20 Free Tools and advice for Professional Monitoring of Your Site’s Availability

June 18, 2013 · 9 comments

by Lars

20 Free Tools and advice for Professional Monitoring of Your Site’s Availability

If you’re providing web pages or any kind of service online it simply needs to be available to be of any value to your users/customers. I would guess that every website owner is aware of this fact but high availability is unfortunately one of the most expensive non functional requirements to meet when constructing IT Infrastructure. IT Infrastructure can be build for 24/7 /365 availability but even very large organisations spending millions of dolars on keeping their systems online all the time sometimes face fatal incidents. Most smaller companies, blog owners etc. have a really small budget for hosting and usually they buy a cheap hosting plan at a hosting provider they learned about online. Since you are reading this article you may belong to this category. When using cheap hosting I would say that availability is really a matter of trust and luck unless we carefully watch how well our hosting provider is doing. Most cheap hosting plans if not all is based on a shared model where large groups of websites run together and facing the risk that one can influence the others. It is really risky business to use cheap hosting – more than most people are aware of. If you are using a not too good hosting service and your site is down in short intervals several times every day without you’re aware of it it may significantly reduce the chances creating an online success. Fortunately there are may ways to be aware of how well things are going. A number of online tools are offering what I would call External Monitoring or End User Experience Monitoring and these tools can be quite useful as you will see. In this article tripwire magazine provides a large list of Free Tools that offer professional quality website and service monitoring. The key features you need has been explained and highlighted for each product to make it easier for you to pick the right solution.


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Key features to look for

Here I list some of the features I think you should be looking for when choosing a monitoring solution (In prioritized order). It is important to be notified once a problem occur but first of all you need to be sure to catch it and to get the information captured to make sure you can do proper root cause analysis. Be aware that free offerings does not have all of these capabilities but really you may not need them all unless you have stability problems that you’re trying to understand the root cause for.

Probe interval and features

If you’re a running a website or blog I think the single most important parameter when choosing a monitoring service is the interval between available monitoring checks, probe interval and the number of probes available. Nearly all Commercial solutions allow you to ping your website at least every 5-10 min. and that will normally be enough to catch a short incident like fx. a reboot. Free monitoring services generally offer services that have 30-60 min. intervals and then you have to be lucky to catch a short but for the users very irritating downtime. You may consider to set up probes on both the website itself and the backend (fx. cpanel, ftp, webdav etc.) to monitor the full hosting plan offering. It may help you analysing problems if only some of the services have been reported to be failing. This means that being able to monitor other protocols than http can be an advantage.

Probe locations

If something is not working and all or some of your visitors is experiencing problems you can’t be sure that it is the server or the hosting provider that is causing them. It is quite common that the problems occur in the network between the user and the server. In order to help customers make a root cause analysis when incidents occur some monitoring solutions have their probing servers located in multiple location around the world. What most will need is that the monitoring solution retries from a different location if an incident is encountered and store the results from these locations to be available as part of a report.

Collecting information about the incident

Once your monitoring service register an incident what should it do about it. Well sadly it cant fix the problem but it may help you get the information you need to make the right decisions afterwards. I would generally be looking for features like these to help me out here making a root cause analysis.

  • Perform automatic trace route from two or more different geographical locations and store the result. This will tell you if the problem was network related 1. on the way to the server 2. at the hosting center (could then be a restart) 3. See examples of trace routes in the very bottom of this article.
  • Make a screenshot the frontpage of the site or blog to get error codes if it is a server issue
  • increase the probe interval when incident is encountered until site id up again to closely monitor the duration of the downtime.

Being alerted is key

Having a monitoring service checking your site is online is a good thing but if you’re not notified instantly when it happens you can’t take any actions to solve the problem. It may be something you can solve yourself and it may be problems that makes you want to contact you hosting provider to ensure they have focus on the problem. Depending on your needs you may be looking for notification on e-mail, SMS, smartphone apps, RSS, instant messaging etc. The available ways to be contaced are many but not all monitoring solutions may offer what you need…especially the free ones.

