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I have automated monitoring systems running on servers. These successfully send out emails on a great variety of server conditions. My issue is that if a server problem happens in the middle of the night, I am unlikely to see the email until the morning. We are a very small company, and do not have the wherewithal to staff 24/7.

What I would like to be able to do is to turn emails from specific addresses into phone calls, so that my phone will ring and it will wake me up or the other team member up. I've done a fair amount of Googling for telephony solutions, and not found anything suitable.

What would be ideal is a simple service or application. Large scale enterprise solutions will not work for us, given our size.

Any suggestions on this would be welcome. Thanks in advance.


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up vote 0 down vote accepted

If you want a commercial solution you should check out, your monitoring system sends pageduty an email and then pager duty will make a phone call or send an sms depending on how you have it configured.

Another option is to roll you own system. We use a custom solution I developed because it has no monthly cost and it interfaces directly with the public switched telephone network so even if our connection to the internet is down we can still receive phone alerts (this is key since standard emails and SMSes won't go out with no internet connection). Our system is based on adhearsion which is a ruby telephony framework for asterisk which makes interacting with a phone system pretty easy. We use an analog telephony adapter to interface with the PSTN.

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Thanks for the suggestion of PagerDuty. I've signed up for a free trial, and so far it looks like a pretty slick service. – user5065 Nov 10 '09 at 18:02

You don't appear to have considered the simple option: SMSes. Saves all the hassle with text-to-speech and Asterisk insanity.

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Agreed - this may be much simpler to solve on the client side (with a custom - obnoxious - ringtone for the alert sending address) than server side. – Kara Marfia Nov 10 '09 at 13:55
Especially as most (all?) web-based SMS providers offer an SMTP delivery method, just email – Mark Henderson Nov 10 '09 at 14:16
If you're in urgent need of a midnight escalation then a phone call can be more persistent than an SMS. – Dan Carley Nov 10 '09 at 15:04
"Persistent" as in "attempts to get your attention for longer"? That's a function of the ring tone, not the means of contact. I'd also argue that an SMS is more valuable, as even if you don't wake up quick enough to answer the phone, the SMS is still available for viewing. – womble Nov 10 '09 at 16:04
I wouldn't assume that an SMS tone is going to repeat on any given phone. Whereas a call ringtone is sure to do so. I like SMS alerts, but I wouldn't on them getting someone's attention in an emergency, unless you bombard them. – Dan Carley Nov 10 '09 at 17:07

I did something like this once. It was a custom built application in-house (and is not avaliable for public purchase), but it would listen on an email address, and any emails that came in through a certain timefame (matching certain rules) would send an SMS to the on-call person, and then call them 5 minutes later.

Using Text To Speech, along with Voice XML and a synthesiser it would read the email to the person on the other end, most of the time they would just hit * and skip the email as they saw the SMS.

They were on a VoIP system, which made dialling out easy, but if you had a voice modem hooked up to a POTS line the principal was the same.

So it certainly can be done, but I don't know of any commercial product that would do it.

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