April 2004 was back when I first started coding pure HTML websites. Didn’t even know CSS back then. My father had a small construction business and, as he was not sitting on huge revenues, he asked me to make a website for him, knowing I am interested in the industry. And I did.
Not knowing much about uptime, servers and errors back then, I chose a poor hosting service (not that it was such a wide variety to chose from). And as expected, the website was more down than up-and-working. My father spent back then more time calling the hosting company than users spent on the website. In the end, we just had to let the matter drop.
You probably know the feeling of that favorite website of yours that simply doesn’t work today. It probably happened to you lots of times. Even worse, you might actually be the web master or maintenance responsible of one of those websites. I am sure you’ve been on one or the other side of the problem.
What’s a server downtime?
Many users have no idea how they actually get to a website or how the information from there gets onto their computers in a matter of seconds when they type the address in the browser. To make the matters worse, some users don’t even care. They just notice their favorite website doesn’t work anymore and they don’t ever come back, thinking that the web master is not serious enough or is busy with some other stuff instead of taking care of the page.
Web servers all over the world store files and serve the user with information when they request it through a browser. The errors I mentioned are most of the time because of the host servers. They guarantee most of the time 99.9% of uptime, but not many users get it. And if you really want to get it, then you have to pay a lot for a reliable hosting. Not that this would be a problem for huge companies, but what if you are a small business not even on profit yet?
Not having the website online can damage a business quite badly, as visitors might not come back. And if returning visitors might, at some point or another, come back to you, the new ones will most likely not. Imagine yourself searching for a car dealership in your town. Google would be, as always, your best friend. You find a dealership in your city, first in the search results, and click on it. And when you expect to see offers and deals on cars, you only see a 404-server error. Now that’s a site you’ll never end up on again.
Server downtime should be considered a problem by even the less tech-savvy users by now. And while a user can’t do much about it, as this depends on the hosting company, the people in charge of the website can act quickly and solve the issue – provided they know there’s an issue.
Probably the best way to be informed very fast about such an issue is to use a server uptime monitor. And while there are many of them out there, each with its ups and downs, it seems one of them really stands out from the others.
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The Swedish hero
No, it’s not IKEA. The Karlstad-based company Monitor Scout, founded in 2011, already makes some noise in the industry of server monitoring. Their service is up and monitoring 24/7. Should your website be down, you will get an immediate e-mail or SMS notification, so wherever you are or whatever you are doing, there are never passing more than 20 minutes until you know about the failing of your host.
Because Monitor Scout has 15 locations placed all over the world that perform checks as often as 1 minute if you ask them to. Should you host fail, you will be the first to know. Users will not even realize your website is down, because you already had the chance to act quickly. No downtime is something your visitors will appreciate.
To give you a better insight of what downtime means, Monitor Scout published a chart based on pure math, showing how many hours of downtime you can have per year. If you have a 90% uptime guarantee, it means 876 hours per year you will not be available. The 99.9% advertised by many hosting companies mean your website will be down for a maximum 8 hours and 45 minutes per year.
Monitor Scout does not only keep an eye on your hosting. It also improves server health by keeping different stats under close attention, such as network interfaces, file system, RAM, CPU utilization and processes. You can ask Monitor Scout to send you a notification when different levels and values are exceeded. This means the program allows you to be in control of the server performance and decide yourself when much is too much.
If you want to go deeper into stats, then Monitor Scout has something for you too. Uptime is crucially important because every visitor lost might impact your sells. The Swedish company monitors different stats and gives you reports and analysis of devices and average account uptime, uptime graph monitors and latency and performance graphs.
User-centered design and support
The service is very easy to set up thanks to its intuitive interface. The experience is user-friendly and the design of the interface makes monitoring easy, giving you a clear overview of every aspect of your server(s). You can even customize the interface by creating groups and subgroups and categorize them. Menus and forms are easy to spot, giving you a clear and quick overview over the featured functionalities.
Moreover, if needed, Monitor Scout is available on both Twitter and Facebook and their accounts are very responsive. If you have a question, don’t hesitate asking them. And if you are not comfortable using social media (which you should be by now), then they offer full support via their webpage.
Using Monitor Scout
Using the service is not difficult. Monitor Scout is a web-based service, which means no plugins or apps on your computer. The first step is to create an account on the webpage. After providing e-mail and password, log into your account and look for the “Device Management” part, where you should spot server monitoring.
After this, right click on the cloud icon and create a new device. Here you have to enter the server information like hostname, type of device, brand OS and a description.
Once you configure the device, you can see server details in the “Server Health” panel. If you wish to generate reports, then the “Reports” panel is designed exactly for this purpose.
Server downtime can damage a business, regardless of its size, profit or revenue. Each visiting customer that sees a 404-server error might as well be lost. The ideal situation would be not to have downtime at all, but there is a reason behind no serious company advertising 100% server uptime. They simply can’t take the risk of promising something they can’t offer.
This should be a clear sign that monitoring your server is very important. Information travels so fast and is so easy to access that a user who is not able to visit your website will move on to your competitor right away. None of us wants that.
Another big plus of Monitor Scout is that right now it can be tried for free for a period. There is no damage in trying the service and convincing yourself that once the full version is out, paying a subscription fee is totally worth. In 2012 there is no way a client will accept from your company the same outcome as my father’s website back in 2004.