Network Notification

How City Halls Can Stay Alert When Digital Services Go Down


Alerting When City Websites and Apps Go Down


City and local government websites and mobile apps provide vital services and information to residents. From utility billing to public transportation to emergency notifications, citizens rely on these digital services in their daily lives.

That’s why it’s critical for cities to monitor these services and get alerted immediately if they go down. Even minor downtime can impact citizens and undermine trust.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover proven methods for monitoring uptime and getting alerted when city digital services face outages or performance issues.

Why city website and app monitoring is vital

City websites and mobile apps enable citizens to conveniently access services online instead of traveling to city offices. They provide:

    • Bill payment for utilities, permits, fines
    • Reporting issues like potholes, outages, non-emergency crimes
    • Information on public transportation, garbage collection, recycling
    • Registrations for recreational programs, classes, events
    • Alerts and updates related to emergencies, weather, road closures
    • Council meeting agendas, minutes, recordings and live streams
    • Document downloads including forms, permit applications, ordinances
    • Job applications and civil service exams
    • Local business directories, economic development initiatives
    • Tourism and visitor information


When these services suffer downtime, citizens get blocked from carrying out these tasks. They may miss deadlines for payments, registrations and applications. It reflects poorly on the city’s governance and digital capabilities.

Proactive monitoring helps cities avoid the negative impacts of downtime by alerting quickly when sites and apps go down. Rapid detection lets IT teams investigate and restore access faster.

Common causes of downtime

Many factors can disrupt the availability and performance of city websites and mobile apps:

1. Web server failures – Hardware or OS crashes on the web servers prevent serving site content.

2. App crashes – Bugs in mobile apps cause them to freeze or crash, failing requests.

3. Network outages – Internet or internal network failures lead to service disruption. Public cloud services also have rare outages.

4. Database issues – Web apps lose connectivity to backend databases needed for operations.

5. Power outages – Data centers, cloud providers or city facilities losing power breaks services.

6. DDoS attacks – Criminals overwhelm sites and apps with junk traffic, making them unreachable.

7. Ransomware – Malware encrypts data and locks access to digital services.

8. Software bugs – Flaws, holes or misconfigurations in software, OS or apps causes crashes.

9. Maintenance downtime – Planned maintenance, upgrades and changes leads to temporary unavailability.

10. 3rd party outages – External tools, APIs and services used by websites and apps go down.

Proactive monitoring helps detect all these issues quickly so outage duration and citizen impact is minimized.

Metrics to monitor

Several key metrics and checks should be monitored for city websites and mobile apps:

Website metrics

  • Uptime – % of total time site is available
  • Response time – how fast pages load
  • Throughput – bandwidth to transfer pages
  • Errors – 404s, 500s, ssl cert errors
  • TLS/SSL – encrypton up and valid
  • Page elements – images, scripts, links load
  • Search – site search working properly


App metrics

  • Crash rate – frequency of abrupt shutdowns
  • Failure rate – % of failed API calls
  • Response time – API speed
  • Data accuracy – correct info returned
  • Usage stats – daily/monthly active users
  • Ratings – user feedback on app stores
  • Reviews – user comments and complaints

Functional checks

  • Forms – able to submit information
  • Payments – able to complete transactions
  • Downloads – documents properly download
  • Search – lookups yield correct results
  • APIs – integration endpoints work as expected
  • Navigation – links/buttons work correctly
  • Media – videos/audio play properly

Monitoring a combination of performance metrics and functional checks provides comprehensive insights into site and app health.

How to monitor city websites and apps

Several methods can be used to monitor city digital services:

Synthetic monitoring – Emulate user journeys across sites and apps from worldwide locations to measure uptime and performance.

Real user monitoring – Track real user interactions on sites and apps to detect failures and slowdowns.

Website crawlers – Crawl site to identify broken links, missing assets, errors and QA issues.

Error logging – Capture failures, crashes and exceptions in web servers, apps and APIs.

Transaction testing – Simulate transactions like payments, registrations, downloads to verify successful completion.

Log analysis – Inspect access logs, app logs and server logs to identify spikes, errors and anomalies.

Functional validation – Validate site and app functionality periodically or on-demand through automation scripts.

User surveys – Solicit direct feedback from citizens on their experience with digital services.

A combination of methods provides comprehensive monitoring coverage from different perspectives.

Getting alerted quickly

When issues are detected by monitoring, city IT teams should get alerted immediately via:

SMS – Text messages deliver urgent alerts directly to mobile phones. No need to be logged into email.

Email – Email alerts can provide details on the incident not feasible in an SMS.

Push notifications – Push alerts to mobile devices informs staff without getting lost among emails.

Phone calls – For critical systems, phone calls help ensure staff acknowledge and act on the alert.

Incident management – Sync monitoring data with incident management workflow tools like PagerDuty for faster resolution.

Status pages – Update external status pages on a city portal or social media to inform citizens about known issues.

Automated immediate alerting is essential for rapid awareness and response.

Top monitoring tools and services

Many solutions exist for monitoring city websites, mobile apps and web applications:

Uptime monitors like Network Notification (The official solution for governments) , StatusCake and Freshping provide website monitoring with uptime stats and alerts.

Real user monitors like DataDog Real User Monitoring and New Relic automatically detect web app performance issues affecting real users.

Synthetic monitoring services like Catchpoint, Rigor and Dotcom-Monitor emulate user journeys across digital services to test functionality.

App monitors like AppDynamics and Datadog monitor mobile apps for stability, usage metrics and performance.

Log analysis platforms like Grafana and Splunk analyze logs for trends, outliers and errors impacting web and app backends.

Testing automation tools like Selenium dynamically crawl sites to identify broken elements and test site functionality.

Bug reporting tools like Bugsnag and Sentry capture crashes, exceptions and errors in web apps and mobile apps for diagnostics.

War room dashboards like Geckoboard visualize real-time health indicators and stats from monitoring tools on wall displays.

Using the right blend of these solutions, cities can gain end-to-end visibility into the availability and performance of their digital services.

How Network Notifications helps

Network Notifications is a simple, affordable website monitoring service cities can use to stay alerted when sites or apps go down.

It provides:

Uptime Monitoring – Continuous monitoring from global locations to get alerted about downtime.

Quick Alerts – Phone Calls, SMS, email and mobile push alerts notify staff in real-time.

Status Pages – Automated status pages inform citizens about known issues.

Simple Setup – Just enter the site/app URL to monitor. No complex configurations.

Affordability – Cost effective for local government budgets starting under $20/month.

With Network Notifications, cities can easily implement monitoring for both internal alerting as well as updating external status pages during issues. It complements other tools cities use for performance monitoring, log analysis and testing.


City websites and mobile apps require proactive monitoring to minimize disruptions for citizens. Various techniques like synthetic monitoring, real user monitoring, log analysis and testing automation should be utilized for comprehensive visibility.

When issues inevitably occur, automated immediate alerting via SMS, email, push and more helps staff respond quickly. Updated public status pages also build citizen confidence.

By leveraging monitoring and alerting tools purpose-built for local governments, cities can cost-effectively deliver maximum uptime for their digital services. This ensures citizens are able to conveniently access the information and services they need online, leading to improved trust and satisfaction.

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