In the internet-driven economy, businesses rely on applications for different functions in the customer, partner, and employee spheres. Over the years, such applications have become more functional, faster, and user-friendly. However, end users still encounter slow loading pages, transaction failures, and esoteric error messages. These errors cause inconvenience to the users and lead to significant financial and reputational losses. Businesses can use APM tools to collect metrics from applications and their underlying infrastructure to avoid such losses. Modern APM tools also offer code-level instrumentation for distributed tracing of microservices-based apps. All this data helps businesses capture issues with their application performance.
However, businesses often focus on tracking browsers, application code, server performance, operating systems, memory, etc., without putting this data in context with their end-user experience. The lack of correlation between APM and end-user data prevents them from harnessing the true value of their applications. End-user monitoring should be closely aligned with your APM strategy. In fact, according to a Gartner survey, 61% of respondents rated end-user experience monitoring as either an important or a critical component of APM.
Major Challenges With Traditional APM Tools
Modern web applications are often built using third-party components and APIs. Most of these apps are now made with microservices architecture and deployed over ephemeral containers. Monitoring such web apps with traditional APM tools can be difficult.
End User Monitoring Not Being a Primary Focus for IT Operations
Traditionally, IT and web development teams weren’t responsible for metrics related to user experience—it was handled by marketing. This created a reliance on reactive monitoring strategies dependent on users or outside teams to notify the application monitoring team when something is down, slow, or broken. However, modern IT ops professionals leverage end user monitoring to test the health and performance of their holistically.
Poor Visibility Into Real-World Website Performance
Traditional APM tools typically monitor the server-side or back-end infrastructure components of a web application while monitoring its performance. This restricts businesses from obtaining insights into real-world web app performance due to the absence of end-user data or metrics, such as Apdex score and time-to-first-byte. For instance, with conventional APM tools, IT teams might compile server-side data showing a web app’s average response time of 3.5 seconds and, therefore, conclude it’s performing well. However, end users might be experiencing an additional five seconds of delay due to their geolocation, device type, or browser. Having such granular visibility into website performance issues in the client environment with end-user monitoring data makes it possible to troubleshoot and optimize applications before users are affected.
Mapping User Journeys
Mapping a user’s journey within the web app is more straightforward with end-user data or metrics, such as average session duration and top-visited pages. For example, with real user monitoring (RUM) metrics, e-commerce site owners can quickly identify products or pages accessed right after logging in to a web app by users, the amount of time they spent on each page, and their actions before leaving the website. The absence of this data in traditional APM tools restricts businesses from making informed marketing decisions and design optimizations in their site to improve customer satisfaction levels.
Error Reporting in Critical Site Transactions
There can be multiple reasons for website transaction errors, such as slow loading web objects, third-party tag errors, and delay in API calls. Without RUM data, early detection and resolution of unexpected errors in critical site workflows, such as login and cart checkout, are arduous tasks for IT teams. The inability to capture digital experience monitoring data of traditional APM tools also prevents IT teams from simulating real user interactions to continuously test their website performance and availability from different parts of the world.
Integrating End User Data With APM
In the APM space, there are two distinct approaches to gathering end-user and application performance data.
- Real User Monitoring (RUM): This involves monitoring website performance in real-time with options to track real user traffic from different devices, browsers, and geographic locations. Administrators can gauge aggregated performance data over time in the form of metrics, such as top visited pages, top platforms/browsers, and bounce rates, to assess their website engagement trends. By in-depth monitoring of these trends, developers can make informed decisions about website design to improve performance.
- Synthetic Monitoring: This is a more proactive approach to approximating user behaviour in both development and production environments to find potential issues before real users encounter them. Synthetic monitoring techniques such as transaction monitoring simulate user interactions or workflows using test scripts scheduled to run at regular intervals. The transaction checks help administrators ensure critical website workflows (e.g., login, form fill, etc.) function smoothly. It also includes automated page speed monitoring and uptime monitoring features, which provide crucial performance data to developers to resolve recurring or potential user experience issues.
These techniques can help integrate end-user monitoring data with APM and get a holistic view of application performance and user experience. Moving ahead, with modern cloud-native and microservices-based applications, businesses need to capture and analyze logs, metrics, and traces in a single place along with their RUM and synthetic monitoring data. This can be a big challenge in some organizations as they often collect logs only for compliance or audit purposes. Integrating all data with new tools for metrics and traceability might require businesses to rethink their log aggregation strategies and scope.
The SolarWinds® APM Integrated Experience offers a straightforward approach to integrate metrics, traces, logs, and user experience insights by bringing data from Pingdom®, AppOptics™, and Loggly® together over a single interface. By switching on the APM integrated Experience, users can easily monitor and correlate data from all these tools. It allows you to:
- Get a high-level summary of changes in the last week along with their potential cause
- Monitor the summary of uptime and transaction checks
- Gauge website performance by region, device, and component
- Track services with summary views and detailed distributed traces
- Monitor different infrastructure components and trace logs, metrics, alerts, and more
While businesses continue to make their applications feature-rich with new releases, they also need to find better ways to deliver a consistent experience. The SolarWinds APM Integrated Experience can provide a simple approach to tracking user experience and application performance data, which can help developers and business decision-makers get the most out of their application investments. We recommend a free trial of the APM Integrated Experience to explore how SolarWinds can help you gain observability across your applications deployed on-premises, on the cloud, or in hybrid environments.