Interview with Host-Tracker, Leading Website Uptime Monitoring Service
At KnowledgePower we keep an eye on our clients' sites, firstly because if we are running their Webmaster Service, we are the first people who need to know if something is wrong... and secondly because even if we are not the site managers, when we are running advertising campaigns it doesn't make sense to keep them switched on and sending traffic if the site is offline!
Enter our secret weapon, Host-Tracker.
This is a cool, powerful, and inexpensive service for tracking uptime of a site and automatically alerting you when the site is "down" -- however you create the settings to define what "down" means!
We are grateful to the team at Host-Tracker for giving us the following exclusive interview 🙂
How did Host-Tracker begin?
The story of HostTracker started in 2004 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Artem Prysyazhnuk, the founder of Host-Tracker, was involved in several IT projects, developing and supporting web sites. At that time there were few internet providers (compared to nowadays) and hosting companies, and almost no tools to check their reliability.
After spending time looking for a suitable monitoring tool, which didn't seem to exist, Artem decided to create one himself!
The first solution was quite simple but enough for Artem's own needs. He started to share it with others. This quickly became very popular, especially the price - free!
To meet the commercial demand some major additions to the software were required. 6 years on, in 2010 Host-Tracker was launched in 2.0 mode and under its current team: now consisting of a number of experienced IT professionals and students of KNU (Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University),
Who uses Host-Tracker?
Host-Tracker is open to everyone.
We offer a permanent free package. It has some restrictions, however it is still useful for monitoring of sites which are not supposed to have many visitors and not commercial.
At the moment we have 3 paid service packages.
- Personal is used by clients to keep an eye on their personal blog, information pages etc.
- Business is suitable for internet-based business, like ecommerce and internet services
- Enterprise offers functionality for analytics businesses, web development houses, hosting providers and other companies needing to track hundreds or even thousands of sites
Nowadays lots of businesses require third party monitoring for reliability and confidence. So uptime and performance monitoring can be a compulsory aspect of many business setups.
Can you briefly explain in non-technical language how your system knows if a website is down?
Host-Tracker simulates a real client visiting a site.
The automated checking network now includes about 50 different servers, and for the checked site it looks like 50 people from different countries are viewing the site. If any of them can not load the page, several others immediately try to do the same.
If all of them confirm the error – an alert is generated.
The error, spotted by certain number of servers, means that real clients from the same locations are not able to access the site. The consequence of checks and rechecks is made in a smart way, in order not to overload the checking site, spot all the problems and avoid false positives.
What is your technical setup like?
Host-Tracker has a constantly growing monitoring network, which now has about 50 servers in different countries.
So far they are located in all the continents, except for Antarctica.
Our client can choose the monitoring interval, starting from 1 minute. Each cycle, the site is checked from a different server.
Also, we realize that many sites do not require global access, and are interested in regional or country-based monitoring. For this purpose Host-Tracker has so-called “agent pools” – North America, West Europe and others. It is possible to select one or several pools in order to check the sites only from a certain region of the world. The number of pools keeps growing along with the whole network.
From a technical point of view what is the most difficult part of running your service?
The most difficult thing is to handle the database.
Host-Tracker provides many useful statistical data for its clients, like uptime statistics, error log, response time graphs and much more.
To collect it all, hundreds of records are generated each second as results of the checks. This grows fast!
New technological solutions, like parallel computing and different types of caches help to solve this question in the proper way. However, discussions of database scale, cleaning, and backups are always flying around our HQ.
One specific question, your system offers a check for DNSBL. What is that?
DNSBL stands for DNS blacklists.
DNS is domain name system, a naming system that links everything in the Internet. For example, it links the website address (like www.host-tracker.com) with its physical location on the server somewhere on the globe.
It is a matter of fact that there's a lot of fraud in the internet. DNS records can help identify problem machines that are involved.
DNS blacklists provide information about known cases and analyze the web to find the new ones. They include addresses of sites and services that are associated with spamming, virus distribution and other illegal activities.
However, they are not 100% accurate, and sometimes your site could be listed there accidentally. For example, a site could be marked as a source of spam just for sending many ordinary messages, even if all of them are authorized. Host-Tracker, in addition to availability check, can review the most popular DNSBL and report if your site got into a list for some reason.
What's next for Host-Tracker development?
There are many ideas. For example, translation of the interface to other languages (so far it is available in English, Ukrainian and Russian).
There are also plans to make the service more attractive for corporate users – supporting multiple user roles like administrator, supervisor and others.
Also there are milestones coming up for our network. In the future, Host-Tracker will cover more countries and cities to be as close as possible to the most of the clients and the systems they're monitoring.
Host-Tracker offers readymade security checks for newly publicized vulnerabilities like ShellShock. From your very special vantage point what can you see - is the internet getting more broken or getting more secure?
The Internet is becoming a place for professionals! Security issues were born together with the Internet, and I can hardly believe that one day they will completely disappear. However, now you need many skills to find and use security bugs.
As all of us are humans (and all the robots are created by humans too), there is always a way to hack any system.
Nevertheless, the threshold is constantly increasing, and more efforts and time are required to get through. Monitoring and diagnostic tools help to detect and get rid of vulnerabilities.
KnowledgePower Editor: THANKS guys for the interview - keep up the good work, and maybe consider adding a check server in Antarctica. Hey, at least the data centre cooling would be good.
- Location: Kyiv, Ukraine. Some teammates live in other countries.
- Team: developers and a core team of entrepreneurs. As the business has grown we've taken on specialists for administration and support.
- Software development focus: To create a stable, useful and understandable service, where a client can in one click set everything according to his/her needs. Many features were developed due to users' requests and suggestions, and Host-Tracker continues to be client-oriented service.
- Clients: Among our clients, there are major banks, airlines, software development companies, and design studios. On the other hand, many of our clients are small companies, startups or even individuals, which use our service to monitor their personal blog, information page or a site under development.
- User Base: 95% of our clients stay with us for 3 years or more. Our service helped them to increase the uptime of their sites up to 99.9%
Bogdan Lepiavko ht2support [at] host-tracker.com
Thank you for reading this non-sponsored partner interview for the KnowledgePower Digital Marketing Strategy blog. Copyright 2015 KnowledgePower Ltd.
KnowledgePower is a Digital Marketing agency in the UK specializing in PPC management for SMEs. Website uptime monitoring comes as standard in our Webmaster technical support service for businesses using WordPress sites.