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Website Monitoring: A Complete Guide

Rajkumar Venkatasamy · Oct 14, 2022 · 9 min read

Your business’s online presence is critical for success, and your website is how your customers interact with it. So, to ensure that your business and brand are represented in the best light, your website must consistently function as you intend and users expect.

Website monitoring allows developers to validate website availability, performance, and expected behavior. This gives you extra time to notify customers or support staff when website functionality is down or load times are longer than usual.

The following are some examples of why website monitoring is essential for every online business:

  • Building and maintaining the reputation of your business: Whatever your business, maintaining your website’s uptime is critical. A website that’s down regularly reflects poorly on your business and customer service. If the site isn’t working, your end users will lose trust in your offering. So, maintaining website availability is critical to building and maintaining your reputation.
  • Ensuring customer retention and avoiding loss: If your website is unavailable or goes down frequently when a customer tries to purchase something, they might switch to other sites offering similar services or products. Additionally, such a poor experience could lead to customers never returning to your site. To retain customers and avoid such loss, you must keep your website’s availability high.
  • Maintaining your site’s ranking: Search engines won’t suggest your site in results if your site is down when the search engine bots scrape the internet to index their search-catalog content, even if you have invested significant time and resources in developing high-quality SEO-based content.
  • Understanding user interaction: This can help you gain insights on how to improve your website design and address factors that can enhance user experience and increase sales/services.

This article introduces website monitoring, explains why it’s important, and explores the different processes involved. The article also discusses essential monitoring-tool features to ensure that they can effectively handle these processes.

What Is Website Monitoring?

In its most basic form, website monitoring is simply collecting data from your website to further optimize its performance or pinpoint areas of concern. For example, if your image load time is over 2 seconds, it’s likely image sizes are too large and developers can resize them. In addition, website monitoring provides developers with real-time data on load times, uptick percentages, and element performances.

Readily searchable and available information is vital for a business to succeed, and websites play an integral part in a business or brand image. Whether your product or service is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to customer), a large percentage of purchasing decisions begin with an online information search, and search engines will penalize your site’s ranking if it’s frequently unavailable, the latency is too high, or the content and design do not meet acceptable standards.

Therefore, monitoring your website’s availability, performance, functions, behavior, and content is essential to ensuring your site is readily accessible and provides the best possible experience. The following sections explore strategies and processes for effective website monitoring and how to communicate monitoring results with your users, divided into the following categories:

  • Uptime monitoring
  • SSL monitoring
  • Performance monitoring
  • Content monitoring
  • Status pages

Uptime Monitoring

Uptime monitoring is the process of testing websites for availability to their visitors or end users.

If your website offers services or products to a global audience, it is imperative to monitor the website’s uptime from different locations around the world, as your site might be accessible from one location but unavailable from another.

Without active uptime monitoring, you have to wait until a user reports a problem, and that’s not an ideal or acceptable way to run your website in production.

Therefore, you should ensure that your monitoring tool or platform performs uptime-monitoring checks quickly and efficiently. The ideal platform should have a user-friendly interface to accept the website URL as an input and a decent set of default configurations to monitor. Additionally, as part of the definition of an uptime-monitoring check, the platform should enable its users to do the following:

  • Add custom assertion definitions
  • Add alert conditions
  • Add notifications settings

For example, the following screenshot demonstrates a website uptime-monitoring check using Cronitor – a SaaS platform that makes it easy to monitor any website, API or service.

Uptime monitoring

This example calculates total performance, uptime percentages, and checks every 60 seconds within the past 7 days. The monitor snapshot displays important metrics developers can use to determine website health. For instance, 99.999%, or “five nines”, is considered an excellent uptime rate. In this example, the current uptime percentage is 19.37%, which is far below the acceptable threshold for website availability.

However, the average website download time over 7 days is 67 ms. This is an excellent download rate for a business that will attract customers and bump up your SEO-ranking.

Additionally, uptime monitoring can ping servers located across the globe. In this case, it compares response time between the US, Germany, Singapore, and India.

SSL Monitoring

Most business websites are enabled for HTTPS communication over a network. HTTPS communication is a secure way to transmit data between the user’s browser and the server hosting your website. The transmitted data via HTTPS protocol is secured using data-encryption technology by employing SSL certificates. Thus, any website that relies on HTTPS protocol for communication should have an SSL certificate deployed on the web server.

Each SSL certificate has a validity period and must be renewed once this period ends. Failing to renew an SSL certificate on time or operating a website with an expired SSL certificate will have the following implications:

  • Your website will be vulnerable to hacks. A hacker can expose an invalid certificate (whose ownership or details are known to the hacker) by being a “man in the middle” between a client and server. In this case, the user accesses a website with an expired certificate and adds an exception to allow or accept the certificate in the browser, but this certificate is actually the one exposed by the hacker. This exposes the user’s information to the hacker and increases the risk of a hack.
  • By default, when visitors access a website with an expired certificate using a browser, they see a warning message. Some users don’t understand these warnings or know that they can bypass them, which may mean they never reach your site. Inevitably, this leads to a loss of customers and business.
  • M2M (machine to machine) communication that was established between your site and other applications might stop working depending on how it was integrated.

