Site performance services
Once you have your site up on somebody else's network and data center, the next thing you'd like to know is how often the site is available to the Internet and how many visitors are coming by. A number of vendors provide the ability to keep track of your site and measure its performance.
Keynote Systems Inc. and Service Metrics Inc. (recently acquired by Exodus Communications Inc.) have for-fee service offerings exclusively, while WebPartner has both free and for-fee services. Mercury Interactive Corp. offers both types of service offerings (called Topaz ActiveWatch), along with software testing products.
Both Keynote and Service Metrics claim similar methodologies. Each places a series of 100 or more "agents," or software monitors, at various locations around the world, connected to particular Internet backbone and primary-access providers. For a fee, the agents send signals through these networks to a series of common Web destinations, such as e-commerce, general consumer, and portal sites, as well as to custom destinations specified by the site's owner. The agents calculate packet delays, overall latency, and other measurements to get to these sites, and then send this information back to a central repository. In its reports, the company then summarizes this data, which you access via a Web browser or receive via periodic e-mails.
ActiveWatch uses the same scripts that the other Mercury products use: once a customer develops a script (to navigate to a particular page on a Web site, execute a particular transaction, etc.), it can be used across the board in many different products and services.
Keynote's Perspective service costs range from $295 to $995 a month. This puts them out of the reach of the average-sized Web operator and on par with the access-line charges for a typical business T1 circuit. They also offer a stripped-down, single-city Lifeline service for $695 per year, although this isn't really a very effective price point. Service Metrics has more reasonable fees than Keynote, ranging from $295 to $495 per month. ActiveWatch costs $750 per month.
There are two other offerings, one lower-cost and one higher-cost. WebPartner offers SecretShopper Checkout that monitors the checkout page of a specified storefront every 15 minutes for $349 per year. The company also has a free service, which I've used over the past few years, that monitors basic site availability and will e-mail you weekly status reports. Manage.Com offers a complete e-commerce package, starting at several tens of thousands of dollars, with in-depth monitoring of various processes.
Again, before you get involved in any of these services, try to sign up for a free trial and examine the kinds of reports you get from each vendor. And make sure you understand the information they are sending you.Summary
Over the course of these articles I have discussed many of the new Web technologies that can help you manage your enterprise and applications. They represent a rich array of services and products that take the humble Web browser into new and exciting areas and can be powerful tools in your information technology arsenal. And because most of these technologies are Web-based, you can test their products out without having to install much in the way of software on your own networks as well as access various demos and free trials around the Internet at all hours of the day and night. I wish you much success with any and all of these approaches. IJ
About the author:
David Strom was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine and has written over a thousand articles for dozens of computer trade publications. He publishes Web Informant, a weekly guide to new Web technologies, trends, and services and is a frequent speaker at industry events including Next Generation Networks and Networld+Interop. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.