Pingdom, which begins at $13.95 per month, is a powerful and feature-rich website monitoring service that’s owned by SolarWinds, Inc., an established Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company focused on IT Management that has another product in this roundup, SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor. As with most of the other competitors in this roundup, Pingdom packs a variety of monitoring functionality across site availability, real user monitoring (RUM), transaction monitoring, alerting, and much more.
While Pingdom’s user interface (UI) is less customizable and far more utilitarian than SmartBear AlertSite Pro, our Editors’ Choice for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and more code and number-heavy for business users than AppDynamics, our Editors’ Choice for enterprises, its fast alerting, uptime metrics and thorough root cause analysis give businesses the ability to quickly decipher what performance or transaction problems their site is having and why. This kind of deep drilldown into a website error is more relevant for an organization’s developers and IT staff than front-facing business users, but they’ll be happy when they receive a call from IT saying they’ve located the root cause of the problem and fixed it.
Pingdom starts as low as $13.95 (Pricing updated since publishing) per month for its Starter Plan, but the platform’s tiered pricing model capping the number of websites, checks, users, and text alerts you receive per month makes this level unrealistic for even the smallest SMB. Even the $42.95 per month Standard Plan only offers 50 Checks, which represent the specific sites, pages, or transactions selected for monitoring, and is likely inadequate for a business relying on regular website monitoring and adding more checks consistently over time.
For SMBs, your best bet is the Professional Plan, priced at $229.00 per month and billed yearly for an annual base cost of $2,748.00. This plan gives you 250 Checks, five million Real User Monitoring (RUM)pageviews over five sites, five users in BeepManager—Pingdom’s Incident Management System—and advanced features such as multi-user login, and website/RUM tag checking not available in the Starter and Standard plans.
The other catches with Pingdom’s pricing are its pageviews and text alert counts. The more popular a business’ website becomes, the more likely they may be priced out of a lower tier. The Professional Plan gives you five million page views per month over up to 50 sites, as compared to 100,00 pageviews on only one site for the Starter Plan and 10 million-plus for the $454 per month Enterprise Plan. The Professional Plan also grants an account 500 text alerts on per month, compared to up to 1,000 per month for Enterprise, but once that initial monthly text alert allotment runs out you’ll need to add credits to buy more. Text alerts are not typically a business’ go-to alerting method, but they’re key in notifying an organization about critical website problems outside of business hours. A few serious overnight site outages alerting multiple team members, and paying for a higher pageview count or more text alerts could get expensive. When an account runs out of Checks, hits its pageview limit or uses up its text alerts, a box pops up prompting….
Getting Started and Dashboard Navigation
Setting up Pingdom was simple, but what proved trickier is wading through the platform’s wealth of data to find specific components of a site to monitor. Upon logging into the web application an Analyze My Website box pops up prompting you to enter a URL, and quickly verify your name, time zone and country. In an instant, Pingdom crawls the site and offers a suggested list of 250 URLs within any given site to run a check on to ensure the page’s server is up and running.
The Suggested Checks proved more useful for business users in theory than in practice. Rather than clear listing of page titles, each suggested item was solely a URL, and a bulk of the list was made up of various images and third-party services running on the site. Only when clicking on the Alternatives button on the right of the item for the homepage did a list of internal landing pages come up. This part of the setup was far less intuitive than configuring all the other website monitoring services, where rather than being presented with a list of clearly named pages and performance metrics to monitor, or an engaging visual representation of the website like the TrackerMap provided by Ghostery MCM, I was inundated with a list of largely irrelevant URLs to scroll and sift through.
Pingom’s website monitoring is based on Uptime—the availability of HTML on the website, which also includes latency and response time. I chose a few pages for Uptime Checks and found myself on the main dashboard page. The left-hand navigation bar clearly lists tabs for all the main functionality a business user would need to access: the main dashboard, monitoring, alerting, reports and sharing. The Pingdom dashboard is laser-focused on metrics indicating the current health of the components and transactions being monitored on a website: a Check’s most recent downs during the last 24 hours, any current incidents, and RUM page load time. A green up arrow next to a site indicates it’s running smoothly, with a red down arrow meaning something’s down. I liked the simplicity of the Pingdom dashboard layout and it was easy to find the tab I was looking for, but the rigid, utilitarian black layout had me wishing I could pull out specific metrics and arrange them in customized tiles as I did in AppDynamics, Dynatrace UEM, and SmartBear AlertSite Pro.
