HTTP methods
HTTP methods HTTP methods define actions, wished to perform to a specific site.

GET method is used when the page is loaded from server to your browser. If it works, your web page is available to load. It is the most common method among all, when you type a site address in your broswer - this method is used to show you the site content.

HEAD method is similar with GET, but it load from server only headers of your page. It is useful if You want to test just accessibility of a web page or review its headers.

POST method is used to send information from you to server. If a page includes text field(s) for filling, POST method is used when you click button "submit" (or whatever is name of that button). It brings information you have typed into those fields to server. So, if there are some text fields on your page, you can use this method. If it works, your web page is available to use, and text, typed into fields on your page, is able to be transferred to the server. An example of using POST method for Website Monitoring is provided in this article (You provide specific keywords, which are inserted into text fields).

  • CM.Glossary.WebsiteMonitoring
  • CM.Glossary.HTTP
  • CM.Glossary.POSTMethodExample
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Although i'm using the free offering, but it has given me the liberty of alerting system for my landscape

"
- Adam
How to activate API for your Host-Tracker account

HostTracker API uses widespread XML and JSON formats. Interactions with API are made by HTTP methods GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, PATCH.

To activate API for your HostTracker account, one should write a request to ht2support@host-tracker.com, with the login specified.

Host-tracker API

API stands for "application programming interface". It is one of the features for HostTracker website monitoring service, which is implemented in preset list of HTTP requests and HTTP responses for maintaining and adjusting HostTracker features for your convenience. It provides possibility to develop applications which will automatically cooperate with HostTracker service, instead of manual adjustments via user interface.
HostTracker API uses widespread XML and JSON formats. Interactions with API are made by HTTP methods GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, PATCH.

To activate API for your HostTracker account, one should write a request to ht2support@host-tracker.com, with the login specified.

REST API description:

https://www.host-tracker.com/api/web/help.html

SOAP API description:

www.host-tracker.com/api/soap/v1/help.html

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How to activate API for your Host-Tracker account

HostTracker API uses widespread XML and JSON formats. Interactions with API are made by HTTP methods GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, PATCH.

To activate API for your HostTracker account, one should write a request to ht2support@host-tracker.com, with the login specified.

Host-tracker API

API stands for "application programming interface". It is one of the features for HostTracker website monitoring service, which is implemented in preset list of HTTP requests and HTTP responses for maintaining and adjusting HostTracker features for your convenience. It provides possibility to develop applications which will automatically cooperate with HostTracker service, instead of manual adjustments via user interface.
HostTracker API uses widespread XML and JSON formats. Interactions with API are made by HTTP methods GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, PATCH.

To activate API for your HostTracker account, one should write a request to ht2support@host-tracker.com, with the login specified.

REST API description:

https://www.host-tracker.com/api/web/help.html

SOAP API description:

www.host-tracker.com/api/soap/v1/help.html

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Tags: api
Domains: do they have afterlife?

Every year, millions of domain names are lost. What happens after domain expires? How long will your domain wait for you before someone grabs it? And how to omit this?  

Domains: do they have afterlife?

Everyone may face the problem of losing the domain name. Every year, millions of domain names are lost. Mostly, it happens unintentionally, the owners miss the renewal notices for various reasons and they do not figure out that they are in the process of losing their prized domain until it is too late! In this article you will get to know about the most known examples of domain expirations. Moreover, we will see that big companies, such as Microsoft, Foursquare, Yatra, are also insecure to "the drop game". Additionally, you will find out how to keep the domain name if you forget to pay for domain renewal. How long will your domain wait for you before someone grabs it? And how to omit this?  

How Microsoft lost hotmail.co.uk

One of the most striking examples of dropping the domain name ocured in 2003 due to what is called the collective negligence. In spite of the fact, that people were trying to check up on what was happening and somehow to deal with the problem, Microsoft behaved as a typical bureaucratic organization.  It turned a blind eye to people inquiries. Despite being warned that it’s time for the domain renewal, Microsoft overlooked these notifications. Therefore, the domain was returned to the pool of available domains. Moreover, its mail service wasn’t accessible in England.

Luckily, the domain was grabbed at once. The new owner was so kind that tried to inform Microsoft immediately that they needed to re-register the domain and restore the service. Nevertheless, Microsoft didn’t seem eager to get their site back and ignored these messages. Microsoft realized the issue just when journalists contacted it.  Only then, the software giant reached a new owner of their domain. What is more, even after that, during a long period of time Microsoft had been stalling for time before the problem was sorted out. It seems that no one in the UK could deal with the problem, because only the central office was responsible for domain registrations.

