Website Monitoring Services

July 12, 2009

Reviews, Technology

Following the migration of a number of my websites from physical servers to virtualised hosting, many of the sites experienced worrying outages.  With no sense of the irregularity or duration of these outages (only the emotion-heavy complaints from clients), I went in search of a decent web server monitoring service that could shed some light on the actual downtime.

About six online services were extensively trialled, from which I subscribed to three premium/paid packages.  The following is an overview of my impressions of these services, the top 3 of which delivered reliable monitoring:

Overview of Top 3

overview-websitemonitoringThe table embedded to the right (or PDF version) provides an overview of features and prices based on monitoring of two sites at 5 minute intervals and one at a 1 minute interval.  Wormly stands out in terms of value by the inclusion of free 1 minute sensors, however, generally, the user-pay model seems to work well in all cases.

All services offer varying email alternate details so that, for example, tech level contacts receive a higher granularity of report and frequency, than say business managers.  Each of the services offers a ‘expected string’ and response code option, however, none of these seems to work as expected – for this evaluation and simple ‘check for response code 200’ (found) was employed.

Whilst the focus of my trial was uptime, these services also provide useful additional features such as performance monitoring, email server availability and pingability (ahem).

Each of the above is explained in further detail below:

Wormly

This is a very good service with intelligent interfaces in both the web control panel and simple email reports.  Surprisingly, subject lines and sender email addresses are an important point of differentiation amongst the top 3 products – a simple sender ID and summary subject line is of high value in terms of a quick understanding of the problem server, the nature of the issue, the status and action that needs to be taken.

wormly-hosts wormly-graphs wormly-email

It’s likely that Wormly will be our ‘Editors Choice’.

In short: simple, yet cable

fourstar

Site24x7

This service seems to be the most comprehensive, however, when stacked up against Wormly, it loses out slightly due to cost-blowouts arising from high frequency checks. The email reports are superb. The interface allows nomination of specific and additional monitoring locations (say, Australia and London – as shown below) whilst the “Status View” provides an informative snapshot of performance over a given period.

site24x7-statusviewsite24x7-graphicalviewsite24x7-email

Notably, Site24x7 was the only company to respond when a preview of this comparison was emailed to all companies.  This is not to say that the others were not interested in feedback, however, the support experience with Site24x7 was positive.

Pros: Good service; excellent email reports; good support

fourstar

Pingability

A good service, let down by a below average interface, fairly unrefined emails reports and confusing server check terminology options. If you chose to go with Pingability, you won’t go far wrong, however, you may find the service has a somewhat steep learning curve.  With a consolidated glossary, simplified interface and a review of email reporting, this service could easily rank with Wormly and Site24x7.

pingability_controlpanelpingability_servercheckdetailspingability_webpagecheckreport

Cons: no raw data export; an ‘unrefined’ experience

threestar

Other services

Alteryx is a free service (with some premium options, such as Twitter alerts) which was brought to my attention by Gigaom.  Whilst it had some nice options (like emailing your webservice provider automatically) and easy to setup, it’s accuracy was woeful:- about 90 of the first 95 checks were false positives, all of which were on the second and third monitored sites suggesting to me that, along with some cues from the layout and interface, the service is more of an alpha than a “beta”.

Siteuptime might be a worthwhile service, however access to a decent set of features for evaluation let it down.  What probably wont change is the poor subject line information such as the over-simplistic “DOWN” and “OK” (without any indication of the website in question). The interface too was tired and tricky to navigate.

XPL’s service didn’t work at all and appears only to be a hook for their other services. Don’t waste your time.

Update 10th July: Pingdom wasn’t included in the round-up but gets some positive vibes from Read Write Web

Update 14th July: After trawling our server logs, it was discovered that Wormly, unlike Site24x7 and Pingabilty, does not identify their crawler/robot with a user-agent string (noted in the CS-User-Agent field in IIS logs).  This makes the exclusion of legitimate traffic from robot traffic difficult and has been raised with Wormly Support.

Update 15th July: Wormly Support replies: “You can define the user agent string to be whatever you’d like in the HTTP sensor setting” – [if that’s what I think it is] this will prove a very nice feature – because it allows you to customise (or whitelabel) the service name. As the reply suggests “User Agent” strings are set on a per sensor basis, so if you’re account is monitoring say ten clients’ servers, your User Agent could be modified to read “Acme Websites Monitoring Robot”.

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About Justin Moss

An information and engineering technologist. Unabashedly opinionated, open-minded and an oft overthinker. Born Sydney Australia, home of the 'Southerly Buster'

View all posts by Justin Moss

26 Responses to “Website Monitoring Services”

  1. Ann Says:

    Thanks for the reviews. Just to add another into the realm – AlertFox takes a different approach by focusing on transaction monitoring: It can not only notify you when your site is down, but it also alerts you when it detects glitches in the application code, and database or finds that problems arise with bugs in Ajax, Flash or Silverlight front-end applets.

