I probably won’t teach you much by telling you that monitoring web servers is important. Possibly more so than monitoring any other kind of server. With an organization’s website often being its primary window to the world, it is easy to understand how important it can be. And to ensure that web servers are up and running and responding correctly, you need to use the right tool. This is the subject of today’s post as we explore the best web server monitoring tools. Between simple cloud-based up-or-down types of tools and big, locally-installed monitoring tools, there is a multitude of tools to choose for. We’ll try to help you see clearly through that maze of products and services.
We’ll start off by discussing web server monitoring in general, doing our best to explain what various types of monitoring is available. We’ll then have a look at the consequences of not monitoring web servers as we have a look at the adverse effects of web server downtime or performance issues. And finally, we’ll have a look at what tools are available for monitoring web servers and review some of the best tools that can be found.
Monitoring Web Servers
Anyone who’s been a network administrator for any length of time knows how important monitoring is. This is why there are so many network bandwidth monitoring tools or application performance monitoring tools. Servers—including web servers—are not different and they too, need to be monitored. Perhaps even more so that other components. After all, the website is often the first contact a client has with an organization and since you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you want that first experience to be as good as can be.
There are several things one may want to monitor on a web server. First and foremost, you want the hosted site to respond. This is the most elementary type of monitoring one can think of. But that’s not enough, you also nee your web pages—and especially your homepage—to load quickly. Clients won’t wait for much more than 30 seconds before they abandon your site and move to your competitor’s. Monitoring for website performance is another important type of web server monitoring. But for the very best in monitoring, you’ll also want to monitor the actual servers, their operational metrics and the various services they are running including, but not limited to, the web server process.
No matter why you need to monitor websites or what you want to monitor, you need to use the proper tool for the job. Fortunately, there are tools out there that will perform each type of monitoring we just talked about. Some will even monitor more than that. The best advice we can give anyone looking for the best tool to monitor websites is to first make a list of what it is they want to monitor. Doing so will make the selection process much easier.
What If We Don’t Monitor Web Servers?
When your website is down, every second counts. Internet top retailer Amazon experienced several outages or performance degradation episodes over the years. In March 2016, the site went down for about 20 minutes. It’s been estimated that such a short outage did cost Amazon about $3.75 million. And while your organization may not be as big as Amazon, you may think that downtime is not that expensive. However, the truth is that there are several ways that downtime can affect you.
According to research from International Data Corporation (IDC), the average total cost of unplanned application downtime per year is between $1.25 billion and $2.5 billion. Another survey, from Siemens Building Technologies, shows that 33% of organizations don’t even know the impact of one day of downtime on their business. But regardless of the exact impact of website downtime to your organization in terms of lost sales, it is clear that it can be major.
It takes a lifetime to build a reputation but only a few minutes to lose it. Whenever a website is down, what is the very first thing people do? They jump on their favourite social media platform and immediately voice their frustrations. This can be very damaging to your brand’s reputation. You wouldn’t want potential new customers to first hear of your company by reading complaints about your unresponsive website.
When that Amazon outage happened back in 2016, thousands of Twitter users started complaining about it. Some of them had large numbers of followers who, in turn, retweeted the alert. It’s almost impossible to tell exactly but it’s easy to imagine that hundreds of thousands of Twitter users learned about the site being down. As much as social media can be an effective marketing tool for companies and brands today, It is a double-edged sword that can quickly turn against you. There is nowhere to hide on the Internet.
You most likely don’t want to lose those hard-earned customers of yours. But if your website goes down, it can easily spell disaster. This is especially true for SaaS companies with application logins. Customers only have so much patience before they might start thinking about switching to a different vendor. And this is even worse for e-commerce sites. A customer might simply switch to your competitor and do their shopping there instead. Make no mistake. It is very important to maintain good uptime and optimal performance to keep your customers happy.
The Best Web Server Monitoring Tools
There are many types of web server monitoring tools. The most basic tools simply connect to a website and verify that they are responding correctly. Some more advanced ones will look for specific patterns. These tools can either be locally installed of they can be cloud-based with the best ones offering the capability to monitor from various locations, ensuring not only that your web server is up and running but that it is reachable from anywhere.
Another type of web server monitoring tool is, at its base, a server monitoring tool that has specific modules or extensions to monitor the actual web server process as well as several operational metrics of the web server and its underlying operating system. Our list includes tools from each type as our goal was to give you an overview of the different types of tools available.
Our first tool is from SolarWinds, one of the best-known names on the network administration tools market. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is consistently scoring among the network bandwidth monitoring tools. SolarWinds is also famous for its free tools. They are simpler tools designed to address specific tasks of network administrators.
When it comes to website monitoring, SolarWinds’ tool is called the Web Performance Monitor. This is a very complete website monitoring package aimed at monitoring not just websites but also web services and SaaS application performance. Without relying on third-party software, This product can proactively identify slow web services which could be impacting the user experience.
- FREE TRIAL: SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor
- Official Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/web-performance-monitor
To circumvent the fact that this is a locally-run tool and to give its test an Internet perspective such as the one you’d get from a cloud-based tool, you can deploy transaction players to Amazon EC2, and track user experience from multiple locations.
Reporting is also one of the SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor’s strengths. The tool will let you generate out-of-the-box or custom website performance reports which can include page load speeds, transaction health, website availability, etc.
The SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor is licensed by the number of web application usage scenarios (transactions) and the number of locations to monitor from. (transactions X locations = license size). Prices start at $1 995 for up to 5 scenarios x locations and go up from there. If you’d want to try this great tool before buying it, a free 30-day trial is available from the SolarWinds website.
Our second entry is another product from SolarWinds called the Server and Application Monitor. As you’d most likely get from its name, this tool’s primary purpose is monitoring servers of all kinds, including, of course, web servers. It was created to assist administrators with monitoring servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications which are running on them. And by application, we mean various services and processes such as an IIS or Apache web server. It can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The tool can also monitor cloud-hosted services like those from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
- FREE TRIAL: SolarWinds Server and 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 its initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of its auto-discovery process. It is a two-pass process. The first pass will discover servers, and the second one will find applications. This can take time but can be sped up by supplying the tool with a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and running, the user-friendly GUI makes using it a breeze. You can choose to display information in either a table or a graphic format.
Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 and vary based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.
Pingdom is probably one of the most used and best-known of all the different cloud-based website monitoring tools on the market. This SaaS offering from SolarWinds is used by several major players such as Apple, Pinterest, HP, Amazon, Google, and Dell. The service is known to be extremely reliable and it has a long history of providing uptime notifications to clients around the globe.
The Pingdom monitoring network features more than sixty monitoring locations from where your website is checked. In order to filter out false alerts, you can opt double-check and raise alerts only on the second fail. The frequency of the website tests can be as high as every minute. Alerts can be transmitted via email or SMS. An important feature of the service which sets it apart from many competing players is its page speed monitoring. The service can not only monitor uptime, but it can also monitor if something suddenly brings your website to a crawl. The service also provides a public status page so you can show off your results.
Pingdom doesn’t offer a free plan but it is reasonably priced, starting at $14.95/month for up to ten checks at 1-minute intervals. Considering the advanced features offered by the service, it’s no surprise that a free plan is not available. And if you’d like to test the service, a free 14-day trial is available.
Uptrends, a cloud-based service that offers both website monitoring and server monitoring. The company has been around since 2007 and has worked with clients such as DHL, eBay, PBS, Schiesser, and Episerver. The main distinguishing feature of this service, the one that is bound to strike you the minute you start using it is its impressive dashboards. If you care for the look of your website monitoring tool, this may be the one.
But good looks are not enough. Fortunately, Uptrends also delivers on functionality. In particular, the service uses a technology it refers to as “real browser monitoring”. This means that it uses a real web browser to perform its tests, enabling it to get a feel of a real user’s experience. It features over 200 website monitoring locations around the globe. This is more than most competitors. The service also lets you choose between 1 to 60 minutes interval checks. Additional features such as SSL certificate monitoring and real browser monitoring which include things like waterfall reports, mobile website monitoring, and transaction screenshots are available, as is third-party content monitoring.
Basic plans vary from $11.33/month to $158.61/month, depending on the number of included monitors and users. Advanced plans are also available at $27.14/month to $49.10/month which include multi-browser monitoring and transaction simulation. If you want to test-drive the service, a free 30-day trial is also available.
Monitis is a cloud-based, all-in-one monitoring platform that has been around since 2006. The versatile service is used by clients like Visa, Puma, and Siemens. The monitoring one can do with this tool is not limited to websites. In addition, it can handle, network, cloud, server, application, and custom monitoring, all managed and controlled from a unified dashboard.
Monitis has over thirty monitoring locations across the planet from where it can monitor your website’s uptime. The service will let you use multiple protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, PING, DNS, TCP, UDP, ICMP, SMTP, POP3, and IMAP. This powerful and flexible service features 1-minute interval checks and 2 years of a historical archive. Such a long archive can turn out to be pretty useful when it comes to reporting. This tool also provides instant failure alerts via email or SMS and detailed level reporting.
Monitis offers some advanced monitoring features such as monitoring for a full page load. This ensures that each element (image, script, CSS, etc.) loads correctly. The tool can also synthesize complete transactions and validate that they can be completed.
Monitis’ pricing structure is rather complex due to the many available possibilities. In a nutshell, it is based on the type and number of monitors, the frequency of the checks and the number of locations to check from. Fortunately, the service’s website has an easy to use calculator where you can pick your options and instantly see your monthly and yearly pricing. You can also take Monitis for a full-featured test drive with a 15-day free trial.
6. Uptime Robot
Last on our list is another immensely popular cloud-based monitoring service called Uptime Robot. Dating back to 2010, it might not be as old as our other top monitoring services but it can’t be called a newbie either. It is used by Expedia, Nginx, Fandango, among others. The company is recognized for providing a great service when it comes to website monitoring.
Uptime Robot features 12 different monitoring locations in Germany, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Singapore, Ireland, and the United States. While it is less than other services, it might very well be all you need. If most of your clients are in Brazil, you wouldn’t care about monitoring from Peru anyways. The service monitors your website every 5 minutes and lets you know if your sites are down based on the response from your website’s headers. Among the other major features of Uptime Robot, the service has alerts with advanced notifications, statistics, configurable maintenance windows, and public status pages.
Uptime Robot offers a very generous free plan which includes 50 monitors on 5-minute intervals and 2 months of logs. There are also paid plans starting at $5.50/month which can allow more monitors—up to 20 000 at $649/month—and feature advanced notifications, 1-minute monitoring intervals, and SMS alerting credits. Given the available free plan, no other trial plan is offered.