Fortunately, hotmail.co.uk was regained. But still, Microsoft didn’t officially confirm that hotmail.co.uk had been dropped.

Only a registrar for all .uk domains shed light on this situation and born out that hotmail.co.uk had failed to be renewed despite being warned about the importance of the renewal procedure. Moreover, the registrar confirmed that the domain was snatched up by a private person. Apparently, all notifications via mail were ignored by the giant. It’s interesting that it wasn’t the very first time when something like that has happened with this company. In 1999, Microsoft had similar bad experience.

What happens after domain expires?

The procedure depends on registrar of the domain names. In addition, this procedure has changed many times over history. In this article we will be concerned with the most typical up-to-date procedure.

The first stage - the registrar shows loyalty to the client and gives extra time for domain renewal (grace period). Your grace period may take about from one to 2-3 weeks. This window can have a few deadlines - for example, a free update period, an additional fee etc.  When the domain is in a grace period where all services are shut off, it isn’t available for registration by anybody else.

The second stage - the auction. After the registrar is sure that the domain renewal hasn’t been done, he puts it up for auction. It's a registrar’s chance to bring in extra income- the domain can be auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Let’s be frank, it works- many domains are snapped up at auction. Let’s look at some of the most popular auctions:

  •  Go Daddy Auctions
  •  NameJet
  •  SnapNames.com

Each registrar cooperates with only one of these auction services. Domain names are exclusive to one auction, as the sell-off can’t take place at two locations. How does the auction work?

To begin with, there is often the opportunity to place a backorder. For example, if someone is very interested in scoring your domain name. In this case, the buyer will get the notification about the expiration status of the target domain and, definitely, leverage this opportunity. It’s worth noting that during this period, domains can be included in backorder auctions, where another participant can bid on your domain name. Generally, an auction can consist of several stages, as well as, after the main auction can follow the closeout of least desired domain names.

In addition to this, there are such sites that collect information and provide it in a more convenient way. For instance, these sites will help you to discover that more than 3 million domains have expired for the last 10 days. Furthermore, you will realize that even expensive (costing up to $ 500K) domains can be dropped after a while.

The third stage - domain "death". The domain disappears, and it can be retrieved on a common basis. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely if a domain name has any marginal value, as well as, consists of unambiguous words and is well-promoted. If so, the domain will probably get purchased, as nowadays it is also kind of business.

Some extra good examples

In 2010, a well-known website Foursquare forgot to renew their domain name. Luckily, they noticed this in time and quickly sorted out the problem. Nevertheless, customers couldn’t reach the site during this period of time. At that time the internet was bombarded with these news, yet the company has taken the advantage from this situation.

However, sad examples do exist too. In 2012, a popular Indian travel site Yatra.com, with millions of visitors and huge income, dropped their domain. Therefore they lost not only money, but also their reputation, clients and the trust of their partners. Eventually, the domain has been restored. The company hasn’t been as successful since.
Such common experience has held almost everyone once in a while in their history, from banks to giant companies.  Actually, HostTracker had such experience too and it was the reason why we decided to write this article.

Web site monitoring service almost lost its domain

The truth is that host-tracker.com was almost lost despite having an instrument for keeping an eye for an expiration date and sending renewal alerts. Actually, this feature became HostTracker’s last resort, as all domains and sites are being monitored by HostTracker’s own monitoring system. In a manner of speaking, even though at that time the HostTracker company got the renewal alerts, everything seemed to be fine, as the auto-renewal was on. However, for some reason, the automatic payments didn’t pass through and the domain wasn’t renewed. To be honest, we are still not sure why did that happen, as their support could not explain the issue clearly. Luckily, we noticed the problem in time and solved it quickly.

To sum up:

  • Renew your domain in advance. In this case you might want to ask your registrar to set up your domain to auto-renewal in advance with your approval beforehand. Moreover, you will be notified in case of any problems. It is strange, that GoDaddy hasn’t done such thing by now.
  • Backorder does work. Just before HostTracker entered their grace period, someone had tried to contact HostTracker by mail to acquire the domain name. So pay attention to such things!
  • You would better not enter the grace period. Once the domain expires, it can be easily renewed at the regular price within a few days and HostTracker showed this. The disadvantage is that all customers will be greeted with the message that domain page isn’t available. You should never allow a domain to expire because working on recovering it can take a vast amount of time.
  • Monitor your domains for any changes. You can keep an eye on the state of available domains which you like, but don’t forget your own ones too. There is a wide variety of services, like HostTracker, which provide an easy, efficient way to track any changes of domain’s state. Check out the description of such HostTracker’s tools here.
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Escalations. Typical scenarios

As many people know, HostTracker is a sites efficiency monitoring system. One of its main functions is to notify the user of any problems promptly. The efficiency of the notifications and the acceptable level of “detalization” are important. If you send alerts at each “sneeze”, the person will not find the important information in this flow...

