Nagios is an extremely versatile and complex tool that has extremely flexible configuration. The goal of this book is to show you all of the various options in Nagios and includes chapters on very specific special monitoring situations such as Oracle and Windows servers.
This book is targeted at a technical audience, reads mostly like the official reference manuals with a more explanatory text. There are some excellent short chapters like Chapter 5 “Service Checks and How They Are Performed” is an short chapter that provides a high level overview of how the testing in Nagios is done.
To get the most value out of this book either use it as a reference or read the entire book and try to implement it from cover to cover. I found that the biggest problem I had with this and other Nagios how-to texts is that they tended to err on the side of a fully configured Nagios systems, instead of a starter system that you can build upon to eventually reach a more fully configured system.
There are a number of starter guides for Nagios, I used Jim Perrin's writeup at: http://cognitive-dissonance.org/wiki/index.php?page=Configuring+Nagios
There is also a good guide to setting up Nagios on Centos 4.x at: http://wiki.centos.org/Nagios_on_CentOS_4.x
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