One of the scariest moments for any webmaster is when their website goes down. Instead of fretting about the scenario, become proactive and open a web monitoring account. Your boss or customers will be relieved to know that you were alerted to the issue and are looking into the problem. And no, these services won’t cost you a king’s ransom.
Some of you may be questioning why you need a service. After all, numerous web hosting companies tout their uptime percentages as being well north of the 98% range. Truth is stuff breaks for any number of reasons. Mayhem is an equal opportunity seeker.
Sometimes we don’t think of all the consequences of what happens when a site goes down. I recall being in a meeting where it was announced that the company’s web server had a hardware failure. The staff was advised to inform customers the site would be offline for 12 hours. But, no one thought about the inbound traffic sources such as pay per click (PPC) ad campaigns from Google and Microsoft. As a result, prospects still clicked the ads only to be taken to a non-functioning site.
To get people started and thinking about the issue, I set people up with a free Pingdom account that allows you to watch one URL with 20 SMS messages per month. Best part is there is no code to install and you can be up and monitoring in 5 minutes.
Setting Up Pingdom
To begin, go to https://www.pingdom.com/services/ to get a brief tour of the services. At the page bottom is a link to sign up with various plan options and the free account.
The company takes you through a wizard that asks for the essential info. Beside each field, there is a help icon that provides more info if you get stuck. For the URL, I would choose the most valuable page to your site. It may not be your home page.
Here are some page types that I’ve monitored with my Pingdom account:
- Pages that have forms such as brochures, mailing lists or lead generation
- Ad campaign landing pages
- Content delivery networks (CDN) or critical 3rd party services like Amazon
- Pages with high ad impressions
- High revenue pages for eCommerce
After you create the alert, you can edit it to suit your needs by checking the alert and clicking the green pencil icon.
Instead of just monitoring if the page is up, I want to have Pingdom check for specific text. The reason I do this is that the server may respond that it’s OK, but something on the page is broken. The first time this happened to me was when someone hacked the page. The second time was when the database application failed and users saw just an error message.
After you click the Optional Setting button, you get a panel where you can add text the monitor should find. In the example below, I’ve entered READ MORE as that text should appear on my home page.
Before leaving the setup, you should scroll to the bottom and click the Test Check button.
One side benefit to the monitor is that it will also start tracking response times from different polling sites throughout the world. This can also be useful to monitor when you’ve made significant changes to your site, server or hosting companies.