Top 5 Best Practices for Application Performance Monitoring in 2020

We interact with numerous web applications in our personal and business spheres every day. In this hypercompetitive environment, these applications are continuously optimized for a better experience, which is why we rarely encounter 404 errors or page load issues. However, to ensure websites remain available and meet user expectations, web administrators or DevOps teams must continuously monitor various elements affecting a website’s performance. Application performance monitoring (APM) is much more complex than it was a decade ago. Most websites have stringent business requirements for availability and need to serve a large amount of multimedia content. Ensuring faster page loads on all devices is crucial for every business. In this article, we’ll discuss how DevOps teams can adopt best practices and tools for application performance monitoring to meet their business goals.

Best Practices for Application Performance Monitoring

  1. Prioritize Your Monitoring Requirements
  2. Aim for End-to-End Monitoring
  3. Configure Actionable Alerts
  4. Extract Business Insights
  5. Short-List a Holistic APM Solution

1. Prioritize Your Monitoring Requirements

Every business has applications belonging to three major spheres: customers, employees, and partners. While some of these applications might be exclusive to one sphere, most have interdependencies. For instance, a CRM database includes customer data from customer-facing applications, which is also useful for applications supporting business decision-making, sales and marketing, production, distribution, and more. Determining how to monitor these applications and which ones need to be prioritized based on your business goals can be a lengthy exercise.

Furthermore, organizations need to identify the most critical transactions for their business objectives. For example, e-commerce applications must continuously track customer journeys to enhance recommendations, reduce cart abandonment, and simplify the checkout process. Similarly, organizations in financial services need to focus more on the security aspects of their web applications. Thus, monitoring user behavior and detecting fraudulent activities might take priority. In addition to identifying critical transactions for your business, you should also short-list key metrics for monitoring. APM tools can offer a comprehensive list of metrics, sometimes leading to an information overload. The RED (rate, error, duration) monitoring method offers significant headway in this direction.

2. Aim for End-to-End Monitoring

Organizations need to constantly monitor and optimize their website’s performance and user experience. Inefficient code, obsolete third-party plug-ins, server errors, unoptimized images and CSS animations, network latency, and many other issues affect web app performance and security. It’s often challenging to determine whether a coding error or infrastructure issue is causing website slowdown. Moreover, modern application stacks include containers and hybrid cloud resources, which can make performance monitoring and web app analytics more difficult.

For effective application monitoring, you need to adopt modern APM tools offering observability into complex microservices-based containerized applications. With these tools, DevOps teams can monitor their servers and hybrid infrastructure with numerous metrics, trace distributed transactions and exceptions, and drill down to find the root cause of log issues. Because you need to deploy multiple tools to achieve these APM capabilities, you might want to create an APM setup using tools designed to be easy to configure and integrate.

3. Configure Actionable Alerts

Many DevOps teams face difficulties meeting their strict mean time to detect (MTTD) and mean time to resolve (MMTD) metrics, which are crucial for the security and availability of web applications. In modern IT environments, teams are often understaffed and overworked. They constantly receive alerts and tickets and must monitor their environment using different dashboards. In these environments, alert fatigue can set in over time. To avoid this, you need to configure your alerts intelligently. APM tools allow you to prioritize alert messages, so you can configure critical alerts to be sent via SMS or any other notification service (Slack, PagerDuty, etc.). Additionally, you can have low-priority notifications sent via email. Furthermore, configuring alert thresholds and rules is not a one-time process and may require routine optimizations. All alert messages should carry sufficient context for issue resolution and should ideally be automated to reach the right team member.

4. Extract Business Insights

APM was traditionally a reactive process; issues were resolved only after they started affecting routine operations. However, web app analytics can help you derive insights from historical data. By analyzing traffic patterns and application response over time, teams can create predictable models for resource planning. With web log analysis and performance metrics, you can identify which sections of the website need improvement. You can also monitor past trends to evaluate whether your application health and performance has improved or degraded with the introduction of new features.

5. Short-List a Holistic APM Solution

As web application architectures have evolved over the years, application monitoring tools have become more advanced. Though traditional applications running on-premises can be monitored using server monitoring tools, teams have gradually expanded APM capabilities to meet their monitoring requirements. For comprehensive application performance monitoring, you need a solution designed to help you gauge metrics, traces, and logs. SolarWinds® APM Suite is one such option, and it includes tools like AppOptics, Pingdom®, and Papertrail.

Papertrail is a cloud-based log management tool offering easy setup, seamless log aggregation, automated log parsing, search, live tail, and many other features helpful for log analysis. The tool also integrates with Pingdom, which offers uptime monitoring, page speed monitoring, real user monitoring, transaction monitoring, and server monitoring features. AppOptics is the heart of the APM suite, and it offers instant visibility into cloud services, virtualized resources, and containerized environments by tying traces and metrics together.

Start Application Performance Monitoring With AppOptics

screenshot of solarwinds appoptics showing trace breakdown details

With AppOptics, you can easily detect application issues in a complex stack using the tool’s distributed tracing, exception tracking, and live code profiling features. You can also access logs associated with the individual services supporting a transaction and identify the exact line of code causing a bottleneck. AppOptics offers advanced visual dashboards to monitor host and container resources. With support for a large range of metrics for infrastructure monitoring, proactive alerts, and auto-instrumentation for distributed tracing, AppOptics simplifies APM. Additionally, getting started with AppOptics is straightforward; you can begin monitoring traces and metrics within minutes. You can learn more about the features and advantages of AppOptics here. We recommend downloading a free trial of AppOptics to monitor your legacy and next-gen IT resources and applications.