Blog Post

The Importance of Monitoring Consumer ISPs

The most accurate look at a website's performance comes from nodes placed on consumer ISPs, not from transit providers

At their heart, web performance monitoring companies have a basic goal: to provide their customers with the most comprehensive and accurate look possible into the health of their online systems. This goal is accomplished in multiple ways, but one of the most important is through synthetic testing from servers plugged into the internet backbone.

Using these nodes as ‘dummy computers’ on which to run tests of their websites and applications, businesses can glean valuable data pertaining to how their sites and applications are performing, and also how peering issues, connectivity bottlenecks, etc. are affecting their overall performance. Remember, the internet is a series of tubes, and congestion in one location often has ripple effects that spread far and wide.

There are two key types of network providers: Transit Providers (e.g. Cogent, Level3, NTT) and the Last Mile (e.g. Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.). As an end user, you do not buy your internet from Cogent, but from Comcast. Yet in your datacenter, you buy connectivity from the backbone providers like Cogent or Level3, or you buy into peering exchanges.

To present, the most accurate view into the end user experience a monitoring tool requires having nodes on these two types of networks, and more on the “Eyeball” or Last Mile networks like Comcast, AT&T, etc. – i.e. ISPs that end users are using to access the internet.

This principle has been made even clearer over the last few years with the fight over net neutrality, during which it was made widely known that some of these ISPs practice throttling techniques on their networks, showing favor to certain websites by slowing service down for others (the whole “fast lane/slow lane” battle that we saw take place in the halls of Congress). But without nodes that are connected to these networks, how were businesses supposed to know if poor performance was due to problems on their own end, or with the consumer ISPs themselves?

This is why Catchpoint has been investing heavily in expanding our node infrastructure on these prominent eyeball networks. When looking at broadband providers in the U.S., you’ll see that over 60 million internet users in the U.S. (or 71.4%) are subscribers of the Big Four: Comcast (26.5%), AT&T (19.1%), Time Warner (14.9%), or Verizon (10.9%).

So not only does Catchpoint have over 200 nodes in 39 different cities across the United States, but we are connected to all the Big Four carriers, as well as the next five biggest ISPs (CenturyLink, Charter, Cox, Cablevision, and Frontier), which together handle another 21% of all U.S. internet traffic.

(NOTE: Despite some statements to the contrary, we ARE in fact monitoring in the cloud, both from transit networks – where companies buy bandwidth – and from eyeball networks, where actual consumers are. But we’re not limited to monitoring from public clouds like Amazon Web Services, where your consumers are not.)

On top of that, Catchpoint has also stayed ahead of the curve by building nodes that are specifically tailored to IPv6 (we’re at 50 and counting), which has already begun to replace the exhausted IPv4 addresses. In doing so, we’re ensuring that our customers have access to the most current platform possible.

Of course, the U.S. is hardly the only place where we’re expanding our network; our global node coverage encompasses:

  • Total Number of Agents/Nodes: 459
  • Backbone: 332
  • Last Mile: 90
  • Wireless: 37
  • 69 countries
  • 164 cities
  • 180 Autonomous Systems covered

When you combine all that with the amount of data that every test run provides, plus the ability to isolate and analyze every component of your web transactions, it results in a level of depth into their online systems that’s simply unavailable from any other monitoring system. Because we are not just a web monitoring tool; you can with Catchpoint keep an eye on 13 different kinds of end points from Web, DNS, and Traceroutes, to our latest one: Websockets.

traceroute visuals

As we like to say, performance is a journey rather than a destination; it’s a never-ending process that can constantly be improved upon. Therefore, we’re going to continue to invest in our testing capabilities and our node infrastructure to give the most comprehensive view to our customers.

Synthetic Monitoring
Network Reachability
Cloud Migration
SLA Management

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