Freshwater Software specializes in website and web server monitoring.
They offer a product, a service, and a hosted service; each of these is
configurable to a user's specific needs. The three offerings are:
This service provides external monitoring of a web site from outside the
firewall. It provides information about the user's experience by answering
- Can the
site be reached at all?
- How long
does it take the site to respond to a page request?
- Are the
correct pages being served?
- Are the
back-end databases responding?
- Do e-commerce
transactions, including all back-end processes, complete successfully
configure the monitoring through Freshwater's website. Monitors can verify
either the existence of a page or specific content. The frequency with
which the site is examined, the pages which are checked, the frequency
of reporting, and the method of signaling problems - e-mail, pager, or
SMTP trap - can all be set from the user's administration page at the
Freshwater website. The basic SiteSeer functionality is available for
an annual subscription fee of less than a thousand dollars. Additional
packages, providing the ability to monitor more URLs, to monitor URLs
from multiple SiteSeer locations, and perform the sequence of steps in
a complete e-commerce transaction, are available at prices from $3,500
SiteScope, now in version 5.0, works from behind the firewall to monitor
any servers in your network. Its web-based reports accurately show web
uptime and performance and can be used to document whether service level
agreements (SLAs) are being met. It offers almost thirty monitors, grouped
into three general classes:
monitors verify that queries are executed properly by the database,
that e-commerce transactions are executed (and that associated back-end
processes complete as well), that the mail server is alive, that URLs
are alive and that registration, cgi scripts and ASP pages and links
are all functioning properly.
monitors check DNS, individual ports and SNMP devices, and also
can ping any server.
monitors measure the performance of an individual server, including
CPU utilization, disk space, network performance, virtual memory, LDAP,
individual files and scripts, and a number of other critical indicators
is administered over a browser. It runs on NT or Solaris systems, and
can monitor servers running Linux, HP-UX, AIX, FreeBSD, SGI, and Digital
Unix, as well as NT and Solaris. The product requires no software installation
on the servers being monitored. Pricing is based on the number of monitors:
$995 for 25 monitors, $2,995 for 100 monitors and $49,995 for 2,000 monitors.
The annual maintenance fee is 20% of the purchase price.
shows part of a display screen from SiteScope. It shows one group of user-defined
transactions; one transaction is monitored on each row. The green lights
indicate that all have executed successfully. The first, for example,
is a three step transaction that took a total of 1.1 seconds when executed
at 11:41 A.M; a total of 28KB was retrieved from all pages during the
transaction. The links allow the user to view the details of the transaction,
edit it, cause it to run at once, or get to a wider set of tools. There
are different tools for different monitors. For a transaction monitor,
the tools page takes you to a page that displays the exact content of
each page retrieved. This allows the user to quickly discern the cause
of an error when the monitor can't execute a transaction properly. Automatic
updates can be run as frequently as once every fifteen seconds.
offering is Global SiteReliance. Global SiteReliance gives e-businesses
the opportunity to outsource all or some of the monitoring and management
of their distributed web environments. This is a package of services that
installation and set-up of your monitoring environment using best practices
on-site visits by Freshwater consultants
system monitoring from Freshwater's Network Operations Center
- The SiteReliance
Portal, which aggregates monitoring data and allows for customized views
of that data and the monitoring environment
portal interface using XML/XSL
reports for error tracking and trend analysis.
Strategy and Trajectory
With its combination of products Freshwater has offerings for almost every
size of company, and their customers range from Fortune 500 companies
to small Internet sites. While there's probably not much more that can
be added to SiteSeer, SiteScope is targeted for additional features, in
the form of new monitors.
SiteReliance is also due for enhancement. Look for improvements in the
customer's ability to customize the displays, as well as, of course, whatever
new monitors are added to SiteScope.
SiteReliance reveals another component of Freshwater's strategy, which
is to leverage their expertise to increase revenues from consulting opportunities.
The company expects to increase in size from the current 40 employees
to 100; about half the increase is likely to be technical staff, with
the rest in sales, marketing and other areas.
is increasingly targeting its offerings toward larger organizations with
complex websites, as Figure 2 illustrates.
Freshwater's offering mix is interesting because even though the products
stand alone it makes sense for many companies to purchase both SiteSeer
and SiteScope. The two are definitely complementary.
complementarity points to an important advantage over potential competitors.
