From AlertFox Website Monitoring
The iDrone is the (Synthetic) End User Monitoring Poller of AlertFox. The AlertFox EUM Poller (iDrone) allows your AlertFox macros to be run within your network. Therefore, you can monitor every web based service that is available on your intranet.
How to get started
- Set up a virtual machine that must not used for any other server/desktop task.
- Virtualization Software: VMware and VirtualBox are officially supported, others should work as well.
- Guest operating systems: "Windows 7" and "Windows Server 2008 R2" (latest updates and all service packs installed, but stay with IE9)
- On Win 2008 R2, you need to enable .NET 3.5 as a prerequisite
- Browser: Internet Explorer 9 (The installer will install Firefox and Chrome, however, Chrome support is not yet enabled on AlertFox)
- Take a snapshot of this setup.
- It is a great way to restore a working configuration for future updates, or in case of unforeseen technical problems. Web browsers can have very rare, but strange effects when run 24x7 that can potentially corrupt a system.
- Download and run the iDrone installer. (Also available from within your AlertFox "iDrones" tab).
- Interested in the most recent Beta? Download it below.
- Configure and register the iDrone with the AlertFox system.
- Create an iMacros Sensor, copy & paste the macro code, then select your iDrone as the measurement location ("zone").
Win 2008 R2
On Windows Server 2008 R2, the installer cannot add the necessary .NET environment. Therefore, do the following prior to running the installation, or prior to running the installer again in case it failed the first time due to this issue:
- Open the "Server Manager"
- Select "Features"
- Expand the ".NET Framework 3.5.1 Feature" feature
- Check ".NET Framework 3.5.1"
- Confirm and wait for the installation to complete
Once the feature has been installed, run the iDrone installer (again) and continue with configuration/registration.
Use iDrones to monitor internal web based tools like:
- Ticketing systems
- Customer Relationship Management portals
- Sales interfaces
- Internal Wikis or forums
- An iDrone is a virtualized Windows system running on any server/PC/notebook you have at hand.
- It is not another piece of hardware you have to buy, unpack, then install on your premises and which needs physical maintenance and security supervision.
- All you need to do is setting up a virtual Windows installation, run our iDrone installer, perform a three-step configuration and you're ready to monitor your internal sites and web based tools.
- The iDrone installer transforms your Windows installation into an equivalent of the test servers the "normal" AlertFox service uses to perform more than 2 million macros a day (May 2012 figure). With two key difference:
- The iDrone measurements are performed within your (internal) network. "Normal" AlertFox sensors can't reach anything behind a corporate firewall (unless you do some special configuration).
- Your iDrone performs only your measurements. This means you are free to give it as much processing power as needed, which in turn means that you can host it on any system you find appropriate.
In order to receive measurements and to return the results, the iDrone needs to talk to the AlertFox service over the net.
However, we have designed the iDrones with a focus on security and ease of use and this includes the exchange of data:
- All communication is initiated by the iDrone.
- No open ports facing the net.
- No port forwarding setup although we operate in a virtualized environment
- There is only one protocol the iDrone uses: HTTPS (port 8888)
- Internet standard
- All traffic is encrypted
- There is a single point of contact: my.alertfox.com
- No fiddling with sets of dependent rules
- No adjustments over time
This means that a single firewall rule is enough to get the iDrone connected:
ALLOW outgoing HTTPS (port 8888) traffic to my.alertfox.com
In most cases this traffic is already allowed by default, so there is a good chance no firewall changes are required.
Custom (Browser) Settings
The worldwide AlertFox measurement servers need to support as many sites as possible. Therefore, we have configured their browsers' environment to be as unrestricted as possible, keeping only as much security as we need to protect our machines. The iDrone, however, runs in your environment, so we decided to not have it touch any major security settings. As a consequence, you may need to perform some actions manually in order to allow the processing of your macros, like:
- Disable Internet Explorer "Enhanced Security Settings"
- Answer the popup about transmitting unencrypted information
- Answer the popup concerning closing multiple tabs
- and so on.
(What the installer does, is to allow third party extensions in Internet Explorer. Otherwise the iMacros plugin would not work.)
The "best practice" is to run a test of your macro (in the sensor settings press "Test Now") while watching the iDrone. There you should be able to see any kind of impediment.
It's a Feature
Note that this also allows for setting up an iDrone that features custom settings that the worldwide servers (by design) simply can not support:
- Your SSL Certificates
- Custom browser plugins/addons
- Custom desktop settings (size, color depth)
Every iDrone installation comes with a configuration interface that hardly needs any explanation to get your iDrone up and running in minutes.
Here's additional information for those interested.
Here you are free to give your iDrone a name that makes sense to you, or in your network setup. In your AlertFox sensors' settings, this name is displayed in order for you to identify the iDrone when assigning sensors to it.