I was woken up by an SMS at three a.m.
My site dropped for three minutes, and it raised back itself.
But I could not go back to sleep.
True-life story

As many people know, HostTracker is a sites efficiency monitoring system. One of its main functions is to notify the user of any problems promptly. The efficiency of the notifications and the acceptable level of “detalization” are important. If you send alerts at each “sneeze”, the person will not find the important information in this flow.

We have provided several mechanisms that will help the right people to get the necessary notifications:

  • Separation of the notifications into several groups according to their criticality;
  • No notifications at short-term failures;
  • Report the problem to the manager promptly;
  • Report a prolonged failure to the administration;
  • Use the free alerts first – email, gtalk, and then the paid ones – SMS or phone call;
  • At the contact level – set the working time when this contact should receive the alerts.

 

There are three types of notifications:

 

  • The website has “dropped”;
  • The website is still “down”;
  • The website “rose

 

The “dropped” and “rose” are clear. The notifications “site is still down” are sent at each test fail, but only at the confirmed drops. The fails confirmation algorithm was described in the article “False alerts exclusion”

 

For each site-contact pair you may enable or disable the appropriate notification type. The setting can be located in the contact properties as well as in the general “matrix” at the “Notifications subscribtion” page.

Escalation and the notifications detalization level.

Suppose, two people are responsible for the site:

  • Administrator
  • Manager

 

Let's try to implement the following scenario:

 

  • In the event of a “drop” we want to send an email message to the administrator immediately;
  • If the site does not rise within 15 minutes, we send an SMS to the administrator;
  • If the site is “down” for more than an hour, then we send an SMS to the manager.

 

Adding the contacts for the users. While adding, draw attention to the “Notification Delay” window.

 

We appear to have three contacts with the following delays:

  • Administrator (email) – no delay;
  • Administrator (SMS) – 15 minutes delay;
  • Manager (SMS) – 1 hour delay.

 

According to this configuration the administrator will get all the failures notifications to the email, but SMS notifications will be sent only if the site is “down” for more then 15 minutes. The manager will receive only SMS about major failures lasting more than an hour. Setting up the contact working schedule

 

Suppose that one administrator can not cope, and we hired one more administrator. The first one works during the first half of the week, the second one works during the second half. Accordingly the notifications should be sent to the administrator “on duty” To set this scenario the window “Set the contact working hours” is used in the contact settings.

In this case the first administrator will receive the SMS notifications from Monday to Thursday inclusive. Additionally, you may divide the notification for different employees according to the time of day, for example appointing day and night administrators.

Conclusions: with the help of relatively simple mechanisms we may cover most notifications fine-tune user scenarios.

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Host-Tracker under Windows Azure
Those, who actively involved with the Web, should know Host Tracker, a company from Ukraine, which has been supporting one of the leading global web monitoring services since 2004. Its goal is to monitor site health and accessibility in near-real-time access. Using alert message system, Host Tracker allows to reduce downtimes, to improve quality of service for users, to quickly localize troubles...
Those, who actively involved with the Web, should know Host Tracker, a company from Ukraine, which has been supporting one of the leading global web monitoring services since 2004. Its goal is to monitor site health and accessibility in near-real-time access. Using alert message system, Host Tracker allows to reduce downtimes, to improve quality of service for users, to quickly localize troubles, and etc.
Architecturally, Host Tracker includes a server-based hub, acting both as a data collector and control center, and a series of software agents, launched in various regions – typically using the equipment operated by major providers, hosters and affiliates. The geographically distributed architecture provides common system reliability and also allows collecting data in terms of access speed, bandwidth and other key performance characteristics on regional level – a critically important feature for the international business.
The first version of Host Tracker, which is still functioning and providing services for tens of thousands of customers, was Linux based. Today, it is supported by nine control servers, located and organized in two DPCs on collocation principle, and few dozens of agents. Considering that the final objective of web monitoring is focused on increasing the uptime of client-based web resources – whereas 95% of Host Tracker customers were able to increase it up to 99% – then, performance and accessibility of the service itself are not just critical, but rather fundamental parameters that influence the whole business. Theoretically, Host Tracker should demonstrate accessibility close to 100%. However, an extensive growth of the service made this task hard to solve.
Host Tracker was facing constantly increasing network traffic – a problem for seamless operation of the service. Inability to add new control servers on-the-fly, difficulties when maintaining not uniform and multiple-aged hardware was another limiting factor. Moreover, the desire to develop the service through wider protocol and network service support was meeting certain obstacles. “Unfortunately, for Linux there was a limited choice of ready-to-use solutions and libraries, while inventing something completely new was difficult”, says Artem Prisyazhnyuk, Host Tracker director. “We had an idea of reviewing the stack of technologies we used for a more sophisticated one and after taking a closer look at the .NET platform, its potential in terms of scalability and network support, I realized that was exactly the thing we had been looking for.”
It was sure that migrating to a completely different platform should be a complex task – the project extended over three years. However, it was like blessing in disguise: during this period, the world has seen the cloud computing that seemed an ideal tool for solving both the scalability problem and putting aside one’s own whole infrastructure. Besides, the PaaS model allowed to remove most of the effort in terms of administering the solution and to control the application as a self-contained entity, to the extent of complete automation, and thus, Windows Azure had in fact no alternatives.
As a result, the second version of Host Tracker, commercial operation of which started in May 2012, is already functioning under Windows Azure. Its central ingredient is realized as Web Role and associated with SQL Azure Database – it provides external portal, analytics and report generation, control of monitoring applications. The latter are ensured with instances of Worker Role, which also use SQL Azure Database to store their data and to provide the service scalability depending on the network loading. Agents are functioning as they did before, with the viability of their transfer to Windows Azure being considered.
Now, Host Tracker uses HTTP/HTTPS and ICMP protocols to monitor specific ports, including various methods (HEAD/POST/GET), and etc.



