It seems like more and more businesses are relying on their website to provide the first point of contact with their client base. Business in the e-commerce field as even more reliant on their website and need to ensure that it is constantly working as expected. For these companies, it’s not just a matter of their site being up, they need it to perform acceptably for any client using any devices and located anywhere. This is where website monitoring tools can come it handy. The problem is that this is a large, very large, market with literally hundreds of vendors competing. This makes picking the best tool a rather difficult endeavour. We’ve done some of the hard work for you and we’re glad to review some of the best tools for monitoring websites.
Before we dig into the core of the subject and review the best website monitoring tools, we’ll start off with discussing website monitoring. We’ll try to better define what it is and why it is so important. We’ll also discuss the consequences of website downtime or poor performance. After all, avoiding these consequences is the main reason for putting monitoring in place.
Anyone who’s been a network administrator for any length of time knows the primordial importance of monitoring. We simply can’t see everything—especially things that can’t be seen with the naked eye—and we need tools to help keep a watchful eye on things. This is why there are so many bandwidth monitoring tools or application performance monitoring tools.
Websites are no different, they too, need to be monitored. Perhaps even more so that other components. After all, the website is often the first contact a client has with an organization and since you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you want that first experience to be as good as can be.
There are several things one may want to monitor on a website. First and foremost, you want the site to respond. This is the most elementary type of monitoring one can think of. But it’s often not enough to just respond. You want your web pages—especially your homepage—to load quickly. Clients won’t wait for much more than 30 seconds before they abandon your site and move to your competitor’s. Monitoring for website performance is the second type of web monitoring.
Then there all many more types of monitoring. Some organizations, for example, will want a monitoring tool that can verify the complete operation of a complex website. They may want to test a complete online sale cycle. Testing that the website content has not been altered is also relatively frequent. We’ve all heard of hacks where corporate sites had seen their contents changed to something else or DNS hacks where sites were redirected to some malicious entity.
No matter why you want to monitor websites or what you want to monitor, you need to use the proper tool for the job. Fortunately, there are tools out there that will perform each type of monitoring we just talked about. Some will even monitor more than that. The best advice we can give anyone looking for the best tool to monitor websites is to first make a list of what it is they want to monitor. Doing so will make the selection process much easier
The Consequences Of Website Downtime Or Poor Performance
When your website is down, every second counts. Internet top retailer Amazon experienced several outages or performance degradation episodes over the years. In March 2016, the site went down for about 20 minutes. Independent website Internet Retailer estimates that such a 20-minute outage cost Amazon about $3.75 million. This figure is just an estimate but you can easily see how things can quickly add up. Of course, your organization may not be Amazon and you may think that downtime is not that expensive. You may be particularly tempted to think so if you don’t run e-commerce on your site. But the truth is that there are several ways that downtime can affect you.
According to research from International Data Corporation (IDC), the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets, among the Fortune 1000 companies, the average total cost of unplanned application downtime per year is $1.25 billion to $2.5 billion. Another survey, from Siemens Building Technologies, shows that 33% of organizations don’t even know the impact of one day of downtime on their business.
Here is a simple formula you can use to calculate how much money you could lose if your website went down:
Yearly Revenue / Business Hours x Website Impact on Sales %
This formula is good for any organization, not just e-commerce. If you are solely an online retailer or e-commerce site, that impact percentage could very well be close to 100%. As we’ve already stated: every second counts!
It takes a lifetime to build a reputation but only a few minutes to lose it. Whenever a website is down, what is the very first thing people do? They jump on their favourite social media platform and immediately voice their frustrations. This can be very damaging to your brand’s reputation. You wouldn’t want potential new customers to first hear of your company by reading complaints about your unresponsive website.
When that Amazon outage happened back in 2016, thousands of Twitter users started complaining about it. Some of them had a large number of followers who, in turn, retweeted the alert. It’s almost impossible to tell exactly but it’s easy to imagine that hundreds of thousands of Twitter users learned about the site being down. As much as social media can be an effective marketing tool for companies and brands today, It is a double-edged sword that can quickly turn against you. There is nowhere to hide on the Internet.
