What Is Synthetic Transaction Monitoring?

Synthetic transaction monitoring is a form of performance monitoring that simulates user behavior to establish baselines and measure performance in a controlled state.

Website monitoring solutions include passive and active options; a comprehensive assessment of the end-user experience would incorporate both. Passive monitoring involves real user monitoring, and evaluates real-time and historical performance including server transactions such as actual log-ins, clicks, requests for data, and site hits. Passive monitoring is employed daily to ensure that your business website functions as designed, without the interruption of slowdowns or downtime.

Synthetic monitoring actively tests the application and is useful for measuring uptime, performance, and response time of critical pages during business transactions by using algorithms to observe application behavior while practicing future user interactions.

The typical online user experience consists of multiple moving pieces, and yet the ideal experience requires that the end-user enjoys a seamless transaction uninterrupted by broken links, slow page load times, outages, or issues with third-party web applications. Businesses who use synthetic monitoring are able to simulate the average customer experience to discover the root cause of potential issues that may negatively impact actual users.

Why is Synthetic Monitoring Important?

In today's age of instant gratification and an abundance of alternate options, something as simple as a slow page load time can become the catalyst for a lost sale or customer. When the competition is one google search away, even minor technical issues can be detrimental to brand reputation and profit. A positive end-user experience is essential to continued success.

Application performance monitoring (APM) is a crucial element to running an online enterprise, and synthetic monitoring is particularly valuable when it comes to ecommerce and high traffic business service management (BSM) sites. Having the ability to test new applications thoroughly prior to launch can save you the eventual hassle of trying to pinpoint vulnerabilities among the many moving pieces involved with an online business, and can help determine if the goals and commitments of your service level agreements (SLAs) with third party vendors are being met.

Being able to track, analyze, and simulate every click and swipe can help you optimize your online strategy and discover steps within the transaction process that aren't functioning as intended without negatively impacting actual users.

Synthetic Monitoring Use Cases

Synthetic testing allows you to setup specific scenarios by using scripted transactions to identify issues that could potentially affect your end users. This kind of active performance monitoring is useful for alerting you to problems across a wide range of different uses.

Test features

Innovation is an important element of staying competitive in business, but the risk of downtime or unhappy customers can make rolling out new applications or features feel intimidating. Synthetic monitoring offers a secure environment for testing web, mobile, or cloud-based applications before the official launch of a new offering.

Explore new territory

Introducing your application to a new geography presents its own set of unique challenges. The ability to test your product in a new region to evaluate the area's connection speeds and how that affects your end-user can help you provide a flawless experience right out of the gate.

Evaluate third party performance

Third party services are a necessary component of most websites today, and can streamline digital assets such as shopping carts, social networking, advertisements, reviews, analytics, SEO tools, and other online attributes. Third party apps are a valuable addition to most online businesses, however, their integration can make it difficult to determine if a technical issue is your fault or theirs. Synthetic transaction monitoring can help test and monitor these services and alert you to performance issues.

Compare against competition

Having a clear understanding of how your product and strategy performs against the competition is an important aspect of development. Synthetic transaction monitoring enables you to setup scenarios to see how your application performs over time, but also allows you to compare that data to your competitors within a certain period or region. Being able to identify your company's strengths and weaknesses is a core component to developing an effective strategy for future growth.

Improve customer experience

Without synthetic monitoring, your customers become your quality assurance team. As a result, when a digital asset fails, it either leads to a negative impression of your business or inspires a flurry of calls, messages, and emails to request troubleshooting -- which ultimately means more time, money, and resources spent in addition to creating dissatisfied customers. Think of synthetic monitoring as the dress rehearsal before your product's big debut, and take advantage of the opportunity to work out the weak links before causing end-user frustration.

Challenges of Synthetic Monitoring

Although synthetic monitoring is widely helpful in assessing issues, it's not without its own weaknesses. For instance, even if synthetic testing alerts you to what's wrong, external validation may still be required to determine why the issue exists. Is it the internet? Your application? The infrastructure? A vendor? Outside investigation will likely be necessary to discover the root cause, even if the alert provided direction. The testing data will still need to be cross referenced against information from passive monitoring systems to discover why an asset has become problematic. Due to this limitation, a combination of monitoring components, such as synthetic and application performance monitoring (APM) offers the most comprehensive approach to clearly and accurately identifying the root cause of problems.

Another significant challenge synthetic monitoring can encounter is the constantly changing ecosystem of applications, front-end, and infrastructure. Since its effectiveness is dependent on running scripted transactions, outcomes depend on correctly simulating user interaction within a wide and ever-evolving range of variables and entry points. Consequently, a combination of passive and active performance monitoring tools is the most failsafe way to consistently ensure optimal results.

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