Do you know if your ISP provides what they promise?
OutagesIO makes Internet providers accountable for their services while providing analytics on how they are performing, no matter what they report or don’t report.
Many of us take high-speed Internet access for granted – it keeps us connected at work and entertained at home. If we’re lucky, it’s reliable, but when it’s not, we feel frustrated and powerless, roped into whatever our Internet Service Provider (ISP) is willing and able to provide to us.
Most of the time, we don’t even know if we’re getting the speeds they promised when we signed up and if what we’re paying for each month is accurate. And what proof do we have anyway when things seem really slow or our connection bounces up and down?
By the time we call tech support and wait for help, we’re told it looks normal and they don’t have reports of any problems in our area. Did we try rebooting our router?
If only someone would invent a tool that tracked and monitored what really was happening with our Internet connections so we’d have proof when there were problems.
Spoiler alert: Someone did–it’s called OutagesIO.
What the Company Does
OutagesIO.com provides ISP accountability through Internet and provider monitoring solutions for consumers, small business and enterprise.
We offer a free level called Community to track and diagnose connectivity issues on a basic level and low-cost paid options for those ready to dig deeper into their monitoring reports.
Our software agent runs on Windows, Linux, and ARM devices such as Raspberry Pi and other hardware. We also offer our own 2″ IoT device running a custom dedicated operating system with the monitoring agent built in.
The Current Landscape – what’s currently going on in the industry?
As almost everything gets connected to the Internet, it’s vital for people to have reliable, affordable Internet and for ISPs to be held accountable for the quality of services they provide.
Not only do we personally rely on Internet for work and home, but now even critical services like fire departments, police, hospitals and ambulance services use the Internet to respond to emergencies. Many providers try to guarantee uptime, but what happens when the system fails? How can we ensure we have adequate connections as our reliability on this service continues to grow?
Most ISPs dislike having to publicly admit when their network is having issues. When customers call in for support, sometimes they feel like they’re the only ones having the problem, even when they aren’t. But how do they know they’re not alone, unless the outage is so massive it makes the news?
Sites like Down Detector and other network monitoring websites typically show major outages using publicly available BGP data and user feedback. Wouldn’t it be more useful for consumers to see what’s going on in their own neighborhoods and their own Internet provider?
OutagesIO can literally see right through every provider, no matter what they report or don’t report. The more people and companies that use OutagesIO, the clearer it becomes how all providers are performing and even which ones were responsible for outages.
Searching the Internet for outages that affected consumers, businesses, government, we come up with many stories of finger pointing and even lawsuits. OutagesIO takes away the finger pointing with hard facts on where and with whom the problem was or is.
What competitors exist?
Networking has been around for a long time so there are many businesses in this space such as Solarwinds, Datadog, Paessler and others. Most of these services are focused on Enterprise users becoming customers using a wide range of their tools.
OutagesIO.com is purpose built to monitor Internet and provider performance while providing analytics that can show how all providers being monitored are performing.
The problem we face is that PPC advertising favors deep pockets. Larger companies are able to afford the higher ad positions and gain top page searches because they can afford the time and money it takes to get noticed online.
We use many of the same keywords in SEO, but our larger, more funded competitors make it tough for OutagesIO to show up in the top page or two of search results. This makes it tougher for our customers to find us.
When they do, they usually give us feedback about how glad they were to discover us and how hard they searched before they did. It tells us that even though we don’t have the big dollars for advertising, our product is worth the digging when they find us and install OutagesIO.
Company Birth Story – how the company started
In the early 90’s, Canadian business owner Mike Paradis started a multi-user Bulletin Board System (BBS) in Ottawa, Ontario called LiveWire. (Fun fact: he met his American wife on LiveWire, where she used to log onto with her 14.4 Sportster dial-up modem and IBM Aptiva to to play online group trivia – they’ve been married 25 years now.)
LiveWire morphed into a dial-up ISP called NewForce Communications. As NewForce grew, it branched into DSL, dedicated connections, hosting and co-location services, even offering rudimentary VoIP and calling card service on one co-located server.
By 1999, NewForce branched into video, live streaming product launch events for local technology and defense contractors. Larger ISPs and Bell Telecom (a major Canadian backbone provider at that time) began pricing smaller ISPs out of the market and Mike decided it was better to sell the customer base off to a national ISP while there was still an interest.
In 2000, he and his wife moved to the U.S. and he started building a development environment to learn more about clusters and grid computing and to see where he could develop new ideas. This lead to becoming a small MSP called Logicore Networks, offering VoIP, web hosting and remote desktop services over the Internet.
As Mike’s experience managing the MSP services grew, he realized the most frustrating thing was getting calls from customers who thought Logicore’s managed services were down, when the majority of the time, it was their own Internet connection having issues.
Despite having the best equipment Logicore could buy and seeing that that services were working, it was stressful knowing customers might still point the finger at Logicore for their broken or slow connections, or call Logicore for tech support or service calls that weren’t truly related to their issues.
It was important to be responsive to customers but the amount of time Mike had to spend fighting his customers Internet providers became a problem. Mike started putting together hardware and software he could install at the customer’s locations to monitor problems from each location’s perspective. This helped provide proof and facts to the providers he had to deal with.
The connection monitoring service idea began to grow and he worked on an idea to build a more permanent and standardized product he could offer to anyone that needed better Internet monitoring.
He wanted to make sure it could show customers where the problem was happening, provide accountability and transparency for any ISP they used and also be an affordable solution that almost anyone could install and understand.
