5 Reasons Synthetic Monitoring is More Important than Ever

Synthetic Monitoring is hardly a new technology. It's been around almost as long as the commercial World Wide Web has, but the importance of monitoring the performance and availability of a Web application by automating user interactions with that application, from around the globe, has never been more important.

Let's take a look at some of the reasons this technology, more than 20 years old now, is not only more relevant than ever but vital to the success of digital businesses:

1. It's predictive

Predictive analytics - that is, analyzing your business or IT operations data to predict future performance - has gotten a lot of hype over the last decade. But these tools have mostly failed to live up to that hype, either because they're hard to use, easy to misinterpret, require costly computing power, or are not very accurate. Their power is limited by the amount of false positives they tend to generate. 

Synthetic monitoring doesn't rely on complex predictive algorithms, it doesn't take a data scientist with a Ph.D to interpret the results, and it doesn't require additional spending on IT infrastructure. What it does is predict, to a fair degree of accuracy, how your application will perform in which geographies and isolate the root cause of any detected bottlenecks. 

2. It can go anywhere your applications go

When most people think about synthetic monitoring, they think about monitoring customer-facing websites. While this remains the most prominent use case, the reality today is that synthetic monitoring can go wherever your applications go. Any network-connected, online application - be it a point-of-sale system in a brick-and-mortar retail store, an inventory control application in a warehouse, a customer service application in a call center, or a SaaS application in a data center - can benefit from synthetic monitoring.  

3. It's about more than availability

The earliest use cases of synthetic monitoring in the 1990's didn't tell you much more than whether your site was up or down. Then they evolved to show how fast pages were loading. Today's synthetic monitoring technologies can do that and so much more, testing every object on the page -including third-party content and tags, every Web host supporting the page, every API the Web application uses, every level of Internet infrastructure delivering the experience to the end-user, including internal and external DNS services and content delivery networks.  

4. It's about reliability

When your site is unavailable, timing out, or so slow that customers go elsewhere, then your site is unreliable. If this happens at a business-critical moment such as Cyber Monday or during a major news event, this could negatively impact your entire year. Synthetic monitoring and the continuous testing capabilities it offers is the best way to ensure your Web applications are reliable. No applications are immune from performance issues. This is especially true today with all of the complex infrastructure and integrations that support Web application delivery. But by peeling back the onion and having visibility into how your application is performing and all of the factors that affect that performance, you can get ahead of any problems and preserve your customer experience. Your customers will see you as a trusted, reliable brand with whom they will continue to engage. Because at the end of the day...

5. It's all about the end user

Last June, Gartner announced the results of its survey on how important application performance monitoring (APM) was and what was the most important part of APM. Of the 61 percent of respondents who found APM either "important" or "critical", a plurality (46 percent) chose end-user experience monitoring as the most critical dimension of APM. A similar plurality (49 percent) cited "enhance customer experience quality" as the most important reason for deploying APM. There are of course multiple ways to monitor and manage the end-user experience, but only synthetic can truly test the end user experience and help you catch errors before your customers, the lifeblood of your business, are impacted. 

Dennis Callaghan is the director of industry innovation at Catchpoint Systems, which provides Web performance monitoring solutions.