How To Setup Free SMS Alerts When Your Website Is Down

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sms alert websiteMany services offer website uptime monitoring and SMS alerts when your website goes down, but most of them charge money for this service. Using a clever Google Docs trick and the SMS capability built into Google Calendar, you can quickly set up free text message alerts when your website goes down.

This script will try to connect to one or more websites every five minutes. If it can’t connect, you’ll receive a notification by email and text message so you can deal with the problem immediately. While this is free, your cellular provider may charge you to receive SMS messages. Check with your provider if you’re not sure whether they charge for incoming text messages.

Associate Your Phone Number With Google Calendar

First, open your Google Calendar page, click the gear at the top right corner, and select Settings. Click the Mobile Setup tab.

Select your country and enter your cell phone number to set up SMS reminders. Assuming your carrier is supported, you don’t have to select it in the Carrier box – see this page for a list of carriers Google supports.

Once you’ve entered your cell phone information, click the Send Verification Code button and Google will text you a verification code – enter the code on the page and the setup process will be complete.

sms alert website

After providing your cell phone information, you can also use the reminders feature in Google Calendar to receive reminders for calendar events. You can even create calendar events via SMS.

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Set Up Website Monitor

Now we just need to set up the Website Monitor script. First, click here to create a copy of the Website Monitor spreadsheet in your Google Docs account. (If you’d like to check the source code of the script, you can view it here.)

Next, click the Website Monitor button on the Google Docs toolbar and select Initialize. You’ll be prompted to give the script the permissions it requires – the ability to write calendar events, send email, and so on.

website alerts

Once the script is initialized, enter your email address into the Email Address box and enter your website address into the Website URLs box. You can enter multiple website addresses with a comma and space in between them.

If you’d only like to receive email notifications, you can set the SMS Notifications box to No – the script won’t send you text messages.

website alerts

Once you’ve provided your settings, click the Website Monitor menu again and select Start Monitoring.

website alerts

The Google Apps script will run constantly — even when you don’t have the spreadsheet open — checking your websites every five minutes. If one or more websites go down, it will email you and send you a text message (by creating a calendar event with a reminder).

sms alert website

Thanks to Amit Agarwal at Digital Inspiration for writing this script!

Other Website Monitoring Tools

We’ve also covered other ways to monitor websites, including SiteMonitor, a free desktop application that checks websites and provides desktop notifications if they go down. Pingdom is another good option. While it’s mostly focused on paid services, Pingdom does offer a free account that can check one website and includes up to twenty SMS alerts – much more limited than the script above if you’re looking for a free solution.

How do you monitor your website’s uptime and get alerts when it goes down? Leave a comment and let us know about your favorite tool!

Image Credit: Mobile Phone Alert via Shutterstock

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19 Comments - Write a Comment


Mac Witty

I use Pingdom – easy to “set up” and have worked well for us. The best is the monthly report. I don’t care if the site is down 5 minutes now and then but if it happens often and it add up to many hours then it might be time to change host. I don’t use SMS notification I don’t want to have a SMS in the middle of the night because the site is down 2 minutes. E-mail is enough for me and Pingdom have no limits for them.

Chris Hoffman

Fair enough! For a site like MakeUseOf, we definitely do want to have an SMS message ping someone in the middle of the night if the website goes down. (I believe we use Pingdom for this as well.)


Jacob patton

Interesting. I’ll have to give this a try. I’d agree with Mac Witty though, I think email would be enough.



Very interesting, will try it tomorrow


Achraf Almouloudi

Can you think of some way to use Ifttt for this purpose .

Chris Hoffman

ifttt can send text messages:

But I don’t think you can use a trigger to monitor whether a website is up. Hm.


Theo Reisinger

This is really helpful, and the best part is that its relatively simple! thanks!


ahmed Fouad khalil

very good idea, thanks for sharing i will give it a try


Roman Vávra

Good article! I will give it a try too :)


Lucian D.

Very weird way to set up uptime monitoring, but I guess it should work.

My take on this is that if you really need to know when your site is down, you woudn’t stick with this nice Google Docs / Calendar “hack”.

It’s just easier to click-click and get up and running with some paid service like or and plenty others.

My 2 cents.


Chris Hoffman

I definitely would agree for larger sites.

It is weird, but that’s what’s so cool about it! It’s such a geeky hack.



You include this line in your article: “Check with your provider if you’re not sure whether they charge for incoming text messages.”. I’m guessing that this is because you know of some providers in some countries which make charges for SMS messages, on top of a normal cell phone account. Is this so? I do have text alerts for some things on line and don’t appear to incur a charge. Would what you outline cost me anything on a UK cell phone account, to the best of your knowledge?


Chris Hoffman

It depends. It’s common with prepaid cell phone providers, where you don’t pay a monthly fee but pay per-message. Some prepaid providers will let you receive SMS messages for free (my provider in Canada doesn’t charge for incoming texts), while some will charge you.

This is true of SMS messages in general. It’s not anything specific to this trick, just something to be aware of.



isnt it a little bit unsecured?

The script requires access to the following services:
Spreadsheets (Read/Write)
Send Email
Calendar (Read/Write)
Script Properties (Read/Write)
This script asks permissions to subscribe to external events.


Chris Hoffman

Well, the script does need to do those things. It needs access to your spreadsheets. It needs the ability to send email, so it can email you notifications. It needs to read/write from the calendar, because this is the trick it uses to send free SMSes.

You can actually check the source code of the script if you’re not comfortable:

Bear in mind that every Windows application, Firefox browser extension, and many Chrome extensions and Android apps get many of the same permissions when you install them. Google just forces the script to enumerate its permissions.


Edwin Williams

Cool! I’ll have to recommend this to some of my friends who run some sites!



I have just set up Google calendar and this website monitoring tool. For some reason it seems to think my websites are down and keeps sending me texts. Has anyone else had this problem ?

Chris Hoffman

I never had this problem when I tested it. Make sure your website’s address is entered properly — that could cause it.


Henrik Omdal

just to be clear .. If I just select YES in the sms box and don’t write anything in the email, it will automagically use the SMS number provided ?

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