You most likely don’t want to lose those hard-earned customers of yours. But if your website goes down, it can easily spell disaster. This is especially true for SaaS companies with application logins. Customers only have so much patience before they might start thinking about switching to a different vendor. And this is even worse for e-commerce sites. A customer might simply switch to your competitor and do their shopping there instead. Make no mistake. It is very important to maintain good uptime and optimal performance to keep your customers happy.
The Best Website Monitoring Tools
There are mainly two types of website monitoring tools. The first type is locally installed and will run on a server locally set up on your premises. These types of tools can usually several operational parameters that would otherwise be missed. However, they can’t give you an Internet perspective.
The other type of tool is on the SaaS model and runs off the cloud. It will test your website’s status, performance, or operation from the Internet, thereby testing the whole chain rather that just the web server. While these tools can’t access parameters such as processor load of available memory, the test everything including name resolution, firewalling, load balancing, or any component located between the web server and the end user.
Our list contains mostly tools of the second category. There’s a simple reason to that. These tools are way more popular and for one locally installed website monitoring tool, there are probably one hundred cloud-based ones.
Our first tool is from SolarWinds, one of the best-known name on the network administration tools market. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is consistently scoring among the to network bandwidth monitoring tools. SolarWinds is also famous for its free tools. They are simpler tools designed to address specific tasks of network administrators.
When it comes to website monitoring, SolarWinds’ tool is called the Web Performance Monitor. This is a very complete website monitoring package aimed at monitoring not just websites but also web services and SaaS application performance. Without relying on third-party software, This product can proactively identify slow web services which could be impacting user experience.
To circumvent the fact that this is a locally-run tool and to give its test an Internet perspective such as the one you’d get from a cloud-based tool, you can deploy transaction players to Amazon EC2, and track user experience from multiple locations.
Reporting is also one of the SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor’s strengths. The tool will let you generate out-of-the-box or custom website performance reports which can include page load speeds, transaction health, website availability, etc.
The SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor is licensed by the number of web application usage scenarios (transactions) and the number of locations to monitor from. (transactions X locations = license size). Prices start at $1 995 for up to 5 scenarios x locations and go up from there. If you’d want to try this great tool before buying it, a free 30-day trial is available from the SolarWinds website.
Pingdom is probably one of the most used and best-known of all the different cloud-based website monitoring tools on the market. This SaaS offering from SolarWinds is used by several major players such as Apple, Pinterest, HP, Amazon, Google, and Dell. The service is known to be extremely reliable and it has a long history of providing uptime notifications to clients around the globe.
The Pingdom monitoring network is comprised of over sixty monitoring locations from where your website is checked. In order to filter out false alerts, you can opt double check and raise alerts only on the second fail. The frequency of the website tests can be as high as every minute. Alerts can be transmitted via email or SMS. An important feature of the service which sets it apart from many competing players is its page speed monitoring. The service can not only monitor uptime, but it can also monitor if something suddenly brings your website to a crawl. The service also provides a public status page so you can show off your results.
Pingdom doesn’t offer a free plan but it is reasonably priced, starting at $14.95/month for up to ten checks at 1-minute intervals. Considering the advanced features offered by the service, it’s no surprise that a free plan is not available. And if you’d like to test the service, a free 14-day trial is available.
Next on our list is Monitis. It is a cloud-based, all-in-one monitoring platform and it has been around since 2006. The versatile service is used by clients like Visa, Puma, and Siemens. The monitoring one can do with Monitis is not limited to websites. In addition, it can handle, network, cloud, server, application, and custom monitoring, all managed and controlled from a unified dashboard.
Monitis has over thirty monitoring locations across the planet from where it can monitor your website’s uptime. The service will let you use multiple protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, PING, DNS, TCP, UDP, ICMP, SMTP, POP3, and IMAP. This powerful and flexible service features 1-minute interval checks and 2 years of a historical archive. Such a long archive can turn out to be pretty useful when it comes to reporting. This tool also provides instant failure alerts via email or SMS and detailed level reporting.
