Many clients often ask how to go about monitoring how available their website is, and their are many useful tools online for doing just that. If you’re an online business your profit line depends on how available your website is to your audience, and if you are a blogger like moi- well then you may want to know just how accurate that 99.9% uptime statement from your web host really is. I received an email through from Michael @ Codefixer today, letting me know he was experiencing problems with my blog, so the following post is going to summarise some of the better free monitoring tools I found on my pursuits of website happiness.
The first – basicstate.com offers an extremely easy way to monitor your site – and whilst the design of their own site leaves much to be desired, (they are still stuck in the 90’s with that dark background) the service itself is free to use and reliable. Once you are logged in you are presented with an account management page that allows you to add (numerous) new sites to your account. I managed to successfully add 5 sites to the system, but I the number of websites you can monitor is limitless. The reports generated from Basic State arrive in your email program on a daily basis, and there are also uptime monitoring graphs available once you login to the system. The uptime monitoring service monitors http and https services every 15 minutes for unlimited number of sites. The summary below shows what arrives in your inbox. The service is however limit to just HTTP (and HTTPS) requests i.e. just monitors web pages.
DAILY UPTIME AND PERFORMANCE SUMMARY
date uptime dns connect request ttfb ttlb
2008-05-30 100.00 0.010 0.218 0.218 0.568 0.000
minimum 100.00 0.010 0.218 0.218 0.568 0.000
maximum 100.00 0.010 0.218 0.218 0.568 0.000
average 100.00 0.010 0.218 0.218 0.568 0.000
ServiceUptime offers two services – the free and premium versions of its uptime monitoring service. They do also give access to a number of alternative ports to monitor. For example if you wish to detect when your mail server goes down – no problem. Service uptime can monitor smtp, imap and pop servers. They also allow checking of links, (extremely useful for detecting if a backlink to your site remains in place), https (for secure pages), dns, mysql or any tcp or ssl port that you wish to specify – all for free. The Free account monitors 1 service from 4 monitoring location at the frequency of 30 or 60 minutes with email alerts.
Montastic offers a friendly little service, with a few added features such as RSS feeds of website availability and Ajax postbacks on its own site. The service is simple to find your way around – in fact im not even going to post the signup URL on this one, as it is on the home page. There is a maximum number of servers that you can monitor (100) but this is just a small stipulation. Monitoring is performed every 10 minutes at a minimum. They do also try to do a bit of email marketing to their users, so watch out for that in the signup process.
To start with – brilliant domain, going with that olde del.icio.us web 2.0 feel. The site also doesn’t disappoint visually. As per serviceuptime, mon.itor.us offers some alternative reports and ports to monitor, including but not limited to https, ftp, sip, any TCP, any UDP, (Mail servers IMAP, SMTP and POP) and DNS. The interface is similar to pageflakes, allowing you to add “modules of monitoring” which is cool. They too offer RSS feeds of monitoring stats ,simply add your site, and the RSS module which will give you a link to paste into your feed reader.
ServerMojo checks your site for free every 15 minutes. They too are not limited solely to the HTTP protocol, and can monitor dns, mysql and more. They also have pulled a smart move in getting in on the recent Twitter crazy going on at the moment, which sets their service apart a bit. For long periods of downtime, you can setup a twitter account for servermojo to post to. They also offer Instant messaging via Jabber.
Host Tracker is a commercial tracking website. They sucked me in as they do offer a free 30 day trial, so you have been warned. We’ve successfully used HostTracker to ping client websites from around the world to determine if the problem is with their own broadband connection – or if there genuinely is a problem with the site. This (free) functionality alone is worth taking a look at the next time a client tells you that their website is off line.
Instead of monitoring a site from a cluster of machines in one place, host tracker is distributed which gives it the accuracy. If you are on a mission critical site, I’d recommend going for a paid solution such as this rather than some of the free alternatives listed above as they are more likely to pick up failures.