What is website monitoring software?
Website monitoring software repeatedly tests whether your website is available. If it is, the system simply records that everything is okay. If your site doesn’t respond as expected, the system can alert you of the outage.
For instance, when a major website or service such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Salesforce or Slack experiences an outage, people flock to tools like Twitter or Downdetector to confirm and comment. The huge number of people who rely on these sites ensures that significant problems may be noticed not only by site/service users and the full-time teams paid to monitor site/service performance, but also mainstream media sources.
But many website and web service outages go undetected, as they affect only a small number of people who are attempting to access the site or service. If you’re a site owner or manager, this downtime may hurt your credibility with potential customers as well as your site’s search ranking, since a site that is less available may be less likely to be listed as a returned result of a search. Worse, downtime may be the result of a content management system security flaw, a site hack or a poorly performing web hosting provider.
SEE: Scheduled downtime policy (TechRepublic Premium)
How to choose the best website monitoring service
The services below all offer the core ability to monitor your website and alert you to website outages. The three most important factors to consider as you select a website monitoring service are the number of test locations, the frequency of tests and the available alert methods.
First, make sure a vendor maintains test locations that monitor from places that correspond to the locations of the website visitors you seek to serve. Website monitoring services typically send signals to test site availability and page load speeds (i.e., response times) from several locations. Testing access from multiple locations allows a service to detect that your site remains available in most places, but not from a test server based in, say, New York. This sort of limited availability often indicates a local outage or blockage and may not necessarily indicate an issue with your site that you need to address.
Frequency of tests
Second, pay attention to the interval between availability tests. On some plans, the interval may be as much as five minutes between checks, which may be sufficient for many standard informational sites. However, checks also might be as frequent as every 30 seconds. Very frequent checks make a great deal of sense when, for example, you maintain an ecommerce site and rely on its being up and available to make a sale. Upgraded plans often offer more frequent tests.
Third, available alert methods also vary significantly. Nearly every web monitoring service offers alerts via email: When your site is detected as unavailable, the system sends an email to let you know. Often, more urgent notification methods — such as a text via SMS, a phone call or a direct message via Twitter or Slack — might get your attention sooner. With some plans, you may manage a series of escalating alerts to notify sets of people with a series of messages of an outage.
Beyond the three core issues covered above – locations, frequency and alerts – many website monitoring services offer to monitor more details and services. Some services can detect and alert you to page content changes. An unexpected page content change can be a cause for concern, such as a site hack. Additionally, many website monitoring services can alert you of changes to domain name server (DNS) settings, secure sockets layers (SSL) certificates or application programming interface (API) availability.
SEE: Best network monitoring software and tools 2022 (TechRepublic)
Some services and plans include a status page. This page, typically hosted by the vendor (since a site outage would inherently take down a status page at your own site), indicates the current and/or historic availability of your site. A status page may also include the ability to display messages from your team. This way, in the event of an outage, customers can check the status page to learn what progress is being made to restore your site and service to normal functionality.
Pricing of website monitoring services varies as well. Many vendors provide a free option that lets you monitor a small number of sites a few times an hour from a few locations and alerts you to outages by email. Paid plans, which generally start in the $10 to $20 per month range, let you monitor more sites, from more locations, with more frequent checks and more control over the method and number of people alerted when an outage is detected.
Website monitoring tools and services
Better Uptime provides monitoring, incident management and a status page, among other services. Its website proclaims the company is “Monitoring 100,000+ websites every minute.”
The free version of Better Uptime monitors every three minutes and can provide alerts via email, Slack or Microsoft Teams. The Freelancer plan ($24/month) offers 50 monitors, with 30-second checks and adds phone and SMS alerts, as well as the ability to capture screenshots of site errors. Additional upgrades support more monitors and app integrations.
Freshping, from Freshworks, offers availability and response time checks from 10 locations around the world, SSL and DNS monitoring, and a variety of integrations.
The Sprout free edition offers 50 checks at one-minute intervals, five public status pages, 10 users, advanced monitoring and several integrations such as Zapier, Webhooks, Freshstatus, Freshdesk, Freshservice, Slack and Twilio. The Blossom edition ($11/month paid annually) increases checks to 60, allows up to 12 users and offers 10 integrations, SSL monitoring and other configuration options. Other upgrades increase the number of checks, users, data retention time periods and expansion options.
HetrixTools offers uptime and server monitoring services. You can select as many as 12 locations around the world from which monitoring occurs.
