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Defining web applications

In computer system, a web application is a client-side and server-side software application in which the client runs or request in a web browser. Common web applications include email, online retail sales, online auctions, wikis, instant messaging services and more. Many companies are shifting their focus to web applications that can be delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), such as moving to Microsoft 365.

How a web application works step-by-step

Step 1: The user accesses a web application via a web browser or mobile application, triggering a request to the web server over the Internet. Note that there may be security measures (i.e. firewalls or cloud access security brokers) and load balancers.

Step 2: The web server forwards the request to the web application server. The web application server performs the requested task – such as querying the database or processing the data – then generates the results of the requested data.

Step 3: The web application server sends the results back to the web server.

Step 4: the web server delivers the requested information to the client (desktop, mobile device, tablet, etc.) and the information appears on the user’s display.

The benefits of web applications: flexibility and agility

Unlike desktop or client-server applications, web applications can be accessed anywhere using a web browser such as Microsoft Explorer, Google Chrome, or Apple Safari. The user can determine which machine or machines he will use to access the web application. Web applications are updated centrally so that the applications are always up to date. Security can also be applied centrally.  

How web application monitoring can help

IT Operations and DevOps team are responsible for identifying and resolving performance issues. They typically rely on 10+ tools to identify the problems and many of these tools may provide conflicting information. It is not unusual to create a war room with specialists from various teams to help isolate performance problems in business-critical web applications. Even though the problem may express itself in the web application it may be due to problems in another tier such as the network or the server that hosts multiple virtual machines contending for shared resources.

Web application monitoring can trace the transaction from end-to-end and isolate problems that occur within your environment, third-party application providers, or cloud services providers such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. It can provide early warning to application issues by baselining performance and alerting or visualizing emerging issues via real-time dashboards. Since many sites are encrypted, web application monitoring typically includes the ability to monitor both encrypted and decrypted sites.

Visualization is important to help focus triage efforts. The best reporting and dashboards provide fault information by geography, web application, platform and even browser type. You can then also drill down into the application map for further granularity.

Dashboards for monitoring web application performance

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The dashboard above is an example of a web monitoring solution from Riverbed AppResponse. It provides:

  • Real-time web application performance analysis
  • Auto discovery of all URLs and end-user activity to simplify set-up
  • End-user experience for web pages, including metrics for page errors, page rates, and unique users
  • Geographic heat maps
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