If You Like It Then You Should Have Put a Ping On It

All the web servers, all the web servers…

Web servers are fickle things. You never know what’s going to set them off into a fit of high loads, disk swaps and general sluggishness – it could be bad code, hack attempts, denial of service, old hardware, who knows.

The problem is you never know when these types of things are going to happen, and it always seems to be at the worst time – a visit day, app season, the day your big fund-raising campaign starts, you know, pretty much the opposite of beneficial.

I spend a lot of time online, but I can’t watch my web server 24/7 to make sure its up. I’m trying to be more proactive about monitoring my web server and its uptime, because I want to be the person to find out our website is down, not our university’s president (that happened this past weekend. Ugh.)

There are a few tools, some of which are free, that will keep an eye on your site and alert you when they find that they can’t reach it.

The one I’ve been trying out the last month or so is Mon.itor.us. They monitor, for free, over 250,000 websites across the world, checking that they’re up. It just takes a moment to set up an account, and you let it know what sites to watch. It starts pinging, every 30 minutes, to make sure you’re up. If it doesn’t get a response, you can have it text your phone, email you, or do nothing. If you want, they’ll even send you a weekly report, that looks like this.

As you can see, this blog had 100% up-time last week, as did the benchmark site, Google. My school’s site had a bit of downtime, which we’re addressing. This type of information is very important to keep our website, our most important marketing tool, online and available at all times.

Mon.itor.us has a paid service, Monitis, that will ping your site every 5 minutes from servers around the world. Plans start at $9 USD a month and go up from there to even a plan that pings your site once a minute. That might be overkill, but if you’re selling things online, every minute you’re offline means you’re losing money.

But, Mike, you say. My IT staff is already monitoring the server. Yes, that’s true and that’s very good, but if you as web person at your institution doesn’t live in the IT area, you may not be in the loop when it comes to outages and other IT issues. Since several monitoring services are free, why not sign up for one so that you are in the loop and at least have some knowledge about uptime when the issue is inevitably raised in a meeting. And trust me, it will be.

5 thoughts on “If You Like It Then You Should Have Put a Ping On It”

  1. I’ve been using mon.itor.us in my private life for over 2 years
    and it’s saved my hind ender there several times. Also using it in my day job, where my team is responsible for several enterprise web sites/apps. It’s been helpful there too. It’s not easy to do monitoring that’s external to your data center, this is where you’d have to be a fair sized company to do that level of monitoring in-house.

  2. Top article there Mike, I am signing up to Mon.itor.us right now! I definitely don’t want to find myself going “wo oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh oh” when my boss tells me the site has been down all weekend! 🙂

  3. >But, Mike, you say. My IT staff is already monitoring the server<

    Not only are your points valid but I would imagine that your IT staff is monitoring the server from INSIDE (the four walls of your LAN or WAN) and not from the OUTSIDE (the Internet).

    In certain situations with certain resources, it could be a common problem that things are up and humming fine for internal users but down for folks out on the web.

    You'd never know it if you don't have a monitoring solution that sits outside of your internal network!

  4. Nick,
    I don’t know about other IT shops, but Furman University runs servers in three other states where (among other things) we monitor ping latency and jitter to various parts of our campus network. This gives us a level of insight about network performance far above a simple up or down measure.

    Rather than imagine what they’re doing, it may be better to have a discussion about your performance requirements with your IT staff.

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