FAQ


General


What is Dead Man's Snitch (DMS)?

Dead Man's Snitch is a monitoring tool for cron, Heroku Scheduler, or any periodic process. DMS will notify you when your scheduled tasks don't run so you can investigate before it becomes a problem.

Why would I need this?

Have you ever had a backup fail or an email campaign not go out? DMS will tell you right away when something doesn't happen so you can fix it before it becomes a problem. Still not convinced? Learn more in this blog post.

What is a snitch?

A snitch looks like this: $ curl https://nosnch.in/c2354d53d2. It's the unique URL created by DMS that you curl after the job you want monitored.

Any exciting updates on the way?

Yes! We're working on an API and adding a wider range of intervals with user-configurable check-in times for greater flexibility and control over snitches.

Cron already sends me output. How is this different?

Receiving an email when cron is working can be helpful, but it's hard to tell when things don't run. The lack of an email in your inbox is hard to detect. DMS solves this problem by sending you an email if your task hasn't checked in when it should. A second email notification will be sent once your task begins reporting again.

Which programming language can I use DMS with?

Any language that can fetch a URL.

Can I use DMS with Windows Servers?

Yes! We wrote a blog post on it here.

How much does it cost?

All users start with 1 free snitch. If you want more snitches you can:

  • Earn a free snitch for every person you refer using your custom referral URL. As long as they sign up with your link you'll get a free snitch! Rack 'em up and keep all of your projects and processes running smoothly.
  • Upgrade your account.

Who are you?

Dead Man's Snitch is a product of Collective Idea, a software development & consulting company based in Holland, Michigan.

We use DMS for our own clients every day. We're building it to be a service that we want to use, and hope you will too!

Creating a Snitch


How do I create a snitch?

  1. Log in and click "Create Your First Snitch"
  2. Give your snitch a name (Nightly Backup, Data Import, Monthly Invoice, etc.)
  3. Choose an interval. This is based on how often your task runs. If you have an hourly task, then choose hourly. If you have a task that runs every six hours, round up to Daily.
  4. Type in an email address that you would like to be alerted at should your task fail. If you leave this space blank, your snitch alerts will be sent to the email you used to sign up with. Click save.
  5. The next page displays your unique snitch URL in the green box followed by examples of how your snitch can be used. For each snitch you create, a new URL will be created. Simply curl the unique Snitch URL after your task (as shown in the examples).
  6. To tell your snitch to start checking, hit the URL. You can manually hit the URL by pasting your snitch URL into a browser window and hitting return.
  7. Refresh the page. The box next to your snitch should be green.
  8. That's it! If your process fails to run, DMS will email you.

How should I choose an interval?

If you have an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly task, great! Choose the same interval. If your task is delayed (or depending on how long it takes to complete) you may receive an alert that your process hasn't checked-in. As soon as your task finishes, you will be notified that it's working again.

If your task runs at a different interval than what we currently have available, no problem. Take how often your task runs and round UP to the next DMS interval. For example, if you have a job that runs every six hours, choose daily.

How do intervals work?

Each interval has a start and end time and is broken into periods. At the end of each period, DMS looks back to see if the job checked-in during the period. If it did, great. If it didn't an alert email is sent.

Interval table

Does it matter when I ping a snitch?

Yes! The closer you ping a snitch to the end of a period the faster you will be alerted if your job fails.

Take a look at the image below of the two timelines for a daily snitch. In the first timeline, notice how the email is sent soon after the missed check-in. However, in the second timeline notice how the email isn't sent until much later.

Daily snitch alert timeline

We explain these diagrams in greater detail in this blog post.

Where are alert emails sent?

By default, emails will be sent to the email address you signed up with. You can set a per-snitch alert email when you create your snitch. You can also set an account-wide alert email address by signing in to your account and clicking your email address at the top of your dashboard. If you choose not to have a per-snitch alert email address, we fall back to your account alert email address. If you don't have an account-wide alert email address, we fall back your the account sign-up address.

Can I send alerts to more than one email address?

Yes! For your account alert email address or for your per-snitch email address enter multiple emails separated by commas, like so:

address1@example.com, address2@example.com

How can I check the status of my snitches?