Here's what we have been using at one time or the other
- "myFirstIDroneTest" ;-)
iDrone Authentication String
This string authorizes your iDrone's communication with the AlertFox service. Please copy/paste it from your AlertFox account:
- Login at https://my.AlertFox.com
- Select tab "iDrones"
- Copy as presented there (e.g. "53aboaeioeaib2249eba0d6")
- Paste into the iDrone configuration tool's text field
Number Of Macros
Depending on your system's resources, you can increase/decrease the number of macros that may be run in parallel. This influences the "throughput" of your iDrone, i.e. the number of macros processed in a certain interval.
Several factors come into play, here, like:
- The processing power of the Windows installation, as set on the host system.
- The processing power of the host system.
- The accuracy of timing information: when CPU/memory becomes rare, the automated browser instances will perform their tasks more slowly.
The default setting is two (2). We recommend to leave it at this low level unless you need to increase the processing capacity.
Rule of thumb for an average PC/Server: Per machine core you can run between 1-3 instances.
Save Settings / Status Indicator
Clicking the button saves your settings to a local file.
Additionally, some basic checks are performed e.g. to make sure the fields do not contain illegal characters.
The outcome of that check is indicated in the status box. "Green" means you are ready to register your iDrone.
Registration of the iDrone
Registering your iDrone simply means that AlertFox is informed about this iDrone and "connects" it to your AlertFox account.
After registration, you can see that iDrone in your accounts iDrone tab. More importantly, you can then select that iDrone in any iMacros sensor's settings. Sensors assigned to that iDrone will then be performed on your iDrone instead of our "normal" test servers in the US, the EU or in the Asia-Pacific region.
This is, where you can trigger your iDrone so it starts/stops actually performing measurements.
Klicking "Start" will open a new window that shows the operation of the software component which communicates to the AlertFox system and controls the web browser automation.
Klicking "Stop" will terminate above component. Note that termination is immediate. This means that incomplete measurements may
- Leave browser instances on the screen. Feel free to close them manually, or have the next "Start" close them for you.
Klicking the middle button performs a quick check whether the iDrone is currently active (e.g. above component is running), or not.
Automatic Operation on Reboot
If the iDrone is rebooted while being in operation, it will continue to process macros once the user logs in again.
So in order to "survive" a reboot (e.g. for reasons of maintenance, a host reboot, a machine crash) without any manual interaction, the guest machine must have autologon activated (for the user that runs the iDrone Configuration tool).
Here's one way to do so:
- Open a command prompt
- a new window is opened
- In the "User" tab, select the account that should login automatically at system start
- Remove the tick for "Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer
- Confirm with "OK"
- a new window in opened
- Enter the user's password, confirm
All traffic between the iDrone and the AlertFox servers is encrypted by SSL. Therefore, your macros are never exposed to a third party.
However, if you feel uncomfortable editing/storing macros that contain passwords in plain text, you can do the following:
- On the iDrone, enter a master password to the iMacros software settings.
- In your sensor's macro, enter this line:
SET !ENCRYPTION STOREDKEY
With this setup, the passwords are decrypted on runtime right on your iDrone and never leave that iDrone as plain text.
Please see iDrone Questions.
Before updating, please restore your virtual machine to an "empty" state before installing the iDrone or install on a fresh/clean virtual machine. Direct upgrades (overwriting) of existing iDrone installations are not supported and tested.
- 2.00 Beta (March 28, 2013)
- This version is not suited for WUG integration
- Waterfall diagram support (currently supported on 64bit systems, only)
- Small changes to the UI
- iDroneConf tool accessible through the Start menu
- Download the latest iDrone Installer 1.02 (November 07, 2012)
- Support for recording macros
- The iDrone iMacros license key now allows for recording macros right on the iDrone. (iDrone operation must be started in order to receive the key.)
- Software updates
- Latest iMacros 8.0.3 with considerable speed improvements (cf. the iMacros Version History)
- iMacros for FireFox version 188.8.131.52
- Removed Chrome support
- If you are a WhatsUpGold APM user: This version is certified for use with WUG APM.
- Support for recording macros
- 1.01.0803.1144 (August 3, 2012)
- Several bug fixes
- Signed installer
- Experimental Chrome support
- 1.01.0625.1559 (June 25, 2012)
- Firefox support
- Enhanced status messages + small UI updates
- Fix missing screenshot bug
- Prepare iDrone Chrome support (not yet enabled in AlertFox)
- 1.01.0606.0907 (June 06, 2012)
- Updated iMacros to latest beta: 184.108.40.2063
- Fix: Support IE macros on Win 2008 R2. (IE started with inactive iMacros extension.)