Free Website Monitoring Tools

I wanted a cheap (free) and simple way to perform basic website monitoring on a handful of urls. So I googled and blindly started signing up.My first page of search hits was full of reasonable contenders so I concluded that actual use would be the determining factor. My committed investment was only my time.

Here are the results...Please note that I invested minimal effort in setting them up. So your results may vary.

To help put things in perspective my configurations included monitoring a high performance remote site, a medium performance local site and a very slow performance local site. After signing up for a bunch of services I performed a few local failure simulations by either doing a quick power cycle of my aDSL modem or a longer power off of the aDSL modem.

Uptime Robot - This service resulted in a constant stream of false positives. Very annoying. This may be due to the inability to set a response time interval for the tests. Maybe my sites were too slow? This service does allow up to 50 monitors checking as fast as every 5 minutes. They also perform several more checks in the next 30 seconds after a failure. The false positives caused me to abandon them within several days.

monitor.us - This service provides a minimum of every 30 minutes and a maximum of a 10 second timeout. Running checks every 30 minutes would not detect transient behaviour. A 10 second timeout would not support my slow site. Their paid services relaxed these restrictions. They provided a very fancy eye candy dashboard limited to 24 hours of history for free - up to 30 days data paid. They were abandoned within the first day due to the 30 minute interval never catching some simple power cycle outages.

montastic - This service provides up to 3 monitors every 30 minutes (5 or 10 minute paid).The website was very simple and did not provide any history, just a current status. The 30 minute interval caused me to abandon them within a few days. They do get a +1 as their email failure notification was detailed enough that it could distinguish between a DNS resolution issue and a website server issue (I flipped some DNS stuff during this time period).

site24x7.com - A winner? Maybe? This service takes a different approach to signup. You sign up for a free trial period of their paid service. At the end of the trial you either pay or revert to their free service. They are unclear on the differences between the "free trial" and "free" service levels. I am still (at the time of writing) in the free trial phase and so far this is a keeper. Currently it allows me to test every minute with a 45 second timeout. These may change when I get downgraded to the free service?

StatusCake.com - A winner? A bit of a sleeper! It took more effort to get it to work. In fact I totally forgot that I signed up until many days later - because it never sent me a notification email during my initial modem failure tests. This service provides tests every 5 minutes (30 seconds or 1 minute paid) with a configurable crawl timeout. StatusCake requires extra configuration setup steps to enable email notification of failures. Apparently I did not notice this (and hence did not execute) when I originally signed up. I did get a marketing type spam email several days later. So I went back and dug around for a very few minutes and discovered I had to do extra work to configure email notification groups. A little clumsy, but in the end its monitoring was fully functional for my needs.

At the time of writing I am down to site24x7 and StatusCake as the candidates.

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Just a quick update on site24x7: It stopped sending alerts after the end of the free trial. I had to log back in and manually reconfigure my settings. This was an annoying and painful process as I was slowly presented with a succession of error messages (1 per conflicting setting) and each prompted me to call sales and upgrade. End result was:

  • could only check every 10 minutes (up from 1 minute)
  • could only preform a HEAD instead of a GET
  • could not perform any page content analysis (this feature was set up automatically for one of my sites!)
  • could only test from 1 default location instead of 5
  • had to alter some other mysterious settings to be "System Generated"