One of the most important lessons enterprises have learned from the pandemic is a greater need for testing and monitoring their applications. With more people than ever before accessing applications remotely, maintaining those apps while growing the business requires increased attention to detail. Here are five challenges businesses are facing as they work to develop a healthy testing and monitoring strategy in these turbulent times.
Beginning with the topic that is top of mind for many stakeholders, it is important to understand the full costs of application monitoring. This naturally includes hardware procurement and operational costs, but it also incorporates time spent creating workflows for web applications and other expenses that may not be considered beyond the monitoring solution itself.
The reality today is that most IT teams are consistently being asked to do more with fewer resources. It’s important to adopt a testing and monitoring solution that can deliver the most functionality out of the box for the cost while easing operational friction. Features such as integrating with third-party application performance monitoring tools can help keep costs manageable by requiring the purchase of fewer tools and helping limited staff spend less time on manual tasks.
Closely related to the subject of cost is the need for monitoring scalability. It’s one thing to write code to check application functionality during development, but for many organizations scaling that up and out in production is something different. One important technology to implement is synthetic monitoring. With synthetic monitoring, it’s possible to simulate user journeys representing accurately how your users access your applications, anywhere in the world, in both controlled and variable environments. This approach monitors not only on-premises and web applications but also endpoints and websites. Synthetic monitoring helps identify the key factors that can impact the user experience, from infrastructure limiting page load times, transit network instability, and third-party service integrations. Without a way to holistically view all of your application's dependencies at scale, you're only seeing part of the picture.
Leveraging automation for efficiency
Efficiency in app development is an important strategy that requires a change in mindset for many businesses. The focus on “shift left” to address problems early in the application development process also applies to monitoring, and it’s critical to know how apps will behave in today’s complex enterprise environment from the earliest stages. Automating application testing during the development process can ensure that you won’t experience any unpleasant surprises upon deployment. This proactive testing can tell you how an app should behave from the user’s perspective when it’s scaled up to meet rigorous demand at peak times.
Additionally, these same automation tools, if properly implemented, should allow you to perform "shift-right" testing to ensure your real-time environment is running well in relation to your original performance testing. In order to understand your application, you need a full SDLC testing and monitoring solution that can provide you with key insights at all points of your Product Lifecycle. To meet this demand, app owners should leverage automation to streamline scripting needs by taking advantage of tools that can automatically import the same test scripts used early in the dev cycle into production while integrating into existing technology platforms to save time and money.
Security is always top of mind for enterprises, and there are several key considerations to remember while developing a testing and monitoring strategy. Each organization has its own requirements, but many businesses will need to monitor secure applications as they are accessed through a single sign-on, PIV smart card, or other technologies. Another frequent need is protecting credentials used to access libraries behind the firewall or using third-party programs such as CyberArk. Ensuring your user data is secure through simulated checks is important for maintaining a secure application environment, and several security vulnerabilities can and should be instrumented into any good monitoring plan. Meeting each organization’s unique needs requires a solution that has the flexibility to work with tools from any manufacturer, with frequent updates and support to keep up with evolving security needs.
Even when an organization’s testing and monitoring capabilities have been configured correctly, it can be difficult to effectively analyze the data they produce. The network infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex, and as more apps are adopted the amount of data produced by monitoring solutions is quickly growing. The result can be a lack of real insight despite an overabundance of information. The signal-to-noise ratio is just too high in many environments to expect more monitoring to bring real value. What's required is insight that can be used to help company's answer tough business questions.
As you evaluate testing options, it’s important to consider their reporting capabilities and how well they integrate and analyze data from a wide variety of sources. Effective analysis includes the ability to create customized reports tailored to different stakeholders, for insights that can be understood and acted on by a business-focused audience rather than technical experts.
A final word
As the IT application environment evolves, user needs are changing as well. Customers and employees are accustomed to accessing the applications they want anywhere and anytime, with no patience for outages – or even slow performance. Dealing with these challenges, or preventing them altogether, requires a robust monitoring strategy. By taking an active approach to your testing and monitoring at each step of the user journey, you can protect the bottom line and keep critical functions running without interruption.
Jason Haworth is VP of Solutions Engineering at Apica.