How can you track website availability? Set up tools monitoring uptime and downtime data.
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A website is a crucial element in today's digital marketing. It is your online business card, your shop window and your lead generation tool. With websites being as important as they are, it is essential to understand what it means to keep a website up and running, or "available", what percentage of the time it should be available and how you can measure that percentage.
A website is available when you can click a link, or type the URL in a browser and the site's content is shown as expected. By carefully assessing the web behavior of your target audience and the impact your site has on your business, you can define the percentage of time your website has to be available in order to be effective.
In this post, I will take this discussion of "website availability" to the next, and final, level by explaining how you can track your website availability and how you can set up the tools to measure and report.
Tracking and analyzing uptime/downtime data will help you understand how your website is doing and will allow you to, for instance, improve response times for key transactions, such as loading a product catalogue.
Measuring your website's availability
There are hundreds of tools out there to help you track your website availability: Uptrends, Site24x7, Pingdom and NewRelic to name but a few. Personally, after some years of using them, I have come to the conclusion that I like Pingdom and NewRelic best and they are the ones I would recommend.
If you are planning some basic monitoring of your website availability, I would advise you to use the Pingdom starter pack. The more extensive monitoring, such as monitoring more domains or checking on tags, can be done with the Pingdom Professional subscription.
If you want to take your website monitoring a step further, NewRelic is the tool to use. Where most of the tools only report on the pure availability, NewRelic will also do some profound analysis on the availability and performance of your website.
The tool is one of the best in the so-called 'application monitoring' range. To gather the data, you will need to install a small code snippet on your web server.
There are some free tools out there for availability monitoring. Most of the time they are fine to inform you on your website’s down time, however, I have two main problems with these tools. The first is the accuracy: good tools measure from different points all over the world. Free tools do tend to have a small set of measure points installed. Secondly, the availability data of your website is not stored (or stored for a few days). This is an issue when creating reports.
The following steps will guide you through the use of either tool.
Step 1: Install
For Pindom, you will need to create an account online and indicate the site(s) you want to monitor; it's as easy as that. You will be up and running in no time.
As for NewRelic, the first step is to create an online account. Once that is done, you can download a code snippet from the NewRelic website. Depending on the technology you are using (.Net, Java, PHP...) and the technical building blocks (SQL Server, Mongo DB...) you will get a different piece of code.
Once downloaded, your IT department will need to install this on the server you want to monitor (most probably your web server(s)). When this is done, NewRelic can start monitoring.
Step 2: Measure & analyze
Once the installation is done you can start measuring and analyzing your website results.
Do some end-to-end tracing of the key transactions of your site and measure the response times. It's really important that the key functions on your website are fully available and performing well.
For a webshop, this is the payment gateway. For a product website, this might be your product catalogue.
You probably will need to analyze the most time-consuming transactions and take the appropriate action for improvement or mitigation.
Step 3: Report
Via these monitoring tools, it's very easy to get a view on the availability of your website. A number of standard reports are available, which you can use for your own monthly business reporting. Do not forget to include an availability trend report to indicate how well you have been doing over the last months.
Availability on your smartphone
Do you need to react quickly when your website becomes unavailable? Then you might need to install the app from NewRelic or Pingdom. Both available on IOS and Android, these apps will notify when there is something going on with your website (push notifications). Want to explore the site uptime or the response times? These apps have it all built in.
If you spend a lot of time and money creating a state-of-the-art website, spend some of that time thinking about the availability of that website as well. A well-crafted website that isn't up and running will never do its job. If your website is down, you no longer have an online presence, you no longer have a point of contact for your customers and prospects and you no longer have an online shop window. That can lead to a decline in sales, but it can also affect your SEO.
Before you decide what percentage of the time your website should be available, evaluate the behavior of your website's visitors: do they mostly visit your site in the morning, or late at night? This way, you'll see when you should avoid downtime at all costs. Also, think about how business-critical your website is. If you're an online shop, downtime means that you won't have any sales at all. If your company is a manufacturing company which uses its website only as an online business card, downtime won't necessarily mean a decrease in sales.
Tracking your website's availability yourself can help you measure and analyze your efforts and improve, for instance, response times.
If you have any other questions about website availability or the tools I suggested, leave us a comment.
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