What is a Web Application?

Before we define web application monitoring, let’s start with the basics and define what a web application is: A web application is a computer program that utilizes web browsers and web technology to perform tasks over the internet.

Often web apps are customer- or employee-facing applications and are mission-critical or revenue-driving. These applications can be online shopping carts, hotel web sites, laboratory analysis systems, or even container shipping portals. They can be virtually any type of application from virtually any type of industry. And they can be developed in-house or delivered as a 3rd party SaaS app.

But like any other application, web apps can experience performance issues too. According to analysts, 90% of executives say that application performance negatively impacts their business and more than half of IT app managers say troubleshooting application performance problems take far too long. Web application monitoring can mitigate these problems.

These days web application development is heavily skewed towards delivering richer and more interactive front-end experiences, with 3rd party objects and complex client frameworks such as React or Angular. As such, many performance issues may be hiding entirely on the client side because of third party content, tags, or JavaScript execution.

What is Web Application Monitoring?

Web application monitoring provides IT with the capability to detect and diagnose web application performance issues proactively.

Web application monitoring allows IT Operations to pinpoint mission-critical web application problems quickly and resolve them before end users even notice.

Web application monitoring can be implemented as a Javascript agent injected directly into the client web browser or with a network monitoring appliance that tracks packets across the wire. Both of these methods are forms of real-user monitoring. Web application performance can also be monitored by running synthetic transactions against the website or web app at regular intervals, from “robots” stationed all over the world.

Web application monitoring is rarely implemented in isolation. Unless an issue originates in the front-end, in order to respond quickly, it is important to be able to dive into the back end of the problematic web transaction with an application performance monitoring (APM) solution. A fully integrated approach is ideal.

How Does Web Application Monitoring Help?

Performance excellence teams are often the first line of defense for performance issues. They can often spend days trying to analyze enormous amounts data trying to track down a particularly complex issue when they don’t have the right tools.

Web application monitoring can offer both page-time analysis and object-level analysis so you can understand the overall performance of the page and its individual parts, including 3rd party components. It helps to be able to group like pages together to monitor then as a whole, for example, all the pages that make up a shopping cart so you can measure the entire experience, not the piece parts.

Then there’s transaction analysis. You want it to detect abnormal web transaction performance as well as alert on common web application problems such as page errors, response per page, page rate, number of slow pages, and slow page times, as well as more granular response metrics such as Time to Interactive, to help you understand how a page renders.

A web performance waterfall is a useful diagram to help you diagnose what’s slowing down your webpages. A performance waterfall chart maps out every piece of content by when it loads and howlong it takes to load. It can highlight at-a-glance long-running JavaScript and critical performance milestones, like the DOM Interactive, DOM Content Loaded, and Onload (Page Load Time). Performance waterfalls can be grouped by the domain that is serving up the content (so you can quickly scan for issues) or by the individual content files, to give you more granular visibility into where the bottlenecks are.

Furthermore, web application monitoring can help you visualize the user journey. The user journey is how a user navigates a web app or website. User or customer journey analytics can help you quantify how web performance impacts revenue, conversions, the user path and associated experiences, spotlighting areas that perform poorly and cause users to abandon their session.

To help you understand how third-party content behaves inside the web browser, comprehensive tag governance can track the performance, loading order, website placement, and site speed impact of every piece of third-party content. With real-time alerting on these components, troubleshooters can quickly react to performance issues stemming from third-party content.

It’s also helpful if your web application monitoring tool can display fault information geographically on a map so you know where to focus your triage efforts. Such a view can be rendered by web application, region, platform, and browser type.

An added bonus in web application monitoring tools is when you can see revenue impact of performance issues. This can help you prioritize which issues to tackle first.

Finally, if your web application monitoring is based on packet analysis, it’s important to have real-time SSL decryption to decode HTTPS.

Why Do Web Application Monitoring?

Web application monitoring provides IT Operations teams and the web teams they support with the web application performance analysis they need to:

Minimize Downtime

  • Rapidly identify and triage problems
  • Ensure optimal web application performance

Improve Productivity

  • Enable operational consistency
  • Facilitate collaboration among IT teams and line of business

Reduce Revenue Leakage

  • Protect user experience and minimize abandonment
  • Reduce risks and avoid costs through strategic planning
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