Archives / 2014 / July

Open Source Monitoring applications vs. a 3rd Party Monitoring Service

Excellent, so you’ve decided it’s time to start monitoring your business critical website, now comes the hard part, deciding how to do it. In this blog post I’ll take a look at a couple of options you have  i.e. Open Source applications or a 3rd party website monitoring service.

Open Source software is software that’s available for free and is generally developed by a group of volunteers. Thought it may be free, plenty of open source software is pretty sophisticated and in fact the leading web server software, the apache web server is an open source project as are many other applications used at leading websites.

There are many open source monitoring tools the most popular being Nagios, zenoss, Zabbix as well as many others. These applications can be sophisticated tools capable of very rich monitoring when setup and configured properly.

The advantages of these open source solutions include:

  • No cost for the software - You can download the software for free so there’s no expensive licensing to get started. You can deploy the software to 1 or 10 machines with no additional cost.

  • Very flexible and extensible - Nagios in particular has a very rich ecosystem of plugins which provide support for monitoring various systems and applications.

  • Total control - You can configure and have total control over monitoring setup within the limits of the application you select.


Of course there are some disadvantages to going the open source route as well including:

  • Needs hardware - Depending on your IT infrastructure you may need to find a server on which you can install the monitoring software. This increases your cost to get started as well as presenting an on going cost in terms of server maintenance and support. In these days of security issues you can no longer setup a server and just forget it, security updates must be installed on a regular basis both for the operating system and the monitoring application. Failure to do so can lead to dangerous vulnerabilities being exposed on your network.

  • Documentation - Open source applications tend to be written by developers who are passionate about writing code but not so interested in writing great documentation. Particularly for projects with lots of releases  the documentation for open source projects can lag behind or be scattered online. This can lead to lots of time spent online reading blog posts and forums trying to figure out and how to get things installed and configured.

  • Support - Some open source projects are backed by companies that will provide support for a fee but for others you are at the mercy of various online resources for support. Just like paid applications, you’ll find some applications have great online communities to provide support while other applications may not have any support.

  • Limited OS support - Many of these applications are geared towards Linux which can be great if you have Linux expertise in house but if you are a Windows shop can present additional barriers to implementation.

  • Installed on your internal network - While monitoring from your local network is a good first step there are several types of issues this type of monitoring wont catch since its only able to monitor from your own network. Connectivity and routing errors can affect the ability of customers to reach your website but may not be detected by internal monitoring. Website performance issues can also be a result of upstream network issues that may not be caught by local monitoring.

If you have the expertise in house and the time then open source applications can be a good approach to a monitoring solution. It’s important though to not be lured by the premise that because the software is free that there is no cost in running a monitoring solution with open source tools. There are ongoing costs in terms of your time, hardware, OS and application maintenance/updates and more.

3rd Party Monitoring solutions

A 3rd party monitoring service like can provide many advantages over an internally managed application.

Among those advantages are:

  • Quick and easy to get started - Because there is no hardware, OS and application to configure you can quickly get started monitoring. In 10 minutes you can be monitoring your website or other services.

  • Single Point of Support - With a paid service you’ll have a single source of support, no need to hunt around the net for solutions to arcane error messages or configuration questions.

  • No hardware or Software to maintain - Since the service maintains all the hardware and software you don't need to spend time doing so. Updates to the monitoring platform are automatic with no intervention on your part. Failed hardware at 2 in the morning, no worries, it’s the service providers problem.

  • Monitoring from outside your network - By monitoring from outside your network a service can detect issues with performance and connectivity you may not be able to detect internally. Also most services have test agents in multiple locations providing you with a better feel for your site’s performance from across the globe.

  • Web based interface - You can reach your monitoring service from any web browser or mobile device  simplifying access and eliminating the need to poke holes in your firewall to expose access to your internal monitoring service.


So why choose ?

  • Free 30 day Trial - Create a trial account and experience the power of with no commitment, we don’t even ask for your credit card details till you decide to signup. During your trial you’ll have full access to all the features of as well as our support team.

  • Easy Setup - Getting started with elkmonitor is pretty easy, first set up your monitor(s) and then set up your contacts who will be notified in the event of issues.

  • No long term contracts - We don't believe in locking you into our service for some ridiculously long period of time. Our plans are monthly but you do have the option to save money and commit to a longer period if you wish.

  • NC Based Tech Support - All our support team is based in our North Carolina offices where all our development is done as well.  Contacting us is easy via phone, email, chat and our online forums.

  • Help setting up your monitoring - We been working with web applications for a long time and we are glad to help you in setting up your monitoring using the experience we have gathered over the years.

So sign up for a free trial today and see how we can save you time and hassle.


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