In any type of business, you want to make sure you get value for the money you've invested. There have been a lot of articles about ROI, also known as "Return on Investment". In small businesses, people measure their Return on Investment through daily and weekly sales. Some businesses like beauty salons have invested time and money in renovation and in making the salon look better. However, they have not been that successful in generating more business. Could the problem lie in customer service and not in the appearance of the salon? That is why you need to know your business and know what you need to do. Otherwise, you will end up wasting money, time and energy. This analogy can be applied to having a website and measuring uptime and performance.
In order to be able to understand website monitoring, you need to understand the core of your business. You also need to know why you want to measure the performance of your website. What will you do with the information generated by your monitoring tools? What does a 99 percent uptime really mean? Is monitoring your website's uptime, number of visitors and page views worth your time and effort?
Web monitoring tools
If you have a website hosted by a service provider, you will have web monitoring tools available. Webalizer for web traffic is one of those tools. You also have Webalizer for FTP traffic. There is also Awstats that allows you to generate and analyze logs from your web server.
If you are hosting your own website, there are other commercial tools you could use to monitor uptime and performance. You could also use the already integrated tools on your server. Most server and network administrators will set alarms using Microsoft windows server tools. The "Ping" command is another tool that is used worldwide by system administrators to constantly check the state of their servers. This tool also reports problems with routes that customers use to get to your website. Setting alarms about services is a convenient technique to make sure your server is online. You only receive a warning when something is out of place. Web monitoring is essentially monitoring these services, HTTP, HTTPS and FTP. If the HTTP, HTTPS and FTP services are running, it doesn't mean that your website is available to your clients. There are other issues to consider that might be network and service ports related. Another common mistake is to think that the server is down when in fact the problem lies with the HTTP, HTTPS and FTP services.
Web logs are also useful in helping to determine what is going on and has been happening to your website. Some of these logs are automatically configured and are easily available to administrators. There are inherent problems with logging and website monitoring. The main problem is the amount of data generated. How many hours do you have to dedicate to analyzing and making sense of the data?
What does 99% uptime really mean?
Statistics is like the bible and can be interpreted in many different ways. Uptime basically means the amount of time your services were available to your clients. The 99% is a marketing strategy. Why is it difficult for web hosting companies to guarantee 100% uptime? The answer is simple. They need to plan and reserve time for maintenance and unexpected problems. The 99% percent is a way to gain business; instill confidence in their clients and at the same time protect web hosting companies from any potential lawsuit.
If you have a website that is only used between 6am and 8pm, should you worry about the 1% downtime? Yes, you should if it happens during the hours that your business needs it. If your website is generally idle from 9pm till 5am the next day, then, you will have nothing to worry about. However, you will still want to know if there is a downtime and why. This situation highlights the problem with over monitoring. You need to monitor what might impact your business and not analyze data just as an intellectual exercise.
Is website monitoring worth your time?
The answer is yes if you know what you are doing and know what you want to achieve. The answer is negative if you are only buying into the hype that website should be constantly monitored. Different businesses need to monitor different things. Here is a list below that should shed more light into this.
Online auction site: Uptime is essential, web logs, error logs (avoid potential server failure), page views, visitors, countries, performance monitor, etc.
Blogs: Most bloggers are interested in page views and number of different visitors per day.
Newspapers: If you think about the New York Times or the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom, you know they get thousands of visitors per day. What would they need to monitor? They are serving information hence server capacity is essential in case of a traffic spike. Performance is also important. If your site is slow, readers will get their news elsewhere.
These examples show the importance of adapting your web monitoring to the needs of your business. You should definitely do website monitoring. However, try to learn and know how to do it.