Alarm reporting is available via email, SMS and instant messages. The customer can receive reports with statistics about resources being controlled and their performances. You can spend only 6 minutes to make monitoring settings for five sites, while the average response time in case of failure is limited by a couple of minutes, and it takes 1-3 minutes more to inform the customer about the problem. Using this service, anyone can check any site, including access from various regions.
As a result, if on the one side the transfer to the .NET platform itself gave us the potential to modernize Host Tracker, to optimize the application architecture and realize new internal functions, then, on the other side, the migration to the cloud allowed to refuse from less important, though time consuming activities such as administering the solution, and, first of all, to reach necessary performance indicators. Microsoft, for all basic Windows Azure services, declares 99,9% accessibility and guarantees monthly refunds, should this indicator be lower. This creates a firm ground for operating such services like Host Tracker, as the accessibility is the most critical parameter for these applications. Using the cloud infrastructure also provides a better protection for the service: unauthorized access to the application and many types of attacks are effectively excluded, while the data safety is ensured by triple reservation.  
Host Tracker received another advantage from abandoning its own infrastructure. The service’s performance characteristics are also rather critical, for they directly affect the failure reporting system operation. In this respect, Windows Azure is virtually a drainless source of computing power. This means that by timely starting additional monitoring instances you can support Host Tracker functioning parameters on the necessary level. Moreover, the cloud environment is exactly what you need in order to make this process almost fully automatic, excluding further need for direct control.
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HostTracker — Sites Monitoring Service
Every site owner knows how important it is to have your resource always operative and available for visitors. Periodical site unavailability has a bad influence even at its positions in the search engines (as Google representatives have repeatedly claimed), not to mention the fact that visitors are extremely displeased by such “accidents”...

How to be always aware of how properly your site is operated in real time?

HostTracker is an online website monitoring service, having rich functionality and good feedback of the customers, who are, by the way, more than 25 thousand (including the resources of such companies as Colgate, KasperskyLab, Panasonic etc.).

The job design of this service is the following: at certain specified intervals your websites and servers will be checked for availability and serviceability (the verification is performed from around the world), and in case of any problems you will receive notifications about the problems. In addition, uptime statistics for each site is collected, but it will be discussed later.

A quick site serviceability check may be performed directly from the service main page through typing its address in the upper right window and selecting one of the verification methods:

  • Http – website pages loading check
  • Ping – the server availability check (pinging)
  • Trace – the server availability check (tracing)
  • Port – random server port check

According to the check results a detailed report will be created on a separate page.

To become the HostTracker service client and verify the uptime and serviceability of your resources on a regular basis you need to register in the system and assign the appropriate tasks. Over time detailed statistical reports and visual graphics will be created for each task, greatly facilitating data analysis, outputing them in an understandable representative form.

Site failures and problems may be reported to (at your option):

  • Email as a letter
  • telephone as an SMS or a call
  • Skype or GTalk as a message

At that it is possible to set the notifications delay, their uploading time etc. – the settings are very flexible. By the way now I really miss such functionality at Monitorus, as it sends an SMS immediately when a problem occurs, regardless of the time of day, and as you can imagine, late night may be very fun because of this).

