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When The Blog Breaks: Site Monitoring

A few months ago, it seemed like every two or three hours, my main site, Taking Your Camera on the Road, would go down. Eventually, with the help of my fabulous WordPress friends, we discovered that my host server changed their database monitoring security method to prevent abuse by putting a limit on the number of hits a database could handle within one hour. This extremely low limit backfired with the high traffic my site gets. Database access would be shut down when the security limit was triggered and stay down for an hour before resuming. It was on and off and on and off and on and off.

Another time, my site was down for six hours after a fire in a power relay station in California took out not only a huge chunk of electricity around southern California, shutting down not only my main site, but their offsite mirror backup server as well. They learned not to put their backup server in the same electrical grid, moving it out of state.

Having your website or blog go down isn’t limited to me. It happens to everyone at one time or another. That’s why backing up your blog and database regularly is so important. Your website might snap back, error free, from the crunch, or it could be gone forever. You can’t know what the end result will be, so make sure you back things up regularly.

In this two part series, we’ll look at how to determine when your blog or website is down, monitoring methods, and then in Part Two, how to fix some of the problems that may have broke your blog.

How do you know when your website or blog is down?

It usually happens like this. A friend emails you that they can’t get access to your blog. You freak and type in the URL to find that, indeed, you can’t get access either. You don’t know how long its been down or why. And sometimes, you don’t even know what to do about it.

Having your blog go down is painful. If you are counting on your blog or website to bring in revenue from ads or products, publicity for your business, or attention in general, then every minute that it is down can add up to lost income and interest. If a search engines comes to call and your site is down, will they return later? What if you just told a huge group of people about your site only to check in and find it down? Then what? Even if you aren’t relying upon your blog for income, having your website crash or go down is very frustrating.

Do not assume you can rely upon your host server to fix things for you. For the most part, they won’t. If it is a global problem, server crash, or something effecting the whole, then they will respond. When problems are associated directly with your website content, code, database, or programming, host servers will usually not work with you. I’ve been begging my host server to change or remove this new database access limit as it consistently closes down my site, and each time they blame me. I blame them. No one does anything about it. My patience is wearing very thin, as you can imagine.

So let’s look at ways of monitoring your website or blog and then explore your options for fixing the problem(s).

Monitoring Your Website or Blog

There are three ways to monitor your website or blog to find out if it is indeed still working as it should.

  1. Rely upon others to keep you informed.
  2. Check it frequently yourself.
  3. Work with a website watcher or web page change detection service.

Relying upon others and checking it yourself all the time is time consuming, but also unreliable. After all, you have to sleep, as do your friends. Well, at least some of the time.

A website watcher or web page change detection service, usually called “site monitoring services”, are good tools to help you keep track the status of your website. Some inform you by email, while other paid services may even call you or text message via your cell phone. Some report that the site is down, and nothing more. Others report if the site has been down, how long it’s been down, and when it went back up, if it did. The more sophisticated the service, the more you will have to pay.

The problem with these services is that, for the most part, they rely upon email to contact you. If your email is through your website, and the site is down, then you will not get that email. Your contact email for such services needs to be with an independent email account, and you have to remember to check it frequently.

But what if you are away from email or the Internet? I travel extensively and have spent time in places where WIFI and Internet connections are not just not available, they are unheard of. A cell phone connection for my laptop would be great, but a couple weeks ago I spent four days looking for a cell signal for two different cell services. Nothing.

The more expensive and sophisticated services will call you if there is a problem with your site. If your work and income is linked to your website or blog, then investing in these services is probably a wise investment. Still, you have to be able to be reached by phone.

Look at your lifestyle, your work schedule, and how much you are willing to pay in order to monitor your website or blog, and put that into the equation for making your site monitoring choices.

Here are some example resources, reviews, and information on site monitoring services:

Next: Fixing Your Broken Blog

In the second part of this two part series, I’ll explore how to fix some of the problems that may have broken your blog.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

4 Comments

  1. Posted March 3, 2007 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s pretty disturbing that a web host would silently throttle backend services without informing you. They could have used the opportunity for an upsell instead. But at least you would have known.

    You might want to try the free server monitor service from basicstate.com to give you a heads up in the future.

    ..

  2. site24x7
    Posted April 23, 2007 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    You can also use Site24x7.com for your first step (Finding out your blog is up and running). When you are away from your email, you can configure for sms alerts with this and site24x7 will let you know through sms. You can also configure for content check for checking missing contents or any new contents added without your presence.

    Hope this helps in finding your blog is up and running

  3. Posted April 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Try URLGuardian.com It is free and not just a free trial.
    I have looked at SiteGuardian.com (unrelated to the above) and it looks good too but is only a free trial.

  4. Posted August 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I would like to one more web page monitor to your list.

    It is called dasPing. It is a free web page monitor the iPhone. Unlike other web monitoring applications, dasPing is a completely mobile solution. dasPing connects an iPhone to a cloud based web monitoring server. Specifically, dasPing is connected to a Google App Engine cloud server which can support nearly an infinite amount of users monitoring web pages. When a change on a webpage is detected the server instantly sends a push notification to the iPhone. Even when the phone is off, web pages are being scanned for changes.


11 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] One can’t think of everything, and the creator of the pingback thing certainly didn’t. I noticed it first with this Lorelle’s post. Then, a few days ago, I received a pingback from another blog, with the same unusual set of characteristics. [...]

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  11. […] In Part One of this two part article series, we explored how to determine when your blog or website is down and explored various monitoring and notification methods. In this part, we will look at what may break a blog, and offer suggestions on troubleshooting and fixing your broken blog. […]

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