Last week's piece about keeping customers was more a discussion of customer service. This week, I'm profiling a company that ensures your customers can be kept - by making sure your website, store or service is up all the time. This is very important for keeping customers happy, especially if the web is the primary method by which customers reach you or buy your products or services.

Web service uptime is critical for Jay Graves, CTO for edo Interactive, a company that has a technology that puts coupons directly onto customer's debit cards. edo has 27 employees and works with large companies like Coca-Cola for an under-the-cap loyalty program, as well as the financial institutions that issue debit cards.

Jay told me "In the modern age of service-oriented architecture, if we're hosting a web service for a customer, unless we can prove it is up, they're going to think it is down. We use AlertSite DejaClick to track our web site and web services for our clients. AlertSite monitors East Coast, Central and West Coast for us. We give customers a report with the AlertSite logo that shows we had 99.97 percent or greater uptime. When you're dealing with larger companies as a startup organization, this reporting helps your reputation. You have to be prepared for an extra level of scrutiny, but if you want to be a successful startup you have to be prepared for that scrutiny anyway."

Ken Godskind, Chief Strategy Officer of AlertSite opined "In Small and Medium businesses, they don't want to be monitoring experts. They know their store, blog, or website. With our DejaClick product, you don't have to be highly trained, you just have to know how to click through an application. It is designed so a normal user can accomplish it."

The demo I saw allowed a user to hit a 'record button' and capture their path through the site. If there were user names or fields to fill out, the product captured those. They can be edited or conditional logic can be added. It even worked on a flash site I was shown. Setting up the monitoring was not rocket science - most site owners could do it with little help or coaching. AlertSite then tests your site, using your script, from data centers around the country. They then report back how long it takes for your site to load, and ensure that the service can successfully complete the scripted transactions.

Godskind describes their product set as services that help customers make sure that whatever the important thing they're doing on line, it is working well for end users. In Retail, that may mean, "Can shoppers go to home page, search for products, view products from a catalog, add to a shopping cart and check out?"

Graves said "They can spit out monthly reports, let us know when we were up, and since they're a 3rd party, they're immediately more trustworthy than if we reported to the client. We also share reports internally with entire company so everyone knows our uptime and our reliability."

How big does your company have to be to consider monitoring services? "If you're a web based business," Godskind told me "and you're putting a lot of effort into sharing a brand feeling - and keeping customers - you want to make sure your site is available, functions reliably, and you want to know how your load time changes during the day. There's a very inexpensive, availability monitoring service for $10/month, but if you have multi-step store transactions to test, you can expect to pay more like $100/month and up."

If your business lives and dies by its website, $1,200 a year to have peace of mind that your site is up seems a pretty small price to pay. Do you track your online uptime and make sure your customers can buy or contact you at any time? How do you do it? The comments are open.