What Exactly is a Website Monitoring “False Alarm”
and Why You Should Care About It

by Louis Kingston

You know what falsehoods are. You know what false teeth are. You may even know some falsehoods about false teeth. But do you know what a website monitoring false alarm (also known as a “false positive”) is? If not, then please keep reading to find out — because it’s a very big deal.

What is a False Alarm?

Remember back in grade school, when the fire bell suddenly went off in class and you were instructed to exit the class single-file and march outside? As you rose from your desk, heart racing, you wondered if you’d ever see your Trapper Keeper, Real Ghostbusters lunchbox and JanSport backpack ever again. But after you and your classmates were wrangled into the parking lot to stand in the brisk autumn air for what felt like an eternity, you soon learn it was just some older kid who thought it’d be funny to pull that shiny red lever on the hallway wall.

Well, that’s essentially what a false alarm is: a result that incorrectly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present (i.e. it wasn’t a real fire consuming your place of education; it was merely a “false alarm” thanks to that jerk in the grade above yours).

What is a Website Monitoring False Alarm?

What you need and expect from a website monitoring tool is to know precisely when your website goes down. Why? Because research has found that the average cost of site downtime is $5,600 per minute. And remember, we are just talking about the average cost here. Some site downtime fiascos are much more costly. Just ask Amazon, which lost an estimated $99 million after going down for 63 minutes during Prime week in 2018. Granted, most businesses (including yours, unless you happen to be Jeff Bezos) won’t have to shell out $1.65 million a minute due to website downtime, but the basic point should be clear: site downtime is costly, and false alarms are supposed to minimize this financial damage.

But what happens when a website monitoring downtime alarm goes off, but nothing is actually wrong? It gets chalked up to a false alarm.

Why Website Monitoring False Alarms Are So Common

Many website monitoring tools — and virtually all of the free kind — have a test server in one location. If that test server detects that a website is not available, it does the only thing it can: sound the alarm. And that seems to be the correct thing to do, right? Well, not exactly.

Let’s say that that the website in this example is only down for a few seconds due to an isolated power outage. The test server has no way of knowing this (i.e. that the website is back up). And so, it is going to generate a false alarm.

The Solution: Multiple Testing Server Locations

Now, imagine that there are multiple test servers spread out across the country — say, one in New York and one in Los Angeles. The test server in New York detects that a website has gone down, and triggers a red alert (this test server is a big Star Trek fan). But it doesn’t sound the alarm. Instead, 60 seconds later the test server in Los Angeles checks in. If the website is up, then it cancels the red alert. If the website is down, then it confirms the initial diagnosis by the test server in New York, and the alarm goes off.

The AlertBot Advantage

At AlertBot, we hate false alarms even more than our customers. That’s why unlike many other website monitoring tools — and again, virtually all of the free ones — we have test servers located across the U.S. and worldwide. We don’t guess whether our customer’s website is down. We know.

Plus, when it is necessary to send out an alert, our system automatically and immediately contacts key people — such as network administrators, SysAdmins, CIOs, etc. — through email, SMS/text message, or phone (or any combination).

What’s more, our test servers keep checking for website site availability, and provide an update (again, in the preferred method) if it goes back up. We also highlight the amount of time that the website — or a specific portion/page of the website — was down. Our customers use this information to keep an eye on overall website performance, proactively detect problems, and ensure that their web host is consistently meeting uptime standards.

Ready to bid false alarms a true farewell? Then start a FREE TRIAL of AlertBot now. There’s no billing information required, no installation, and you’ll be setup within minutes. Click here.

Louis is a writer, author, and avid film fan. He has been writing professionally for tech blogs and local organizations for over a decade. Louis currently resides in Allentown, PA, with his wife and their German Shepherd Einstein, where he writes articles for InfoGenius, Inc, and overthinks the mythos of his favorite fandoms.

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