Another useful feature of the HostTracker service is the site content monitoring. You may set a list of the page keywords, at the disappearance of which you will receive the notification. Or vice versa – set a list of words, at the appearance of which you will receive the notification. The first case, for example, is good for paid links on other sites monitoring, and the second – to prevent virus activity in the form of additional code embedding on your website. Say, it is very helpful and very convenient!

Now a few words about the HostTracker site monitoring service rates prices. There are several service plans, differing in the maximum tasks number, check frequency, etc. However, there is also a full-featured trial period of 30 days, as well as the Free tariff, within which you may monitor up to two resources with an interval of 30 minutes. That’s not much of course, but as an option to try out all the features for free, and then decide on the appropriateness of the paid tariff transition, it is just the job. Good luck!

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Twelve Ways to Improve Uptime Website
It is rather strange, but instead of going down web services usually grow so overloaded with the user requests that after slowing down they become unresponsive. But nowadays it is extremely important to provide secure and high-quality web hosting services, available anytime, as e-businesses is acquiring popularity. The owners of the websites demand perfect service, 100% uptime and quality assurance...
It is rather strange, but instead of going down web services usually grow so overloaded with the user requests that after slowing down they become unresponsive. But nowadays it is extremely important to provide secure and high-quality web hosting services, available anytime, as e-businesses is acquiring popularity. The owners of the websites demand perfect service, 100% uptime and quality assurance. Numerous techniques may be used to make access to the website smooth, thus increasing uptime. Site uptime informer

Here we offer you twelve methods recommended to achieve performance gain and uptime increase. Software optimization is required for that, as well as hardware optimization. A lot of software features may be upgraded with the use of general and improved coding standards, operated by the website manager. At the same time the company providing the webhosting services needs to improve the hardware constantly.
You can measure the accessibility of the website using monitoring services Host-Tracker.

Software Optimization
The following are the first six ways to improve uptime:

  • Split the databases
  • Separate the read an write databases
  • Use popular content caching more often and improve its quality
  • Optimize static content
  • Ensure compressed delivery of content
  • Optimize the content management system

To begin with, splitting  the databases – horizontally or vertically, or combining these two directions - is essential, making the connection more reliable. It is also good to differentiate the read and write databases, this giving an opportunity for master/slave setup. These actions are useful to extend the database infrastructure for future use.

Second, when you set the system to use better popular content cache, and to use it more often, your site will scale up more easily with many users operating it. Internet caching has no difference from computer caching: it supposes storing popular content at a separate container, allowing much quicker access to the information for the users.

To optimize static content is one more way to make the access to internet pages and files quicker. One of the means for it is to compress the images to the maximum extent possible (but, of course, preserving their high quality). Moreover, it is necessary to check if the web server may be used to deliver compressed content; this characteristic is not connected with the images, as they are already compressed files. Take care to have all the appropriate settings from the beginning.
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One more appropriate thing to do is to improve the system of content management reducing the database calls number for each page request. It is like any type of connection: at the decrease of the information sending times the connection is maintained. In this circumstances, the number of calls to the database should be as low as possible – it will ensure that the users are able to access the content with the greatest speed.

Software and Hardware Optimization
The next six methods for augmenting uptime are:
Six more ways to augment the uptime are the following:

  • Use content delivery networks
  • Use emerging standards, such as HTML5
  • Improve the programming techniques
  • Add the content “expires” headers
  • Lessen the number of HTTP requests
  • Use Ethernet connections, allowing for more speed

Contend delivery networks allow for operation over larger amounts of media, at the same time improving the performance of the site. They are developed to direct the traffic to private networks. Such services allow operation over large media files, rooting the traffic along the Internet age, not straightly, averting extreme overloading. As the content delivery networks operate with large files, this unloads the servers, providing quick and qualitative connection.

Emerging standards, such as HTML5, include systems, improving the websites. It is achieved through advanced programming techniques, aimed at website and internet communications. Such standards do not 100 % assure that the website that uses them will not go down, but the in-built mechanisms of the code will act as the auxiliary mechanisms if it happens. Moreover, you should use improved programming methods while working with large loads and traffic spike.

“Expiers” content headers make all the automatically downloaded files cacheable for the visitors. So adding these headers to the content you will prevent the constant downloading of the browser. It blocks page review pointless HTTP requests. As well as the reduction of the database calls number, the reduction of the HTTP requests number will make the connection speed stable and not overloaded.
The last method is to develop Ethernet connection speeds. This will allow to cope with larger files and unexpected traffic spikes. A lot of hosting providers consider it as an excellent investment.

