Alerting is the cornerstone of any monitoring tool. When your website goes down, or when there’s a problem, you want to know about it before it affects your customers or business. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the importance of alerting, potential issues with alerts and how to maximize the value of setting up proactive notifications that will help you minimize downtime and maximize the user’s experience. We will also take you through the simple process of setting up alerts in SolarWinds® Pingdom® and share with you some tips and tricks, so you can make sure you get the most out of your alerts.
Why Is Alerting so Important?
When your website is down, your company might as well be invisible. That alone should be reason enough to monitor your website’s availability, but to push home this point, here are another 17 excellent reasons why you should configure alerts.
1. All websites run into trouble from time to time. Murphy’s Law will make sure of that. There are too many things that can break a website, from server hardware issues to software issues to coding errors to network downtime to power outages to…the possibilities are, as the saying goes, endless.
2. The sooner you know about a problem, the sooner you can fix it. Conversely, if you don’t know about a problem, you can’t fix it.
3. It’s embarrassing when your users call to let you know your site is down. You shouldn’t let your users or customers act as your monitoring. If they know before you do, that can quickly get pretty embarrassing.
4. Many web hosting companies won’t be upfront about site issues unless you have proof to back it up. (Other web hosts might thank you for bringing problems to their attention.)
5. Think about your reputation. Outages are often discussed in public and with less-than-kind words.
6. Are your critical synthetic interactions performing well? In other words, can your customers sign in or purchase an item without complications? Or there is some error in the process? There is no way you can know that without transaction monitoring and alerting.
7. Stop guessing and assuming. By monitoring your website, you arm yourself with actual knowledge instead of having to rely on guesswork and estimates. Get the facts straight.
8. No alerts = calm waters and peace of mind. You will know if your website is working even if you’re on the road, at the beach, or only away from your desk for a few hours. Besides, you don’t visit your website every minute of the day, do you?
9. Your website may work for YOU, but what about the rest of the world? Network peering issues can cause widespread problems on the Internet.
10. Ok, so your website was down. But why? An excellent monitoring service can help you find out.
11. There is no “in the middle of the night” on the web. Downtime at night in your time zone is downtime during office hours in some other place, and office hours in today’s environment are no longer 9 to 5.
12. Your web host may have an uptime guarantee, but it is often just a network uptime guarantee. It doesn’t guarantee that your website or server will work, and those two you can mess up yourself by accident, or by getting a spike in visitors.
13. It’s easy. Setting up monitoring isn’t rocket science, and with today’s online monitoring services, you won’t need to install anything.
14. It’s a small investment of time that will continue to pay off. You set it up once, and then it keeps running without any need for intervention from you, continuously testing your site. Look at it this way; if you can spend five minutes to do something that will alert you whenever you have site issues, all year round, then that time is extremely well spent.
15. Think of it as cheap but effective insurance against embarrassingly long downtimes. It helps you to troubleshoot, and it helps keep your web host honest.
16. You’ll have proof that you’re doing a good job. If you work with operations for a web service, you’ll have evidence that you are doing well. Which leads us to…
17. You can brag about your reliability. Has your site been up for two months straight? Be proud. Show your users your uptime numbers.
With all that said, I think you would agree it is essential to be proactive when it comes to knowing the health of your web applications. Let’s go deeper into Pingdom and our alert process, and how you can use it most efficiently and effectively.
Website Availability/Uptime Alerts
Pingdom uptime checks can solve multiple problems. If your entire website is down, or if you want to check the availability of critical pages on your website, you can receive the alert immediately, so you know there is an issue before it affects your customers. You can monitor your home page and any other critical pages across multiple websites from 100+ locations, and we always perform the check twice from two different probes to ensure accurate results and reduce false positive alerts. Also, while creating an uptime check, you can add a custom message to display when that alert is triggered, giving the recipient specific guidance on what to do when they receive that alert (e.g., a link to a document or a run book). Checking twice and providing a custom message along with an error code is all about reducing the time it takes to identify a real problem, so you can quickly get it resolved.
To learn more about setting up alerts and uptime checks, check here.
Synthetic Transaction Alerts
In many cases, your website is a window into your company and the first impression of who you are and what your company is all about. Although this applies to any company, it can be success or failure if you have an online business (e.g., e-commerce store). It is critically important to not only help ensure your website is available and fast, but also that all critical interactions of customers with your webpage (checkouts, sign-ins, search, adding an item to a shopping cart) are performing smoothly. If a visitor is not able to complete a purchase, most probably he or she will leave to a competitor that does provide an excellent shopping experience. Poor user experience can and has resulted in lost revenues and customer frustration. To avoid these situations, Pingdom provides synthetic transaction monitoring, a multi-step automated action which checks your critical site interactions every 10 minutes to help ensure your web application is properly fulfilling its business purpose and alerting you if something goes wrong.
You can read full instructions on transaction check and alerts here.
Alert User Settings
Now that we have a robust alerting system, we need to make sure we get the alerts to the right person or team. With Pingdom, you can grant access to individuals, a team of people, group the alerts by shifts, departments, etc., making sure the correct person/people get the right alerts at the right time. Pingdom alerting is integrated with most of the popular notification systems like Slack, VictorOps, OpsGenie, PagerDuty, etc. You can also receive alerts via email, SMS, Webhooks, or Pingdom directly.
In summary, regardless of what product you use, if your website is vital to your business, you need to be monitoring it. Even with all the redundancies that exist from hosting providers, safeguards you take in developing and deploying your web application, stuff happens, and when it does, you want to be the first to know so you can quickly rectify the situation. With Pingdom, we’ve made it very easy to set up alerts within minutes, minimize false positives by having a second probe server perform a check to validate the failed check before sending an alert. Pingdom also gives you details about the error when a check failed, the region that it failed in, and the capability to add a custom message. This all helps give the recipient of the alert guidance of what to do, so you can move fast when troubleshooting and resolving a problem.