As businesses become increasingly reliant on online channels for customer interactions, their need for faster, more-functional websites intensifies. The speed of a business’s website is a primary driver of customer satisfaction, which also is greatly affected by today’s consumer demands for access to more services, on more devices and from any location. Although brick-and-mortar retailers have had to shift their focus to the online channel to stay competitive, this trend is not limited solely to retailers. Websites provide a lower-cost option for delivering both products and services far more cost-effectively than offering live support at a physical location. As a result, a faster and more functional website—driven by the need to provide a positive online experience—has become paramount for businesses of all types and sizes.
- Inadequate code-level analysis: APM solutions traditionally focused on monitoring code execution by installing agents on data center servers. Because as much as 80 percent of the code in a modern web application may execute in the browser, this approach now only tells part of the story.
- Incorrect page response times: It’s no longer possible to obtain accurate page response times through monitoring of network traffic alone. Using that approach, only the HTTP request and response for each individual object that goes back to the web server (or origin point) can be timed. With Web 2.0, many requests may not go back to origin at all, and calls to third-party web services cannot be accounted for through network sniffers. To be fully inclusive of ads, maps, shopping carts, web analytics, social media modules, CDN and DNS response times, and so on, page load time must be monitored from within the browser.
While traditional monitoring methods alone are no longer adequate, the good news is that by supplementing existing solutions with exciting new instrumentation techniques, IT now can modernize the organization’s APM strategy to deliver more insight than ever before. Below are four essential ways that monitoring technology must adapt to adequately meet the challenges presented by Web 2.0:
1. Capture functional issues and establish context
Performance is not all that matters when it comes to external-facing applications. Application functional issues are far more common than performance issues and are a major factor in abandonment and conversion rates. Since the web application is often the only interaction point a company has with its customers, troubleshooters will not typically have the opportunity to ask the user what happened. Consider, for example, an error caused by a leading zero in a zip-code field that the application was not designed to parse. Implementing a solution that captures browser events, such as mouse clicks and keyboard input data, and that has the ability to replay a user’s session activity will help to proactively identify and troubleshoot these kinds of problems.
3. Look for detailed insight into page load times
To be fully inclusive of ads, maps, shopping carts, web analytics, social media modules, CDN and DNS response times, and so on, page load time must be monitored from within the browser. Luckily, the HTML 5 navigation timing feature is available in newer Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome browsers. It includes full page load times broken out by DNS lookup, redirect, SSL handshake, processing and cache-access timing. Look for an APM solution that integrates this feature.
4. Isolate problems to individual page elements
Currently the information captured by the browser is limited to full page loads and does not provide timing information on individual page hits such as loading of graphics or images, CSS style sheets and back-end calls to web servers or REST APIs. Network sniffers with web page analysis capability can time HTTP request and response for individual page objects, enabling troubleshooters to isolate issues related to specific page elements. Make sure your network monitoring solution includes this feature.
By supplementing the organization’s existing technology with these new instrumentation techniques, application support teams will be able to modernize their application performance monitoring strategy to adequately support Ajax processing in the browser. The faster, more functional website that results will go a long way toward providing customers with the positive online experience the business needs to stay competitive.
Leading article image courtesy of SEOPlanter
About the Author
John Newsom is vice president and general manager of Application Performance Monitoring at Dell Software. He has global responsibility for the business unit, including product management, R&D, marketing, sales, professional services and technical support. John drives both the vision and roadmap, as well as the execution toward that vision for Dell Software’s application performance monitoring solutions.