The dream of every system administrator is to achieve 100% uptime. I say dream because we all know that this is impossible. Even if you ignore planned downtime systems will eventually go down. Everyone knows that. Yet, everyone wants to have as good an uptime as possible and, more importantly, they want to be able to demonstrate that up time. This is precisely where uptime measuring tools—or uptime monitoring tools, as they are often called—come in handy.
Although there are not really any tools solely dedicated to measuring or monitoring up time, many general-purpose monitoring tools will include up time among the parameters they can monitor. Today, we’re having a look at a few of the best uptime measuring tools.
Before we explore the different tools available, we’ll begin by having a deeper look at uptime measurement. We’ll try to figure out why it is an important parameter to measure but also how it can be measured. We’ll then discuss the different types of tools available for measuring up time. Explaining the differences between local server uptime measurement tools and remote web up time measurement services will be our next order of business. With all that behind us, we’ll be able to review some of the best available tools. We’ll start off with five of the best local tools to measure local server up time and follow with three great website uptime measurement services.
Why Measure Uptime
The main reason why anyone would want to measure uptime is to provide evidence of it. System outages, no matter where they happen or what their causes are, are often very disruptive to any organization. It is not rare that during an outage, many employees are prevented from doing their normal job and have nothing else to do than to just sit and wait for the system to be up again. Unfortunately, this is a type of situation where time appears to go by very slowly and many people, including managers and executives, might be wrongfully led to believe that outages last longer than they actually do.
Furthermore, many IT departments have service level agreements with the rest of the organization which mandate a certain percentage of uptime. Measuring up time can reporting on it is useful to put things bask in perspective. For instance, that 2-hour outage still computes to a 99,997% uptime over a month. This is not a bad figure at all. And if your SLA specifies a 99,99% uptime, you’re still well within specs.
Different Types Of Tools For Different Types Of Uptime Measurements
There are essentially two different types of uptime that are typically of interest to system administrators and each requires a different type of tool. The first type is referred to as local up time. It refers to the uptime of each individual server and other equipment. The other common type of uptime measurement deals with Internet service availability. For instance, an organization will want to monitor the uptime or availability of their website to users on the Internet. This type of uptime measurement does not measure the server uptime, it measures system availability.
Local Server Uptime Measurement
Local server up time measurement is the easiest to perform. In fact, most—if not all—operating systems feature a built-in uptime counter. It is then a simple matter for up time measurement tool to remotely read that counter and store it locally. These counters typically report the system uptime in days, hours, minutes, and seconds and it is up to the measuring or monitoring tool to do the math to compute percentage figures from this data.
Remote Web Service Uptime Measurement
Remote web service uptime measurement is a bit different. Uptime counters are typically not available and the different tools available must periodically check that the system is up and responding normally. In such a system, the resolution of the measure up time can never exceed the verification interval. For instance, if an uptime monitoring service polls your website every 5 minutes, a four-minute outage between two polls would go completely unnoticed. This is why it is important to choose a service with the shortest possible polling interval.
The Best Tools to Measure Server Uptime
Many network monitoring tools can be used to monitor server uptime as the uptime counter built into most equipment can usually be remotely read using the Simple Network Management Protocol. We’ve compiled a list of five tools that you can use to measure and monitor system up time.
SolarWinds is kind of a household name among network administrators. The company has been making some great network administration tools for about 20 years and some of its products, such as the Network Performance Monitor, consistently receive rave reviews. But SolarWinds is also famous for its free tools. It makes several tools, each addressing a specific need of network administration. The Kiwi Syslog server and the SolarWinds TFTP server are two examples of these free tools.
For measuring and monitoring up time, the best tool in SolarWinds’ arsenal is called the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor. This tool helps administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications they are running. It will not only measure server up time but also that of the applications running on the servers. The tool can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers (physical and/or virtual) spread over multiple sites. It can just as easily monitor cloud-hosted services like those from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
- FREE 30-DAY TRIAL: SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor
- Official download link: https://www.solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor/registration
The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is very easy to set up. And, once installed, the initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of its auto-discovery process. Device discovery is a two-pass process. The first pass will discover servers, and the second one will find applications running on them. To speed up the process, you have the option of supplying the tool with a list of applications to look for. Once and running, the tool’s user-friendly GUI makes using it a simple task. You can choose to display any available information in either a table or a graph.
Price for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 for up to 150 monitors and go up based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. For those who’d rather try the product before purchasing it, a free 30-day trial version is available for download.
2. ManageEngine OpManager
ManageEngine is another well-known maker of network administration tools. And the ManageEngine OpManager allows you to monitor routers, switches, firewalls, servers, and virtual machine for fault and performance. The tool offers multi-vendor support for monitoring servers and critical applications continuously along with their services and processes. It periodically monitors servers via SNMP and WMI protocols to ensure that they constantly are up and running at their peak performance level. Furthermore, the tool stores all the collected data for historical performance tracking and troubleshooting, eliminating the need for multiple server monitoring tools.
Device performance is monitored in quasi-real time and it can be viewed on live dashboards and graphs. And this tool won’t only monitor up time. Its main feature is monitoring bandwidth but it also monitors critical metrics such as packet loss, errors, and discards are monitored. Finally, it can monitor physical and virtual servers’ performance metrics such as availability, CPU load, and disk space and memory utilization.
