UptimeRobot is a free service for monitoring online properties: networks, websites, etc. I use it for this blog and some others, and for my home network. Tell it the website URL or network IP address / DNS name you want to monitor and it’s set up. You can get notified by text message, email, RSS or a public web page that will be created for you.
A paid option is available that removes some limits (such as only 50 monitors) and adds features such as predefined maintenance windows or more frequent checking. For my use, the free option is fine so far: I have a grand total of six monitors active.
Speaking of monitoring your home network, there’s an important difference between most home networks and most commercial ones. Home networks typically have dynamic IP addresses, as opposed to the static IP addresses that are allocated to businesses. “Dynamic” means that the provider can change the IP address at their
However, if you want to do something like monitoring your own home network, or hosting a web site from your own computer, now you have to be able to be a destination, just like microsoft.com. That means you need to claim an entry in DNS, the Internet’s “phone book”. But if your IP address can change without notice, it’s a problem: DNS entries always need an immutable destination address.
Enter Dynamic DNS. The principle is, a DNS entry is created for a location that has a dynamic IP address, and the location updates the DNS server with a new address whenever it changes. Most home routers have built-in support for this, you just have to choose a provider that supports one of the common methods of keeping updated. I use afraid.org because it’s easy to set up (step-by-step instructions for everything) and has proven 100% reliable. And the basic service is, of course, free. You select a domain from a long list (VERY long – see illustration), and then make up a new subdomain name for it. That subdomain becomes your very own DNS name, and you can give that out without worrying what happens when Comcast changes your IP address.
I’m going to do another post soon about some more free things I like: pfSense, Plex and Ubuntu. Meanwhile, check out Gizmo’s Freeware where you will find lots of free stuff for all your geekery needs.