A review of Monitor-IO, a little gadget that wants to talk about your Internet
Share this story
- Monitor-IO on my office shelf—with 16-port switch and BB-8 for scale.
- “What is my purpose?”
is a $100 IoT gadget that tells you whether your Internet is working well, poorly, or not at all. The idea is you put this little black box next to (and plugged directly into) your router, and a quick glance at its color-coded screen will let you know if the Internet‘s working solidly, if it‘s having some problems, or if everything is just plain out. Monitor-IO even promises to tell users granular details like how long a connection has been up, or sketchy, or out.
All of this raises the question: do you need a gadget for that?
Tap, tap—is this thing on?
At first glance, Monitor-IO reminded me of the butter-passing robot from Rick and Morty, doomed to a trivialized existence fulfilling an insignificant task. Look, I already know if the Internet is down! My wife and I feed and clothe three small but highly motivated Internet downtime detectors who let us know in a hurry if videos and games stop streaming to their tablets, the Rokus, etc.
Then again, there‘s an entire troubleshooting flowchart burned into my brain, beginning with ping 18.104.22.168 from a wired computer, to make sure the problem is neither Wi-Fi nor DNS. From there, I‘m isolating any remaining problems from switch, to router, to modem, to ISP. All the while, I know, support, and in some cases love a bunch of people who have a much simpler one-step flowchart that reads “call Jim, and say things that sound like they might be technical until the problem goes away.”
Once I remembered that reality, the appeal of this little plastic box with a cheerful LED screen and simple, human-friendly diagnostic messages was obvious. So I decided to take a closer look at your gadget.
Monitor-IO‘s screen backlight changes color depending on your current internet status: green for A-OK, purple for problems, red for complete outage.
Accepting a review unit turned out to be a good decision. Monitor-IO‘s deceptively simple premise (tell me if the Internet is on or not) is backed by a surprising amount of attention to detail and accompanied by a bunch of cool additional features. The technically challenged folks can just look at the screen to see if it‘s green for go, purple for “uhhh…,” or red for fail. This will rule out local problems like Wi-Fi or DNS and tell users in extremely simple terms whether the ISP‘s service itself is up or down. But for more technical people—like my fellow consultants or the family members non-techy folks rely on—a whole bunch of additional functionality is a couple of clicks away. Monitor-IO marquees three different pieces of information on its screen: the current Internet uptime, the local IP address of the Monitor-IO device itself, and a reminder that you can log in to your account at monitor-io for more information.
- Monitor-IO‘s local Web interface can give you more details about what is or isn‘t working.
- Monitor-IO‘s built-in speedtest function is a refreshing change—a rapid, “good enough” blip of data (under one second) instead of the usual interminable grind that makes other users suffer.
- You can also perform a fairly quick ARP scan to identify all the devices on your network from Monitor-IO‘s local interface.
The local interface is nice because it‘s available even when your Internet connection is not. If you point your Web browser to the IP address flashed on Monitor-IO‘s screen, you can find more details about what is or isn‘t working, saving you some donkey-work in troubleshooting. You can also run a speed test—a refreshingly quick one. While it‘s nowhere near as detailed as the results at , Monitor-IO‘s speed test fully completes in a single second. This is good enough to give you an idea of whether you‘re getting the speeds you should without grinding on so long it significantly interferes with other people‘s downloads, Web browsing, or video streams.
The local interface isn‘t bad, but, from my testing, the really cool stuff happens at . Once you log in with the username and password you got when you bought the device, you can view a detailed history of problems and alerts with your Internet connection.
- Monitor-IO groups alerts by three color-coded levels of severity: yellow, orange, and red. Yellow and orange alerts happen with dreary regularity on my Spectrum connection, but red seems fairly rare.
- The distinction between “faults” and “alerts” is a little hazy, but the tooltips on the graphs do a fairly good job of telling you what you‘re looking at.
- With any luck, you‘ll see fewer outright outages than you do faults and alerts, both of which are several-a-day occurrences on my 100Mbps cable connection.
You can do some pretty neat things to catalog and monitor your home network here, too. You can (and should!) assign every device on your network a friendly alias based on its MAC (hardware) address. This makes it easy to spot when you‘ve got an unexpected device on your network or to figure out which of your own devices is which. Alerts can also be configured on home devices such as printers, computers, or set-top boxes so that you‘ll get email notifications if they go offline. All of this takes as much pain as possible out of, for example, getting a frantic call from home about the kids not being able to watch Cartoon Network on their Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, et cetera. Instead of walking somebody through troubleshooting over the phone, you can log in to your my.monitor-io account and see instantly whether the ISP is up, whether your local network is up, and whether the device your roommate/significant other/child is frantic about has connectivity. You‘ll even know if any of the above have been spotty for the last hour/day/week.