When to Use Synthetic Monitoring (and When Not to)
Many companies rely on synthetic monitoring for Digital Experience Monitoring. And for good reason. In today’s application-centric world, businesses evaluate the performance of their web applications based on end user experience. With users demanding Google-like page response times, IT recognizes the value of constant monitoring of application performance and availability. Synthetic monitoring provides important capabilities, but it also leaves gaps in key End User Experience Monitoring use cases.
An overview of synthetic monitoring
For synthetic monitoring, Application Performance Management products execute a script that simulates users’ interactions with key applications. The products run scripts from various locations at regular intervals. Synthetic testing tools generate alerts when they identify downtime or degradation in performance. With these capabilities, IT can proactively identify availability problems or major execution issues that can affect users’ digital experience.
Nine reasons to use synthetic monitoring
Here are some of the top reasons IT shops rely on synthetic monitoring.
- Monitor application availability 24 x 7—even during off hours
- Proactive notification of application availability issues
- Identify reachability problems for remote sites
- Understand the impact of third-party services have on customer-facing applications
- Monitor performance and availability of SaaS applications
- Test business-to-business web services that use SOAP, REST or other web services technologies
- Monitor the availability of critical databases queries
- Measure service-level agreements (SLAs)
- Baseline and analyze performance trends across geographies
Synthetic testing has important limitations
Synthetic testing is a useful approach to Digital Experience Monitoring, but it has limitations. Synthetic monitoring is just that—synthetic. The scripts on which it relies only emulate user experience. They do not measure actual end user experience. So synthetic testing can’t help IT understand what users actually see when they interact with an application.
In addition, synthetic monitoring can’t see how device resources and health affect application performance. Is the application truly slow? Or is the problem that the user’s device lacks sufficient memory or CPU?
Last, synthetic testing scripts have no insight into the characteristics of the end user who is experiencing poor application performance. Their identity. Role. Department. Location.
Six reasons NOT to use synthetic monitoring
While synthetic monitoring helps IT identify and resolve general application performance issues, it does not help companies address some key IT and business use cases.
- Resolve end user complaints. When service desk staff receive an end user complaint, synthetic monitoring products would tell them nothing about what the end user was actually doing or experiencing.
- Troubleshoot device problems. Desktop services teams need insight into the performance and health metrics of the laptops, PCs, tablets, and mobile devices used by their workforce. Synthetic testing products lack this visibility.
- Determine how device performance affects application performance. Under-resourced devices negatively affect application performance. Without insight into device performance, application owners can’t isolate the cause of application complaints.
- Analyze performance for every business critical app. Companies rely on dozens of business critical applications. Creating and maintaining scripts for synthetic testing is time-consuming, even for one app.
- Validate the impact of change across the estate. When IT makes changes to devices, applications, or infrastructure, they must validate the impact of those changes on actual end user experience to determine the impact. Comparing metrics from synthetic testing won’t provide the full picture.
- Improve workforce productivity. To measure the impact of IT on workforce productivity, IT and business execs need to assess every application in use in the enterprise. Not just one.
SteelCentral Aternity addresses these use cases
As a device-based method of End User Experience Monitoring, SteelCentral Aternity addresses these gaps. Aternity monitors the health and performance of end user devices, and the performance of applications as they render on the screens of the user’s device. For every type of app in the enterprise portfolio—local, web, cloud-delivered, or mobile. Unlike synthetic testing products, Aternity presents a true picture of end user experience by correlating the three key streams of data—device health and performance, application performance as seen by the end user, and user behavior.