In today’s digital economy, the demand for responsive and high-performance applications has grown by leaps and bounds. No one wants an application that is slow and unresponsive. Most importantly, if your application is slow, it will have a detrimental effect on profits as well as the brand itself. 

Imagine you’ve built an e-commerce application. If your website is slow, it will adversely affect business, as your customers wouldn’t be interested in using your site and would simply switch to another provider. This is why you would want to consider implementing monitoring techniques to determine why the application is slow. 

However, in today’s distributed application environments, traditional monitoring approaches might not yield the results you need. Here in this post, we’ll discuss Application Performance Monitoring and how to use it together with Real User Monitoring for the best of both worlds. We’ll also touch on Application Performance Management, a continuous process of monitoring for performance, user experience, and availability of software applications.

APM vs. APM: An Overview

Application Performance Management helps you monitor your entire IT infrastructure, providing a holistic overview of the potential bottlenecks in an application and monitoring the application’s performance from a user-centric viewpoint. On the other hand, Application Performance Monitoring examines the components of the application as a whole, performing a detailed analysis of the application and identifying where specifically the application is failing in real-time

While Application Performance Monitoring (APM) is concerned with monitoring each step in an application, Application Performance Management is concerned with the entire scope of all applications for each end-user. In other words, while Application Performance Monitoring examines the components of an application or website, Application Performance Management provides the complete picture of the software environment, with resource utilization being the primary focus.

What Is Real User Monitoring (RUM) & Why Is It Needed?

Real User Monitoring (also known as real-user measurement, real-user metrics, end-user experience monitoring, or just RUM) is a type of performance monitoring that captures and analyzes each transaction of every user of the application. It is a passive monitoring technique that continuously tracks availability, functionality, and responsiveness, analyzing almost everythingfrom HTTP requests to application crashes. 

Real User Monitoring can be leveraged to find the root cause of a performance problem such as a network issue, database problem, etc. You can also take advantage of RUM to determine the actual service-level quality delivered to end-users and obtain insight into why an application or website is running slowly.

Additionally, RUM can generate reports showing performance metrics (based on end-user environment variables such as location, device, operating system, and browser) of an application or website in real-time. RUM enables you to discover issues early on that are caused by changes or upgrades to your application or website.

Benefits

At a glance, here’s the list of what you can do with RUM:

  • Gain complete visibility into the performance of an application or website.
  • Reduce costs to acquire customers.
  • Replay user sessions to identity issues easily.
  • Detect problems at the network or page level.
  • Measure service level targets easily.

Limitations

The limitations of Real User Monitoring are as follows:

  • Useful in pre-production environments only
  • Unable to track server performance or server-level API calls
  • Lack of benchmarking

How RUM Works

Real User Monitoring embeds a small piece of code on each page, which in turn sends out information from the user’s web browser. This collected information is presented in a centralized dashboard as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: RUM dashboard (Adapted from “Azure Monitor overview”)

The basic steps involved in Real User Monitoring include:

  • Data capture: Page-level metrics are collected on page-load times and details related to requests for pages and other resourcesfrom everything from the web browser to the web server.
  • Sessionization: Captured data is re-gathered into a record of pages, actions, and timing information for each visit.
  • Problem detection: Any unusual behavior, such as slow response times, problems with navigation, and other malfunctions, are analyzed for different pages, objects, and visits.
  • Individual visit reporting: Captured data is used to re-create the user’s visit.
  • Reporting and segmentation: The data collected is aggregated and then used to analyze page availability or performance across different browsers.
  • Alerting: The monitoring solution sends out alerts whenever issues are found.

Figure 2: Alerts in Azure Monitor (Adapted from “Azure Monitor overview”)

How Do RUM and APM Work Together?

While Real User Monitoring provides meaningful diagnostics on the performance of the frontend components of an application, Application Performance Monitoring monitors the performance of your server-side code and provides detailed insights on how to improve your application’s code, hence enabling you to build faster and better applications.

RUM and APM can work together to determine ways to improve performance for real users. As an example, you might observe that your database query is running quite fast, but then a particular component (that is using this query on the backend) is taking a long time to render. You might also observe your pages loading slowly even if after applying all optimization strategies. This is where you should use a performance monitoring tool that contains the best of both worlds, i.e., the benefits of both RUM and APM.

Real User Monitoring Tools

RUM tools provide you with complete visibility into the performance of your applications. You can leverage these to gain better insight into application performance, improve developer productivity, generate custom data-visualization reports, and improve customer service. 

In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular Real User Monitoring tools around.

Pingdom

Pingdom (owned by SolarWinds and based in Sweden) is a solution that enables you to gain visibility on uptime, transactions, page-load time, server issues, etc. Pingdom provides a cloud-based comprehensive monitoring solution, but it doesn’t have support for crash reporting or error management.

Here’s a quick look at the salient features of Pingdom:

  • Support for website and server monitoring
  • Support for analyzing and fixing issues
  • Detailed reports
  • Support for sharing data with others
  • Ability to retrieve real performance data, i.e., real data from real visitors

Pingdom also offers a free, easy-to-use tool to test the speed of your website, which has become extremely popular in the WordPress community.

You can take advantage of Pingdom to test the speed of any website from the following locations:

  • Japan – Tokyo 
  • Germany – Frankfurt 
  • UK – London 
  • USA – Washington D.C.
  • USA – San Francisco 
  • Australia – Sydney 
  • Brazil – São Paulo 

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a good example of Real User Monitoring. It passively monitors the interactions (such as page views, traffic sources, etc.) between users and an application or website and reports the data accordingly.

Cloudflare

Cloudflare is yet another tool that can ensure application availability. It monitors network latency and server health and is adept at determining the best resource from which you can serve user requests for dynamic content. Cloudflare has also introduced a tool named Browser Insights that lets you measure application or website performance from a user’s perspective. You can utilize Cloudflare to see why and when web pages are being rendered slowly.

Best Practices

Here’s a list of the best practices you should adhere to when working with RUM.

  • Set your performance goals.
  • Share performance data with your marketing teams.
  • Test the performance of any new feature or product.
  • Utilize RUM and APM together so that you can detect and analyze issues extensively.

Summary

Real User Monitoring is critical in analyzing the performance of your application or website in real-time. You can take advantage of Real User Monitoring to detect and analyze any issue with your application or website before such issues are reported by end-users. Still, you should keep in mind that although RUM is a valuable technique, it might not be a good choice for all organizations; some may be better off using simpler alternatives for the same purpose.

Check out Epsagon’s observability solution for end-to-end tracing.

 

Read More:

DevOps Checklist for Distributed Tracing

Troubleshooting Performance Issues with Epsagon

Monitoring the Golden Signals for SRE in Microservices