Developing applications and deploying them across multiple platforms has become easier today than ever before. Much of this ease of use is due to advanced automation platforms that take care of many routine processes for you. This frees up time for developers, so they can focus more on coding and building applications. In turn, this has led to a proliferation of applications that help not just bring in more revenue and customers but also play a big role in improving productivity and employee satisfaction within the organization.
That said, a critical aspect is Application Monitoring (APM) as it ensures that all your applications are performing optimally. Based on the monitoring metrics, you may have to tweak your applications or their environment to improve their performance. This is why APM is so important to reduce the impact of application downtime or poor performance.
Read on to more about APM and some of its best practices that can help you to get the most out of your custom, cloud, and third-party applications.
What is Application Monitoring (APM)
In simple words, Application Monitoring (APM) is the process of tracking different parameters to measure the health and performance of applications within an organization's infrastructure. This exercise aims to ensure that applications are working as expected. Since this is an extensive process, you need appropriate tools and platforms for measuring the metrics and analyzing them for potential problems. This is where Application Monitoring (APM) tools come in handy.
Many APM tools are available in the market today and you can choose the one that best fits your requirements for monitoring by analyzing the nature of applications that an APM supports, the features it offers, and the costs. However, you may have to do a little extra work to get the most out of these APM platforms, such as the best practices described next.
APM Best Practice #1: Prioritize Your Applications
Not all applications are built the same. Based on your operations, evaluate the available applications, and list them based on their criticality to your organization. For example, your payroll application is a critical one as opposed to the Intranet.
It's always a good idea to have a master inventory of your internal and external applications and their role within your organization. This list can include both in-house developed apps and third-party off-the-shelf applications. Once you have the inventory, it's time to assign a criticality value to each.
Many organizations use a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is the most critical and 1 is the least critical. However, you can have your ranking as this is more for you to know which applications require more monitoring.
APM Best Practice #2: Set the Right Metrics
Not every transaction/action is the same within a given application. Undoubtedly, some actions are more relevant than others, and this is why you must choose what areas to monitor within an application. For example, let's say, you have a website. Measuring the footfalls on the Buy/Contact Us is more critical than the footfalls on the Terms and Conditions page. Accordingly, you can set up metrics, so your monitoring resources provide the best insights into the state of your applications.
The first two practices can be time-consuming and elaborate, but they are nevertheless important to have an efficient application monitoring system in place.
APM Best Practice #3: Focus on Notifications
Another area that can help you to get the most out of monitoring is your notifications. After all, what's the point of identifying an issue or trend if it's not fixed immediately? This is why you must configure your APM to send alerts/notifications to specific teams/individuals. You can even set the trigger for these notifications. For example, if there's an abnormal surge in website traffic, it could indicate a potential Denial of Service (DoS) attack. When the traffic volume exceeds a certain baseline or threshold, configure your APM to automatically send notifications to the individual/team that can take the necessary action.
You can even use configurations to reduce false positives and prevent a flood of messages. In general, when you use these notifications sensibly, you can leverage a lot more from your APM platform.
APM Best Practice #4: Consider End User Experience
Any tool is effective only when users make the most of it. This is true for APM tools as well. This is why you must focus on the end-user experience while setting up your monitoring tools and processes. The monitoring interface and dashboards should be intuitive and easy to understand. Navigation must be easy as well.
APM Best Practice #5: Stay on Top of Reports
Reports are an important part of monitoring as they can provide insights into the existing issues and security gaps. Leverage them to understand how your application has performed over a specific period, so you can take action accordingly. These reports can be an invaluable resource for budgeting, capacity planning, and internal auditing. They can also help you to gauge your current state against your organization's goals.
Lastly, these reports can help you to meet the compliance requirements of different industry standards.
APM Best Practice #6: Keep pace With Changes
The software industry is one of the fast-changing ones, and you must keep pace with these changes. As patterns and trends change, your monitoring must also change, so you continue to measure the relevant metrics. Just like how you forecast and prepare for changes in other areas such as product development and marketing, it's a good time to extend these practices to application monitoring as well.
APM Best Practice #7: Interpret the Metrics
Gathering metrics is just one side of the coin, making sense of it and implementing the necessary changes are what make APM truly effective. This is where you must create your analytics processes and benchmarks that reflect your organization's goals.
To give you an example, many APM tools will give the average performance of an application over a period. This information doesn't often provide any meaningful understanding of your application's performance. Instead, information such as the number of times the latency has exceeded the established baseline values can give you a better idea of the underlying cause. Therefore, look for metrics that add value to your understanding and ensure that your analytics processes are designed to interpret the relevant information.
APM Best Practice #8: Provide the Necessary Training
The employees who handle APM metrics and analytics may require training. Help them understand your APM tool well to make the most of it. Ideally, it'll help to have someone well-versed in the APM tool used in your organization, but if that's not possible, provide the required training. Many APM tools have extensive documentation and user training videos that can come in handy for your employees to understand this tool. In case of questions/doubts, encourage employees to reach out to the APM tool's technical support team
If you're in the process of deciding on an APM, consider the preferences of your employees if possible, as this can increase employee morale and they will be more willing to explore the tool.
APM Best Practice #9: Create the Organizational Structure
As an organization, you can decide if you need a dedicated team to handle APM or if the metrics can be distributed to the relevant teams for them to interpret and improve. Generally speaking, a dedicated team helps to better understand and interpret the metrics as they are specialized for the job. This team can then inform the other teams about the metrics that are relevant to them.
The advantage of having a dedicated team is the pooled expertise. The outcome can be more targeted and relevant to your business goals. However, a dedicated team can add to your costs, and may not be ideal for organizations of all sizes.
