Friday, August 6th, 2010

Web Server Monitoring – Give Your Online Marketing Campaigns a Fighting Chance With a Digital Scout

Web Server MonitoringYou’ve mapped out an incredible online marketing strategy. Your developers have been frantically working to meet your deadlines, the creative is approved, dates set, and your campaigns are almost ready to launch. Everyone is excited. But, are you missing one critical element that can literally save your campaigns? You just might be… One important thing I learned early in my career is that your online marketing campaigns are only as good as the servers they are run on. For example, imagine driving thousands of people per day to a site that is down 25% of the time. Imagine an e-commerce site that bombs during checkout 10% of the time. Or worse, imagine you receive so much attention and traffic that your site is down for days at a time (wasting significant amounts of budget and an opportunity to land new customers). This is the reality of online marketing, and unfortunately, many marketers learn the hard way how important hosting is to their success.

Enter Server Monitoring, Your Online Marketing Scout
I remember launching a large-scale campaign for a client after starting my own business. There was a critical decision I needed to make as we set up their hosting. I could go with dedicated hosting or go with a webfarm (where multiple servers work together to balance the load). The webfarm was more expensive and we didn’t know the exact amount of traffic the campaign would generate, so it was a hard decision. I decided to go with webfarm hosting, and I was lucky I did. The campaign drove over 950K visits to the site in just a few days (based on the viral nature of the video content). The webfarm didn’t even hiccup. We experienced no downtime, even though the site was getting hammered from all directions. How did I know that we didn’t experience downtime? I set up server monitoring so I would know immediately if one of the servers went down. It was relatively easy for my hosting provider to set up, cost me very little, and enabled me to know exactly how the webfarm was performing.

Ping It Baby
When server monitoring is set up, the web server in question is pinged at a certain frequency (like every second or minute) to ensure the server responds. If it doesn’t, an email gets immediately triggered to you and a ticket will be set up with technical support. Yes, this is brilliant and can save your campaign from technical failure. In addition to pinging your web server, you can also set up monitoring for your mail server. If you heavily rely on email for your business (which most business owners do), then this can also be an invaluable service. Similar to web server monitoring, the mail server can be pinged every x seconds or minutes to ensure uptime. If it’s down, an email will be triggered and a support ticket opened. Again, this is a smart thing to do for online marketers.

Understand Your Hosting Package and Provider
So, you’re sold on the idea of server monitoring, but don’t know where to start. No problem. First, you need to understand the hosting package you have set up and the various services that your hosting provider offers. For example, do you have a shared hosting package, dedicated package, virtual private server, etc? Is monitoring offered for certain packages and not others? Then you need to find out how much monitoring costs and what you need to do in order to have your provider set it up. I recommend giving technical support a call and speaking with them about the possibilities. Also keep in mind that monitoring will require that your hosting provider is fine with complete transparency. This could separate the great hosting providers from the good ones. You will know every time the server goes down and for how long. This could be somewhat uncomfortable for certain hosting providers, especially if they aren’t confident in their service.

The Cost of Server Monitoring
You might find that some hosting providers will set up monitoring for free and others that will charge a small monthly fee. For example, it might cost you $5-$10 per month per server (and per monitor). If you had a monitor set up for your web server and one for your email server, then it might cost you $10-$20 per month for monitoring. Needless to say, that’s a small price to pay for being confident in your hosting setup (especially if you or your clients are launching several online marketing campaigns). Imagine you were spending tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on the campaign. What’s $5 or $10 per month??

Points to Consider and Key Takeaways:

  • I recommend having monitoring set up for both your web server and mail server. Then you can be confident that your site is up and running and that you can receive email.
  • When setting up the email address for the monitor (the address that will be emailed if your server goes down), don’t use an email address at your domain. Use a gmail address or another web-based email account. If your mail server is run on the same machine that runs your web server, then you won’t get the email notification when your servers goes down… :) Find out from your hosting provider if your mail server and web server are on separate machines.
  • Make sure the monitor emails you when the sever goes down and when it’s back up. Then you can identify the true downtime that the site experienced.
  • Have your hosting provider test the monitor once it’s set up. Then you can make sure you are in fact emailed and that a support ticket is opened. Like everything else in technology, testing can save you from an embarrassing situation.

Monitoring Is Smart, Set It Up
As you can see, I believe server monitoring is extremely important for online marketers. Don’t let web server downtime ruin your online marketing campaigns. There’s nothing worse than doing your job well as an online marketer and then having a server fail. If that happens, your campaign fails along with the server. If visitors cannot get to the site in question, then you’re dead in the water. Think of your monitor as an online marketing scout that will watch over your servers. A scout that never sleeps, checks your servers continually, takes no sides, and can save your campaigns. Set monitoring up now.

GG

2 Responses to “Web Server Monitoring – Give Your Online Marketing Campaigns a Fighting Chance With a Digital Scout”

  1. Den says:

    Thanks for the article, Glenn. It has nice motivational effect :) The most useful feature of website monitoring services is a phone notification. No need to check reports daily. I ‘d recommend to try http://dotcom-monitor.com and http://monitrus.net. Both of them are paid but have free trial.

  2. Glenn Gabe says:

    Great point Den. Adding phone notification would be a smart move. I’ll check out the links you provided.

    GG