If you have gone through the trouble of building a web site and hosting it with a reliable company you obviously want your website to be available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Downtime can result in lost sales and customer frustration.
Unfortunately, there are many technical problems beyond your control that can cause your web site to go down or become sluggish. Server hardware and software can fail and your host may schedule downtime for maintenance chores. Speedy recognition of failures is the best defence to getting things back on track, so many companies offer website monitoring services that automatically alert you if your site goes down.
There are hundreds of companies that provide monitoring services. Some are free while others charge anywhere from $5 to $60 per month. The paid services usually offer more features and allow you to use the same service with several different web sites. Web monitoring is not done continuously – time intervals range from every 3 minutes to every hour. The paid services usually offer the most comprehensive monitoring.
Monitoring works by sending an automatic request to your website and checking the response. These requests are the same as a web browser makes and the response to the request determines whether the site is up or down. Requests are usually sent from several different geographical locations to ensure that the site is available from various parts of the world.
If the response code is OK (200, 301, 302, 401, 403) nothing happens and the monitoring software waits for the next scheduled check. If the response code indicates that the web site is unreachable, there will be a second check a few seconds later from another location. There may be 3 or more of these checks before an alert is issued.
An alert can be sent to one or several email addresses or to a mobile device such as a pager or cell phone. This allows you to get in touch with your hosting company as soon as possible to ensure they are aware of the problem and are working to resolve it. As well as HTTP traffic, some website monitors can also check HTTPS, FTP, SMPT and POP3 so that all the functions of your website are covered.
Besides alerting you to downtime, these services can also provide useful statistics in the form of log files that indicate how often a site goes down. This third-party information can be used to demand better service from your web host or a refund in the case of severe amounts of downtime.
If you find that your site has an unacceptable amount of downtime, you should look for a more reliable hosting company. The best way to find a good host is to ask for recommendations from other web site owners. If they are happy with their service they will usually be glad to direct more business to their host.