Network management company Parallel is offering a new service that assesses website performance from the user's point of view.
The Nexus Watch external monitoring service does not require additional hardware or software installations in the enterprise, and can help determine if performance is being degraded by the internet service provider (ISP) or the site itself.
Tim Moore, director of Parallel, said: "Typically the way companies monitor their networks and systems is via their own internal network, but [the fact that] those systems are working doesn't mean that the end client will get the same performance.
"Nexus Watch gives a view of how well you perform from the customer's point of view and gives an idea of areas in your system that are causing problems."
The service uses software to simulate customers connecting to a website every few minutes. Performance services like this are not new but all operate in different ways, according to analysts.
"Some services give you more diagnostic information, some give more granularity and some more control over how you define the tests, but it's down to what the customer wants," explained Graham Titterington, senior analyst at Ovum.
As part of its trial programme, Parallel used its service to monitor the performance of the sites of FTSE 100 companies for the three months to February 2002.
Retailers were among the poorest performers, with the sites surveyed unavailable to customers for a total of three days a year on average, although some of this down time may have been planned.
Companies providing support services had the worst average availability at 98.39 per cent, or nearly six days of down time per year.
Steve Barrie, chief analyst at Bloor Research, said: "Any company that is serious about the quality of its website will be serious about doing this external analysis.
"People are now getting wise to the problem of only monitoring a site internally.
"Companies still rely on reports from ISPs to tell them what the level of service has been. Companies should be collecting their own data if the site is important to the business."
The cost of the Parallel service depends on the type and quantity of monitoring. Other companies offering web monitoring include Keynote, Mercury Interactive and Site Confidence.
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