In this post, I will talk about the need to monitor the uptime of your website. I also discuss 5 tools for monitoring website performance, such as Hetrix Tools and Uptime Robot. These services monitor the uptime of websites and send alerts via SMS, email or slack when there is downtime. Read on!
Included in this blog post
Website monitoring services
I don’t need to monitor uptime of my website
Don’t let the heading carry you away. I merely wrote a myth, or an act of bravado, or a casual response from many people when you ask them,
“How do you track that your website is online and accessible ?”
The reply I have often heard goes something like this. No surprises for guessing, that was my reply merely three years ago!
“I host my website at web host X, and I have subscribed to their top notch Plan Y. They guarantee me 99.xxxx percent uptime, so I do not have to worry.-Amar Vyas, October 2017
Epiphany After a Pitch
In mid-November 2017, I was pitching our latest podcast, Fairytales of India, to a brand. We (i.e. gaatha story, my podcasting venture) were almost on cruise control- there was a great fit between the brand and our show. Everything went well, till someone asked us to take them to our podcast website. Needless to say, the website was not accessible. We left with an egg on our face, and after much effort, could with a follow up meeting with the brand.
We learnt later that the server had experienced some issues an hour before we were to start the pitch. Had we known before the meeting that the website was down, we could have taken some corrective measures.
Why do websites go “Down” ?
There are a variety of reasons why your website can stop loading, or connecting. For example:
a. Server Issues: The server on which the site is hosted could stop working. It could be because of power failure in the datacenter, a disk failure, or network connectivity issue. Or some other reason.
b. Issues are Web Host’s side: The web host may experience some problem with their setup. In a shared hosting environment, this is often a cause. Recently, Blogger.in domain was not renewed by Google in time, and thousands of sites that used this service could not load.
c. Problems with your content management system (CMS): An update to the content management system might ‘break’ things. Or a database error or an errant plugin in case of CMS like WordPress or Joomla.
Lesson Learnt : Invest in Website Uptime Monitoring
We began looking for ways to monitor uptime of websites.
The need for a website monitoring tool was reinforced when I visited the farmhouse of Author and speaker, Kiruba Shankar near Chennai. During one of our discussions, one of the guests (Karthik) received a test message (sms alert) that their client/s website had gone down. It took a series of phone calls, opening of laptops and me volunteering to share my mobile phon’e hotspot to resolve the issue. After the mini crisis was over, I asked Karthik the website monitoring service he used.
Long story short, it was a premium service, whose base plan started at dozens of US Dollars a month. As a 18 month old startup, we were not in a position to make such an investment. Therefore, the search for a more cost effective alternative began.
Thankfully that the situation is much better now. We still operate frugally, but invest in tools that are really the top of the line- including a subscription for Gridpane for managing the VPSes on which this blog and other sites are hosted.)
Fast Forward 2019
We did subscribe to a couple of website alerts/ monitoring systems, and also opted for the ‘always on’ feature in Cloudflare. It, however, gives a false sense of security.
Website Monitoring Services
In this section, we will take a look at five services that offer website monitoring, and send alerts to you via SMS or email. The methods they use include ping, http/s, UDP, and others.
Freshping is a website monitoring service offered by the folks at Freshdesk. I learnt about them by accident- I was searching for some other information, when the search engine threw up Freshping in the results.
In the base (free) plan, you can set up a maximum of 50 alerts. Then, there is a Pay-As-You-Go pricing. Setting up the account is quite simple – enter your email Id, and name, and you are good to go! You do have to confirm your email address and set a password though, but you can do so later.
Setting up a monitor on Freshping is pretty easy
Setting up website monitoring on Freshping
Hetrix Tools is another mature and robust website monitoring tool. I came to know about Hetrix Tools last year when they ran a promo on LowEndTalk, and earlier this year on LES, they had an offer for adding free additional monitors.
I make it a point to check Betalist once a week, and that is where I learnt about Netumo. They offered one year free monitoring for upto 60 sites, and I signed up. Note that you have to provide credit card information while signing up for the free plan. They have the option of checking every minute, which for my needs is an overkill.
The dashboard is pretty clean, and the analytics chart is easy to follow.
For this website, amarvyas.in, below is the chart showing the uptime and the 2xx, 3xx, 4,, and 5xx response codes when this site was ping’d by Netumo.
Paid pricing plans for Netumo start from 1.75 US Dollars for 20 sites to 7.25 US Dollars a month for 100 sites. You can find more information on the pricing plan here.
Last but not the least, we have Uptime robot.
Wrapping it all up
There can be a variety of reasons why your website can go down. Sometimes, it is due to scheduled maintenance for the server, at times, it could be a network issues. In any case, you as the website owner or administrator will suffer, because the visitors will get a poor experience. It is nice to be notified in time when your site is down, so that you can take corrective actions.
Before we wrap up, you might wonder which is the “best” website monitoring service. The answer is that there is no right or wrong answer. You can choose any of the tools or services mentioned in this post, and changes are, you will get a similar set of notifications and alerts. Some services are free, others follow the freemium model. For more people, the base plan of these services will serve the purpose.
Tip: can also check whether a particular website is down or not. Practically every website in the world which is accessible via your web browser. Tools like host-tracker.com, Montastic, Updown.io, and isitdownforme allow you to check the uptime of sites without having to create an account or log in.
In addition to the above services, there are several other sites that provide website monitoring. Some of these include Pingdom, Statuscake You can find about more them from one or more of the below links.
- Website monitoring tools – post on hostingfacts
- Read more about website monitoring on Wikipedia
- This dated post from Webfx is still useful
- DNS Stuff has a in depth comparison of some of the services covered in this post.
- This post by KeyCDN also lists many services that offer website monitoring- including some services I haven’t heard of or tried.
- I have posted a bigger list (nearly 30 providers) on this post at LowEndSpirit site.
- ProductHunt has a long list of sites and apps that provide uptime monitoring.
- If you really want to dig deeper into the world of website monitoring, here is a list of 150 monitoring sites.
- Zilore also provides monitoring tools – they are currently in Beta, and will upgrade the users to a full tier once the service is live. Thanks to user Vimalware on LowEndSpirit for the mention.
Update December 2020: I had signed up for Zilore, but during the process of researching for this blog post, I subscribed to 6 different uptime ror website monitoring serviecs. Therefore, Zilore service was discontinued. By early next year two more will be culled form the list- Bearmon and Netumo will be the other two.
New Services added to the list
I learnt about three more website uptime monitoring services in the past few weeks. They are as follows: Weblister (currently available on Appsumo).
Update August 2021:
Adding the following services to the list: PHP Server Monitor (self hosted, open source), Sentry.io (open source, Freemium)