Mike envisioned and eventually built OutagesIO.com, a hybrid remote monitoring and management (RMM) system with the features of an enterprise-grade remote monitoring service.
The service allows IT to monitor dozens or thousands of Internet connected locations. It tracks and sends alerts of problems within 30 seconds of them happening. It works as an installable software agent, or a plug-and-play tiny hardware agent. It even allows secure, remote access to networks without opening any firewall ports.
The hardware agent also has optional environment monitoring sensors. Both versions provide analytics across all of the providers being used, helping to track and show trends of provider reliability as the services are monitored.
The best part is that consumers and small businesses can also use the service at no or low cost.
The Solution: How it differs, success and vision
We differ in that we are focusing on provider accountability and not solely monitoring network or related resources. At the same time, providing a service that allows anyone to monitor their Internet and provider with alerts to problems.
In terms of IT companies using OutagesIO, most we’ve spoken with say that our average 30 second alert time is faster than anything they have used, most offering alerts within 5 minutes after a service has issues or disconnects.
By monitoring from each site’s perspective using OutagesIO, performance details and weak points are revealed, data that Internet providers would never make public. Because analytics data is self-generated by companies using OutagesIO, they can compare which of their providers are giving them the most reliable connections and who is having the most problems, when they occur and for how long.
Data can be broken down in different ways. For example:
- Most or least reliable Internet provider
- Most or least non IP related disconnections. ie: low signal levels (cable, wireless)
- Which providers have the most IP related outages
- What are the weak points of each provider or their own upstream provider
- Which are consistently providing or unable to provide promised speeds
- Which areas suffer the most problems, in states, cities, towns, neighborhoods, rural, etc.
- If monitoring environment, locations with the most temperature or humidity, or other changes.
The data generated can be used in any way that the company finds useful, giving insight into their ISPs and upstream providers so they can hold them accountable for their services or consider switching to more reliable providers.
Our success to date has been getting this first phase up and running. We are constantly fine tuning and improving our service based on user feedback and feature requests from our forums and support emails. We’ve received some great testimonials about how OutagesIO has made a difference finding annoying ISP issues or gathering proof to show a provider that there truly is a problem with a network connection.
The vision goes well beyond what we have today. What we have built so far is a framework for what’s to come. Due to competitive reasons, I can only share that OutagesIO will become similar to multiple waves moving across the Internet, able to see from many points what is up or down. Centralized monitoring has its place, but adding OutagesIO greatly improves upon it.
A Customer Story – how the company is changing lives
OutagesIO is changing lives because consumers have never had a way to gather the information they needed to ask their provider for help. Providers typically make customers jump through hoops to prove there are problems, so many people will simply accept the problems or not deal with the hassle of calling tech support and getting frustrated by the lack of help they need to resolve the issue.
We sometimes wonder if that’s the end game of support, frustrate customers into accepting what they get.
The service offers an automated method of monitoring that practically anyone can use without needing technical skills. For those that need help, we have our forums where we’ll help people no matter what their skill level and will explain what we’re seeing in their reports.
There are a few testimonials in our blog and mentions about how useful the service is in our forums.
Our favorite is from a 75 year old woman that used to service to get help from her provider.
There is a short piece on a company called 411 that is using the service to help their remote employees as well.
There are a few reviews on Google reviews but most people don’t take the time to leave reviews.
Our service is one where people install agents, get what they need and rarely communicate with us which is something we are trying to address.
It’s a virtual environment, with everyone working from remote, including myself. I initially wanted to hire local programmers and rent an office, but wasn’t able to find anyone that fit the requirement. I started looking online and found people with great resumes who seemed to talk the talk, but many of them did not work out.
That was an expensive learning process, but I learned how to mitigate it over time and found a great group of 4 people who make up the core of OutagesIO. We regularly hire freelancers when we need a specific skill set outside what we have in our core group.
Our lead developer lives in Argentina, in the country, and ironically, has regularly unreliable Internet services to get his daily work done. It took going through dozens of developers to finally find him and he is amazing. What he doesn’t know, he learns quickly. When he needs help, I hire someone with specific skills to help.
I have never known anyone so passionate about what he does. He really loves this project and I couldn’t have gotten where we’ve gone without his support and enthusiasm.
We have another person that works on the agent code and lives in the UK, travelling between London and Switzerland every couple of weeks.
And finally, my wife Kelly, who has worked as a technical writer and helps me with marketing and web writing. She is also good at creating and editing videos, plus she ships the hardware agents to customers and manages the business finances. In her spare time, she has a full-time job as a senior living sales specialist.
A Founder Quote
If money was the only driving force behind building new things, little would get built.
Only entrepreneurs can understand the risk of building something from nothing and hoping it pays off in the long run. They sink all of their money and time into something they believe has value to the world and hope it succeeds. The endless work hours take a toll on relationships with friends and family, and sometimes the stress affects our health.
Setbacks and failures can feel like a bitter end to a dream, haunting and hard to shake off, but each tiny spark of success or feedback from a happy customer adds to a balloon filled with hope that we are finally going to succeed.
The first 30 seconds of this YouTube video explains why I built OutagesIO, the problems I faced owning an ISP and MSP.
Website, social links
The main web site: www.outagesio.com
Our Facebook page
My LinkedIn page
A LinkedIn post about an article I recently shared on Experts Exchange
Our growth has been slow, but steady. We are disappointed more people can’t easily find us online, but we believe that with the right mixture of publicity, online articles, reviews and customer word-of-mouth, we will grow quickly and help people see what’s happening with their Internet and get the services they deserve and are paying for each month.