To provide the best digital experience for your users, you must ensure that your applications are always functioning at their best. One effective way to do this is through synthetic monitoring, also known as synthetic testing. This tool helps keep your applications on track, and if there's any hiccup, it aids in pinpointing the issue promptly.
Even though many businesses use synthetic monitoring tools, picking the right one that fits all your needs is essential. As technology advances, how users interact with your applications is also changing. Let's start by understanding what synthetic monitoring is.
What is Synthetic Monitoring?
Synthetic monitoring is like a virtual test run for your application. It's a method to check the performance of your application by mimicking how real users might interact with it.
Instead of waiting for real users to come and use the application, synthetic monitoring uses scripts to simulate user actions, such as clicking on a button or filling out a form. These scripts can recreate various scenarios, from different locations, using different devices, and more.
Once this "virtual user" completes its journey, the synthetic monitoring tool gathers data on how the application performed. This data provides insights into:
- The overall health of your application.
- How quickly your application responds to typical actions.
- Any hiccups or errors a user might face, like issues while trying to buy something or signing up.
In simple terms, synthetic monitoring acts as a rehearsal for your application, ensuring everything runs smoothly before the real users come in.
How Does Synthetic Monitoring Work?
Synthetic monitoring operates using a virtual robot, often termed a "robot client." This robot acts like a user, navigating through your application, but it's all automated.
Here's a breakdown of how it works:
Setting Up Test Scripts in Synthetic Monitoring
Test scripts are the backbone of synthetic monitoring. They define the user journey, specifying each action that the robot client should emulate. Crafting a precise and comprehensive script is crucial to ensuring that the monitoring provides valuable insights. Let's dive deeper into the process:
1. Define the User Journey:
Before you write a script, you need to map out the user journey you want to test. This journey - although dynamic these days, should represent a typical user's interaction with your application.
Example: For an online bookstore, a common user journey might be:
- Visiting the homepage
- Searching for a specific book title
- Browsing through the search results
- Selecting a book
- Reading its details
- Adding it to the cart
- Proceeding to checkout
- Finalizing the purchase
2. Break Down the Journey into Actions:
Each step in the user journey can be broken down into specific actions or interactions with the application.
Example: For the "Searching for a specific book title" step, the actions might be:
- Clicking on the search bar
- Typing in the book title
- Hitting the search button
3. Scripting the Actions:
Once you've listed all the actions, you can start scripting them. This involves using a specific language or tool provided by the synthetic monitoring solution. The script will command the robot client to emulate each action in sequence.
Advanced scripts might include conditional logic, allowing the robot client to make decisions based on the current state of the application.
Within the script, you can also specify what metrics or data points you want to collect. This could be response times, error messages, or any other relevant information.
Deploying the Robot Client
Once your script is ready, the robot client gets to work. Depending on your setup, this client could be on a specific browser, a mobile device, or even a computer. It follows the script, executing the actions you've outlined.
As the robot client goes through the steps, it collects data. This data can be about how long each step took, any errors encountered, how long pages took to load, and more.
Example: In our online bookstore scenario, the robot client might find that adding a book to the cart took longer than expected, or maybe there was an error when trying to finalize the purchase.
Analysis and Reporting
After completing the script, the robot client sends all the collected data to the synthetic monitoring system. Here, the data gets analyzed, and a report is generated. This report can highlight areas where the application performed well and areas that need improvement.
If the robot client finds an error or an unexpected result during its run, the synthetic monitoring system might ask it to redo that specific test. This ensures that the detected issue wasn't just a one-time glitch. If the problem persists in the re-test, it gets flagged for further investigation.
Example: If our robot client had an issue during checkout, the system might run the checkout process again. If the same issue comes up, the system will alert the relevant team about the checkout problem.
You can set up the robot client to run tests from different locations to see how your application performs globally. You can also schedule how often these tests run – maybe you want them every hour or just once a day.
Types of Synthetic Monitoring
Depending on your application's requirements and the specific insights you're looking for, there are various types of synthetic monitoring you can use. Here's a breakdown:
1. Availability Monitoring
This is the most basic form of synthetic monitoring. It's all about ensuring that your application or website is up and running.
The robot client checks if the site or application is accessible and responding to requests. For a more detailed approach, it might also verify specific content or ensure certain API calls are successful.
2. Web Performance Monitoring
Web performance monitoring delves deeper into the intricacies of your website's operation. It examines specific metrics related to your website's performance. This could include:
- How quickly pages load.
- The response times of different website elements.
- Any errors that crop up or slow-performing parts of the site.
3. Transaction Monitoring
This type is all about ensuring that specific processes or transactions on your application work seamlessly. For instance, in an e-commerce setting, it might involve:
- Logging into an account.
- Adding items to a shopping cart.
- Completing a purchase.
Each step of the transaction is monitored to ensure it works smoothly and within expected time frames.
4. Browser Tests
In these tests, the robot client simulates specific user transactions, like making a purchase or signing up for an account.
It's as if a real user is navigating through your application on a browser, ensuring that all processes work as they should.
5. API Tests
API testing focuses on the backend. It monitors specific endpoints across the various layers of your application and network infrastructure. Within this category, there are further specializations:
- HTTP Tests: Monitor application uptime and responsiveness.
- DNS Tests: Verify the site's DNS resolution and lookup times are on point.
For a comprehensive view, a multistep API test might be used. This type of test monitors a particular workflow from start to finish, ensuring every step in the process functions correctly.
Why Use Synthetic Monitoring?
Synthetic monitoring offers a proactive approach to ensuring this seamless experience. Here's why you should consider using synthetic monitoring:
1. Consistent Monitoring
Unlike real user monitoring, which depends on actual user interactions, synthetic monitoring runs predetermined scripts at regular intervals.
This means you get consistent, 24/7 feedback on your application's performance, regardless of user traffic.
2. Early Detection of Issues
Before users encounter problems, synthetic monitoring can identify them.
By simulating user behaviors, it can detect and notify you about issues, allowing for timely fixes and ensuring minimal disruptions for your real users.
3. Performance Benchmarks
Over time, synthetic monitoring provides data that can help you establish performance benchmarks.
These benchmarks can guide improvements and optimizations, ensuring your application meets or exceeds industry standards.
4. Geographical Insights
With the global nature of the internet, understanding how your application performs in different regions is crucial.
Synthetic monitoring can simulate user interactions from various geographic locations, providing insights into region-specific performance and potential issues.
5. Load Testing
By simulating a large number of users accessing the application simultaneously, synthetic monitoring can help you understand how your application performs under stress.
This is crucial for preparing for high-traffic events, such as sales or product launches.
6. Validation after Updates
Every time you roll out a new feature or update, there's a risk of unintentional disruptions.
Synthetic monitoring allows you to validate the user experience post-update, ensuring that everything still works as intended.
7. SLA Compliance
For businesses with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place, synthetic monitoring helps ensure that application performance aligns with these agreements.
If third-party services or components are causing slowdowns or disruptions, synthetic monitoring provides the data needed to address these issues with providers.
In essence, synthetic monitoring is a proactive tool that arms businesses with the insights needed to offer consistently high-quality digital experiences to their users. Each type of synthetic monitoring serves its purpose and offers unique insights into different aspects of your application's performance.