The free version provides 15 uptime and 15 server monitors, checked from as many as four locations, with alerts via email. The Professional plan ($9.95/month) includes 30 uptime and 30 server monitors, checked from as many as six locations, with alerts not only via email, but also via Twitter direct messages or SMS (25 credits per month). Other plans increase the number of uptime and server monitors, the number of locations and quantity of SMS credits.
Site24x7, a service by Zoho Corp., offers website, server, cloud, network, application performance and real user monitoring.
A free forever plan allows you to monitor uptime for as many as 50 URLs or servers, with email notifications. The Starter plan ($9/month paid annually) supports monitoring for 10 websites/servers, one synthetic web transaction monitor, one-minute poll frequency, three status pages, five network monitoring interfaces and 50 SMS/voice credits per month. Upgrade options support more sites/servers, more synthetic web transitions and more SMS/voice credits, among other enhancements.
SolarWinds Pingdom offers uptime monitoring, page speed analysis, transaction monitoring and status pages.
The Synthetic Monitoring plan offers 10 uptime checks, one advanced check, page speed monitoring and email and SMS alerting, along with public status pages and reports for $10 per month, paid annually This plan also includes transaction monitoring, which allows you to make sure complex tasks, such as new account registration, search and shopping cart checkout, are working as expected. Upgrades allow for more uptime and advanced checks, and additional real user monitoring capabilities, among other features.
StatusCake handles uptime, page speed, domain, server and SSL certificate monitoring.
The free plan includes 10 uptime monitors, five-minute test intervals, and one each of a page speed monitor, domain monitor and SSL monitor. The Superior plan ($20.41/month) increases the number of uptime monitors to 100, reduces test intervals to one minute, and offers 15 page speed monitors, three server monitors and 50 domain and 50 SSL monitors. Other plans increase the number of monitors and add team tools. Team monitoring solutions allow for multiple users and templated, branded email downtime alerts.
UptimeRobot offers website, SSL, ping, port, cron job and keyword monitors, among other services. It says that it maintains more than 6 million monitors for more than 1.5 million users and companies.
A free plan includes 50 monitors with five-minute checks for basic monitoring. The PRO plan ($15/month) includes 50 monitors with one-minute checks and adds access to SMS/voice call alerts (20 per month) and a status page. Upgrades offer more monitors and high priority support. Integrations include support for Twitter, Slack, Zapier, Telegram and Discord, among others.
Uptimia offers uptime, speed, transaction and real user monitoring options from more than 170 monitoring checkpoints around the world.
The Starter plan ($9/month) includes 10 uptime checks, one-minute intervals, one advanced check, website speed monitoring at five-minute intervals, and real user monitoring for one website with up to 150,000 pageviews. The Standard plan ($29/month) increases uptime checks to 50, advanced checks to five, adjusts website speed monitoring to one-minute intervals, supports real user monitoring for five websites with up to 750,000 pageviews and adds support for up to five users. Other plans increase checks and monitoring limits for more sites and traffic.
Part of ITRS Group, Uptrends offers website, uptime, application, web performance and API monitoring. More than 30,000 users rely on its monitoring service. Uptime monitoring uses more than 225 checkpoints around the world.
A free account offers monitoring and email alerts for one site. The Starter plan ($16.21/month) includes 10 uptime monitors, a set of preselected checkpoints, a public status page, alert escalation configuration, and SMS, email and mobile app alerts. Upgrade options add support for more users, chosen checkpoints, API monitoring and error screenshots, among other items.
WebGazer.io lets you monitor websites and API endpoints with what it calls gazers, as well as send and monitor HTTP requests with what it terms pulses.
A free version can track one gazer and one pulse and send email alerts. The Basic plan ($19/month) expands to include up to 15 gazers and 10 pulses and adds Slack, Webhook, phone and SMS alerts. Additional upgrades offer more gazers and pulses, performance monitoring, status pages and additional user accounts, among other features. The site displays a summary of what the service has “done in the last 24 hours” (e.g., 515,087 gazes done, 119 incidents caught, and 268 notifications dispatched).
If you have a website, make sure to monitor uptime
Any of the above website uptime monitors will let you know when your website becomes unavailable. That information can help you take steps to improve performance either with site changes or something as simple as an upgrade to a higher performance hosting plan. Consistent outages might prompt you to seek an alternative web hosting service.
Ultimately, website downtime is like a blocked entrance to a building: It prevents access, indicates that there’s an issue and, ultimately, prompts people to go elsewhere. If you maintain a website, select and use one of the above tools to make sure you’re the first to know when your site becomes unavailable.