Web Performance Monitoring: A How to Guide for Developers

Performance Monitoring

Web performance monitoring is vital for developers; it helps us see the smoke and put out the small production fires before they snowball and cause serious damage—such as affecting bounce rates, lowering traffic, and impacting sales.

For this reason, it is important that developers understand the web performance monitoring basics. Many times, developers will rely on error monitoring solutions. One example is Retrace from Stackify.

In this article, you will learn what web performance monitoring is, and the ins and outs of it—how to monitor application availability, application errors, important web requests, application dependencies, and application metrics, plus more.

Web Performance Monitoring in a Nutshell

In a nutshell, web performance monitoring is a combination of several monitoring techniques to make sure your application is online, loads fast, and works well.

It is not a one-size-fits-all, single-use application tool. If anything, the more ways you use it, the better your performance results will be.

Picture this as an online timesheet tool. You use it to collect the data about your employees’ work hours, but it helps you improve productivity, effectiveness, workload and your business profits overall.

Just how important web performance monitoring is boils down to one statistic: Google found that by decreasing the speed of Google searches to 400 milliseconds there would be 8 million fewer searches…ran per day.

In other words, slower load times, fewer returning users. The point is, web performance monitoring helps drive customer satisfaction; because of better uptime rates, thanks to consistent web performance monitoring, customers stay happy and keep returning to your website.

Application Availability

Application availability is a key part of the nuts and bolts of your operation. Without it, you would not be able to measure how functional your site is, let alone know if it is consistently available to users.

In our opinion, a simple HTTP ping monitor that runs every minute is the best way to do application availability monitoring. For more effective results, conduct application availability monitoring for not just checking response times with a specific HTTP status code but to see how many Elasticsearch nodes are working correctly.

Application Errors

If there is an issue with your web application—be it slow load times, poor CPU, etc.—your error logs are your go-to.

From checking them, you are better able to assess and fix the problem—before users find out there is one to begin with. In other words, error logs serve as the smoke, signaling the start of a production fire that needs your immediate attention before it spreads.

Important Web Requests

Important Web Requests

Also known as “key transactions,” important web requests need to be monitored closely to determine they are working correctly.

What the important web requests are come down to the type of web application you have. Nonetheless, common web requests include high volume web requests, critical web requests (i.e. cart page), and problematic web requests that cause slow load times.

Monitoring Important Web Requests in Action

The API request deals with log data that is uploaded to the log management system. Long story short, this transaction gets a high volume of calls—we are talking 100 times per second—so we want to make sure it is always working efficiently.

Monitoring Important Web Requests in Action

Because of this, we know the error rate, average response time, and requests per minute—aka the satisfaction score. Should the API request falter, we will know when, why, and how to fix it immediately.

Application Dependencies

It is also important that you monitor your entire application stack if you want to benefit from comprehensive web performance monitoring.

This means monitoring application dependences like SQL databases, caching, NoSQL, and external web services to determine how they are affecting your application’s overall performance.

Since many error monitoring tools support a number of frameworks (i.e. Oracle, SQL Server, MongoDB, Redis, Elasticsearch, etc.), this can be easy to do.

Web Application Metrics

Application metrics is vital—think of it as the gas that keeps your web performance engine going. Of course, monitor common metrics such as CPU, disk performance, memory, etc. However, since your application is unique, you most likely will want to track custom metrics as well.

Web Application Metrics

Monitoring Continued

Other than the above, you will have a few more application-specific things to monitor. At Stackify, one of these is our billing processes, which runs once a day.

To ensure we do not bill our customers (again), we use a good .Net exception type (BillingException), not to mention solid error handling logic in the billing code. Using error monitoring tools, we monitor the application logs, consistently looking for such exceptions.

Final Thoughts
Web performance monitoring is crucial to determine what’s working and what’s not for your web application. In doing so, you will be able to identify the problem and provide a solution before users are affected by it and “bounce out”.

What has your experience with web performance monitoring software been like? Leave a comment!


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