Free Monitoring Services Worth using

binarycanary

binarycanary offers 4 plans; Free, Standard, Power and Hyper. Prices for the premium plans are fair but really to start with the free account is also quite interesting. 15 min frequency is better than most free plan I have seen.

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Free plan features

  • Check Interval 15 min
  • Create 5 probes/monitors
  • Protocols: Web Page (HTTP, HTTPS), File Transfer (FTP), Email (SMTP, IMAP, POP3), Round Trip Email(SMTP, IMAP, POP3), SSL Certificates, Domain Name Expiry, DNS Entries, Telnet, Ping
  • Share your stats on your website
  • Custom messages on failure and recovery
  • Select between multiple monitor locations (adding more than one monitor location is possible but will count as 2 monitors)
  • Multiple contacts for notification
  • Set up escalation profiles – so person A can be alerted immediately, person B after 5 minutes, person C after 10 etc.
  • Automatically double check a failure from at least one other location to ensure that false alarms are not sent
  • Good reporting features

More features – there are many

Adding monitors is simple and you should be able to find the protocols and detailed configurations you need.

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In the Dashboard you can see the data being collected about your website uptime and performance.

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SiteUptime

SiteUptime is a website monitoring service that checks your website at regular intervals and notifies you via email or SMS if it becomes unavailable. SiteUptime offer three different plans; Free, Premium and Advanced. Compare the plans here.

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It is easy to create a monitor and you will be able to select between different locations and protocols.

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Free account features

  • 1 Monitor
  • 30 or 60 Minute Checks
  • 4 protocols (http, smpt, pop3 and ftp)
  • Uptime Reports
  • Public Statistics Page
  • Alert Failure Limit (wait with alert until ex. 3 requests have failed. Not something you will use with the free plan as there are too long between the requests)
  • Control Panel
  • 4 Geographical locations

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Wih the quick check feature you can quickly check your site from different locations.

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mon.itor.us

This is a very interesting free site monitoring tool with loads of useful features that will help you keep an eye on your uptime. The premium version is called Monitis and adds many more features.

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The free plan at mon.itor.us have the following features

  • Check interval for External Monitor 30 minutes
  • Monitoring locations 3(US, Germany, Austria)
  • 10 Supported protocols (http, https, ftp, sip, tcp, udp, imap, smtp. pop3, ping, and DNS)
  • Add free trafic tracking into the same GUI
  • Weekly reportby mail
  • Creating multiple probes on same domain is possible
  • Notification using e-mail (free) and SMS ($0.25 per SMS)

Adding monitors is simple.

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The flash based graphs are good and you can choose from Table, 2 Line charts, Bar chart. I have managed to create probes that are sending requests at different point in time meaning that it may be possible to make a setup that check the site more often than every 30 min.

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Site24x7

Site24x7 offers 4 types of accounts – Free, Standard, Premium & Enterprise. This monitoring company is interesting because of its pricing model. You will be able to get some value out of the free service but if you pay a few dollars every month you can actually get decent monitoring. For amonthly $3 fee you will be able to have probes hitting your site every 10 min. and get notified when things get messy. Unfortunately only the Enterprise plan have have “Trace route upon failure” service that I find very useful – see full feature and compare matrix here. Receiving SMS has an additional cost.

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Free service offering have these features

  • Checks 1 website every 60 or more minutes (not really ok but can be useful in combination with other services because this service supports notification)
  • Notification: Email / SMS / RSS Alerts
  • Uptime & Performance Reports
  • No. of websites monitored 2

Are My Sites Up?

