Websites sometimes suffer from glitches and they go offline. This is irritating if you are running a website as a hobby, but it is potentially disastrous for a business that relies on a site.
If you run an online store for example, you will have no shoppers and no sales while the site is down. If you sell your services, you won’t get any new customers if they cannot access your site.
If you earn money from advertising or affiliates, you won’t earn anything for the same reasons.
It is therefore essential that you monitor your website's health and take action the minute it goes down.
Visiting your website once or twice a day with a web browser is not sufficient and by the time you discover that the site is offline, it might have been down for several hours. After all, you cannot check it when you are asleep.
Well, actually you can.
There are internet services, some of which are free, that will monitor your website and test it every few minutes to check that it is OK. If there a problem is detected then you will be alerted by email straight away.
You don’t need to be sitting at your computer all day in case there is an alert email. Email notifications appear on your phone too, so you will see the message no matter where you are.
Uptime Robot website monitoring
Go to Uptime Robot and sign up for one of the plans. The free one is good enough for most people and this checks your websites (up to 50 of them) every five minutes.
You are sent an email straight away when there is a problem accessing your site and it has gone down. It is tested from multiple locations around the world.
When your website comes back online you are sent another email to notify you that it is up and running again. In my experience sometimes websites disappear for a couple of minutes and then start working again, so don’t immediately panic.
Set up website monitoring
Sign up and log into to the dashboard. Click Add New Monitor.
Set the monitor type to HTTP(S)
Enter a friendly name, such as the website name
Enter the URL
Set the monitoring interval to 5 minutes
That’s it. You will receive an email on the address associated with your account if there is ever a problem.
Check the website monitoring logs
Website monitoring tools are ‘set and forget’. Once they have been set up, you don’t need to return. Logs are created and stored, so if you want to see how your site has been performing recently, there are some useful statistics.
The dashboard shows this panel that shows the uptime for the last day, week and month. You can see that this website has been down for a total of 2 minutes in the last 30 days. That is 99.99% uptime.
(My web host is Bluehost if you are looking for a reliable web host to switch to.)
Logs are displayed and you can see the up and down time for the last few months. Look at the red entries to see when it was down and how long for. The green entries show the length of time it has been up and running.
This shows the 2 minutes it was down for in the last month - it came back online by itself and I didn’t have to do anything.
RAWinfopages was down for 19 minutes on October 21st. This was the massive hacker attack on Dyn DNS that brought down large parts of the internet, including Twitter, Reddit and other top sites. The DNS attack meant that websites, like mine which were actually working fine, could not be reached.
Prior to that, RAWinfopages was down for 3 minutes.
Apart from the world-wide Dyn DNS hacker attack that affected everyone, you can see that the site has been down a total of 5 minutes from September to December. It's good to keep an eye on the downtime and low numbers indicate a good hosting company. (I recommend Bluehost.)
Site24x7 website monitoring
Site24x7 is another website monitoring service and it is part of the Zoho collection of online tools.
It looks like you have to pay for it, but if you sign up for the cheapest monitoring plan and don’t pay when the 30-day free trial is up, your account continues to work in free mode.
Advanced features are disabled in free mode, but basic website monitoring and email alerts continue to operate.
Site24x7 caters for companies and advanced monitoring services, so it is a bit more complicated than Uptime Robot.
Use Add Monitor in the left panel and then select Website. Enter the name for the monitor and the URL of your site. There are lots of confusing options, but they can be ignored. Just click the Save button at the bottom.
Logs are kept and you can view the days when your site was OK (green) and when it was down (red). If you see a red block, click it to get the details of the time and duration the site was down.
There are more statistics and you can see how fast your site responds over time. This is useful for checking that your site hasn’t become slow for some reason.
Uptime Robot and Site24x7 are not the only two services that can monitor your website and there are others. However, these two are free and if you are just starting out with building a website, it is a good idea to sign up with one or the other.
Uptime Robot is the simplest if you have never used this type of service before.