Web App Analytics With APM: Top Insights to Analyze

on October 22, 2020

The term web app analytics means keeping tabs on the various metrics that determine the well-being of a system. These analytics help you gain insight into why and how a system slows down. As much as we hate for it to happen, some downtime is almost guaranteed. However, the amount of downtime your system faces is mostly up to you. If you’ve got your finger on the right pulse points, you should be able to reduce the amount of time your application or applications are unavailable. An APM (application performance monitoring) tool helps you manage these pulse points for insights. This blog can help you figure out the most important insights (the pulse points above) to analyze, so you can improve your application performance management.

“I can’t manage my APM until I pick an APM tool,” you might say. Fear not! This blog also offers advice on picking out an APM tool. We’ll start with several reasons you need an APM tool. Then we’ll look a little more closely at an excellent one: SolarWinds® AppOptics.

As you read this article, you may recall scenarios you’ve found yourself in as a developer. If you’re the one everyone looks at when a system glitches, then trying out an APM tool can give you some peace of mind.

Why You Need an APM Tool

It used to be easy to keep tabs on the status of a system. Back when all the infrastructure was on site, a few hours weekly would be enough to carry out application maintenance chores. Today, with most applications hosted on microservices and containers in hybrid cloud setups, you’ll most likely need an omniscient system hooked to the entire stack to keep watch. It’s always watching and hence knows all variable states concerning the environment. There are countless variables you could focus on when managing an active application. However, you should prioritize certain insights.

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Keeping an eye on certain insights (we’ll go over which ones shortly) helps ensure you can control mishaps that would otherwise slow an application’s performance. Without an APM tool, however, you’ll find yourself going on a wild goose chase whenever you experience performance dips. Some APM tools show you the starting point to potentially crippling elements in a system.

We all wish applications worked as smoothly and flawlessly in real life as they do on the machines they were built on. However, it’s safe to expect problems as soon as you deploy and users get in the mix. When you’re the developer, you need to know the worst that can happen to your apps. For this reason, it’s wise to keep checks in place to alert you when the worst is about to materialize. You need application performance monitoring and management tools to help.

Important Insights for Web App Analytics

Now that you know why you need an APM, let’s turn our attention to the things you’ll need to watch out for.

It’s easy to lose focus on what matters once you get to see every element of an application’s existence variables. A colorful dashboard, while intuitive, can hinder you from tinkering with parameters that would improve your applications’ performance. Let’s look at insights most developers and system administrators need when they monitor app performance.

If you configure your APM to reveal the following insights to you as they happen, you’re likely to improve the way users feel about your apps in general.

1. Code-Level Performance Factors

Some APMs can drill down into the source of a problem. An APM tool analyzing your code to reveal unoptimized scripts is your best option when it comes to this level of monitoring. With this information, you can improve the source code to speed up compilation and improve how effectively the system handles input.

When you’re looking this deeply into a system, you may discover how certain frameworks are slowing down performance. You may notice some bottlenecks from libraries or gems you’ve adopted from open-source repositories. Changing them out or rewriting those parts of your code should improve performance. The improvement may be fractional upticks in the form of a single second on your machine. Nonetheless, when the system is loaded with hundreds of concurrent requests, the end user can really feel the difference.

2. Infrastructure Health Metrics

The next insight you ought to look for is the health of the infrastructure itself. Complex infrastructure can be a mix of cloud components, local access devices, and other user-brought gadgets. These make up the network through which your application should maneuver. Whenever the pathways aren’t in optimal condition, you should expect performance bottlenecks. While there’s little to nothing you can do to improve the end user’s choice of device, you deserve control over the state of back-end infrastructure.

You should know when to scale system resources to improve performance. This edge comes from having a monitoring tool assessing when the load is unbearable for your current compute thresholds. An APM tool can help you simulate load instances and ultimately set you up for peak performance. Your infrastructure will reflect healthy metrics when the load isn’t too close to its limits.

3. Application Requests’ Life Cycle

During the development phase of your application, you test the resulting system’s ability to handle requests from end users. The time it takes to run a request from end to end can extend the wait time for end users. Gaining insight into each request’s life cycle is a good way to fine-tune performance. Request tracing across all the components of your system is crucial. Your APM solution should shine light on potential bottlenecks slowing down request processing and ultimately the performance of your system.

4. Usability Metrics

The systems you make and manage are intended for the end user. Their experience with your applications should be measurable. Keeping a close eye on the user’s perspective of the system is a great way to continuously improve it. That’s why it’s important to activate real user monitoring (RUM) on your APM tool. By monitoring this metric, you can gain insights into details such as page load speed, view transition, and latency. You can add synthetic users to mimic the worst loads possible on your system and learn how it reacts beforehand. This way, even when an abnormal amount of traffic happens on your network, you have placed pillars to hold performance to high standards.

5. Web App Analytics for System Health Status

Keeping a well-oiled system in motion isn’t easy. So many moving parts require constant checking. That’s the sort of thing APM solutions exist for. Database health checks, code health checks, and network status checks are just some of the key steps you should perform regularly. These checks help you monitor the overall health of any dynamic system. An intuitive APM tool will give you access to logs and essentially tell you the path to follow when you’re auditing the failure, helping you patch up the problem and avoid recurrence.

Picking the Best APM for Web App Analytics

Knowing what to watch for and what to expect is just one side of good system maintenance. You also need effective APM tools to maintain the peak performance of user interfacing applications. SolarWinds AppOptics is one such suite of tools you can plug your applications into and unleash the sort of monitoring that makes it easy to optimize for performance. Although finding the best APM solution for you depends partly on the kind of developer you are, AppOptics helps you monitor for the insights we’ve discussed.

An effective, worthwhile APM tool should allow you to gain value during your learning phase. The learning shouldn’t just be about the tool itself; instead, it should focus on the applications to which you’ve coupled it.

You’ll always encounter new terms and features when you’re working with new tools. As such, it helps for an APM solution to have a large pool of users. Look for an APM tool with a community growing around it to interact with. This way, you don’t have to wait for enterprise support teams to call you back when they’re finally available to help you. The larger the community around an APM tool is, the more likely it is to solve developers’ monitoring needs.

Last, the free tier of a good APM solution should be powerful enough to amplify your system maintenance efforts without requiring much of your attention. You can experience this, along with the insights from your applications and infrastructure, with the AppOptics free trial.

This post was written by Leo Gwangwadza. Leo is a BSc computer science graduate with over a decade of systems analysis, implementation, and support experience.

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