Network Monitoring for Serious eCommerce
In the real world, businesses come in every size, from self-employed entrepreneurs like me to mega malls like Wal-Mart.
On the Internet, companies come in every size, too, from a stand-alone ebook sales page with webmaster and owner all in one, to 300 pound gorilla like Amazon, with over a million pages requiring the entire population of a small country to serve as webmaster.
If your site is a single page, it is its own network. But if your site is any bigger, and you have plans to grow, it is a network or is fast becoming one. You need network monitoring.
Most ecommerce webmasters are at least somewhat familiar with website monitoring. Many use a website monitoring service or software to keep track of "uptime" and "downtime".
At your local shopping mall, serious business requires more than just knowing when the front doors are open and when they are closed. Serious ecommerce needs to know more than just when the site is accessible. That is what network monitoring is all about.
Chances are, your e-business owns one of the following, or uses one of the following remotely:
DNS servers: These are used to translate your site name, like www.mycompany.com, to the numbers called "IP addresses" that computers understand. If DNS servers are not working properly, end-users will not be able to find your site and will get an error. Usually only an external or remote monitoring service will detect such a problem.
An FTP server: File Transfer Protocol servers are used to help you exchange files with remote users. If you use FTP, a monitoring service can make sure it is always up and running.
POP3 and SMTP servers: These are used for exchanging emails. If you are using email, chances are you are using SMTP and POP3. If your SMTP server is down, everyone who sends you email will receive an error, stating that your mail server is down and cannot accept incoming email. To say that the impression this leaves your customers is bad would be an understatement. If your POP3 server is down, you will be unable to retrieve email from your mailbox. Once again, only external monitoring will prevent such a problem.
Firewalls: Many businesses use firewalls to protect their internal network from un-authorized traffic, such as spyware, viruses and sabotage by competitors. Furthermore, a firewall is your first line of defense. If your firewall goes down, your whole network may actually become inaccessible from outside. In other words, if you host your own web site and mail servers, those will become inaccessible to the outside world if your firewall goes down. Once again, remote network monitoring is required to detect that a problem exists and quickly get it repaired.
Internet connections: Users come to your network from multiple backbones, depending on the company they use to connect to the Internet and their location. It is important to ensure that your connection performs well for each user. A remote monitoring service can ping your networks from multiple locations around the world, thus testing most major routes to your web server or network. Before hiring a network monitoring service, check to see that they have both your customer geography and the Internet backbone layout covered.
Very few websites of any size and functionality are anything less than a complete network, and many networks rely on servers in different parts of the world.
A good network monitoring service can ensure, as a base, that all servers are properly functioning, that data can be sent to and received from each server, and that each function sharing the server responds as required. An advanced network monitoring service can even remotely monitor the temperature of your servers.
What you need to monitor depends on how extensive your network is. A network monitoring expert can help you determine what needs monitoring. If you own the servers, or are remotely hosted on dedicated servers, you most likely need everything monitored. If your site is hosted on shared servers, you might need fewer functions monitored.