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Transaction Monitoring vs Real Browser Monitoring

by / Monday, 31 January 2011 / Published in Web Monitoring

First, let me admit that we at AlertFox also contribute(d) to the confusion as we use both terms interchangeably in the documentation. What we mean is always the same: Transaction Monitoring that runs in real browsers.

However, transaction monitoring can also be done using web browser emulations! Emulations range from basic HTTP-Request and HTTP-Response commands via the medium complex cURL and WWW::Mechanize frameworks, to the more advanced HtmlUnit, which is a so-called headless browser. But all these emulations do not work like a real web browser. Even the Java-based HtmlUnit, which includes Javascript support, does not behave like Internet Explorer or Firefox when testing any website that contains even a little bit of complex Javascript. So while these solutions will work fine for monitoring transactions on Wikipedia and Craigslist, they will likely fail on Ebay and Amazon. And no emulator is available for testing AJAX, Flash or Java applets. Here the only choice is to use real web browser automation. Thus, accurate transaction monitoring on modern websites requires the use of an automated web browser. The typical software choices here are Selenium and iMacros (more on that in another post).

For geeks among us, we can summarize this article also as:

Real Browser Monitoring >= Transaction Monitoring

PS: The terms synthetic monitoring and active monitoring are just other words for transaction monitoring.

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