With more than 100 built-in reports—including an uptime report—which can be scheduled, customized, and exported at will, reporting is another one of the ManageEngine OpManager’s assets. You’ll need to choose between three different versions: Free, Essential and Enterprise. They differ in the number of devices they can monitor–from 10 for the Free version to 10 000 for the Enterprise–and their feature set.
3. Paessler Router Traffic Grapher (PRTG)
The Paessler Router Traffic Grapher, or PRTG, is a well-known monitoring platform. The vendor claims it is one of the easiest and fastest monitoring tools to set up. According to Paessler, you could be up and running within minutes. Much of the product’s speed and ease of set up comes from its auto-discovery feature. After installation, will scan your network and automatically adds the components it finds and the monitors that make sense for each device.
PRTG proposes a few options when it comes to user interfaces. You can choose between a native Windows console, an Ajax-based web interface or mobile apps for Android or iOS. And talking about the mobile apps, they fully exploit their platform’s capabilities and will, for instance, let you use your mobile device camera to scan a QR code affixed to each equipment to quickly view its status. PRTG is not limited to using only SNMP to do its monitoring. It can also monitor many more parameters such as system uptime using protocols such as WMI, NetFlow, and Sflow.
4. WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch is another tool that’s been around for a while. In fact, I believe it to be the oldest tool herein. Its primary function used to be monitoring system availability—and consequently uptime—rather than operational parameters. This is where the tool got its name from. WhatsUp Gold was then used to tell what’s up and what’s not and to send pager notifications whenever a server went down. Ans still today, this tool has one of the best alerting systems which can be configured to transmit alerts using a multitude of ways including email and SMS.
Today, WhatsUp Gold does a whole lot more than just monitoring the up and down status of devices. It is a true monitoring platform that can also measure bandwidth usage and check that services are responding. It will, for example, monitor the uptime of Exchange and SQL servers, Active Directory, IIS and Apache Web services. And if your server farm is cloud-based, WhatsUp Gold can also be used to monitor Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure installations.
Last on our list of local up time measurement and monitoring tool is a free and open-source product called Zabbix. Despite being free, this tool has a highly professional look and feel, much like what you’d expect from a commercial product. But its professional-looking web-based interface is probably not why you should choose this product. This tool has quite an impressive feature set. Zabbix will monitor most network-attached devices, not just networking equipment like some of its competitors. As for uptime measurement and monitoring, this is readily available in the product.
In addition to the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Zabbix also uses the Intelligent Platform Monitoring Interface (IMPI) for monitoring devices. You can use it to monitor bandwidth, uptime, device CPU and memory utilization, general device health as well as configuration changes. In addition, Zabbix features an excellent and completely customizable alerting system which will not only send email or SMS alerts but also run local scripts.
Zabbix comes with a great reporting engine. It offers several ready-made reports including one which is called the availability reports and is really an uptime report. This product only runs on Linux platforms and, like many Linux software, setting it up can be a challenge. But at that price, who can really complain?
Remote Server Uptime Monitoring Services
If what you need is to measure up time from an Internet perspective, such as when trying to know the uptime of your e-commerce website, you need a completely different type of tool. What you need then, is a cloud-based service that will regularly poll your website and report on its uptime. There are literally hundreds such services. Way too many to test them all. We’ve assembled this short list of a few such tools.
6. Uptime Robot
Uptime Robot is a cloud-based monitoring platform that will monitor up to 50 web pages by polling them every five minutes. The tool will not only measure uptime, it will also alert you via email whenever one of the monitored pages stops responding. The tool also boasts a basic reporting engine where you’ll be able to see uptime as well as downtime for any of your monitored elements.
For better precision or if you have more than 50 pages to monitor, the Uptime Robot Pro Plan is available for only $5.50 a month ($4.50 if you pay a year up front) and offers 1-minute polling intervals, SSL monitoring, advanced notifications an a few more features.
7. Uptime Doctor
Uptime Doctor offers a similar type of service. It is limited to monitoring only 5 web pages but it will poll them every minute for free. It is also a bit more flexible in its alerting and offer SMS and push notification in addition to email. The tool also provides uptime reports.
For additional testing capacity, Uptime Doctor offers no less than three paid plans at prices varying between $7.95 and 31.95 per month. The different plans vary mainly on the number of tests they allow: 10, 20, and 30, respectively.
Freshping from Freshworks proposes a reliable uptime and performance monitoring service. It is free and claims it will always be free. The service will monitor up to 50 different URLs at 1-minute intervals and from 10 global locations.
In addition to the free service, an Enterprise level is available starting at $42/month. It will permit the monitoring of up to 250 URLs and keep the data for 36 months instead of 6 for the free version. A unique feature of Freshping is the availability of public status pages that you can use to communicate the status of your site(s) to your clients.
No matter what tool you choose, any of those reviewed here will provide quality uptime measurement. With many of the local tools having several other useful features, take some time to analyze them and perhaps give one or two a try. You final choice should, more than anything, be guided by ther presence of some features that will be useful to you.