This is a simple easy to use service focused on website monitoring that supports notifications by e-mail and SMS when your websites are down. With Are My Sites Up? free plan you can monitor up to five different websites. Premium plan have iPhone Application, support RSS, twitter integration and more. Price seams resonable at approximately $1 per url (min. 25 urls for the standard plan)

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Free plan overview:

  • Checks 1 website every 60 minutes (not really ok but can be useful in combination with other services because this service supports notification)
  • Protocol http only
  • Unlimited E-mail and SMS alerts on site down or timeout.
  • Number of websites monitored 5

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host-tracker.com

Host-tracker is offering 5 different plans and will allow you to try their product out for 30 days. Available plans are Free, Light, Pro, Pro 50 and Premium. Main difference between the plans are number of monitors/probes, test interval and price on SMS notifications.

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Free plan features

  • Monitoring period – every 30 minutes (during tests I could create better on free account but may not keeo working)
  • Possibility to receive error notifications both to your Email, ICQ, GTalk or cell-phone via SMS
  • Possibility to receive specified (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly) reports
  • Accumulation of availability statistics with further reporting
  • Resource accessibility instant check.
  • Distributed monitoring; currently 53 nodes
  • The HEAD/GET HTTP-methods support
  • Uptime button

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Anyone can go to host-tracker.com and instantly request a report showing how a specific url is responing in different parts of the world. This check is the largest I have seen yet with 29 locations being used.

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Livewatch

Livewatch offers 4 monitoring plans Free, Bronce, Silver and Gold. Check out the differences here. The free service they offer is very interesting as it provides 10 min. interval normal state and jump to 5 min interval when an error is encountered.

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  • Amount of possible servers to monitor is 1
  • E-mail notifications included – unlimited
  • Free SMS Notification even with cost-free membership, 11 free SMS
  • Checkintervals when normal-state every 10 min
  • Checkintervals when error-state every 5 min
  • 5x secure: Notification via email, sms, phonecall, messenger and twitter
  • ICQ & Yahoo messenger notification
  • Twitter Notification
  • uptime statistic image for your website!
  • Monitoring records all failures and creates a PDF-document for every error which is downloadable anytime (for 30 days after error was tracked)
  • Link back and php-file uplaod is required for free plan

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Livewatch also provides a web based tool for checking your site availability and the http headers. You can try it here Free HTTP Check

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pingability

Pingability is a very flexible solution. It is free if you link back to them or if you have below 750 checks a month = 60 min interval.

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Features

  • I could not find any information on limitations reg. number of urls to check, number of contacts to be notified etc.
  • Link back makes the service free, if you dont want to link back you 60 min. interval is also free
  • Events let you categorize outages. For example, they would enable you to report outages due to hardware failures and exclude outages due to regular scheduled maintenance work. This may be helpful for SLA compliance monitoring.
  • Default and url based Alert Trigger Rules, makes it possible to control in detail when something is an event that should trigger ex. send of an e-mail or send of a http request
  • Define alert actions to be selected under Alert triggers.
  • Detailed reports, Last 6 Hours | Today | Yesterday | This Week | This Month | Last Month | Last 6 Months

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Serviceuptime

Serviceuptime is a monitoring company with 3 premium and one free plan. They have more than 10 Worldwide Monitoring locations and monitor a large range of protocols.

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Free monitoring account includes

Montastic

Montastic is a completely free and easy-to-use tool for monitoring your websites’ availability.

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Service details and features:

  • Estimated to check every 10 minutes at the minimum (in my tests it sometimes took a lot more than 10 min.)
  • Monitors at 2 different locations: 66.216.68.245 and 209.61.157.78.
  • Each account includes a RSS feed.
  • Notification in failure on e-mail and RSS
  • Limit for how many urls you can monitor is 100.
  • Add up to 5 additional e-mail adresses for notification
  • Windows and Mac widgets
  • HTTP and HTTP Secure connections

FreeSiteStatus

FreeSiteStatus provides website monitoring as a free service and as a premium service where the pricing model is based on the monitor interval only. The more often you need requests sent to your site the more it costs.

