The Art of Website Monitoring

The Art of Website Monitoring

Monitoring your website is the process of having a computer program check your website regularly to see if anything is wrong with it. It’s a best practice we think is worth its weight in gold to implement, giving you (and your client!) peace of mind.

There are a couple of ways this can be implemented: either by purchasing a standalone monitoring service from one of many providers, or working with a hosting provider who manages it for you (that’s us!)

Some companies with their own IT department could also consider managing their monitoring, but we advise strongly against it for a few reasons: 

  1. There may be an internal network problem creating a false positive – just because everyone in your office can see the site up doesn’t mean other people can! Even the most basic monitoring service will check your websites from 12+ locations around the globe, so monitoring from a single location somewhat misses the point.
  2. Entry-level services cost somewhere around USD 10 per month. We’re willing to bet that there is no chance any IT department can even gather the requirements of a do-it-yourself solution, let alone implement one, for under USD 120 p/a.
  3. DIY also encourages a culture of company-centric measurement. It’s not particularly relevant whether the company CEO sees their own website – what matters is that the company’s clients see it. 

However, there can be a fair bit of resistance in purchasing or implementing monitoring, despite how critically important it is (read our thoughts on that here). The first hurdle is that it can be challenging for an agency to explain the small additional fee to business owners, irrespective of how costly the downtime is to their business. 

The second biggest hurdle is when the monitoring shows an outage, but the website appears to be up. You need someone who knows the whole web development stack to quickly assess the issue and address it, not just assume the monitoring isn’t working because the site still loads.

The third biggest hurdle is establishing a habit to set up monitoring for every website as best practice – whether as a website owner or an agency. 

So what to do? Well, we’ve come up with a solution that eliminates all three hurdles: we implement monitoring on every website we host as inclusive of the hosting fee, and as your hosting partner, we’re on hand to fix issues when they arise.

Here’s how we go about it

Rather than simply monitoring for general errors (i.e., whether the site is up or down), we implement our monitoring based on searching the page for a specific keyword.  

When selecting what we’ll target our monitoring on we tend to choose something in the footer like a physical address or business number. This is because footers (almost always) show on every page – meaning that if the data we’re monitoring is down on one page (e.g., the homepage), it’s likely down site-wide. Doing so greatly increases the overall quality and reliability of your site’s monitoring. 

Of course, the solution isn’t bulletproof to preventing outages – a client might accidentally bring down the live site by not using staging correctly, for example. But this brings us to the most valuable benefit of monitoring: transparency and accountability. As a team (that is, us as the hosting provider, the agency and the end client), we agree: 

  1. That the site should be up 24/7, and that this is not an unreasonable expectation,
  2. To all know when it is not, and
  3. To do something about it when there are outage times.

We’re working together to improve constantly by implementing this philosophy – rather than saying “it’s not our problem”. Should a site outage be caused by mismanaging content or deployments, we’re all on the same page, can discuss what went wrong, and continue to learn and improve as a team – resulting in better performance and fewer outages in future.

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