I have many conversations each month where I learn that a website owner has no idea when their website goes down. (Yes, all websites go down, some more frequently than others.)

Websites can be unavailable for many reasons:

  • Make a mistake while editing a file on the web server.
  • Change a setting in your Content Management System.
  • Automated software updates may introduce a bug/conflict.
  • The Domain Name Server (DNS) has had a hardware failure.
  • Your website hosting company has a server hardware failure.
  • Sometimes there are problems slowing down web traffic between the user and the DNS, or between the DNS and web server.
  • A Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS) could be targeted at you, or another website on the same web server, or possibly at the DNS or web hosting company.

Something is wrong. Where's the picture?

Depending on how you set things up, it’s possible that your DNS may be hosted by your domain registrar, and your web server could be hosted by another company. You really should know this ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling when an emergency arises.

Without any website uptime monitoring, you’ll never know that prospects are not reaching your website, which translates into LOST SALES OPPORTUNITIES.

How do I know that a problem exists? Website uptime monitoring…

Start by using a website monitoring service. There are many to choose from ranging from free to fee. You’ll have to do your own due diligence.

I’ve been happy with Pingdom. It automatically sends a signal (“pings”) to my client websites from 60+ locations worldwide. I set 5 minute ping intervals and it notifies me if a website doesn’t resolve after 10 minutes. Then it will send notifications by text, email or to a smartphone app. It’s been very valuable to help me proactively identify problems and notify clients — rather than the embarrassment of an annoyed client reporting that their website is down. You can also create a free account — restricted to one domain only.

A comparable service you should check out is Monitive. It has similar features/functionality with an intuitive dashboard and a free trial.

Rackspace now offers a solution called Rackspace Cloud Monitoring, but I don’t have enough experience with it yet to recommend it.

A free solution — set up a daily Google Analytics Intelligence Alert to notify you by email or text message if your website traffic falls below what you consider to be a standard norm. But you’ll only get an alert once per day, usually the day after an event. So it’s not as timely as other website uptime monitoring services.

What do you do once a problem has been detected?

Once I get an alert that one (or more) websites are down, I use a smartphone app (like Net Status) to try to figure out commonalities. You can search the iTunes App Store or Android App Store for similar apps. In the app, I’ve preset a variety of groups based on where the domain name server is hosted and where the web server is hosted. This helps me quickly figure out how widespread the problem is and what company/resource to call. This is especially useful when I’m out and about with only a phone handy.

After that, if you’ve ruled out that the problem isn’t with the DNS, the web server or a DDoS attack, you’ll need to figure out what’s going on with your files or Content Management System.

Hope this is helpful.