Best Practices: How to do Application Performance Monitoring

Lucia Cavero-Baptista

Automation Expert

Depending on the organization, application performance monitoring is handled by different people. Generally, monitoring has been in the hands of operations but, with the rise of agile and DevOps, we see a shift towards cross-functional engineers that not only monitor but also test or even build an application.

Independently of where you fall within these categories, if you want to succeed with your application performance monitoring, you need to be proactive. Monitor before and after identifying any issues, so that you can resolve and prevent them more effectively.

Read: Application Performance Monitoring: What and Why?

Since no one wants to be contacted by an unhappy customer who's complaining about a default in your system, monitoring is a must. However, having an actual person monitoring your application is not only time-consuming but also expensive. It would require a human to sit in front of a computer - or any other device - and recreate each and every move of a user. Manual monitoring is just not feasible.

For that reason, automation and performance monitoring go hand-in-hand. Test automation allows you to monitor your application 24/7, so when something is wrong, you automatically alert someone or even create a ticket in a service desk. Not only that, automation allows you to monitor performance in physical servers, virtual hosts, virtual machines, and applications.

Monitoring can then be as simple as a two-step approach:     

  • Focus on processes: Identify the key business processes you will use for monitoring.
  • Automate those processes: Use a quality monitoring tool to automate all those business processes from A to B.

Application Performance Monitoring Best Practices

Once you have identified your core business functions, make sure you follow this set of best practices when setting up your application performance monitoring:

  • Choose the right tool for your application

    Is your application available across technologies? Do your chosen processes run through integrations? Understanding your business processes will allow you to make an informed decision when choosing an automation tool. And just in case you were thinking of building your own APM tool, don’t. The premise of APM is that anything you build can perform unexpectedly, so if you build an application to monitor the performance of your other tool, you will most probably create the ‘double trouble’ effect. It is better that you rely on trustworthy vendors.
  • Maintenance

    Make sure the automated processes you build using an APM tool are easy to maintain. Businesses are continuously evolving and so do an organization’s processes, so this is not the time to choose complicated automation that is hard to troubleshoot, hard to re-use, and impossible to update.
  • Set up alerts

    Don’t rely on checking it up yourself. Once you have set up the performance monitoring automation, do not wait to find out how the application behaved yesterday. It’s called real-time monitoring for a reason, so set up alerts to stay up to date with any abnormalities. This way you’ll be able to act upon them as soon as they are identified by the tool.
  • Create internal processes

    It doesn’t matter how many alerts you set up if you are not able to act upon them immediately. Create an internal process on how alerts are resolved and to whom.
  • Test and verify

    No news isn’t always good news. Applications, more often than not, fail. So if you haven’t had any alerts for months, it’s worth having a look at your APM tool. Be proactive and test and verify your alerting and escalation protocols often. 
  • Reporting

    Setting up good reporting will allow you to provide important data that can be used to better forecast and justify any future decisions. It is much easier to fix a problem when you're able to deliver solid evidence of where and when an abnormality was found.
  • Ask for help

    Don’t be scared to ask for help, especially from your tool vendor. They are the experts after all. A good vendor will have great resources and support available to you.

In an overly digitalized world, where most businesses – if not all – use applications for their core business functions, application performance monitoring is more important than ever. Organizations are dependent on applications and so application performance monitoring is paramount for their success. APM tools have become available in the market to allow for real-time and continuous monitoring to make the process more efficient.

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