Announcing Vigilance: An Extensible Dead Man's Switch System

September 17, 2013

Introducing Vigilance

Vigilance is a dead man’s switch system written in Haskell. The idea is that you register periodical tasks that you’ve configured elsewhere such as:

  • Backups
  • Periodical billing
  • Scripts that you run periodically

You tell vigilance an upper bound of how often the task should run via a config file. You tell vigilance how to contact you if this doesn’t happen (currently HTTP POST and emails). The task can check in to vigilance with either the vigilance executable or via a REST API. If it doesn’t, check in, you will be notified and vigilance will hold off on other notifications until your task is back online, checking in again.

I created vigilance after a couple of incidents in which I discovered that backups on my production systems or my development box had not been running. I wanted a way to set a failsafe so that I could at least be alerted when something like this happens.

Check it out on github for the full documentation. Download vigilance via cabal install vigilance or via hackage.


Say I have daily backups that run on my server. I want to be notified if the server goes more than 36 hours without completing a backup.

First, I install vigilance from cabal:

cabal update && cabal install vigilance

This provides 2 executables, vigilance and vigilance-server. You can configure the build ot not include the server on client boxes for a faster install with fewer dependencies. vigilance-server will handle the state of your watches, notifications, etc. vigilance is what you will use to manage your watches and do check-ins.

Let’s write a config file to ~/.vigilance/server.conf (the default location):

# ~/.vigilance/server.conf
vigilance {
  port = 9999
  watches {
    backups {
      interval = [36, "hours"]
      notifications = [
        ["email", ""],
        ["email", ""],
        ["http", ""]

Vigilance tries its best to have reasonable defaults for its configuration. All state data and logs will be stored in a .vigilance directory in your user’s home directory. Fire up your server by running:


Since we’re using a non-standard port for our client, let’s write a config at ~/.vigilance/client.conf

vigilance {
  host = "localhost"
  port = 9999

Your crontab would look something like this:

@daily && vigilance checkin backups.

If blows up, 2 emails will be fired off and an HTTP post of the failure will be posted to your callback URL.

Adding or removing watches is as simple as editing the server.conf file and sending a HUP signal to the vigilance-server process:

kill -HUP pid_of_vigilance_server

If you have any ideas on more notifiers you’d like to see added, please file an issue on the github issue tracker.