As enterprise organizations continue their journey down the path of digital transformation, they are beginning to assign KPIs to measure their success. One popular model is leveraging Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) which tracks both the end-user interactions with technology and the performance of those applications – uptime, availability, and speed. In this article, you learn how modern Digital Experience Monitoring solutions use Synthetic Transaction Monitoring from endpoint devices to measure performance more accurately for cloud-based services like Microsoft 365 and Teams.
Gartner Research is tracking this closely and stated the following in their market guide on Digital Experience Monitoring.
But choosing the right DEM strategy is easier said than done. Many companies are already using some form of APM/RUM-based solution that provides only partial visibility into cloud-based application performance. To get a truly comprehensive and global view into the user experience for applications running in the cloud, many corporate IT groups are now implementing modernized, integrated DEM solutions that include synthetic transaction monitoring to model employee interactions with online applications.
This type of monitoring simulates transactions between a client and an application to mimic typical user behavior. These transactions can capture the overall success rate of user functions and monitor how long each one takes to complete. The results from these automated checks provide a more accurate picture of the application performance during different workloads, traffic, and network latencies at variable times.
With so much riding on the quality of digital experiences, monitoring those interactions has become a critical part of any business’s success. And synthetic transactions enable a continual stream of information on the health of cloud-based applications like Microsoft 365. This blog will explain the use of synthetic monitoring within DEM solutions and discuss why simulating transactions from agents running on user endpoints provides much more accurate data than the old method of using Bots running on virtual machines (VMs) deployed at different office locations.
What Is Synthetic Transaction Monitoring and How Does It Help?
Synthetic monitoring is an application availability and performance tracking practice that emulates the paths and interactions users might take when engaging with different applications. Synthetic monitoring can automatically keep tabs on application uptime and tell you how your application is performing for typical user behavior. By using these scripted processes to generate simulated user interactions for various scenarios, geographic locations, device types, and other variables, synthetic transactions can provide an accurate picture of the digital experience for applications.
To emulate the behaviors of a real user, synthetic monitoring sends simulated, automated transactions from a robot client, or agent, to an application. It can be used inside the firewall in the data center to ensure that all line-of-business apps are operating properly, or outside the firewall to gather data on cloud-based app performance and availability from a global perspective. These transactions are useful for assessing the performance of business-critical applications.
The typical goal of using Synthetic Transaction Monitoring is to establish expected norms for the performance of these transactions. Once this data has been collected and analyzed, a synthetic monitoring dataset, as part of a DEM solution, can give you crucial insights into how well your apps are performing over time. Plus, they provide historical metrics to identify if performance is under the expected norms which can trigger alerts to prompt investigation by IT operations.
Emulating User Activities Improves Digital Experience Visibility
As modern cloud architectures are evolving, so too are the ways users can interact with online applications. Businesses that use synthetic monitoring as part of their DEM strategy can simulate the average employee experience to discover the root cause of potential issues that may negatively impact actual users. By utilizing algorithms to observe application behavior while simulating future user interactions, synthetic monitoring actively evaluates an application and is beneficial for measuring the uptime, performance, and response time of crucial functions during employee interactions. The results of each part of these synthetic transactions can be monitored and anomalies can indicate that the application is not functioning normally.
These synthetic transactions are intended to simulate the actual use of the application and exercise its various components through the execution of the transaction. When deployed effectively, that data provides improved visibility for IT operations and can help a business understand long-term trends in an application’s performance after it has been deployed. Typically, the transaction will be modeled off the actual use cases for the online application and provide input like that of an actual user. Thusly, the simulations help paint a live picture of what employees will experience when they access the application and perform the most common tasks.
In this way, Synthetic Transaction Monitoring provides actionable insights to optimize employees’ experiences. By monitoring each step of the user journey with predictive performance, these automated data gathering agents provide traffic and performance data even during times when you do not have any real users accessing the application. This allows Digital Experience Monitoring solutions to alert you before users are affected.
