It took us a while, but now we’ve connected with Richard Benson, Senior Web Developer/Technician, to talk about the notifier and all the other exciting things these guys are using Pingdom’s services for.
Q: Tell us about Surrey Business IT.
A: We are a small (four core technical staff) IT company operating from Weybridge in the UK, providing IT support, web development and pretty much any other “IT” service to clients in the area and our parent group.
Whilst we are small, we have a lot of experience in a diverse range of areas, specializing lately in cloud solutions. The company has a long history and a low staff turnover, so we all tend to know our clients very well and thoroughly enjoy what we do. I’ve just marked my eight year anniversary here and continue to love it.
Q: Let’s move on to the Windows Desktop Notifier for Pingdom. Why did you develop it and how?
A: The original desktop notifier was one of the first pieces of software we’d install on any machine we used. We would run it constantly as it allowed us to be quickly notified of any changes in our checks.
It had its bugs, but it was useful. When that died with the new Pingdom API, like everyone else, we sat around waiting for you guys or someone else to replace it.
When it seems no-one else was going to, I grabbed some generic C# HTTP stuff I’d been working on for something else and knocked something up for my own use. As there were more and more people asking for it on the Pingdom forums, I decided to make it a little more generic, a lot more stable and open source it.
Q: Apparently you use Pingdom in many different ways. Can you give us some examples?
A: We use it for monitoring anything we can, whether it is supposed to be monitored by Pingdom or not. It started with a fork of linfo, to which I added support for responses that Pingdom would understand.
Then when we needed to monitor multiple servers behind a single IP. The other developer here put together a small Windows service that will listen on a specified port and respond with a suitable Pingdom XML response, allowing us to use NAT to keep an eye on internal servers as well.
We’ve toyed with other monitoring systems over the years but for the core “it’s not working” responses, Pingdom is the easiest and fastest option.
Q: You make quite extensive use of our Public reports feature. How does it affect your relationship with your clients and users?
A: We’re proud of our uptime (I obsess over the ones that we publish), particularly because we are so small and you see much larger firms struggling with it. The uptime reports have also helped us win business before. By monitoring a prospective client’s site on their behalf, they are suddenly aware of all the little downtimes that may have gone unnoticed by them but would have put off real users. Plus this report is sat next to a screen full of green ticks for our own services
Q: You have also created a dashboard with your Pingdom checks and put it on a large display in your office. Tell us how you use that?
A: What else are you supposed to do with a spare 42” screen?
As we use Pingdom for so much, and rely on it to notify us about internal and client servers, it helps us to immediately be aware when something is down. We also had a kick-ass 42” screen with nothing else to put on it, thus our first-generation status screen was born. This simple screen just showed our building cameras and a twitter list of vaguely interesting subjects and was based on our PHP binding for the Pingdom API. Should any status on Pingdom change, the screen would flash, an alert would sound and it would show what was down.
Since then we have made the screen a standalone Windows desktop app that can display any web page. We can select it remotely, in an embedded Firefox and then overlay Pingdom statuses over the top. Meaning we can watch Kitten Cam but still know when something is not right. (We normally run a customized version of Hummingbird showing us real time usage of the sites we manage, but it’s nice to switch to kittens on a hard day!).
Q: Finally, if you could wish for some changes or improvements to Pingdom’s services, what would they be? We can’t promise we will deliver on them, of course, but we would like to know anyway.
A: Marking downtime on public reports. Leave it as “down,” but allow us to mark as “scheduled maintenance” or even add notes such as; “site upgrade,” “DDoS,” “Tumbeasts let out” etc.
It would also be nice to have public reports that aren’t listed in the main public home. In the case mentioned above of monitoring a site for a prospective client, it would be great to allow the client to see the reports without having them show up on your list. That way other visitors won’t see the downtime and associate it with your hosting. You can get around it with clever titles, but I like my sea of green ticks!
We’d like to hear from you
We’d like to thank Surrey Business IT and Richard for taking the time to talk to us and for the suggestions for how we could improve. Clearly, they team there has some great ideas for how to use Pingdom’s services, and perhaps it can give you ideas for what you could do as well.
Do you use Pingdom’s services in some cool, creative and new way? Let us know because we’d like to know.