We recommend that you read My Philosophy on Alerting based on Rob Ewaschuk's observations at Google.
To summarize: keep alerting simple, alert on symptoms, have good consoles to allow pinpointing causes, and avoid having pages where there is nothing to do.
Aim to have as few alerts as possible, by alerting on symptoms that are associated with end-user pain rather than trying to catch every possible way that pain could be caused. Alerts should link to relevant consoles and make it easy to figure out which component is at fault.
Allow for slack in alerting to accommodate small blips.
Typically alert on high latency and error rates as high up in the stack as possible.
Only page on latency at one point in a stack. If a lower-level component is slower than it should be, but the overall user latency is fine, then there is no need to page.
For error rates, page on user-visible errors. If there are errors further down the stack that will cause such a failure, there is no need to page on them separately. However, if some failures are not user-visible, but are otherwise severe enough to require human involvement (for example, you are losing a lot of money), add pages to be sent on those.
You may need alerts for different types of request if they have different characteristics, or problems in a low-traffic type of request would be drowned out by high-traffic requests.
For offline processing systems, the key metric is how long data takes to get through the system, so page if that gets high enough to cause user impact.
For batch jobs it makes sense to page if the batch job has not succeeded recently enough, and this will cause user-visible problems.
This should generally be at least enough time for 2 full runs of the batch job. For a job that runs every 4 hours and takes an hour, 10 hours would be a reasonable threshold. If you cannot withstand a single run failing, run the job more frequently, as a single failure should not require human intervention.
While not a problem causing immediate user impact, being close to capacity often requires human intervention to avoid an outage in the near future.
It is important to have confidence that monitoring is working. Accordingly, have alerts to ensure that Prometheus servers, Alertmanagers, PushGateways, and other monitoring infrastructure are available and running correctly.
As always, if it is possible to alert on symptoms rather than causes, this helps to reduce noise. For example, a blackbox test that alerts are getting from PushGateway to Prometheus to Alertmanager to email is better than individual alerts on each.
Supplementing the whitebox monitoring of Prometheus with external blackbox monitoring can catch problems that are otherwise invisible, and also serves as a fallback in case internal systems completely fail.
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