As global companies become more reliant on an Internet presence to drive their businesses, ensuring the ongoing availability and responsiveness of that site becomes increasingly critical. Keynote Systems Inc.’s Web Site Perspective 6 provides a valuable monitoring and diagnostic suite that can help maximize the benefits a company derives from its Web site while minimizing the costs.
As a subscription service, Perspective does not come without its own costs. Prices range from US$395 per URL per month for the most basic service, which monitors a given site from 30 U.S. locations in 10 cities, to a pulse-quickening US$1,895 for over 90 global locations. There are four standard subscription plans, plus a variety of international and regional monitoring plans. Although Perspective is an excellent service, we recommend it mainly for companies that rely heavily on their Web presence to generate revenue; the service’s cost will probably be excessive for anyone else.
Perspective’s tabbed interface provides easy access to performance measurements, alarm settings, diagnostic tools, and administrative functions. Administrators will spend most of their time in the Measure section, which allows you to generate detailed performance graphs. It also offers the Quickview graph, which provides a basic weekly performance measurement, and the Accu-Stat feature, which provides mean-performance numbers for a given time period divided into 15-minute increments.
The graphing functionality is extremely powerful, providing comparative performance measurements among your URL, an aggregate of 40 e-business sites, and the White House Web site. You can also view URL performance by function: dial-up, Web site, streaming media, and transactions. Eight different graph types are provided, four of which show performance and availability by time and location. The others provide more granular information, including the performance of different page components (graphics, animations, and text), access errors (problems making the initial connection to a page), and content errors (problems downloading specific page elements).
Generally, each graph can be defined according to time, geography, backbone, and specific criteria such as agent name and error type. Especially handy is the capability of specifying whether to evaluate content errors, allowing you to test connectivity and network performance isolated from page execution.
For instance, you might hypothesize that your page is loading slowly because of Internet congestion, only to have Perspective reveal that a faulty script is the source of the delay. The ability to see which component is breaking and at precisely what point is key, and Perspective makes that possible by providing detailed error information. Mousing over a segment of a graph pops up a brief summary of the related data, and depending on the graph type, clicking on the section drills down to more detailed data.
The volume of data provided in a given chart is massive, so it’s helpful that each page can be “torn off” and viewed in a different window, posted to a URL that can be viewed externally, or saved for later access via Perspective. The data for a given graph can also be downloaded, allowing exportation to a spreadsheet or database.
Perspective also has the capability of generating e-mail alarms, which are based on warning and critical alert thresholds for latency in seconds and percentage of availability. Both criteria are measured over a rolling time period between 15 minutes and four hours. Curiously, the “warning” threshold is considered a higher priority than “critical,” which seems to contradict common usage of those terms and initially confused us during testing. The warning states are polled every 5 minutes; although this level of granularity is generally sufficient, the ability to configure alarm notification for different periods would be welcome.
Perspective’s diagnostic tools include three standard network testing utilities – ping, nslookup, and traceroute – as well as an Instant Measurement tool that can either display page access time or show a full graph of page access information with breakdowns of each step. All these tools can be run from any Perspective agent around the world. The Internet Health Report provides a rolling hourly or daily chart of access times between major Internet backbone providers, which can help quickly isolate Internet outage issues. And the Agent Status screen lists Perspective agent status throughout a given time period, ranging between an hour and 6 weeks.
Keynote’s Web Site Perspective Business Edition 6 provides a wealth of knowledge about Web site performance and accessibility. With its rich monitoring capabilities, Perspective provides any Web site administrator with a valuable tool for analysing and improving site uptime and performance. Although the amount of information provided can be overwhelming, Perspective generally makes it comprehensible. Given its high price, however, businesses will have to decide how vital their Web sites are and whether they need the premium monitoring level Perspective provides.
THE BOTTOM LINE: DEPLOY
Web Site Perspective Business Edition 6
Business Case: This Web-based Web site monitoring and diagnostic service gives IT staff a global picture of any site’s performance, allowing them to reduce the expense incurred by Web site lag and downtime.
Technology Case: Web site troubleshooting is among the most problematic issues IT staff can face. Web Site Perspective gives an IT organization the diagnostic tools it needs to know precisely how a site is experienced by the outside world, measuring the performance of page views, streaming media, and transactions.
+ Web-based interface provides global access
+ Comprehensive site analysis
+ Easy to use
– Cannot test servers requiring authentication
– Potentially very expensive
Cost: US$395 to US$1,895 a month
Platform(s): Requires Netscape or Internet Explorer 4.0 or later
Company: Keynote Systems; http://www.keynote.com
Tom Maddox (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a San Mateo, Calif.-based system administrator with MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certification and more than six years of experience.