Are there any techniques or services that can help monitor our mail gateway is dead? we use nagios right now to manage other servers but when the mail server itself is down we dont get a notification. ideally we would have some sort of SMS gateway. any suggestions.
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We are using Pingdom for our monitoring. Their services is pretty good. We never had a problem till now. And the price is OK too.
Multitech MultiModem iSMS SF100-G
This is a standalone SMS server. We are ordering one to use with Nagios. See the March 2010 issue of Linux Journal for a good HOWTO article.
some sort of SMS gateway
Certainly there are companies offering a hosted service (If you are based in the US, I've heard good things about Clickatell's service) - but for small volumes you'll probably find using a GSM modem cheaper (most mobile phones will happily connect to computers).
Obviously you still need some software to drive it - a long time ago I'd used the BSD-style lpd to manage queueing and a custom script in place of the printer driver - but I suspect this would be tricky using cups/foomatic. There's some tools listed here for sending SMS but I'm not sure which ones if any can handle queueing to a single device.
To make sure that you don't miss any outages, you should setup monitoring of both your core network connectivity as well as your mail gateway from outside your network. There are a number of monitoring services that you could use for this and get things setup in 15 minutes, or you can do your own separate installation of something like Nagios on a remote server or VPS.
Set up a cron job to mail you once a minute saying, "Mail server is up". If it stops, you know something is wrong.