Speeds improvement and downtime reduction make the customers happier. Many of these methods to improve the web server or web site uptime may be achieved in a few minor steps. Such tactics, including Database rearrangement software optimization, caching improvements, content compressing, use of content delivery networks and content management systems, programming practices improvements and hardware upgrading will improve the web host as well as web site uptime, thus also improving your business.

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What could we check by using the cloud services? Part 2

 

  In the beginning, HostTracker company was founded on the basis of a simple website to provide free customer services. Though, a few years later, this startup developed a wide variety of tools serving to solve various problems, including different network issues. In a series of publications, we have decided to describe thoroughly all the features of our service, also to share our experience in the development of such projects with you and to mention interesting challenges that we faced. 

In the beginning, HostTracker company was founded on the basis of a simple website to provide free customer services. Though, a few years later, this startup developed a wide variety of tools serving to solve various problems, including different network issues. In a series of publications, we have decided to describe thoroughly all the features of our service, also to share our experience in the development of such projects with you and to mention interesting challenges that we faced. Moreover, for those seeking an example of how to sell something that had been made for themselves, our experience would be useful, as most of our features were developed due to our personal needs.

                In the previous part of the review we have talked about the history of the service and the most basic functions - regular inspection of sites and servers, and what is more, notification of their efficiency. Before starting to describe more advanced features, we should write where do all these ideas come from and how to prioritize them. One of the key secrets often used by entrepreneurs is to follow the statement: all people are unique. All customers’ requests are unique, so you have to learn how to deal with them. Therefore the IT sector is utterly susceptible to this factor, as a great number of customers have profound knowledge and diverse experience. Nevertheless, part of the problems can be solved with available resources. However, the main feature of our work is that, frequently, we have to evolve something. Most of the HostTracker’s functions were developed or adapted due to the conveniences and needs of the particular people. We are also a part of that people, as having rather large infrastructure, and also need to have everything work properly. Therefore, we ourselves are the most picky client.


Precious little things

It worth noting, that in addition to different regular checks, there are other useful tools. They include monitoring of the domain and SSL certificate expiration time. This seems to be negligible, but could bring a lot of unexpected inconveniences to work. These functions appeared in HostTracker, when one of our personal domains had expired. Moreover, large companies also frequently face these problems, as the prolongation of the domain /certificate expiration time depends on the unreliable human factor. Therefore, a notification that the domain should be prolongated, is stored not only within spam folder (already overflowed with continuous marketing messages from your hosting company), but also to the folder with the data of website downs. As well as, the SMS notification capability still exists. That’s why these features are being so handy.

Another interesting feature is the domain check to see if they are blacklisted in DNS-based lists. These lists are independent and are generated separately using different algorithms. What is more, they were mainly created for filtering of the suspicious entities. Each administrator can configure own web server in different ways, for example, not to receive messages from the servers from a specific list. It helps fight off spam, malware spread, DDoS attacks and other problems. But all of these lists have their own algorithms, and there is no guarantee that in the result of any coincidences your website wouldn’t appear in any of these blacklists. Moreover, according to the statistics, this is happening on a regular basis with the most innocent sites. For example, no one can guarantee that a hacker wouldn’t use your nearby IP for different spam attacks. In this situation, the entire range of IPs would be considered as unreliable. What are the consequences of that?  Your messages wouldn’t be delivered to customers, the site wouldn’t be so easily found in search system and so on. Furthermore, you will find out this problem when the changes become critical or even irrevocable. Therefore, the monitoring and notification of DNSBL are also essential.

The content check

Here is a good example of how the usage of functions may exceed developers expectations. We have mentioned about several such cases earlier. Actually, nowadays a lot of things have a web interface whilst for others – it could be easily created, if needed. Therefore, it was developed not only the check function of whether the page was loaded completely using simple parsing, but also another mind-boggling things of this check. Adapting to different customer requests, this feature has become very flexible. It may look for one or plenty of words from the list at once. Moreover, it may detect the emergence of certain phrases. This feature may also raise as an error the whole line that contains the keyword. For instance, if there is a kind of server-status page (“Server 1 OK” etc.) and it shows “Error”, then the message will be “1 Server Error”.  In this case, all diagnostic is already done, and you can start troubleshooting immediately.

What if it happens, that the server should be down?

