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SA ISP Dashboard, let users make up their own minds

October 1st, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
mweb

End user experience is a key decider when it comes to making a hosting or bandwith choice, but this is the most elusive measurable of all.

With the increased innovation taking place in the ISP hosting and ADSL offerings area it is becoming more difficult for users to make an informed choice.  It is often the extreme points of view, both good and bad, that surface on the web, distorting the real user experience.

I am proposing the creation of an impartial dashboard where everyone can view and compare the real life performance of the product offerings from the various ISPs.

What I propose is a dashboard that measures connectivity in a South African perspective, i.e. the typical experience a local user will have when using the adsl from a particular ISP. Various scenarious would be monitored, from various locations, incuding ping times, route analysis, etc.

Another key aspect when choosing an ISP is hosting performance.  Many local hosting providers offers very appealing packages, but how do a typical end user know which are worth the risk in migrating to a new offering. Things that would be measured and displayed in a visual dashboard would be hosting server performance (CPU, Load, memory, numer of sites hosted, etc).

For both adsl and hosting it is also key to measure availability as well as effective usability. From a technical perspective only opensource tools like Nagios, Smokeping, MRTG, RRD, SNMP, etc will be used to perform the monitoring and graphing.

For this to be a viable proposition I will need the co-operation of the local players, including Afrihost, Hetzner, IS, MWeb, Telkom, Web Africa, etc.  Let’s see if the new age ISPs will come to the party.

The site will not be a platform for those with a grunt to bear, but rather an informative portal where ISPs can be judged on what they deliver, not on what they promise, allowing the end user to make an informed choice.

  1. October 1st, 2009 at 20:57 | #1

    Hi there imel

    I think this is a fantastic idea – Would be great to see where we can improve compared to our competitors!

    Let me know what it is you would need from our side (the only caveat is that we do not have too much free time on our hands at the moment if this needs a big investment of hours!)

    Thanks and have a great eve

    Gian
    CEO, Afrihost

  2. October 1st, 2009 at 21:24 | #2

    Hi Gian, to start of the plan would be to have a standard hosting account with each ISP, so as to monitor the hosting environment at source. This account would then also be used to monitor the outbound connectivity and cross ISP connectivity.

    For now all I would need from each ISP is a standard hosting account and the contact details of an in-house techie to speed up the building process.

    As to the time consuming stuff like coding, design, etc, leave that to me ;-)

    Regards
    Imel

  3. October 2nd, 2009 at 14:07 | #3

    Sounds like an interesting idea. I think there are various challenges though before you dive in:

    - What are international precedents and organisations that have done the same? If no examples why not?
    - How do you ensure ISP’s are kept all above board? (easy to setup a “standard package” on a special server etc)
    - How do you standardise on monitoring (all ISP’s use different standards)
    - Is it going to be a hobby or a standards organisation etc

  4. October 2nd, 2009 at 22:32 | #4

    Hi Matthew, I agree that the idea is still in the early stages and will need to be developed further before any action is taken.

    There are international services like Monitis that allows for the monitoring of various environments. In this case the uniqueness is that I want to be able to emulate and monitor the percieved (South African) user experience, not the mechanical availablity and response times.
    As to the valid concerns about leveling the playing field, I am sure there are technical solutions to this.

    Realistically I believe it is possible to create a standards organisation that offers a credible and reliable source of information for consumers. In my mind the question is whether the role players in SA will be willing to agree on how and if their products will be measured.

    If you are open to exploratory talks we can meet in Cape Town.

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