ExclamationSoft WebWatchBot Enterprise 3 review

£368
Price when reviewed

The majority of network-monitoring tools focus on device availability, but WebWatchBot turns its gaze on web-based services. That’s not to say it can’t keep an eye on physical devices, as it has the ability to ping them. However, its main focus is on monitoring services such as HTTP, FTP, SMTP and POP3, then providing performance data and notification facilities.

ExclamationSoft WebWatchBot Enterprise 3 review

WebWatchBot has been around for a few years and this latest Enterprise version brings in a modest collection of new features. These comprise a task scheduler, a Dashboard view, improved database support, remote access and the ability to send email alerts to multiple recipients. However, a fundamental feature of WebWatchBot that will appeal particularly to companies with limited IT support is its simplicity.

Installation is a swift affair. The software loads its own database for storing historical data or it can now use existing instances of SQL Server 7 and above. On first contact, a simple wizard runs through the basic functions of the software and the online help files provide plenty of tutorials. The main interface is self-explanatory, with the left pane showing the eight filters you can use to monitor services. Essentially, you decide what services you want to watch, how often you want to check them and what to do if their responses fall outside your criteria. For simple device-availability monitoring, you create a new Ping filter using the device’s IP address and, if required, a port number as well. Select a monitoring frequency in seconds, minutes or hours and decide on an action if the device fails to respond.

Alarm actions are extensive, as any number of email addresses can be assigned to specific filters and four HTML reports sent as attachments. A browser on the system running WebWatchBot can be used to pop up a warning message, and programs can be simultaneously executed and sound files played. A service level agreement (SLA) option is used to set different levels for warnings and failure rates that control when alert actions should be run. Performance data is well presented in clear graphs with a wide choice of formats. You can add multiple filters to a graph, and the new Dashboard view provides an excellent overview of all monitored items and their overall status.

Filters for monitoring website availability require the URL of the page to be checked. For simple monitoring, the fact that the page exists may be sufficient, but you can also search for keywords, phrases or HTML within the collection. The latter may also be controlled by deciding whether to download images and, if you have the space, storing all collected data or only whenever a failure to respond has occurred. WebWatchBot goes much further than merely checking on service availability: it can step through a sequence of filters to simulate, for example, a customer logging on to a website and making a purchase or filling in a form. Called transactions, these comprise multiple filters, or steps, that carry out specific requests. Graphs present the transaction split into its components, so you can easily see which operation is causing problems.

Very simple to install and use, WebWatchBot is a neat utility. It shows not only that web service monitoring needn’t be a chore but also that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either.

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