In addition to the notification of the failures of the sites, HostTracker provides another important function – gathers statistics of each examined site. When the various buttons on the sites were popular – HostTracker’s button also often appeared with the figures of website attendance, the weather forecasts and other things like that. Now it is possible to use a widget, but still the button is also available for retro fans. In addition, statistics is very important for managers. They constantly want to know whether the website and administration of it are working properly. Therefore, there is another useful function - the maintenance planning. Even the most stable sites and servers must be updated or rebooted from time to time. At the same time, it’s not the desired to lose so-called “9s” in terms of uptime. Planning of the maintenance let us achieve two goals (together or separately). This includes: not to send error notifications and not to record errors to the statistics during a specific span of time. Of course, it seems to be a kind of cheating, but outlined maintenances are justified, especially in excluded time. In addition to this, different verifications have being done and written to the log during maintenances. It can be useful for webmasters and administrators, as log let determine exactly the duration of updating or restarting processes, any occurred errors, other breakages etc. Moreover, thanks to that, the whole process of error emergence could be tracked: from the stage when the server wouldn’t be available for some time to the stage when the application would return an error.

Maintenance can be scheduled as a one-time job or on a regular basis. For example, if the backup is done every night, or a new release - every Thursday. The only condition is that the maintenance schedule should be made up at least 12 hours prior to the site/server nearest suspension period of time. This is done to ensure that all maintenances won’t be responsible for any pity unexpectancies, and statistics provided by HostTracker will be trustful.

A kind of an epilogue

We are frequently asked why are we doing that. The same things can be done without HostTracker’s help.  And you know what - definetely, they can. Especially, if you need only one tool. Many people are talking, that the whole Business World is built on human laziness. By solving routine problems, HostTracker provides a slice of work-free and responsibility-free time in the customer’s schedule. Truly, not everyone is able to assemble a car by himself. We look up to the people, who are eager to create something good for personal needs in our field, but most people don’t want to spend their free time for doing something like that.

Additionally, our clients are: non-IT specialists; IT specialists who have to report something to their managers; managers themselves; fans of reliability – they use their own tools and take advantages of someone else’s; and many other groups of people.

All in all, we are always looking forward to your comments.

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Shellshock vulnerability online check
Considering the recently discovered Shellshock vulnerability, HostTracker has created a tool for testing it.
Check your server for vulnerability

How does it work?

It is developed for a Linux server with a web server installed on it. The algorithm is very simple. We consequently generate 4 http requests:

  • 1. Ordinary request
  • 2. The request tries, using vulneratility, post a "harmful" cookie which causes 2-seconds delay in respond to our special http request.
  • 3. The request tries, using vulneratility, post a "harmful" cookie which causes 4-seconds delay in respond to our special http request.
  • 4. Same as #3

Results of the test

How to understand the result?

We compare response time for all 4 requests. Three situation are possible:

  • 1. Vulnerability found. We may affirm that if the difference in responses is about 2 seconds for requests without cookie and with 2-second-delay cookie, as well as for requests with 2 and 4-second delay cookie. It means that our request was able to use the vulnerability and set these cookies.
  • 2. Vulnerability not found. All the requests have about the same response time. The cookies, likely, were not installed because there is no vulnerability.
  • 3. Uncertain situation. If the response time differs widely, without coincidence with preset by cookies delay, we can not say for sure. It could be if the server is under high load. To check this, we use two requests with same cookies (#3 and #4). If the response time for two same checks varies, we make a conclusion that the response time is not affected by cookies. At least, not only by them. So in this case our method can not detect vulnerability

Safety of checks

Our test can not damage your server. The risk consists of appearance of one extra-cookie, which is used only for our requests and can not affect normal work-flow of your site.

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snapshot - instrument for site supervision

How does the site look like when I’m not looking at it? What if it looks bad or does not work at all? HostTracker offers an instrument for site supervision - snapshot feature. Let’s take a look at its practical application.

How does the site look like when I’m not looking at it? What if it looks bad or does not work at all? HostTracker offers an instrument for site supervision - snapshot feature. Let’s take a look at its practical application.

What’s going on with my site?

Now it’s usual to use different services and applications for site maintenance and support, and sometimes they do report some problems. Often we feel the lack of information - Google Analytics or a similar service reports the downtime and renewal, but likely we will never know what exactly has happened. To investigate the issue, it is necessary to review the logs, write to hosting support and perform many others exhausting actions, frequently - with no result. There are also more interesting cases - when a site is not available from a certain country or is not downloaded completely. Such problems could long for months, or even years, till they are accidentally detected. One more important issue - content check. It will automatically review the content of the site and informed the responsible staff in case it has disappeared - for example, something has not been able to be downloaded from the database. But it’s hard to find the cause if the issue is short-term, because people usually do not sit in front of a laptop refreshing the page every minute. To resolve the problem, HostTracker offers a new feature - snapshot. It is very simple in use and does not require any additional adjustments. The service simply makes a snapshot of the checked page every time and saves it for review in two ways: page source code and html-view. This let you easily see how the page looks at the moment of failure, understand what’s wrong and fix the problem quickly without spending time for diagnostics. It saves lots of time for server administrator, developers and other concerned people.