Monitis offers some advanced monitoring features such as monitoring for a full page load. This ensures that each element (image, script, CSS, etc.) loads correctly. The tool can also synthesize complete transactions and validate that they can be completed.
Monitis’ pricing structure is rather complex due to the many available possibilities. In a nutshell, it is based on the type and number of monitors, the frequency of the checks and the number of locations to check from. Fortunately, the service’s website has an easy to use calculator where you can pick your options and instantly see your monthly and yearly pricing. You can also take Monitis for a full-featured test drive with a 15-day free trial.
Also in operation since around 2006, Site24x7 is one of the oldest website monitoring tools we have mentioned. The service is now owned by Zoho and used by clients such as Groupon, Getty Images, Xerox, and Harley-Davidson. Going beyond website monitoring, the service also offers server monitoring and application monitoring. Monitoring can be done from over 50 different worldwide locations which you can choose.
As for the actual monitoring, Site24x7 supports a slew of protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, REST API, DNS, Ping, TCP, FTP, POP, IMAP, and SMTP. It can also integrate with other popular services like Pager Duty and Zapier for notifications. All plans feature a 1-minute checking interval and they also all include false alert protection by rechecking from 3 additional locations.
Site24x7 also has transaction testing. You can record and then simulate multi-step user interactions in a real browser. This can be useful not only for monitoring but also for optimizing login forms, shopping carts and other applications.
Site24x7 offers several pricing plans which start at just $9/month when paid annually. This Starter plan includes the monitoring of ten websites and one synthetic transaction. Other plans are available at prices ranging from $35/month to $225/month. A free 30-day trial is also available.
Uptrends, another cloud-based service, offers both website monitoring and server monitoring. The company has been around since 2007 and has worked with clients such as DHL, eBay, PBS, Schiesser, and Episerver. The main distinguishing feature of this service, the one that is bound to strike you the minute you start using it is its impressive dashboards. If you care for the look of your website monitoring tool, this may be the one.
But good looks are not enough. Fortunately, Uptrends also delivers on functionality. In particular, the service uses a technology it refers to as “real browser monitoring”. This means that it uses a real web browser to perform its tests, enabling it to get a feel of a real user’s experience. It features over 200 website monitoring locations around the globe. This is more than most competitors. The service also lets you choose between 1 to 60 minutes interval checks. Additional features such as SSL certificate monitoring and real browser monitoring which include things like waterfall reports, mobile website monitoring, and transaction screenshots are available, as is third-party content monitoring.
Basic plans vary from $11.33/month to $158.61/month, depending on the number of included monitors and users. Advanced plans are also available at $27.14/month to $49.10/month which include multi-browser monitoring and transaction simulation. If you want to test-drive the service, a free 30-day trial is also available.
6. Uptime Robot
Last on our list is another immensely popular cloud-based monitoring service called Uptime Robot. Dating back to 2010, it might not be as old as our other top monitoring services but it can’t be called a newbie either. It is used by Expedia, Nginx, Fandango, among others. The company is recognized for providing a great service when it comes to website monitoring.
Uptime Robot features 12 different monitoring locations in Germany, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Singapore, Ireland, and the United States. While it is less than other services, it might very well be all you need. If most of your clients are in Brazil, you wouldn’t care about monitoring from Peru anyways. The service monitors your website every 5 minutes and lets you know if your sites are down based on the response from your website’s headers. Among the other major features of Uptime Robot, the service has alerts with advanced notifications, statistics, configurable maintenance windows, and public status pages.
Uptime Robot offers a very generous free plan which includes 50 monitors on 5-minute intervals and 2 months of logs. There are also paid plans starting at $5.50/month which can allow more monitors—up to 20 000 at $649/month—and feature advanced notifications, 1-minute monitoring intervals, and SMS alerting credits. Given the available free plan, no other trial plan is offered.