The Blue Book Building and Construction Network

The Blue Book Building and Construction Network, owned by the Contractor’s Register, is the largest and most active network in the commercial construction industry. For more than 100 years, the company has brought the industry together to forge connections and build relationships—through a network including general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, manufacturers, engineers, architects and government agencies as well as property owners, builders, developers and management companies.

Business Need

In the 1990s, as The Blue Book Building and Construction Network transitioned to interacting with network members via the Web, Carlos Leon knew a website monitoring solution was absolutely necessary. “Our website applications are the primary communications interface among our members,” explains the MIS Network Operations Manager for The Blue Book Building and Construction Network. “If someone can’t access a page, or if a page loads too slowly, we have to know immediately so we can correct the problem.”

The digital workflow solutions developed by The Blue Book Building and Construction Network enable construction professionals to find and spec products, share project documents, and streamline bid communications. Properly working website applications are thus vital to multiple business entities on every construction project.

“One of our primary missions is providing the information and connections needed to simplify the construction process and continually advance the commercial construction industry across the US,” Leon emphasizes. “If our website does not perform up to expectations, our member businesses suffer, and that’s bad for us.”

Within the first year of launching The Blue Book Building and Construction Network website, Leon set out to find a monitoring tool to help keep the website running proficiently. He wanted peace-mind for himself and his IT staff—knowing the website performed up-to-standards around the clock.

“We employ a relatively small IT staff,” Carlos adds. “So we cannot allocate internal resources to monitor the website 24x7—we need to focus our time more so on strategic initiatives. We thus needed an easy-to-deploy solution that runs on its own and would give us instant feedback on website performance.”

Targeted Solution

As The Blue Book Building and Construction Network—and the world in general—were still relatively new to the Internet in the 1990s, Leon decided to play it safe when it came to the performance of the company website. He deployed three monitoring solutions all at the same time.

“This gave us the ability to test three solutions, and SmartBear AlertSite quickly emerged as the top-performing website monitoring tool,” says Leon. “We have partnered with SmartBear ever since and have never considered changing solutions. We know how our website performs at all times and can easily pinpoint the source of any performance issues.”

Requiring no programming scripts, AlertSite delivers best-in-class synthetic monitoring of website applications as well as APIs and mobile applications. Leon and his team use AlertSite to monitor the company’s websites and applications using real browsers—just like the members who interact with the website.

In addition to the member-facing website, The Blue Book Building and Construction Network also relies on AlertSite to monitor internal websites that help manage IT functions, such as disaster recovery. “We tap into three AlertSite devices—based in California, Chicago and Washington DC,” explains Leon. “This allows us to view the performance our members experience across the entire country.”

AlertSite sends immediate alerts to Leon via his mobile phone when website issues occur, and relies on AlertSite reports to review historical performance trends. He can also specify the number of measurements per hour he wants for each page. Those pages with most visitors per week receive the most monitoring.

“This gave us the ability to test three solutions, and SmartBear AlertSite quickly emerged as the top-performing website monitoring tool,” says Leon. “We have partnered with SmartBear ever since and have never considered changing solutions. We know how our website performs at all times and can easily pinpoint the source of any performance issues.”
— Carlos Leon, MIS Network Operations Manager

Benefits and Results

“I am often asked, ‘How is the website doing?’ by my boss and other senior managers,” says Leon. “It’s something we all tune into because of its importance to the services we deliver to our members, and it’s great that AlertSite gives us the exact information we need.”

As The Blue Book Building and Construction Network adds products and services with new pages on the company website, Leon and his team can easily create a URL for each page within AlertSite to drill down and receive alerts if problems to the new pages occur. The team can also document blackout periods when performing system maintenance so those conducting real-time views or generating reports will realize the site was down for a reason during those times.

As changes are made to website applications and pages, AlertSite helps determine if any of the changes have a negative impact on end-user experiences. Reports generated from drilling down into the data can then provide the software development team with valuable feedback as to why changes caused the degraded performance. As an example, AlertSite once identified a DNS change that impacted the number of users that could access a website page. The developers changed it back, and the page worked again like it is supposed to.

AlertSite also plays a key role in assessing whether the data center that provisions the website has sufficient compute, networking and storage resources to meet the demand on the site by network members. “At one point, we considered whether we needed to add a second data center on the west coast,” Leon points out. “But AlertSite helped us realize our main data center could continue handling the forecasted load for at least a few more years. In that respect, the solution helped us avoid an unnecessary investment in building a new data center and deploying additional IT resources.”

Leon also appreciates that AlertSite gives the internal team an external user viewpoint as to how well the website is working. Between 20,000 and 35,000 members visit the site each week, accumulating on average about one million page views.

“There’s no better way to know how things are working than to view the website from the outside-in,” Leon points out. “All of our customers interact with us now online for all our services, so website page-loading performance is critical. We need to ensure 24x7x365 performance, and partnering with SmartBear AlertSite helps us achieve this mission.”

Business Challenges

  • Maintain a fully-functioning company website—the primary vehicle for communicating with members.
  • Monitor the performance of the website 24x7 with a small internal IT staff.
  • Identify website performance issues in real time.
  • Gain the ability to drill down into the root cause of performance issues.

SmartBear AlertSite Solution

  • Delivers best-in-class synthetic monitoring of website applications.
  • Provides an external user viewpoint as to how well the website works from various locations across the US.
  • Pinpoints the source of website performance issues.
  • Monitors external member-facing website as well as internal websites that help manage IT functions.

Measurable Results

  • Helps IT maintain top website performance 24x7x365 as close to one million page views are executed every week.
  • Generates immediate alerts when website issues occur.
  • Enables IT to review historical website performance trends and communicate to senior management how well the website is working.
  • Identifies application changes that impact page-load performance so developers can react quickly.
Key Products