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Free service features:

  • Interval of 60 minutes (during tests I could create better on free account but may not keeo working)
  • Distributed monitoring network of 13 global locations
  • Multi-Protocol Support (ping, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, SSH, SMTP, DNS, POP3, IMAP, MySQL, and any arbitrary services running on TCP/IP) – not sure if all these are available for free plan.
  • notify via email and SMS
  • Uptime & Performance Reports
  • Maintenance Scheduling
  • Add “Live Status Report” to Your Site
  • Send Reboot Request to Your Provider During Downtime

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FreeSiteStatus also has a tool on the site called “Quick Test” for instantly checking your site services’ performance and availability (i.e. HTTP, POP3, MySQL, FTP, and more).

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InternetSeer

InternetSeer has a free standard service that offers 60-minute intervals for monitoring your site’s uptime and performance. The available plans are Standard (Free), Advanced, Pro and Enterprise.

It gives you site availability and page response time reports, real-time error notifications, and a weekly report on your server’s performance for diagnostics.

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  • Monitoring Frequency 24x per day, 60 minutes interval
  • Monitored Protocols HTTP
  • Monitored Processes Completes a HEAD request (1k html text)
  • Reports Weekly
  • Alert Contact
  • Email, text, pager
  • Number of contacts Unlimited, no added cost
  • Alert Frequency Immediate
  • False Alarm Protection
  • Availability Reports

pagerduty @missingfeature

This is as simple as it gets. Add url and e-mail for notification and you’re done. Reporting seams minimal but if you just want to keep it simple this may be what you want.

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Observu

This is a very simple web site minotiring tool – even more simple than pagerduty! There hardly any options you can configure except for the urls and your e-mail for notification.

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Free service available but premium is more interesting

Uptrends

Uptrends is a large player in this field and they have a really great product set provided in four types of plans: Uptrends Professional, Uptrends Enterprise, Uptrends Insight and Uptrends Free.

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I have personally been using a Uptrends Professional account for the duration of their trial service and I found it useful and easy to use. The professional plan offer all the features needed to professionally monitor your site and it captures the information you need to analyse incidents as explained above. Uptrends is much more than a simple website monitoring tool and that is reflected in their price level. If you’re experiencing problems with your site availablity and stability a 4 week trial with access to Uptrends great tools may help you out and you may even become so happy with thier service that you can’t live without it afterwards. Premium Service features:

  • No installation required
  • Uptrends monitors your website, network, transactions or server at regular intervals of five or ten minute. The protocols you will need is likely to be supported.
  • Notification via SMS/text messaging, e-mail, RSS and instant messaging
  • Scalable, can monitor one or hundreds of websites and servers
  • Uptrends simulates the click paths of actual visitors and transacting customers
  • Multiple checkpoints located around the globe
  • 24/7 customer support

The Uptrends Free offering is unfortunately quite limited – here is a list of the features.

  • Checks 1 website every 30 minutes
  • Protocol http only
  • Uptime report (see example below)
  • Show uptime on your website
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  • Know when your site was down (reactive – no notification)
  • No registration needed

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Uptrends have also exposed some of their tools for free on www.checkmysite.com. You will be able to make different useful checks on your site but may favorite is without doubt the one that allows you to check your site som most parts of the word in one click. If your site is down running this report and saving it will be a good thing.

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Other services

Server Density

If you’re hosting your own server Server Density may be jsut what you need. They offer free monitoring of servers (CPU Load, Memoty usage and processes). This is what I would call Internal Monitoring.

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  • 1 server
  • 2 configurable alerts
  • Core metrics – CPU load, memory usage & process count + server snapshot
  • 1 month data retention
  • Fully hosted & managed service
  • E-mail & phone support

ServerMojo

I have added servermojo even though it has not free plan. servermojo offers most of the features you would ever need but it is far from free. You can try it for free though.

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alertra

I have added alertra even though it only have premium plans and free trail. This provicer have most features you would need.

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dotcom-monitor

Another premium only website monitor provider.

