Choosing a Website Monitoring Firm? Ask These 5 Questions Before You Buy — not After

Hey brother, can you spare $5 million?

That’s about what Amazon estimates it lost in sales back in 2013, when its website went down for around 40 minutes. For the math junkies out there, that’s $125,000 a minute, or $2,083.33 a second.

Granted, most businesses won’t suffer this kind of hefty financial setback if their website goes down. Sometimes, it pays not to be a unicorn. However, it’s enough to say that there will be a significant and wholly unwelcome cost — either due to lost sales (as in the case of Amazon), or lasting reputation damage. There can also be compliance issues that lead to fines and sanctions. Fortunately, that’s where website monitoring firms ride to the rescue and avert disaster, right? Well, yes and no.

Here is why: just like any other marketplace, there are good website monitoring firms out there, and there are bad website monitoring firms.  Obviously, your mission is to make sure that you choose the former and avoid the latter. But how? All firms promise to offer “comprehensive and robust” web monitoring services. And based on this, you may believe that the only real difference between them is price — which is utterly not the case. There are major categorical differences. And you do not want to discover after you sign (or affix your e-sig) on the dotted line that you’re on the wrong end of an over-promise and under-deliver arrangement.

To avoid that fate and help you filter website monitoring firms worth exploring from firms best avoided, here are seven questions to ask before you buy — not after:

  1. Is your platform fully integrated?

Ensure that you get a fully integrated monitoring platform that covers all of your digital properties —- including your websites, mobile websites, web apps, and cloud services (SaaS) — so that you can access all of the real-time information you need in one place. Juggling multiple tools isn’t just tedious and complicated, but it can lead to errors, oversights and disasters.

  1. How deep do you dive?

Don’t settle for just monitoring the basic availability of your URL. That’s like taking your car into the mechanic for a tune up, and as long as it starts then everything is perfect (and you get a bill for $150). You want to dive deep and monitor full page functionality within real web browsers, verify all elements, scripts, and interactive features (like real clicks and keyboard interactions), and scan for errors to proactively detect problems. You also want the option to monitor any port on any server or device, and track load times since, as we’ve written about, businesses with s-l-o-w websites are hanging out a virtual “Going Out of Business” sign.

  1. Is there anything to install?

Steer clear of (usually empty) promises that installation and setup is fast, easy, breezy, exciting, or any other adjective that you’d expect to hear in a shampoo commercial. You shouldn’t have to install anything whatsoever, and setup should take a matter of minutes — not hours or days.

  1. Do we have to maintain anything?

That groan you hear is the echo of countless IT professionals who have valiantly fought — but lost — the battle to maintain website monitoring tools. End the suffering and be the hero that your IT team needs by choosing a firm that handles all maintenance, including ongoing updates and innovations.

  1. Do you offer a free trial?

There may be “no such thing as a free lunch,” but there is indeed such a thing as a free trial. The firms on your shortlist should offer you a full two-week trial vs. a few days, so that you can put everything to the test in your environment. After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, right? Except in this case, there is no salesperson sitting beside you saying, “what’s it going to take to get you to drive home in this baby?”

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right website monitoring firm — and avoiding the wrong ones — is a critically important decision that, sooner or later, will impact your bottom line: for better or for worse. Asking prospective vendors all of the above questions is a smart and practical way to ensure that your selection is rewarding vs. regrettable.

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