Web Application Monitoring – Synthetic Monitoring Defined

When it comes to monitoring and managing your various Web applications, many system administrator’s aren’t sure where to begin. While the monitoring software market is filled with products claiming to simplify and empower monitoring solutions, an administrator must determine exactly how he wishes to monitor his applications. In the current application monitoring industry, there are two primary techniques used by administrators: real and synthetic monitoring. While each feature a unique benefit, many are interested in the benefits and disadvantages of synthetic monitoring. Before delving into this monitoring technique, it’s imperative to hold a fundamental understanding of its processes, benefits and drawbacks.

Synthetic Monitoring Explained

Synthetic monitoring, which is also referred to as directed monitoring, is the method of simulating user activity and engagement. Through an automated series of events, the actual monitoring software activates and engages with the application in the same way a “real user” would. The primary benefit of synthetic monitoring is continual insights into the uptime, availability and functionality of an application and its most used pathways.

Problems Solved Through Synthetic Monitoring

In order to understand whether or not synthetic web application monitoring techniques are worth your time and effort, it’s essential to delve into what problems are solved through its methods. The following capabilities are considered universal throughout most synthetic monitoring solutions; however, specific tools and techniques may offer more or fewer benefits:

  • Application Availability (Uptime) – The majority of synthetic monitoring solutions provides immediate insights into the availability, or uptime of the application.

  • Application response times/performance – In order to understand the full functionality of an application, it’s vital to gain insights regarding the application response time and performance rate.

  • Transaction/event processes

  • Performance issues within a specific area of the application infrastructure

  • Performance/functionality of third party elements within the application

Disadvantages of Synthetic Monitoring

While there are many benefits of synthetic monitoring solutions, it isn’t perfect. There are several notable disadvantages of synthetic monitoring. Although this isn’t a complete list, they are the most common drawback system administrator’s experience while utilizing this monitoring technique:

  • Browser-specific errors and issues. These issues are commonly missed by synthetic monitoring techniques.

  • Errors within pathways that are not currently being tested. Its narrowed focus can prove problematic with a critical error occurs, but not in the event that’s being monitored/reviewed.

  • Geographic-specific network connectivity issues.

  • User-specific actions, such as adding items to a shopping card. The primary reason for this is the iteration limitations of most synthetic monitoring solutions.