Heartland Payment Systems

Heartland Payment Systems chooses AppDynamics to monitor MySchoolBucks.com

Processing over 11 million transactions every day, Heartland Payment Systems is one of the largest payment systems in the United States.

Within its School Solutions division (HSS), the MySchoolBucks.com application allows parents to prepay for their children's cafeteria lunch. This application has more than 2 million registered users and serves thousands of schools across the country, so the site's performance is critical to HPS and its customers.

Challenge: Lacked visibility into user experience

Chris VanDenBerg, IT Manager, and Doug Bassett, Senior Software Developer, at HSS were responsible for ensuring the performance of MySchoolBucks.com. The website's main competition was the traditional checkbook, so responsiveness was critical. “If the website takes too long to respond, users will find another way to pay,” said VanDenBerg. “The main reason parents use our website is convenience, so if it isn't convenient, they won't use it.”

VanDenBerg had several tools that indicated how the site was performing?server monitoring and logging, to name a few?but they didn't always paint a complete picture of what was happening inside the application. “We didn't have a good idea of what the average end user's experience was,” Bassett said. “We knew that there were some performance issues in the application, but we didn't have a clear picture of what was going on until we got AppDynamics.”

Identified and resolved all performance issues in first 30 days

After installing the AppDynamics platform, Bassett and VanDenBerg were able to quickly resolve the performance issues that they had noticed in their application. “After the first 30 days of having the product we were able to track down every issue, understand it and put a fix in place to resolve it,” Bassett said.

“AppDynamics APM has been very valuable to us for understanding what's going on underneath the covers.” The insight provided by the AppDynamics platform helped resolve known performance issues and allowed for easier optimization. “With the AppDynamics solution, we've been able to make the improvements we needed to boost the performance of our application,” said Bassett. “In addition, we've been able to reduce the number of unexpected errors significantly with the data we receive from the platform.”

Gained confidence in site performance for the new school year

One important area that Basset and VanDenBerg have been able to improve is the performance of transactions that interact with the database. “With AppDynamics, we've been able to identify the individual queries that were slow and make them faster,” said Bassett.

The AppDynamics platform also allowed Bassett to identify slowdowns in the HSS distributed file system (DFS) server that could have gone undetected.

“Without the ability to identify issues at the call stack level, we would never have been able to figure out why it was slowing down and speeding up,” said Bassett. “We would have spent a lot of time guessing.”

The IT and development teams at HSS used the AppDynamics platform internally to improve the performance of their systems, but VanDenBerg planned to expand its use at the company. “In the future we'd like to report these metrics from the AppDynamics platform back to management, because they could help make decisions about what improvements we can make to get more customers,” VanDenBerg said.

The most important benefit of the AppDynamics solution, was that VanDenBerg and Bassett felt confident that their systems could handle the spike in load that came with the start of each new school year. “It gave me a lot of confidence going into the business season that we were going to be just fine,” said Bassett. “We had the right processes in place and knew we had the resources to handle the load, but it was good to know that the AppDynamics solution would have been there in case something popped up that proved me wrong. I can't overstate how amazing AppDynamics has been for us.”

After the first 30 days of having the product we were able to track down every issue, understand it and put a fix in place to resolve it.