Client-Based Synthetic Transaction Monitoring Provides More Accurate Performance Data
Although synthetic monitoring has become a crucial part of DEM solutions, not all tools cover all application types or yield the best results. There is one key difference that you should be aware of when evaluating your DEM products and their synthetic monitoring features. Do the synthetic transactions run from agents deployed on actual client devices, OR are they installed on VMs deployed at different office locations?
The information provided by Bots running on virtual machines in the office does not accurately emulate the experience of an end-user. This is especially true in today’s ‘Work-from-Anywhere’ culture when a large percentage of employees are working outside the office. Those users are NOT on a managed network with fast, reliable access to the internet and cloud service providers. Plus, they are using separate devices that do not match the hardware configurations and capabilities of a pre-configured virtual machine.
To gather the most accurate telemetry data the monitoring agents running the synthetic transactions should do so from the end-user perspective, from their device. These server calls and emulation scripts simulate an end user’s clickstream as they navigate through key areas of an application, download files, or access different workload features. Typically, they run every 15 minutes, but you can configure them for different frequencies or run immediately based on a specific action. This empowers IT operations groups to configure synthetic monitoring functions more broadly and more closely matching a company’s hybrid work environment. And this gives a foundation for continuous monitoring and application performance, even when user engagement is low. By continuously monitoring application performance from the actual endpoints of real users and their various network paths, IT operations can achieve deeper insights into application performance, availability, and service quality.
Actionable Insights Delivered from Client-Based Synthetic Transaction Monitoring
Digital Experience Monitoring provides critical analysis and understanding of how performance impacts user experiences as well as visibility into the responsiveness of applications, regardless of where they are running. Synthetic monitoring is the perfect DEM add-on for providing the comprehensive, proactive, and actionable information an organization needs to deliver exceptional experiences to employees.
Without dedicated synthetic traffic, it is hard to differentiate real problems from internal failovers, or vice versa, leading to situations where standard monitoring is showing green lights, but users are experiencing lagging response times or cannot log in at all. The more complex the applications become, or the lack of access to performance logs from cloud service providers, the more opportunity for standard monitoring to not reflect the reality of the users’ experiences. Because client-based synthetic monitoring simulates usage from the user’s perspective, from the user’s computers, these ‘false negatives’ are easy to catch.
By monitoring performance trends over a period, IT operations can determine the normal processing times for synthetic transactions, analyze network throughput for different ISPs, assess application performance during peak traffic, and make necessary optimizations in client devices and networking infrastructure to speed up their transaction response times.
After collecting and analyzing this valuable performance data, a synthetic monitoring dataset can:
- Give you crucial insight into how well your applications are performing
- Identify legacy hardware issues for employees running old devices
- Spotlight underperforming home networks for remote workers
- Alert you of outages for cloud-based applications before the vendor sends notifications
- Tell you how your application responds to typical user behavior
- Zero in on specific business issues — for example, by alerting you to problems users might experience while attempting to collaborate online with external business partners
Synthetic Transaction Monitoring provides an easy approach for approximating the end-user digital experience and real-world performance issues for applications. If you are thinking about optimizing your visibility for application performance and improving your tracking for the true digital experiences of your employees, you now understand how synthetic monitoring can help. Implementing synthetic transactions is essential for an effective Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) strategy. They help measure the user experience on any application, cloud-based or otherwise.
To move forward, you will want to evaluate DEM solutions that simulate business-critical, digital journeys through your most important applications across your different job roles and employee work personas. This can give you immediate answers to questions about application performance and the impact it’s having on user experiences. Your synthetic monitoring datasets should also be able to help you quickly identify the root cause of any application performance issue so you can resolve them as soon as possible.
And to have complete coverage, you should ensure that the telemetry data provided by the synthetic transactions are coming from the user perspective, from the user’s endpoint devices. These advanced digital experience monitoring capabilities help you proactively identify and address application performance issues from anywhere in the world, no matter where users are working. With the right synthetic monitoring solutions in place, your business can go a long way toward ensuring a consistent, satisfying digital employee experience.