To avoid these issues, you need to renew your SSL certificates at the right time. Setting up an automation process to renew the SSL certificates is recommended to avoid manual mistakes and ensure that your renewal is on time. You can employ a certbot or cert-manager (if your environment is based on Kubernetes) for automated renewal of SSL certificates.

Even if you have deployed all these measures to ensure your SSL certificates are up-to-date, at times, the renewal process might still fail. Therefore, it’s essential to monitor your website SSL certificates to have advanced notice of their expiry date. The following screenshot is an example of how this check is performed with a user-friendly assertions condition in the Cronitor platform:

SSL certificate expiry date check

The above assertions enter a 200 HTTP status code, in which the SSL certificate expires after 15 days.

Performance Monitoring

Performance monitoring is the process of monitoring and analyzing websites to check if the most crucial pages are rendered as fast as possible and at a consistent rate. If you’re serving a global user base, performance monitoring also involves checking that your website performs consistently in different regions around the world.

The image below contains the response time of a web page being monitored. In the graph, you can see a 7-day report detailing page load time in seconds. With the exception of a major spike on 06/22 and 06/28, web page load times are within the optimal range of fewer than 3 seconds.

Performance monitoring

You should use a tool that can measure the true page load time when monitoring your website performance. This measurement should include the time taken by the entire website and its resources (images, JavaScripts references, and other static or web content) to load. Your performance-monitoring tool or platform should also notify you or the target audience when there is a breach in the expected threshold.

Content Monitoring

Website content monitoring involves checking whether the expected content is loaded completely when the page renders to users. Ensuring the content-monitoring checks are in place is critical to safeguard against the following scenarios:

  • Hackers who gain access to the web servers that host your website can modify the page content for their financial advantage, broadcast content of their choice, or even delete content.
  • At times, your website content will need to be updated or changed in response to requests. This might include changes to text, images, and script-source references and links. Without appropriate content checks in place, these changes might introduce errors. So, whenever you make changes, remember to update your content-monitoring checks accordingly to ensure that the right content is displayed on your website.

Using a monitoring tool or platform that can configure alerts and notification channels in the event of content-monitoring assertion failures would also be helpful. You should be notified when pages are not rendering correctly—for example, if expected content is missing or only loading partially.

The following screenshot shows an example custom-assertion condition checked on a website sign-in page using the Cronitor platform. The condition checks that Sign In is present in the text content of the monitored page and marks the check as failed if this content is not detected.

Sample content monitoring

Status Pages

Status Pages let you communicate the reliability and health of your services to your customers. You can also use status pages to communicate the state of active incidents, upcoming maintenance schedules, present downtime information, and even historical stats.

Providing end users access to your status pages will help build trust through proper communication and transparency and improve your brand image. The status-page information should be shared with new users as part of their onboarding to ensure that they are aware of important information in advance (such as in the case of an upcoming maintenance schedule).

In the context of status pages, your website-monitoring platform should facilitate the following:

  • You should be able to control who has access to your page, whether that’s anyone on the public internet or only people in your team. For example, you should be able to choose if it’s public or private or password protected. Public access is the standard choice when you want to make the status page available to anyone with internet access. Conversely, with a private or IP-restricted status page, you can limit who can access your site’s status page by whitelisting an IP range. In the case of a password-protected status page, an additional password needs to be provided for access.
  • You should be able to display details of ongoing incidents and update their status changes as they happen.
  • Your users should be able to subscribe to incident updates, so they are informed when the issue is resolved.

The following screenshot is a sample status page created using the Cronitor application:

Status page example

Conclusion

This article introduced website monitoring and why it is essential for businesses to succeed. The article also explored the various processes involved in website monitoring, including uptime monitoring, performance monitoring, SSL monitoring, content monitoring, and the significance of a site’s status page.

While some companies host open source projects or build their own platforms to run their monitoring infrastructure, that’s often not an ideal solution. It can result in higher costs due to ongoing maintenance, redundant infrastructure, and reduced team productivity. Also, as your alert system would be running on your own servers or cloud provider, if they fail you won’t know; your system would go down with them.

That’s why most companies opt for a fully managed service such as Cronitor, which takes care of all these risks and ensures important alerts are always delivered.

Cronitor monitoring platform

As demonstrated in the example screenshots, Cronitor delivers out-of-the-box capabilities that support all the website-monitoring checks you’ll need. The platform’s user interface is so intuitive that even a novice user can understand and implement end-to-end website monitoring with ease.

Check out the Cronitor platform today and sign up for a free account to try website monitoring for yourself.