There are many great monitoring solutions that inform you whenever a server goes down. My favorite free monitoring tool is The Dude. The problem with these tools is that you have to run them on one of your corporate servers. Therefore, you won’t realize whether your website is unavailable on the Internet because of a faulty firewall configuration or external networking problems.

To make sure that your website is available not only on the intranet but also on the Internet, your monitoring solution has to be outside your organization’s network. This is where web monitoring services come in. They are not expensive, and some of them even have free plans. In this post I compare three free website monitoring services: SiteUptime, HostTracker, and BasicState.

Of course, a free service has its price. The check period is usually longer than for the paid plans. SiteUptime and HostTracker check your site every 30 minutes and BasicState every 15 minutes. If you also have an internal monitoring solution, this time interval might be sufficient. However, the paid plans start at $5 per month. I’d say this is almost free.

BasicState To configure BasicState costs you only a few seconds. You just have to specify the address of your website and the alert destination. BasicState supports email and SMS. SMS messages have to be paid. In theory BasicState supports numbers outside the US, but in my test this didn’t work with a German cell phone number. You can configure multiple alert addresses and also multiple websites. BasicState only support hostnames as URLs, i.e., you can only specify addresses like http://www.domain.com.

However, the biggest problem with BasicState is that it doesn’t analyze http error codes. My test site was a WordPress installation where the MySQL database wasn’t accessible. That is, the web server was working, but the CMS wasn’t able to create the web page, and produced a 302 http error code. BasicState didn’t notify me that the website was down.

SiteUptime SiteUptime was a bit smarter. It had no problem recognizing that my test site wasn’t accessible. It also offers more options (see screenshot) than BasicState, although the free plan allows you to monitor only one website. Aside from http, SiteUptime also supports smtp, ftp, and pop3 monitoring. I found it useful that one can configure the number of failures after an alert is sent. Perhaps the web server was just a bit busy when it was checked, but it will be back in a few minutes. In such a case you wouldn’t like to receive a text message in the middle of the night. The free plan doesn’t support SMS messages, and you can only configure one mail address for the alerts.

HostTracker HostTracker offers fewer options than SiteUptime, but it has one feature that I consider important. It allows you to specify a keyword that has to be present in the web page. This goes beyond the evaluation of http error codes, and might be useful in situations where a CMS has problems at times with generating a certain part of the web page. Unfortunately, this feature is not free. The free plan allows you to monitor up to two domains. It doesn’t support SMS alerting. After you sign up, you have 30 days to decide which plan suits you best.

All three web monitoring solutions have additional features such as reporting or multiple check locations which I didn’t discuss. My main intention was to find a free monitoring service that informs me whenever my web site is down. For my purposes, both SiteUptime and HostTracker are possible solutions. I can’t recommend BasicState because of the lack of http error code evaluation.

If the 30 minutes check period is too long for your purposes, you might consider using multiple different services. Statistically, this would also reduce the time interval. You might also want to check out the review by Aseem Kishore. He discusses two additional services, Pingdom and justUptime. I didn’t include them in my review because they don’t offer free plans.

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Do you know of another free web monitoring service?

7 Comments
  1. Jesper Ravn 14 years ago

    Hi Michael

    The link below, list 10 freeware web monitoring services.

    http://www.nirmaltv.com/2008/12/09/10-free-website-monitoring-services/

    /Jesper

  2. Nate 14 years ago

    I use http://mon.itor.us for all of my servers.
    It’s got a nice Web 2.0 interface and allows process, memory and disk space monitoring as well as the usual Ping, protocol and HTTP monitoring.

    Also has the option to buy text messages to send alerts to if the standard email alerts aren’t enough. Minimum buy for texts is 50 (at $12.50), but I find that this is enough for me. Their paid plans start at $9.95/mo with only 20 texts, I only run 4 servers so I don’t think I’d need any more than 20 texts a month…

  3. Michael Pietroforte 14 years ago

    Jesper, thanks a lot of the link. I didn’t know that there are so many free web monitoring services.

    Nate, mon.itor.us looks great. It seems they don’t have paid plans anymore. What check period do they use?

  4. Hovhannes Avoyan 14 years ago

    http://monitis.com is the premium service from the same company which also provides http://mon.itor.us. And recently monitis start providing fully customizable plans.

  5. spenser 14 years ago

    Hi Michaal,

    Two comments with respect to http://basicstate.com

    First, is that the SMS works with cell phones that are reachable by the service provider clickatell.com, that should be just about anywhere, and certainly Germany. The only known problems with SMS is where a number has been ported between carriers and the SMS is landing at the old carrier.

    Second, a 302 http status code is defined as a temporary redirect. A lot of websites do that on the home page. It is a perfectly valid and well formed http response.

    If your SQL server is down, then you should be returning a 500 series http status code. 300 series status codes are purely advisory in nature and should not be treated as an error.

  6. geetha 13 years ago

    I use http://100pulse.com for monitoring service. I think its great. It gives 5minutes free monitoring. Also has notification for multiple email account, user defined mail template. Schedule maintenance options and many other features.

  7. Chris Wright 13 years ago

    I think we’re splitting hairs here when it comes to costs. Seriously folks, $5 or $10 a month is a joke. Heck, if you have a site that gets any real volume of traffic (especially an e-commerce site), stop being so cheap.

    I have tried the ‘free’ services and found the same issues noted here: ridiculously long times between checks (30 minutes? really?), they have no SMS ability, or no ability to keyword match, or no ability to check the mySQL database, etc. All the free services work, but all have severe limitations.

    I ponied up the whopping $23 a month for Uptrends (http://www.uptrends.com) and they do all of the above. I’m constantly surprised at how many people will bit torrent, borrow, steal or just get super-cheap when it comes to the reliability of their website (and subsequently the stability of their business).

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