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5 Questions to Ask To Choose the Right Website Monitoring Solution

In these competitive times and with the holiday's looming, your Website experience needs to give customers a "warm and fuzzy" feeling. That is, it should be available and fast, with no major hiccups. Website monitoring is essential in delivering just that.

Finding the Right Site Monitoring Solution

How do you find a monitoring tool? Just set the monitoring budget, find a vendor, call the sales department and buy yourself some monitoring, right? Whoa, not so fast.

Finding the right monitoring solution requires delving into your business's needs and requirements. With your business's brand and reputation at stake, choosing the wrong solution could be disastrous, with customers leaving for a competitor's site due to unacceptable page load times and other performance or usability issues, including site downtime.

Ask the right questions.

Before you choose a monitoring service, ask the right questions. How do you know which ones to ask? They are largely dependent on your organization's business needs, but here are a few questions to get you started in the right direction:

1. What type of monitoring will fit the business?

The two common types of monitoring are synthetic monitoring and the somewhat newer real user measurements. By simulating Website traffic, synthetic monitoring shows what could happen on your site and helps you set a performance baseline. Real user measurements show the actual experiences of real Website users.

You may decide that you need both to meet your performance needs. For example, testing a checkout process is different from testing a RESTful API, but both could be crucial to ensuring a solid customer experience. Gartner suggests using a blended approach of synthetic monitoring and real user measurements. Be sure your monitoring provider can support both. Managing multiple monitoring solutions can be costly and cumbersome.

2. What is the level of effort required to get started?

The level of effort needed to get the process started depends on the solution. When looking to replace an existing monitoring solution, do not expect any scripts or data to transfer from one solution to another. If an in-house expert set up the old solution, that person may not be qualified to setup a new monitoring solution using a different technology — at least not without taking the time to learn the new offering, which would pull the person away from existing projects. Ask prospective vendors, therefore, if they offer professional services. An experienced consultant can implement the new solution quickly, delivering a flawless set-up or transition.

3. Is the data provided by the solution acceptable and is the information easy to access and understand?

If the information the monitor captures is difficult to discern or access, the purpose of a monitoring solution is lost. Without easy access to data that is clear and actionable, identifying site performance issues becomes cumbersome, which in turn degrades the value of the monitoring solution. If previewing a new monitoring solution, delve into the results reported by the monitors. Identify important reporting features for the business, and make sure those features can be found easily and can quantify the results as expected. A robust monitoring solution will do much more than simply indicate if the site is up or down. Having valuable, real-time analytics and reporting allows you to identify and resolve issue before customers become aware of the problem.

4. Does the new solution have alerting options and what are they?

Advanced alerting features can provide greater flexibility when performance alerts are triggered. Advanced alerting is much more than sending out some email messages when your monitor reports a problem with the site. Truly advanced features can spin up additional instances in Amazon Web Services(AWS) if the site appears under load and more resources are needed. It can also send HTTP requests to another end point, change monitoring locations based on the time of day, and much more. You should consider whether having a solution with an advanced alerting platform is right for your business.

5. Is the monitoring solution limited to the client side?

If internal performance needs to be monitored, look at solutions that offer internal monitoring options. Most involve hosting a private monitoring agent within the internal network. This can be useful for correlating internal and external data. Internal monitoring can also help identify potential issues or raise an alert about the internal network — before it becomes an external customer-facing issue resulting in downtime and damage to the brand.

While there are more questions to ask and items to consider prior to selecting a monitoring solution, these should help get your organization started. Try not to make any commitments before getting the answers you need. By identifying which monitoring features are critical to your goals, you shouldn't have much trouble finding the right solution — one protects your brand and customer experience.

By David Creason, Professional Services Engineer at Neustar

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