Reference: How to Effectively Monitor Your Website

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Virtually no one monitors their website for errors, slow response time, or bad content. It’s true. If you ask many website administrators the number one method as to how they know that their website is “down”, they will most likely tell you that a customer told them.

Who should set-up monitoring and notification?

Website administrators or the person ultimately responsible for the health of a website should continually monitor their website for problem conditions. These skilled people should use their time effectively by setting up an automated website monitoring solution that does the dirty work of checking the website 24/7 while notifying them when there is a problem. It may also make sense to notify other people in the organization who are directly affected by the health of the website. For example, the website administrator will want to be notified to correct the problem, a call center manager will want to be notified in case a flood of calls about the website start coming in.

What should you monitor?

When setting up a website monitoring solution, you will want to select a few key pages to monitor. This will include the home page, the entry page to an online ordering system, and a web page with a form for customer feedback, just to name a few. It is simply not realistic to monitor every single page on a website due to the complexity and size of websites today. Choosing key entry pages are going to be a good barometer of how the rest of the website is operating. Once the key web pages are selected for website monitoring, you should set up a watch item (HTTP Watch Type). All web pages should be searched keywords or phrases to verify that: 1. The content is correct and what is intended. 2. The content is completely being served. For example, to ensure that the page is displaying information about “widgets”, you could search for the word “widgets”. To ensure that the page is completely being served and not producing an error, you could search for the HTML tag “”, which is normally the very last piece of text on a web page. If monitoring a web page with a form, you should set up a watch item to “POST” form data to the form to ensure that the form is working as intended. Verification is the single most important part of monitoring a web page. Pinging a web page will only confirm that a website is available, but won’t tell you if the site can be connected to and serve web pages. Connecting to port 80 on a website will tell you that the website can be connected to, but won’t tell you if the website can serve web pages. Downloading a web page will tell you if the website can be connected to and will tell you if the website can serve pages, but won’t tell you if there is an error on the page or if the intended content is served. Website monitoring with an HTTP Watch Type and using verification will cover all conditions to ensure the reliability of a website.

Where should you set up website monitoring?

A website monitoring solution should be set up on a computer that is not the web server and does not directly affect the web server by using its resources such as sharing files. Ideally it should be a standalone computer that meets the software’s minimum requirements and is dedicated to website monitoring. To monitor availability and responsiveness, the website monitoring computer should be on the same network, usually in the same physical location, as the web server. A second website monitoring computer may also be set up from a different location to monitor responsiveness and availability. The response time results of the two locations should be analyzed differently, however.

When to monitor - How often and how long should it take to respond?

The rule of thumb for determining how often to monitor a website is to ask the basic question: “How long can you afford to have the site down?” If you run a high-traffic e-commerce website, then time is definitely money. In this case, monitoring every 15 seconds is not out of the question, and setting up multiple types of notification will be equally important. If you are monitoring your personal home page, then monitoring once every 15 minutes may be enough to give you peace of mind. Since monitoring a website or any IP device consumes resources – network, CPU, etc. – we recommend monitoring no less than once per minute and no more than once every hour. Monitoring for anything less than once every 15 seconds will be very taxing on your web server and will skew response time results for historical data as well as the response time experienced by your website visitors!

Why monitor?

One of the crucial steps in launching a new website or maintaining an existing website is planning for a disaster; chiefly planning for the possibility that your site will go down, not serve the intended content, or produce errors. A website administrator must plan for all problem scenarios, and plan the corrective actions that must be taken in the event of a disaster. This is great in practice, but without knowing there is a problem, the plans will go unused.

In conclusion, website monitoring is the first line of defense against a bad user experience with your website and is a vital insurance plan to ensure that your website produces higher revenue and/or happy visitors.