Adding a new Check takes a few steps. For an Uptime Check, a box pops up prompting you to fill out the name of the Check, set the interval, and to choose an Email, Network, or Web Check with different technical options to monitor various types of servers, ports, or Web page scripts for a response. The interval time ranges from the recommended one minute all l the way up to an hour. After that, you add the URL or IP address of the page you want to monitor, choose which global location to test from (North America, Europe, or Asia Pacific), check an optional box to use Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), add tags, and choose a detailed alerting policy for that check—one of Pingdom’s strong suits. The platform’s advanced alerting capabilities are detailed further down. Adding a new Transaction Check works the same way. The manual Check addition process was overall far easier to understand than scrolling through the initial list of Suggested Checks, so much so that Pingdom might consider reversing the process or porting this cleaner functionality to the way it displays Suggested Checks.
Monitoring and Reporting
Pingdom provides an even split between synthetic performance monitoring and RUM. Uptime and transaction monitoring are based on synthetic traffic, with Pingdom’s servers probing a website or the specific path of say, an ecommerce customer on a website. Pingdom currently offers the option to test from either North America or Europe, and ultimately plans to add an Asia-Pacific region.
Pingdom also has a free tool called the Pingdom Website Speed Test used to test your site or a competitor’s site to gauge server load requests per second, website load time, and page size, giving a performance grade on a scale of 100.
The Real User Monitoring tab is also where Pingdom breaks down site traffic from different browsers and platforms. Drilling down on a specific site, business users can check metrics such as median load time and total page views, presenting data in an interactive day-by-day line graph and basic geographic maps where you can hover over specific regions or U.S. states, or switch to a Historical View to compare custom timeframes. The world map colors states and regions with stronger or weaker colors to signify heavier traffic. Pingdom’s data visualizations and interactive reports don’t provide the detail, customizability or sheer aesthetic charm as those offered by AppDynamics or Dynatrace UEM, but they get the job done.
Digging deeper into reporting, the RUM reporting tab also displays a long list of browser families and types that have interacted with a site, allowing a business to notice whether its site performs better on one browser over another. There’s also a pretty basic Platforms tab breaking down user traffic from desktop, phone, tablet, TV, and bot traffic. This is one of the only spots on the site where you’ll find mobile-specific metrics, as opposed to services such as AppDynamics or Dynatrace UEM that highlight mobile traffic and platform monitoring breakdowns throughout each level of the dashboard.
Level-Headed in a Crisis
Where Pingdom really shines as a website monitoring service is in its layered alerting structure and in how it handles incident reporting with detailed root cause analysis. When choosing an alerting policy for a specific Uptime, Transaction or RUM Check, you’re prompted to select a specific Alert Policy and designate particular users to be notified. Alerting policies include Extremely Critical, Normal, and Less Important options, designed to send relevant alerts to the right individuals at different levels of an organization. Next to SmartBear AlertSite Pro, Pingdom had the best alerting of all the website monitoring platforms for your enterprise or SMB.
Through the BeepManager system, alerts can be sent to users with account access. Alerting Endpoints can be set to send alerts to a non-designated user, and a Report Banner can be stuck on a public-facing website to report on a specific Check. BeepManager comes with each tier of Pingdom’s pricing, though in the Starter edition only one BeepManager user can receive alerts, compared to three for the Standard edition, five for the Professional edition, and 15 for the Enterprise edition. If you need more than a handful of business users to receive alerts, the BeepManager user caps could be a significant barrier to a lower price tier. The alerting schedule can also coordinate email, text, and other alerts in-house outside of business hours. The only caution here is the extra cash to pay for more SMS text alerts.
After Pingdom has alerted the relevant individuals about a website incident or outage, Root Cause Analysis reporting confirms and tracks down the source. When an incident is detected, Pingdom always runs a second test to confirm or deny, eliminating the possibility of a false positive waking half a dozen people up in the middle of the night. Root Cause Analysis reporting then gives a rundown of the incident’s traceroute, content requests, received code, test results log, and other filters to find whether it originated somewhere on the front or backend of the website, or in the server.
Pingdom does everything an enterprise or SMB needs out of a website monitoring service. Some capabilities, such as alerting and root cause analysis, are better than others, but there’s not much the platform straight-up can’t do. Its business-relevant insights, UI design, overall functionality, and pricing breakdown don’t quite measure up to Dynatrace UEM or our Editors’ Choices AppDynamics or SmartBear AlertSite Pro, but particularly the most tech-savvy developers and IT professionals within a business can leverage Pingdom for full, granular control of their website’s monitoring.