The light next to your snitch on your dashboard indicates its current status. If the snitch URL hasn't been hit yet the light will remain it's neutral gray color. The light will turn green when the snitch has been hit and has checked-in properly. If the snitch hasn't checked-in the light will turn red. A snitch that is paused will be yellow.

Your snitch dashboard is also available with the DMS iOS app here! Upgraded users have the option to receive Push Notififications when jobs fail.

Can I rearrange snitches in my dashboard?

Not at the moment. However, to organize your dashboard a bit, you can edit the names of your snitches at any time. Try adding your project or client name in brackets before the snitch’s original name: [Project/Client] Daily Backup. The dashboard displays snitches alphabetically so by renaming snitches into groups, you’ll have a much more organized dashboard.

How do I tell a snitch to start checking?

After you create your snitch and curl it after your task, simply hit the URL.

How do I pause an active snitch?

Why pause it? If your snitch is being pinged, you won't receive any emails. If you want to pause it you can only do so after it fails to check-in. Click the gear icon next to your snitch and click pause.

How do I unpause a snitch?

Hit the URL again.

Why do I have to hit the URL to start or unpause the snitch?

We want to make sure you have it installed and working correctly to kick off the process.

You should check back in a day or so to make sure it started. We will email you around three days after you create or pause a snitch to make sure you know it hasn't started back up yet.

How can I test that my snitch is working?

Just hit the URL manually then wait. I suggest you do this with an hourly snitch so you don't have to wait forever. To manually hit the URL, either curl it after your cron job and hit return, or copy and paste your snitch into a new browser and hit return. Refresh your DMS dashboard and you should see a green light next to your snitch indicating that it's working.

Why can't I change the interval?

We allow you to change the interval before the first press of the snitch. Once you've pressed it, the interval for that snitch becomes "locked" and cannot be changed. If you want to change the interval, you'll have to create a new snitch with the new interval.

How do I delete a snitch?

Click the gear icon next to your snitch name, then "Delete."

When will I receive emails?

  1. Three days after creating a snitch if it hasn't moved from pending. This is to make sure you know it was never pinged.
  2. If a snitch is paused for more than three days. This is to make sure you know it's still paused.
  3. Around :01 after every hour after a completed period in which the snitch wasn't pinged. For example, if you create an hourly snitch and hit the URL for the first time at 1:55pm and your job hasn't been pinged between 2 and 3pm, you should receive an alert around 3:01pm. If you create an hourly snitch and hit the URL for the first time at 1:10pm and your job hasn't been pinged between 2 and 3pm (the first completed period after the URL was hit), you should receive an alert at 3:01pm. You will receive one email per failed period until it is paused or pinged again.
  4. Per failed period until a snitch is paused or pinged again.
  5. Immediately after a snitch begins reporting again.

Miscellaneous


How long do you keep data?

For hourly snitches we keep fifteen days; for daily, a month; for weekly, six months; for monthly, two years.

Why is everything in UTC?

We tried making everything in the user's timezone but then it led to second-guessing what was going on. Since our audience is developers and sysadmins and we are always thinking in different timezones, we decided to use UTC.

What time is it on your servers?

2014-04-17 03:48:32 UTC

How do I change my account email address?

  1. Head to your account page
  2. Type in your new email address
  3. Confirm your changes by typing in your current password
  4. A confirmation email will be sent to your new email address
  5. You must confirm the email before you can log back in

How often can I check-in with the snitch?

Snitches are limited to fifteen pings per hour. This is so you can hit the URL once every five minutes.

Does it check to see if less than an hour, day, week or month passed between pings?

No, it checks to make sure your process hit the URL at least once each period (UTC). Technically, it could hit the URL at the beginning of one period and the end of the next and show success. We do it this way because things that are set to run every hour will not always finish in the exact same time and so you may get a lot of false failures.


Can't find the answer to your question?

Send us a direct message by clicking on the ? (when logged in) in the bottom right-hand corner of any DMS page. We're always ready to help! For other ways to get in touch and stay connected, visit our Support Page.