There are other companies that provide external web monitoring services,
and even more that perform network monitoring and analysis. But Freshwater
does both, and its two products are consistent in their technology and
reports. It isn't a technical tour de force to provide monitoring and
generate reports, but packaging all this in a way that helps users make
sense of it is a challenge. In effect, a user of SiteSeer and SiteScope
(or a subscriber to Global SiteReliance) gets two data streams combined
into one consistent set of reports. Not only does this reduce the effort
required to review the data, it makes it much easier to understand problems
that come from interaction between the internal and web systems.
fact, customer service has always been a strong point for Freshwater.
The company has had a policy that everyone has to be able to answer the
phones, and our own experience is that this service has always been prompt
and efficient. The company is also driven to a significant degree in new
development efforts by customer feedback, which it solicits assiduously.
This has led to a number of significant features; for example, the ability
to direct all system and error logs directly to SiteScope was based on
emphasizing these points, we shouldn't lose sight of the basic value proposition.
Compare Freshwater's solutions with the kinds of tool that IT departments
are more familiar with - network analysis or enterprise management tools
combined with a high quality report generator. These are very powerful,
but solve different problems. They don't directly measure user experience
- they can only describe some of the attributes that might contribute
to it - and they certainly have no capability to recognize the steps of
a complex transaction involving many web pages and database accesses as
a single unit, except perhaps with careful programming. They may require
installation on the servers they track, and do not generally cross the
corporate firewall well. Finally, each addition of a server or change
of a monitor is a complicated task, whereas this is trivial with Freshwater's
tools. Finally, the reports from enterprise IT tools don't generally travel
well from inside the IT organization to other departments; by contrast,
marketing and content managers are able to easily interpret Freshwater's
reports and frequently demand to be on the distribution list.
think an argument can easily be made that even organizations that have
sophisticated network analysis tools will find it much cheaper to take
a Freshwater solution than to bend the tools they already have to do the
The major challenge we see for Freshwater is surviving growth. The corporate
culture is highly attuned to being a small, friendly, highly cooperative
company. Indeed, even marketing has been largely viral: in one recent
month 73% of new business came through word-of-mouth referral. It would
be lovely to see a hundred-person company work this way, but even in Boulder
we suspect it won't turn out that way.
also look on an architectural decision made by Freshwater less favorably
than they do. None of the SiteScope monitoring requires any kind of software
installation on the servers being monitored. All data collected derive
from standard system utilities. This has a number of advantages, to be
sure. It makes installation of the product much simpler and quicker. However,
it also has the disadvantage that some third-party system monitoring tools
are vastly superior to built-in commands. We think this is a minor deficit
in the product, although providing optional connections to best-of-breed
tools on each system type can easily rectify it.
In general Freshwater is on the right track. There is a real need for
monitoring, and the company delivers high value. We see two ways that
Freshwater can extend its offerings in a meaningful way. First, with the
current emphasis on eCRM as a way to generate content or additional sales
opportunities, Freshwater might find that its customers are spending significant
amounts of money on recommendation engines without any external way to
verify how well they work. Adding capabilities to SiteSeer to monitor
and report on the quality of recommendations would be a nice technical
coup, and an additional source of recurring revenue.
and much along the same lines, while monitoring of current data is what
shows the existence of a problem, it is watching trends in data that can
predict problems in the future. An analytic product that could analyze
- or even only display - historical trends from the data that Freshwater
collects could be quite successful among those customers who have recognized
that performance problems marked by gradual degradation of service result
in loss of user confidence, if not of the users themselves. Such a product
should be leveraged through partnerships with companies that specialize
in generic analysis tools.
There is no excuse for a website to not use SiteSeer or a product like
it. It's that simple.
that SiteSeer is available for a free ten-day trial. This trial offers
monitoring of up to five URLs, notification by beeper or e-mail, and SiteSeer's
regular reports. At least some competitors make a similar offer. There
might be differences between competitors in price and other details that
appeal to you, but if you want to move quickly you won't be disappointed
probably calls for a more extensive comparison with competitors, given
the complexities of internal networks these days. We do believe, though,
that SiteScope's current features are second to none, especially given
its complete monitoring of e-commerce transactions.