Published on 14 December 2012
As the ceaseless shift from the offline to online world continues, websites are increasingly important to small businesses. Moreover, websites increasingly set the tone of customer expectations for small businesses. That is why it is important that a small business's website avoids downtime and is up and running properly 24×7 and is also able to handle high numbers of user traffic, in a cost-effective manner.
With that in mind, this week, we review Dotcom-Monitor, a comprehensive internet infrastructure and website monitoring tool for businesses. It enables relatively non-technical resources to monitor a website, run stress tests, and ensure that their website is in top working condition. We will look at its features, interface, and see how it can be of use to you.
For most of us, the idea of a cloud-based solution is a fairly recent one.
However, the founders of Dotcom-Monitor saw the cloud's potential back in 1998, when they conceptualized and launched the solution. Before this, the founders had been working on web applications for the financial industry.
"As a result of that experience, Dotcom-Monitor also developed the web application monitoring services for these Fortune 1000 companies," says Brad Canham, vice president of sales and marketing at the company. He says that the company has since expanded its area of operations beyond the financial services niche to include many other verticals, such as: online retail, healthcare, education and government.
Canham says businesses can only succeed by constantly improving. Before Dotcom-Monitor came along, most small businesses settled for low-quality website monitoring "filled with false alerts and partial monitoring."
"We are committed to talking to people and providing expertise about website performance that can be used at any level of business, as well providing monitoring tools that constantly improve the uptime, functionality and online revenues of websites," says Canham.
He says Dotcom-Monitor enables improvements for small businesses by helping them constantly optimize their website performance and make improvements affordably. "We believe businesses, and especially small businesses, succeed by constantly improving," he says.
Canham singles out the solution's web application video capture feature as the biggest differentiator between other, similar tools in this space. Its part of the UserView Monitoring platform and takes a video of a website when the website is having an error. "Its revolutionary. No more wasting time guessing about how an error impacts a user's experience," he says. "There is simply no faster way to pinpoint, diagnose, and solve a web application error in the marketplace today."
In my questions to Canham, I constantly referred to the solution as a Server monitoring service. He corrected me. "We are a server monitoring service and much more. For example, our web application monitoring tool that includes a video capture of page performance and real-time video capture of website errors," he noted, referring to the web application monitoring tool I talked about earlier.
Before starting with the solution, it is important to know that the solution basically provides three types of monitoring platforms for users. Each platform provides a particular perspective of your website's functionality.
ServerView Monitoring enables small and medium businesses to track statistics related to their server functions in a single easy-to-use interface. Because server monitoring can includes somewhat confusing and complicated jargon (ex. HTTP, FTP, SMTP, DNS, etc..), the solution simplifies all server monitoring tasks into a single volume-based package consisting of many major server formats. That, however, is just the beginning of Dotcom-Monitor's capabilities. Unlike traditional website monitoring tools, ServerView Monitoring includes high-quality website monitoring that uses a "non-cache"-method of domain name (DNS) server propagation, as well as both IPV4 and IPV6 monitoring capabilities. In case you did not know it, IPV4 and IPV6 are communication protocol addresses used on the Internet. Typically, cache-based monitoring methods result in faster lookup times for familiar DNS addresses. However, a non-cache-based monitoring method result in much more accurate lookups and monitoring.
BrowserView Monitoring uses browsers to provide details on the speed performance of individual web page elements, such as images, html code, css files, etc…It is especially useful for seeing the performance of webpage elements that are hosted on third-party servers, such as social media images, chat tools, fonts, and seals. In simple words, it helps you improve web page speed and navigation times for your small business's web pages.
Finally, UserView Monitoring enables small businesses to gain a user's perspective of their website using a automated script. Small businesses use the EveryStep Recorder tool to automate the creation of these scripts that go through a website just like a user. The script will interact with webpage elements, such as logins, shopping carts, buttons and mouse actions. The script will capture the web applications performance (including a video of errors as they occur) and send alerts when there are errors to the website administrator.
Dotcom Monitor uses the concept of a device, which can be anything from a website to hardware equipment, for monitoring. I chose to monitor a website. Configuration is a simple three-step process, which consists of adding your website URL and email address. Once the device (a website URL, in my case) was configured, the solution enables you to monitor several types of views, including the three I outlined earlier. All views have a set of common tasks, such as postponing monitoring, or deleting a device, and configuration options.
One thing that impressed me about the solution was the level of sophisticated customization and features available for users. The configuration options enable you to schedule intervals and agents (or locations) for monitoring. The Agents option offers users a comprehensive view of servers and locations from where their devices are monitored. Similarly, the Filters option enables you to configure alert types. Given that alerts have a tendency to transform into spam (and clutter inboxes), I thought this was an especially useful feature. The solution's commenting feature allows you to tack notes and comments to monitoring devices. Again, this feature has multiple applications for users from building up an archival knowledgeable base about that device to helping in root cause analysis. Finally, you can configure groups for notifications within the solution.
While the solution already has customized options for reporting in multiple formats, I was pretty interested in the XML Feed format. The format functions like a real-time ticker of your device activity. For example, you can use the format to monitor data centers and data within internal applications. Using the XRS Service Method typically costs money; however, Dotcom Monitor offers this facility for free.
Perhaps, the most impressive feature in the solution is the EveryStep Macro Recorder that I mentioned earlier. As its name implies, the Macro Recorder functions in a similar fashion to macros. It enables you to record repetitive tasks and generate scripts associated with the task. In turn, these scripts can be used to automate those tasks. In addition to the web applications scripting, you can also conduct a stress test of your servers using this feature. Once you have generated and uploaded a script for stress testing, you can configure the details associated with each stress test, such as number of users and orders and schedules for the test. The solution runs the test at the pre-configured time and displays raw data associated with the test.
The interface looks pretty good. It displays details and statistics in a simple easy-to-read paneled format. You can scroll down the pages to see monitoring statistics associated with each device. At the same time, the dashboard provides you with a snapshot of monitoring activities for all your devices in a visual format.
The application has an excellent and comprehensive knowledge base that spans an array of pedagogy and support formats. For example, you can view tutorials, download configuration guides and case studies, or read latest developments in their blog. In addition, you can also raise trouble tickets and conduct live chats with support professionals.
As I mentioned earlier, websites are increasingly important components of a small business's marketing and commerce strategy. Solutions such as Dotcom-Monitor enable you to manage your website monitoring needs in a simple format, without getting into the technical nitty-gritty. In addition, Dotcom-Monitor's affordability only adds to the case for the solution. Highly recommended.