Website status checks should be a routine part of any IT maintenance schedule. Corporate websites are often hosted externally, but this doesn’t mean they should be excluded from the checklist of applications and servers needing to be monitored.
But what’s website status, and how do you check it properly?
Website Status – What You Need to Know
Like most IT assets, website status boils down to either available (sometimes called “up”), or unavailable (“down”). At the most basic level, this describes whether your website can be accessed by visitors.
Given today’s websites use many services, instead of a single server to provide functionality, a binary available or unavailable response may be insufficient for troubleshooting issues. A website status check should allow you to see each element of the technology stack and whether it’s running or not. This level of monitoring simplifies the process of troubleshooting by narrowing down potential causes of outage or failure.
Although multi-layer availability checking is an improvement over basic ping testing, it’s still overly simplistic. Website status checking should be more granular, allowing you to check actual performance of every website element. Yes, the service is running, but is it running optimally?
Checking Website Status – Location
Running tests in the data center, or from your head office, provides some undoubtedly useful insights. You can generally tell whether the site’s available. The distributed nature of the internet means your experience may not necessarily match that of your visitors who may be in many different regions.
Here’s an example. Your website’s hosted on a physical server in Germany and your office is in London, U.K. Running a traceroute test shows there are six “hops” between your computer and the web server, and the homepage loads in 1.4 seconds. But for a client based in Sydney, Australia, there may be eight or nine hops, and the homepage takes 2.1 seconds to fully load.
You’re both accessing the same site on the same server, but the increased geographical distance influences page load speeds. The distribution of DNS root servers routing queries across the internet will also have a significant impact on site performance. As you plan your website checking regime, you need to consider how to assess status and performance for all users across the world.
To try and improve global performance, there’s a high chance your website uses a CDN (content distribution network) to try and reduce the number of “hops” before they can reach your webpages. In-depth website checking should help you identify performance problems at your web server and with local nodes of the content delivery network. This will help to speed up the troubleshooting process.
For checking website status, ideally you need a monitoring solution that pings your website from multiple locations using a network of distributed servers. This way, all localized issues are uncovered and can be taken under consideration for troubleshooting.
Checking Website Status – Device
Back in January 2014, web traffic from mobile apps overtook desktop and laptop computers for the first time. Ever since then, the internet has been mobile-first, and website owners need to ensure their testing methods take this fact into account.
The website experience may be different on a mobile device, which is subject to additional environmental fluctuations. Bandwidth fluctuates dramatically on cellular networks depending on signal strength and many other factors. Wi-Fi is similarly vulnerable to variations in speed. The further the user is from their nearest access point, the slower their connection, regardless of the maximum theoretical speed.
If your organization uses a native app for mobile users, these additional checks are even more important. The back-end databases and processes may be the same as the main website, but other aspects of the technology stack may be different. Your routine checks need to help ensure the rest of the platform is running and optimized too.
With thousands of mobile device variations (consider specifications like CPU, RAM, cellular technology), it’s impossible to completely emulate every possibility when checking website status. But with a good platform that records and analyzes every user session, you can see exactly how each page loads—and how that compares to other users’ experiences.
Why Website Status Checking Matters
The cost of downtime can be significant, including lost sales, aggravating potential buyers, bad first impression, damage to SEO, and much more. With today’s automated methods for website monitoring, you can help ensure you’re alerted to an outage even before any of your users know about it.
Effective website checking involves more than confirming the web server is online. You also need to be sure load times are of an acceptable level, because users are unlikely to wait. A website that’s up and running, but takes too long to load, is just as frustrating as the site being down entirely. Page load time is directly related to bounce rate. The longer a page takes to load, the more users who get bored and go elsewhere. You can find some real-world statistics illustrating this point in the article “Does Page Load Time Really Affect Bounce Rate?”.
To fully understand how fast your website is, you may consider using a real user monitoring (RUM) solution that analyzes load times as experienced by real visitors. This insight will help you make decisions on what website elements are most in need of improvement, based on the most valuable visitor types and webpage categories.
Your Early Warning System
Ideally, website status checks need to be performed around the clock to help ensure you know the moment an availability issue is detected. Using SolarWinds® Pingdom®, you can set up automated website tests that check availability as well as the functioning of your crucial website transactions. Pingdom sends alerts the moment an outage or transaction issue is detected. You can then invoke your troubleshooting and recovery processes to restore availability.
To learn more about website checks and how Pingdom can make the process seamless and efficient, sign up for a free, no obligation 14-day trial.