cloud is unique because it goes beyond traditional resource level performance and availability data. This tool provides visibility into all of the components that have the potential to impact the health of your Azure-backed infrastructure and services.

LogicMonitor LM Cloud Screenshot

LM Cloud simplifies cloud monitoring and delivers comprehensive visibility into Azure infrastructure health and performance, something which can otherwise be difficult to obtain. This visibility is achieved with a cloud monitoring strategy that includes the three components which are critical to assessing the overall health of cloud infrastructures: resource performance monitoring, Azure availability monitoring, and ROI Monitoring.

LM Cloud from Logic Monitor is available in three tiers of increasing features starting at $15 per device per month for the Starter version and at $23 per device per month for the top-tier Enterprise version. A free 14-day trial is available as is a demo.

6- BMC TrueSight

Last on our list is the BMC TrueSight platform, another cloud-based Software as a Service offering. You can use this platform to run, and optimize Azure, AWS, OpenStack and other cloud-based services and applications, accelerating innovation through greater operational efficiency.

BMC TrueSight Screenshot

TrueSight provides some control of IT infrastructure resources and costs, application performance, and end user experience for multi-cloud environments and applications. It provides visibility across the IT environment and uses algorithmic analytics. This lets application and infrastructure managers gain the insight to plan and manage services and cost based on business priority and operational requirements.

Pricing information for BMC TrueSight is not readily available and can be obtained by contacting BMC sales. A free trial can also be arranged.

Read 6 Best Microsoft Azure Monitoring Services And Tools by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How To Fix Microsoft Store Apps Not Updating To New Version On Windows 10

There is a very odd bug in Windows 10 that prevents users from getting the next version of a Microsoft Store app. This bug appears to have been around for at least a year. What happens is that apps you’ve downloaded from the Microsoft Store do not update to next version. You will see that an update is available but updating the app won’t get you the next version. Here’s how you can fix Microsoft Store apps not updating to the next version.

We should tell you that this fix takes one day to work. There are several things you need to do. Go through each one. It is possible, though the chances are slim, that you won’t have to wait a whole day for the problem to fix itself. You will be able to use your system regardless.

I personally encountered this bug with the Sticky Notes app that was stuck at version 2.1.18.0 and despite updating to Windows 10 1809, it was stuck on this version.

Run Microsoft Store Troubleshooter

Open the Settings app and go to the Update & Security group of settings. Select the Troubleshoot tab, and scroll down to the Windows Store Apps option. Run the troubleshooter and apply any fix it suggests.

Reset Microsoft Store

Open the run box with the Win+R keyboard shortcut. Type WSReset.exe in the run box and tap Enter. This will open a Command Prompt window. If you have the Microsoft Store app open, it will close eventually. Allow the Command Prompt window to finish resetting the store app. You will know it’s done once the Microsoft Store app opens again.

Reinstall Microsoft Store App

Open the PowerShell with administrative rights and run the following command to reinstall the Microsoft Store app.

Get-AppXPackage *WindowsStore* -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

Reset Software Distribution Folder

Before you can reset the software distribution folder, you should enable Airplane mode. You can do this from the toggle in the Action Center.

Open the Command Prompt and run the following command. Each line is its own command. Enter one line, tap Enter, and wait for it to complete before you enter the next one.

For this command, run it 3 – 4 times.

taskkill /F /FI "SERVICES eq wuauserv"

The following commands need only be run once.

net stop cryptSvc

net stop bits

net stop msiserver

ren C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.old

rmdir C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\DataStore

rmdir C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download

Once you’ve run the above commands, run the ones below as well. Again, each line is its own command so run it one at a time.

Net Stop bits

Net Stop wuauserv 

Net Stop appidsvc 

Net Stop cryptsvc 

Ren %systemroot%\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bak 

Ren %systemroot%\system32\catroot2 catroot2.bak 

Net Start bits 

Net Start wuauserv 

Net Start appidsvc 

Net Start cryptsvc

Wait One Day

Go about the rest of your day and use your system however it is you want to. At the end of the day, shut it down and when you boot it again the next day, check the Microsoft Store app for updates.

You will see that updates are available for apps. Install the updates and you should get the next version of the app.

Read How To Fix Microsoft Store Apps Not Updating To New Version On Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How To Enable And Disable Auto Updates In The Microsoft Store On Windows 10

Windows 10 has an official app store; the Microsoft Store and while it still isn’t as big as the Mac App Store, it’s still a source for most apps from Microsoft and the Netflix app. Most stock apps update when there’s a major Windows 10 update however, smaller updates are occasionally released via the Microsoft Store. If you do download apps from the Microsoft Store, you also update them from there. You can choose to update apps automatically or manually. Here’s how you can enable or disable auto updates in the Microsoft Store.

Auto Updates In The Microsoft Store

Open the Microsoft Store app and click the more options button at the top right. From the menu, select Settings.

On the Settings screen, you will see a switch labelled App Updates. Turn it on and the Microsoft Store will automatically download any app updates when they are available. If you prefer to manually update apps, you can turn this switch off.

If you have your WiFi network set as a metered connection to avoid Windows 10 updates being downloaded in the background, it will also impact the Microsoft Store app. Even if you have auto updates enabled, the metered connection status of your connection will prevent apps from updating.

We should mention that this is the Microsoft Store app and it’s not as reliable as other app store apps that you might find on other platforms. You may enable auto updates in the Microsoft Store but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work. You might have to run the app, and still click the Update All button.

On a good day, the apps might update on their own. Ideally, once you have auto updates turned on, the app will search for new updates and install them. For app updates, you won’t need to restart your system, and you can continue using the app. This is what happens if everything is working the way it should.

If there’s something wrong with the Microsoft Store app, or the background services that need to run in order for it to check for and automatically install new updates, you will get mixed results. In some cases, the app will check for new updates but it won’t install them. In other cases, it won’t do anything. You will need to launch the app and that’s when it will check for updates. Once it detects updates are available, it may or may not install them. You can wait a while to see if the updates install, and if they don’t, you will have to install them manually.

Read How To Enable And Disable Auto Updates In The Microsoft Store On Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter