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Myth: if I can ping the website, then the application is working well

by / Monday, 02 May 2011 / Published in Web Monitoring

This is another myth that we still hear when talking to webmasters: One time-honored method for confirming the availability of an online application is pinging the website that hosts it.


Unfortunately, knocking on the front door doesn’t tell you much about who’s inside the house. Today, companies increasingly use service-oriented architecture (SOA) based development techniques to deliver applications and support processes in composite fashion using web services, XML, JavaScript/AJAX, Flash, and a host of other technologies. This means that entire customer transactions are composed of loosely coupled process steps that are strung together—often across enterprise boundaries— to increase the flexibility of service delivery. Pinging a website might tell you that the first step for a given transaction is up for customer use, but it doesn’t tell you anything about the rest of the transaction.

Knocking on the front door doesn’t tell you who’s inside the house

A customer may be able to search for a book and add it to their order, but can they still jump to another part of the website and add a CD?

And what happens when your third-party
credit processing service steps into the process to complete the transaction? Is the service delivered
seamlessly and in a way that supports a positive customer experience? These are the kinds of issues IT needs to know about to properly understand the  end-user experience.

Synthetic monitoring:

With synthetic monitoring (and the most advanced from of synthetic monitoring: real browser monitoring) , you can execute simulated user transactions from multiple locations inside or outside your firewall. This enables you to identify availability and performance issues before they impact your customers and the business.
web monitoring
To create a synthetic monitor, IT simply records the steps a user would go through to complete a transaction on the live system with the iMacros tools inside a web browser. This is then run from various locations on a periodic basis. Just as with a live user, the synthetic monitor (a browser auomated by iMacros) proceeds through a series of discrete process steps, traversing a wide range of tiers in the IT infrastructure including firewalls, switches, load balancers, web and applications servers, mainframe environments, databases and more. In return, IT gets solid data on the real-time health of its business processes. Reports and alerts point to outages or performance issues, and IT can
relate any detected problem to the specific process step at the specific location where the issue arises. Over time, this information can form the foundation for a morebusiness-centric approach to managing service levels— where IT focuses less on sharing discrete IT metrics and more on whether or not customers are able to satisfactorily execute their transactions.

Equally important is the fact that synthetic monitoring helps IT to become more proactive. Now IT can detect and head off issues before they impact the customer. Example: A leading bank in Europe, for example, uses the synthetic monitoring functionality to test banking transactions before the bulk of its customers come online at the start of the business day.This has helped the bank maintain exceptionally high services levels resulting in greater customer retention.

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