There’s a magic line of comedian Eddie Izzard’s in his Glorious tour about plane safety and the top-up valve on life jackets:

… and they have these life jackets and … they’ve got a little pipe here for top-up. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want top-up. I want stays-up!

Here’s he is in a clip from YouTube. It’s about 1:07 minutes in:

As it is with planes, so it is with websites. Or so it should be. But sometimes, for all sorts of reasons, websites don’t always stay up. In my experience this is usually because the hosting company is doing server rebuilds or, less favourably, the quality of their service is taking a dip. No matter how carefully one selects a hosting service, things can and do go wrong. When that happens, I need to know.

Pingdom to the rescue

Pingdom is a service that provides website up-time and performance monitoring and I’ve had a subscription with them for some while now.

They allow me to attach a trace to any website and specify a range of notification options. Typically, I set them to test a website every five minutes. In rare cases where we’ve had particular issues, I increase this to every minute. I can then have them email me when a site drops and repeat that email for every 15 minutes of continuously dropped time. I then have them email me when the site comes back up.

At the end of each month, Pingdom send me a report summarising all the sites I’ve attached traces to, giving me stats on the total amount of downtime for that month, together with a percentage of up-time and the average speed with which each site responds.

Not only do I get a clear picture of which hosting companies I recommend for my clients are doing well and which aren’t, I can quote authoritative figures for a site’s performance. Here is an example report from December 2014:

Pingdom monthly report for 2013-12-01 to 2-13-12-31
Site Up-time Downtime Outages Response time
Site A 99.88% 0h 54m 58s 8 361 ms
Site B 99.88% 0h 53m 27s 31 325 ms
Site C 99.92% 0h 37m 00s 4 494 ms
Site D 99.93% 0h 32m 08s 15 675 ms
Site E 99.99% 0h 05m 48s 3 500 ms
Site F 100.00% 0h 02m 00s 1 403 ms
Totals 99.93% 3h 03m 05s 62 460 ms

This isn’t necessarily a typical month. Where sites from a particular hosting company show up with relatively poor performance (as can occasionally be the case) then my recommendation for companies that host my client sites will change. With client businesses being reliant on their websites, Pingdom helps give me what I need to make informed decisions.

November 2014 update

As an indication of the value of these reports, during the course of 2014 there’s been some change of hosting companies for some of my clients based upon this sort of Pingdom feedback. Since these moves – and with new sites going to a different hosting company – here’s the new performance data. See the difference!

Pingdom monthly report for 2014-11-01 to 2014-11-30
Site Up-time Downtime Outages Response time
Site A 99.94% 0h 25m 00s 3 399 ms
Site B 99.97% 0h 14m 00s 2 175 ms
Site C 99.97% 0h 13m 00s 3 531 ms
Site D 99.98% 0h 09m 00s 2 176 ms
Site E 99.98% 0h 07m 00s 3 203 ms
Site F 100.00% 0h 00m 00s 0 218 ms
Site G 100.00% 0h 00m 00s 0 351 ms