Update: Here's an article that reviews a bunch of services.
After posting the iPhone app for EatDifferent in the App store last week, I've seen a noticeable increase in new user signups — despite the fact that there's no signup through the app itself, only through the website. That means more traffic to the App Engine hosted webapp, and unfortunately last night, it meant more traffic than my webapp was configured to handle. My webapp went over quota at around 10:30pm and served 503s until midnight, at which point the App Engine quotas reset and it started fresh. I was sleeping at the time, blissfully unaware that it was over quota, and I didn't find out until the next morning, thanks to a personal email from a friend and early user.
Why didn't I find out? Well, I have a lot of error logging in my app, but 503s don't actually trigger the error logging, since that logging is in the app code itself, so I didn't see any errors come through my inbox. Most webapps are like that — when their host goes down, their logging goes down with it — so that's why many website monitoring services exist. These services live outside of your webapp (hopefully on a different hosting system altogether), ping it every so often to make sure its returning HTTP 200s as expected, and alert you when it's not. I knew about such services, but of course, I didn't think to set myself up with one until after I needed it. You live, you learn.
After beating myself up for a few hours in the morning, I started investigating website monitoring services — and by investigating, I mean that I asked my Twitter followers for their recommendations. Here's what they suggested:
All of those services offer standard downtime monitoring, but some of them also offer performance monitoring and offer their service as an API or SaaS. For my purposes, I wanted something easy and free, and since it doesn't hurt to have multiple monitoring services, I went with UptimeRobot and a Pingdom free plan. They both offer alerts over email, SMS, and Twitter, plus Pingdom offers an Android app with push notifications. It was easy to set them up, and (its funny saying this about a service) hopefully, I will never have to hear from them... But just in case, I'm glad they're around!