    You may want to consider it for future reviews.

  2. Sylvain Says:

    Thanks for these reviews. They are very informative.

    The Twitter alert Alertyx offers is interesting. I think more tools should offer this option as more people are addicted to social networking in general, and to Twitter more specifically these days.

  3. Hovhannes Avoyan Says:

    Also take a look at http://portal.monitis.com – I think it provides the most options than other products, including twitter notifications, also server resource monitoring and more.

  4. rajesh Says:

    http://100pulse.com gives 5minutes free monitoring. Also has option notification for multiple email account, user defined mail template. Schedule maintenance options and many other features.

  5. spenser Says:

    Hi Justin,

    I read your post at sitepoint. Perhaps you might like basicstate.com Please feel free to drop by for a spin.

  6. Aaron Says:

    Nice list Justin. Be sure to compare with ezwebsitemonitoring.com as well, in beta right now so its free and checks are done every 5 minutes. Worth checking out.

  7. Video Hosting Says:

    A fantastic read….very literate and informative. Many thanks….what theme is this you are using and also, where is your RSS button ?

  8. Justin Moss Says:

    Thank you for the comments. The themes is a modified version of Fresh News. The RSS feed icon is displayed at then end of the browser address bar and also the menu bar.

  9. free website advertising Says:

    Really informative stuff, thanks.

  10. Kenta Linsson Says:

    I Like wordpress but having some problems with the newest version.

  11. Leta Hobbs Says:

    Great looking Blog! Found it through Google. Just as an FYI, it didn’t display right when I opened it in the Opera Internet Browser.

  12. monitorowanie stron Says:

    Well site 24 is best for me, i will check it!

  13. AXSolutions Says:

    Personally, I’ve been using and very satisfied with AlertX.com. They have a free plan and their pay subscriptions are some of the most affordable I can find. The tools arent as feature rich as some of these commercial services but it does what I need it to and I operate on a budget. Try it free!

  14. Erin Bolyard Says:

    Hi, cool web site, just wondering what spam blocker system you use for filtering out junk websites because I have been hit by so many spammers on my site.

  15. Justin Moss Says:

    Hi Erin, thanks for the post. WordPress uses Akismet plugin out of the box. I see your site has been blocked for “violation of terms” – is that related to your spam problem? Perhaps. All the best with that. All the best, Justin

  16. Justin Moss Says:

    Hi AXSolutions, I see from your email that you are AlertX (as opposed to using it “personally”). So if you’re browsing these comment, note that the above recommendation is a biased one. More than happy for people to pimp their own products, just as long as they are up front about it. Take care, Justin

  17. Thoughts on Today Says:

    totally bookmarking this, really cool

  18. Janice Says:

    Great blog and info. Never thought about a monitoring service, until now. 🙂

  19. Norberto Pitta Says:

    A lot of the no charge website monitoring companies are just as good if not even better than a number of the paid monitoring solutions.

  20. Monica Says:

    Recently I found a site http://www.webappmonitor.in.

    Unlike other application monitoring software or management products and services that perform superficial tests on static pages, WebAppMonitor initiates actual user transactions, navigates the applications just as a customer would, measures everything that happens and then report on service level objectives, notifying you via email and SMS in case certain thresholds are breached. By driving end-to-end transactions, WebAppMonitor exercises all levels of multi-tier applications, detecting bottlenecks that other management tools and monitoring software might miss.

  21. Peter Ulsh Says:

    Why don’t you do it on your own,
    rather than using services like pingdom or alertfox?

  22. Sarah Ashwood Says:

    Great post – I’m constantly amazed at how many people spend months designing and building their websites, an age choosing their hosting service – but then seem to completely forget that site maintenance and ensuring uptime is just as important. After all if your website goes down you can sell to anyone, and any customer who comes to your site when it’s down surely won’t give you a second chance. People also forget that if the search engines repeatedly find your site down when they come crawling this will impact on your rankings!

    Given there are so many free web-monitoring services I don’t see any excuse for not using one. The above list is good – I’d also add statuscake.com – which is free but checks up-time every 5 mins and allows you to add unlimited websites to monitor. Pingdom also work a look.

  23. Joe B Says:

    Nice reviews – would also throw StatusCake.com – http://www.statuscake.com into the mix as it’s a free service that offers the same features as many of the expensive services. Also nice that it allows you to monitor unlimited websites. You can get downtime or performance alerts by email, Twitter, Skype or SMS text message.

  24. James Says:

    Very useful info. I would suggest adding GotSiteMonitor.com to the list. It gives user 5 free website monitors with 5-minute monitoring interval from multiple monitoring locations, which is quite sufficient for most users.

  25. Administrator Says:

    Thanks for the contribution James

  26. pingmysite Says:

    http://www.pingmy.site offer an alternative website monitoring platform for you at only $0.99/mo with unlimited notification alert.

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