Are Website Uptime Monitoring Services Reliable?

uptime-monitor
Example of downtime email notification.

When your website is down you miss out on sales and make a poor first impression. Oh, and it’s bad for SEO. Never fear–it’s easy to get notifications when your site is down. And if your webhost sucks, you can switch to a better host. (See previous post re: the best managed WordPress hosts. Spoiler alert: Free migrations!)

I’ll blab specifically about Uptime Robot below, because it’s the uptime service with which I’m most familiar, but I’m not endorsing anybody here. There are several other similar website monitoring services: Pingdom, StatusCake, and if you’re on WordPress, JetPack offers monitoring. …There are others, too.

The competitors are all more or less the same; they’ll send you an email when your website goes down, and then again when it comes back up. These services are almost always free for basic use. Extra features most people don’t need cost a little. Note: Pingdom does not have a free tier.

But how accurate are the outage notifications?

Sometimes not very. But it’s easy-ish to fix.

When I sent my host a note about outage notices from Uptime Robot, my host had this to say:

“We’ve been getting more complaints specifically from uptimerobot users. There are literally just that many people using their service so at times it triggers a throttle because the checks come from identical IP addresses, often across many sites at the same time. We’ll look into updating IP ranges in our firewall.”

Since that exchange about 14 months ago, notices about alleged outages have almost disappeared.

What causes website monitoring false positives & how do I fix it?

When Uptime Robot (or one of its competitors) checks to see if a site is up/down, it’s actually checking many sites on each of the big hosts. Those pings can easily be misconstrued as a malicious DDOS attack. Hosts try to stop DDOS attacks, which might inadvertently cause your monitoring service to show your site as offline.

I’ve worked for and owned parts of web hosting companies a couple times in my life and can appreciate how hard it must be to choreograph the careful dance between security and being able to automate measuring uptime. That said, a good host can balance the two.

If you’re getting an inordinate number of “Monitor is DOWN:” emails from Uptime Robot, I recommend you start a discussion with your host to see if they have anything to say about the alleged outages.

If your host claims they’re just false positives, tell your host to update the IP ranges in their firewall to allow for reasonable pinging from Uptime Robot’s IP addresses.  If they’re unwilling to do that, find another host.


 

Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. And apparently hosting, too. He knows enough about hosting to know better than to own part of a hosting company for a third time. His favorite number is 867-5309.

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