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Who's monitoring your web site?

Ever spent time on getting together a marketing campaign, paying your $$, launching it - then only to find that your web site has crashed while you slept?  Or perhaps your email server has been down for hours, preventing your clients from communicating with you?

It's frustrating and can be very, very costly as it can cause irreparable damage to the opinions of the new clients or partners you were trying to impress.

Perhaps you've spent hours preparing your pages for search engine spidering, only to find that your web site was unavailable as the spider attempted to index. This can result in losing precious search engine rankings.

Let's take it from the prospective client/partners viewpoint:

They go to visit your web site and it's not available because the server has crashed. Do they wait around for it to come back online again or contact you to let you know? In most cases - nope; they go straight to your competitor.

Web site monitoring - try a free trial
Free web site monitoring

WatchMouse - Increase your web site uptime & protect your ecommerce investment! Receive instant notification via e-mail, SMS or IM if your site becomes unavailable! WatchMouse provides a free basic service and several other plans for more complex and frequent site monitoring.

It's late at night and you've just finished publishing up your company's latest offerings. The next morning when you start running your checks, you notice that your web site has been unavailable for the last 8-12 hours due to a publishing error. How are you going to explain this to your boss? How many clients have you lost during that time?

Every day around the world, many sales and clients are lost through web server downtime or email services errors. While this benefits some online businesses as they may gain sales through a competitor's site being unavailable, do you want to be the one losing money?

Web Site Monitoring - a wise strategy

A good site monitoring service will minimize your downtime by sending instant notifications anytime a problem is detected. Through early intervention, restoration of services can be more rapid.

But it shouldn't just stop at your web site. Your online business is more than just the home page.  What if your email systems or FTP services are having problems? You may be losing client enquiries, support requests or denying your clients access to their accounts.

For maximum effectiveness, you'll need a service with enough flexibility that can cover at least these aspects:

HTTP Check your standard pages for a valid response code and that no unauthorized changes have been made. Service should monitor multiple pages
HTTPS Check your HTTPS service (secure pages if you have them)
PING Ping your web site server by name or IP address.
SMTP Establish a connection with your SMTP server (mail outgoing)
POP3 POP3 server monitoring (incoming mail) 
FTP Monitor your FTP server with username and password to test file retrieval

You'll also need to use a service that can communicate any problems to you in a variety of ways. It's not much good to you if the web site monitoring service you are using only sends alerts via email - what happens if your away from your computer?

A good web site monitoring service will provide alerts via the following means:

  • cell phone
  • email
  • IM (Messenger service such as ICQ)

Web site monitoring frequency

Another point to bear in mind when choosing a monitoring service is monitoring frequency. There are many very cheap services out there that only ping your home page once an hour. The question is, how many sales and enquiries could you lose in an hour?  The more frequent your site is monitored, the better. This is especially the case if the problem is at your hosting service level and is complex. The faster you can inform your web host, the faster they can fix the problem.

Multiple geolocation monitoring

There's no point in utilizing a monitoring service that only have servers checking your site from Africa :). Find a service that will check your site from multiple points around the globe - especially from where your target market originates. This is *very* important as even though your site may be operating correctly, if there's a network error along the path to your server, you may never know. 

For example, let's say that your site is located in the USA - and you are as well. it's not unheard of for a site to be viewable by USA users, but not by visitors from the UK due to ISP communication errors between the USA and UK.

Keeping web hosting companies honest

Many web hosting services guarantee you 99.9% uptime or better. How will you know if they are living up to this guarantee without some form of external monitoring? 

A good site monitoring service will not only report when your site becomes unavailable, but will also generate and archive reports that can be used when making a claim for credit with your web host.

Ease of installation & support

In most cases, implementing web site monitoring services only takes a few minutes and there is usually nothing needed to be installed on your site.  Before spending any money, be sure to test out the client support service - ask a few pre-sales questions, even if they are only simple ones to help gauge the company's own claims of how good they are! Poor customer support usually translates to a poor service overall.

Monitoring service recommendation - free trial

WatchMouse Site Monitoring offers a wide range of monitoring plans, including a totally free plan. I've communicated extensively with the Watchmouse team and I have found them to be very committed to providing a quality product and customer service. 

I'm currently trialing the WatchMouse Platinum Plan and I must say that I'm very impressed by the administrative interfaces - intuitive, flexible and very easy to use. Any errors that are reported are also accompanied by an explanation of what the error means - very useful when troubleshooting.

WatchMouse not only monitors the services I mentioned, but also: connect , match, imap ,telnet, dnsa and dnsns. You can even configure it to monitor specific scripts on your site. 

Before finally settling on any particular monitoring service, I recommend you give WatchMouse a whirl - take advantage of their free plan that will give you a good idea as to whether their services will suit your needs.

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast.net
http://www.tamingthebeast.net
Tutorials, web content, tools and software
Web Marketing, eCommerce & Internet solutions. 
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