How does it work

Doing the regular checks, our servers with predefined interval try to download the checked page. Additional algorithms could be used at the moment - the page could be parsed for keywords to make sure that this is the one we are looking for (there are cases when an error page returns 200, Ok, http code, or when redirection is activated in case of error). If there is no error - fine. But if there is, it will be written down into the HostTracker log, which is easily available from the web. Then, notification are sent and a snapshot is made.

 

The snapshots could also be found in the log - if several errors were detected, a different snapshot will be available from each one.


Though there are some remarks. First, we do not run javascript while making snapshot - same thing for regular check. Second, the error must be detectable. I mean, the server must return something. In case of timeout or connection error - snapshot will not help, and only a corresponding record will remain in the log.

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Tags: snapshot
Uptime and website monitoring

Website monitoring is a process of supervision over the performance of the site. HostTracker is a powerful tool which serves that purpose.

Website monitoring is a process of supervision over the performance of the site. Usually it is used to keep an eye on commercial sites or other pages for which high availability is very important.

Companies, which provide website monitoring services, let their clients to check a website, a server, port or other available from the Internet entity. The responses are collected and analyzed. Usually, the monitoring is performed from different locations, distributed over the whole world or the specific continent or country. Such monitoring is called distributed monitoringand helps to detect network-related issues as well as site or server-related. Also, distributed monitoring often makes possible to analyze the site performance from the places which are close to the real customers, instead of some distant locations which could have high latencies. The collected information could be found in a different form: email reports, graphs and different smart dependencies, to help the client to get a comprehensive view of the site's performance. Parameters like load time, speed and others can help to optimize the site performance. In case of critical error, monitoring services use variety of notification methods to deliver the alert to the client: SMS, voice call, instant messengers, email and others. This, together with immediate diagnostics, helps responsible persons like server administrators or developers to fix the site as soon as possible and minimize the duration of the failure.

Why is this important? For commercial sites, working time is proportional to their income. Roughly speaking, 2 hours of failure per day means that 1/12 part of the potential clients are lost. Even more - loyal customers also can find a more reliable competitor in case they can not receive their services/goods when they want. For other types of sites, like government, educational, NGO this is very important too. If people can't find the information fast, they'll find another source. Some parameters like site speed are important for search engines, others - database connectivity, for example - can greatly affect the convenience of usage of the site. Monitoring of some internal values like CPU load, memory consumption and disk space are important for administrators in order to prevent performance degradation. Another important purpose is verification of SLA (service-level agreement) of hosting provider. For technical issues, no site can be available 100% of time during long enough period. Sometimes servers are rebooted, updated or upgraded. So each hosting provider guarantee some specific value, which is called uptime, that shows how long can a site be down for technical reasons. Uptime is usually measured in percent. In this table it is shown for how long a site could be down for each uptime value:

  • 90%          876 hours
  • 95%          438 hours
  • 99%          87,5 hours
  • 99.9%       8 hours 45 minutes
  • 99.99%     52,5 minutes
  • 99.999%   5 minutes 15 seconds

If the real site performance does not correspond to SLA, it could be a reason for claim and refund request. Also, it can help the customers to select the best hosting for their needs.

Monitoring companies often provide some additional services, like vulnerability check, virus scanning, domain and certificate expiration check and many others, in order to make a useful product for their customers.

Different ways to monitor

The monitoring, based on the purpose, can be performed in several ways. Internal monitoring tools require some software to be installed into the monitored system, for example, corporate network. It helps to detect network issues, system performance and exclude or catch hardware and performance issues. External monitoring is performed from outside. It's purpose is check the availability and performance of the system by the third-party's eyes. Real user monitoring is external monitoring which simulates the real visitor of a site. Depending on complexity, such monitoring can analyze the page loading, content, sometimes - even design problems. Most advanced monitoring can offer its client to create a scenario for a visitor. This is called transaction monitoring and can perform some steps one-by-one: like load the page, navigate through menu, make a purchase. Passive monitoring is performed by a code which is integrated into the website code and sends specific information to the collector server each time the page is loaded. It helps to analyze customers actions on the site and analyze the traffic.

Monitoring services usually support different check protocols, and can monitor not only the websites, but also other entities like a file servers, mail servers, specific ports etc. Depending on task, monitoring interval can vary from several seconds to once per day.

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