APM Best Practice #10: Keep Security in Mind
Security should be an intrinsic part of everything you do in your organization, and this extends to APM tools and platforms as well. Here are some ways to ensure the security of your APM platform and through it, the applications it monitors.
- Provide Access Controls Enforce role-based or user-based access controls to streamline access to your APM and the data it generates. Ideally, follow a zero trust policy where a user or a device has to prove that it has the credentials to access your APM's dashboard and the reports generated through it. Using multi-factor authentication will also help to streamline access. In case of sensitive information
- Redact Sensitive Information Always make it a point to redact your organization's sensitive information before it is logged in a file to ensure that such information doesn't fall into the wrong hands in case of a breach. Many compliance requirements like HIPAA require such a process to prevent the misuse of an individual's personal information.
- Use Encryption Encryption is a powerful way to protect your data from unauthorized access. Make sure to encrypt data while in transit and at rest as this can greatly deter cybercriminals from stealing your data. After all, encrypted data makes no sense to unauthorized users unless they have the code to decrypt it. That said, encryption alone is not enough to protect your data and must be used in tandem with other measures.
- Implement Uniform Logging and Monitoring Talk to security teams and personnel to implement an organization-wide logging and monitoring process. Such uniformity improves consistency and you can always change protocols or policies, and the same can be easily applied to the entire organization. In addition, it reduces the chances of vulnerabilities due to varying security policies.
- Establish an Incident Response Plan Despite the best logging and monitoring systems and practices, there's still a chance for an untoward security incident. This is why you must always be prepared for it with an incident response plan. Rehearse this plan many times, so everyone knows what to do when there's a breach or attack. Some organizations prefer to include this incident response plan as a part of their overall disaster recovery strategy. If this is something that makes sense for you, go ahead, and do the same.
In all, these measures provide multiple layers of security to your systems and at the same time, ensure that your applications perform optimally. These best practices also offer complete control and visibility over your applications' health and performance. They help with compliance as well.
These benefits and best practices of APM are sure to get you thinking, especially if you don't have such monitoring systems in place already. However, choosing the right APM is not easy and may require extensive research to understand which platform has the features you need and is within the budget you have set for monitoring. To ease your life a bit, here are three tools that we think work well for most organizations.
SolarWinds APM is a comprehensive tool that enables you to get the most out of your applications. In particular, it provides a better understanding of the working of your applications and their underlying code, so you can optimize them better. Furthermore, SolarWinds APM provides information about the surrounding infrastructure to resolve issues before they impact your organization.
Below are some of the salient features of SolarWinds APM.
- Focuses on Monitors end-user experience.
- Enables you to perform in-depth performance insights into your custom applications.
- Makes it easy to gather metrics and trace transactions dynamically.
- Supports deployment across multiple environments.
- Optimizes the performance of your database.
- Offers analysis and recommendations to improve the overall performance of your applications.
- Works well on commercial, custom, and SaaS applications.
SolarWinds APM starts at $9.99 per host per month.
Download: Click here for a fully functional 30-day free trial
2. Datadog APM
Datadog's APM is designed for end-to-end monitoring of all your applications, including mobile apps. Its comprehensive features include distributed tracing through individual lines of code, so you can optimize its performance better. Datadog APM also correlates your frontend and backend data to help you understand the dependencies and health metrics within the larger context of your environment. All these features enable you to have complete control and visibility over your applications, their performance, health, dependencies, security gaps, and more.
Here's a brief look at Datadog APM's features.
- Connects many information sources such as your distributed traces, live processes, network calls, and more to provide a unified view of your applications' status.
- Correlates API and browser failures with the backend errors to help with troubleshooting.
- Uses ML-based insights to identify latency and its underlying causes.
- Makes it easy to set SLAs and track the trends.
- Enables you to optimize code.
- Monitors different deployments to help understand their impact.
- Integrates well with hundreds of third-party apps and platforms.
Datadog APM offers a flexible pricing structure to meet your organization's needs. There are about 15 different plans to choose from, and each plan comes with multiple editions. You can even mix and match different plans, choose add-ons, and more. All this flexibility ensures that you can build a custom APM that's geared for your organization.
3. ManageEngine APM
ManageEngine APM provides visibility into your applications' health and performance and ensures their uninterrupted working through proactive alerts and notifications. This tool constantly monitors not just your applications but also the infrastructure, components, and almost every nook and corner of it. The reports generated by this tool can be well-used by DevOps, IT, Security, Cloud Ops, Site Reliability, and other teams. They can help with compliance and internal auditing too.
Let's now take a look at some of the important features of ManageEngine APM.
- Provides the context you need to respond quickly to incidents.
- Empowers you to make informed decisions.
- Seamlessly integrates the different areas of your operation to provide a unified view of your application's performance.
- Decreases development time.
- Increases the security and stability of applications.
- Provides actionable insights across your entire application stack.
- Analyzes the impact of new code or configurations on your applications' performance.
- Sends alerts when performance falls below the established threshold values.
Click here for a custom quote.
Overall, these are the three most popular APM platforms available today. Their popularity stems from the fact that they are comprehensive, highly flexible, and provide the visibility and control you need. In addition, they work well for organizations of all sizes.
To conclude, application monitoring must be an essential part of your operations as it can ensure that your applications are always working optimally. There are many platforms and tools for application monitoring, but to leverage them, you can use some best practices, like the ones mentioned in this article.
Likewise, choosing an application monitoring platform is critical and it must match your organization's needs. We talked about three platforms – SolarWinds APM, Datadog APM, and ManageEngine APM. All these three platforms are comprehensive and come with many features to suit any organization.
We hope this information helps you to leverage the features of your chosen APM tool to your advantage. Browse through our site for more detailed guides.