Today I want to take a moment to sing the praises of Status Cake, my favorite website uptime monitoring tool. One of the services I offer clients as part of my website management plans is regular uptime monitoring – making sure that your website is online, and if it goes down, notifying you and taking action to help resolve the problem.
Depending on the service level, Status Cake will check to see if a given website is online and responsive every 5 minutes or less, and send an alert if one of the websites I have added to my plan is unresponsive. These real-time updates provide data that is valuable for two, distinct reasons — value that I make sure to discuss with my clients when we’re talking about the importance of ongoing website management.
1. Fix the Problem. Quickly!
When I get a real-time alert that a client website is unresponsive, that serves as a prompt for me to get online and try and figure out what the problem is. 99% of the time, the issue is with the servers on the client’s shared web hosting plan, which means there is often little I can do beyond contact the relevant tech support team and make sure they are aware of the issue and are working on resolving it.
For some context, many of my smaller clients come to me with an existing web hosting account with one of the more popular shared hosting companies, and unfortunately in the hosting business you often get what you pay for. When meeting with a new client I try to steer them towards more reliable hosting companies (Siteground is a personal favorite), but often folks have already signed up for a one-year or even multi-year plan, and are reluctant to switch hosts.
For these clients, part of the value I offer is helping them navigate the relationship with the hosting company, the process of purchasing and renewing domain names (and the associated spam them may be receiving) — areas where many clients are happy to hand off the stress of dealing with something confusing and complex to someone else.
Here’s an example of the Status Cake dashboard for one of my client’s websites, whose shared host experienced a significant, almost 11 hour downtime recently (and of course, on the weekend). Hint: look at those red blocks…
In this instance, all I could do was call the host to make sure they were aware of the problem — which they were, and inform the client that their website was offline. The client thanked me for letting me know, and was reassured to know that I was monitoring the situation and would follow up with the host company’s tech support team until it was resolved.
And this leads me to the second way that I use this data to deliver value …
2. Guide clients toward better hosting choices.
I’ve found that with some of the cheapest, most popular shared hosting companies sites will go down for a few minutes at a time relatively frequently, and using a tool like Status Cake allows me to gather data on how often this is happening. I can then take this data to the client and let them know how often their site has been temporarily unavailable, say, over a three month period, and then present them with some options for upgrading their hosting service if they choose.
In these conversations I focus 100% on delivering value to the client – making sure that they have all the information they need to make the right choice, which usually involves balancing hosting expenses with how much they value their website being online at all times. I don’t push either way: at present I don’t provide hosting myself, I just help clients manage their relationship with the hosting company they choose, so I have nothing to loose or gain from a client choosing a more or less expensive package. But if there’s revenue at stake — a site selling goods or services, for example — then the choice to upgrade is often pretty clear, once you have the data to support the decision.