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Even if you think that Nagios is too big, its never too big to monitor your production server. And you need not put it on some server. You could just dedicate some system for Nagios and install it there and keep monitoring. It can send you emails for failures as well. There are other monitoring packages like Zabbix as well.
And if you are looking for monitoring certain processes, then you can use bash scripts and include top or ps commands. But you need to be specific for the same.
I do Apologize for not seeing your comment at the bottom. Perhaps a ping shell script from your remote server. Im not sure what kind of server you are using so I can't really give much detail. By pinging your server it will show its online but it won't show you whether is it functioning properly. Sorry I can't help much more.
It would be difficult to write a shell script that would monitor your every process. And if you miss out on something, you could fail miserably. But as said in my previous post, you could use the output from ps and top to see if your required process is up and running and listening. And then you could use cron to schedule the script per your requirement. But as jmc said, unless we know what your requirement is or what server are you running, it would be difficult to help you accurately.