Detailed examples

Successful trace route showing all the network jumps between the monitring probe (or your pc where you can easily make your own trace routes). You can also generate one yourself here.

HopTimeTimeTimeTarget
1<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.72-9-104-177-cust-gw.reverse.ezzi.net [72.9.104.177]
2<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.ads-bsh-cr02.ezzi.net [72.9.110.193]
3<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.ads-bsh-cr01.ezzi.net [72.9.110.241]
4<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.18-110-9-72.reverse.ezzi.net [72.9.110.18]
5<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.209.220.16.101.ptr.us.xo.net [209.220.16.101]
61 ms.1 ms.1 ms.207.88.13.38.ptr.us.xo.net [207.88.13.38]
771 ms.71 ms.71 ms.te-3-0-0.rar3.chicago-il.us.xo.net [207.88.12.25]
871 ms.71 ms.71 ms.te-4-1-0.rar3.denver-co.us.xo.net [207.88.12.22]
971 ms.71 ms.71 ms.216.156.0.2.ptr.us.xo.net [216.156.0.2]
1071 ms.71 ms.71 ms.216.156.1.2.ptr.us.xo.net [216.156.1.2]
1190 ms.73 ms.108 ms.ip65-46-63-10.z63-46-65.customer.algx.net [65.46.63.10]
1273 ms.73 ms.72 ms.box483.bluehost.com [66.147.242.83]

Unsuccessful trace route where the server is not reachable. The hosting provider will not be able to tell that it is just your own Internet connection that is the problem is you have a trace route like this from fx. Norhtamerica and Europe at the same time.

HopTimeTimeTimeTarget
1<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.72-9-104-177-cust-gw.reverse.ezzi.net [72.9.104.177]
2<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.ads-bsh-cr02.ezzi.net [72.9.110.193]
3<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.ads-bsh-cr01.ezzi.net [72.9.110.241]
4<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.18-110-9-72.reverse.ezzi.net [72.9.110.18]
5<1 ms.<1 ms.<1 ms.209.220.16.101.ptr.us.xo.net [209.220.16.101]
61 ms.1 ms.1 ms.207.88.13.38.ptr.us.xo.net [207.88.13.38]
771 ms.71 ms.71 ms.te-3-0-0.rar3.chicago-il.us.xo.net [207.88.12.25]
871 ms.71 ms.71 ms.te-4-1-0.rar3.denver-co.us.xo.net [207.88.12.22]
971 ms.71 ms.71 ms.216.156.0.2.ptr.us.xo.net [216.156.0.2]
1071 ms.71 ms.71 ms.216.156.1.2.ptr.us.xo.net [216.156.1.2]
1190 ms.73 ms.108 ms.ip65-46-63-10.z63-46-65.customer.algx.net [65.46.63.10]
12***Timeout
13***Timeout

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Chinku January 11, 2010 at 10:53 am

100pulse.com is one of the best Free monitoring service , providing Free Instant alerts through E-mail, RSS Feed and Google gadget.This is userfriendly.

Reply

Chinku January 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

100polse.com is one of the best Free monitoring service , providing Free Instant alerts through E-mail, RSS Feed and Google gadget.This is userfriendly.

Reply

ServerMojo July 1, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Thanks for the mention but just to correct one thing – there is also a completely free option in ServerMojo, besides the free trials. It doesn’t have all the fancy features which the premium accounts have but for a single site it does the job. More details are on the ‘features’ page.

Reply

bioxnet June 23, 2009 at 5:45 pm

loved the post..im trying a couple to review my site thnks…

Reply

managed hosting June 23, 2009 at 10:00 am

Managed hosting is meant for those websites that are designed to host busy e-commerce sites and dynamic, database driven Web pages. Perfect for organizations that don’t’ have the time or capital to invest in server administration.

Reply

Sam June 22, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Another good free web site monitoring service is AlertFox.com

AFAIK the only service that even offers free transaction monitoring.

S.

Reply

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