Monitoring websites. So many tools, yet this is what I do

I’ve been offering low cost website hosting and maintenance for about 5 years. Without it, our business would have gone down the pan. Instead, it’s close to being a passive income that’s giving us lots of freedom.

What’s great is…

MainWP has given a low cost and efficient way update and manage sites on mass. Much of it can be automated.
Uptime Robot warns me of downtime. MalCare and/or Virusdie warns me of security issues.  Analytify lets me know changes in traffic. Cloudways will let me know if my servers are getting hammered … and for brevity I will stop my list of monitors there (other services are available!).

What’s less ideal is…

My clients mostly have to let me know if something on their site is not looking right or some functionally is failing. The reasons for leaving that responsibility with them is:

  • I chose plugins more for their reliability more than functionality (It’s been over a year since my last reported issue)
  • I avoid over complicating web builds, by recommending the long-term benefits of keeping things simple.
  • Beaver Builder does most of my heavy lifting and starts building new sites during their very long Alpha/Beta testing period
  • I don’t believe my clients will pay the cost of additional monitoring.
  • I have not found cost effective tools that will automatically monitor what I need.

MainWP Coupon

My limited experience with monitoring tools

I’ve tried two services (no longer in business) that would screenshot sites and email your changes. I got too many false positives (and many pages needed to dynamically change anyhow) The are even a bunch of open source scripts for developer who want to build their own. But I notice (like the services I tried) many of these seem abandoned.

Perhaps one of the most sophisticated tools is Ghost inspector. I have this running on one site from the days when there was a free plan.  Along with screen shooting will test other functionality or events. You record and report is any of the steps are not working.  In my case I have it on a WooCommerce shop, it tests buying a product through to checkout. It is clever and make it easy to set up one set of actions, but it really out of my league. Too expensive for my clients and it would be a lot of work setting up various action across multiple sites. And we still get false positives.

Recently and partially related I was testing the Hexometer as the was an attractive AppSumo deal on it. It monitors a a number of things but mostly is popular for its uptime monitor (which is covered) and broken link checking (a tough sell to my not so SEO savvy clients) . It seemed good but my Virusdie was blocking them and I was getting email about seconds of downtime that I did not believe or really care about.

Also recently, MalCare Pro added screenshot comparison as something that happens if updating WordPress software through their interface. I use MalCare Pro and from initially not being a fan of it they have won me over. This is a great addition to test whether update have broken sites, but it is a shot of the homepage page only.

My new plan to monitor sites

This is a more systematic approach to things I have done

  • I’m letting MainWP update themes and plugins automatically instead of manually doing daily updates. 
    Over time, I have been testing by marking more plugins as “trusted”. Now only WooCommerce is not trusted.  At the moment, I am setting it to update 3 times a day. My hope is it will reduce the server resource needed for one big daily update.
  • Use the Tab Saver Chrome extension  to group different types of websites for  quick visual checks.
    For example, all sites with WooCommerce on will open on the page where breakages are likely to occur. Most likely the shop page.

Tab Saver Extension

Full Page Screen Capture

The idea is the swap the time spend in MainWP  with time looking at client sites.  Although issue will be rarely captured, it seem better to tell the client you have fixed something before they are even aware.

What are your thoughts?

This is something I am only just starting to implement so I would be interested in what you have to say. Am I forgetting anything. Have you found a better solution

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DWcircle

I build websites at WP Corner Shop and travel. I also co-host a weekly WordPress podcast called WP Builds and make YouTube videos.

2 Comments

  1. Torben Heikel Vinther on 21st February 2020 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks again. Always valuable to read how you do business. One question: what are your thoughts about using Analytify? I’m using MonsterInsights Pro on my client websites, and I’m very happy about that. Analytify looks nice too but I don’t know how it ranks compared to the monster.

    Btw I’m using BlogVault for ALL my sites which means I also use MalCare AND a full-blown backup/restore/staging system. But because I don’t like the way BlogVault creates client reports I use MainWP for that part, but I think BlogVault is doing a pretty good job in monitoring and maintaining websites as well.

    • David Waumsley on 22nd February 2020 at 4:24 am

      Hi Torben,

      From the people I know well BlogVault seems a really excellent choice. I was not a fan on MalCare initially, but they have won me over. You can see that company is going to be offering the full package for maintenance soon. Sadly, BlogVault is out of our budget for most of my clients, but I would prefer it.

      I have no idea on MonsterInsights Pro. I got a bunch of Analytify Pro packages from AppSumo and some other clients have the free version of Analytify. I think I may buy more of the Pro at some point.

      It’s probably been only 6 months since it became the default for us, but no complaints. Nicely laid out. They seem pretty active. No doubt they see an opportunity with this https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-analytics-dashboard-for-wp/ getting 600+ 1 star reviews overnight. Yikes!

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