Sep 29, 2022 • 7 min read

5 strategies to monitor the health of your web application

Denedo Oghenetega Joseph
Software Engineer

Modern web applications have grown in complexity, leading to high expectations from today's users. These high expectations pose a big challenge for developers as they need to ensure the software they build is high-quality and conducive to a seamless experience, a problem that application monitoring directly solves.

Luckily, there are vast amounts of tools available for web application monitoring. These tools give relevant insights into a specific aspect of its health and inform developers of any unforeseen events that may arise while the web application is in use.

Today, we’ll cover five strategies you can utilize to monitor the health of your web application and make sure your users are happy:

  1. Uptime/Availability
  2. Performance Stats
  3. Critical Application Transactions
  4. Error Monitoring
  5. Security Testing

Uptime/Availability

Ensuring application availability 24/7 is critical to the success of any business that uses the internet to render its services, as downtime leads to frustrated customers, loss of reputation, and decreasing revenue.

But in reality, it's often unexpected events, like cyber attacks, system failure, and human error, that often lead to this downtime. Luckily, there are lots of tooling out there that help ensure that your team is notified as soon as possible to resolve these issues.

Usage of availability monitoring tools is a step in the right direction as they provide means of regularly monitoring web applications to assert uptime, communicate downtime events through various channels and provide relevant information to diagnose the problem. These tools constantly check if your web application is responding to requests and are often run on servers in different parts of the world for a better understanding of how users interact with your application.

There are various tools available for monitoring web application’s uptime, and some of them include:

Performance Stats

In the previous section, we discussed how it’s crucial for your web application to always be available for your users. The next step is asserting how performant it is when users actually use it!

Modern web applications are comprised of several components: the user interface, web servers, database servers, storage services, and load balancers, just to mention a few. How performant your users find your web application is based on how well these components work in unison. A web application that responds to user interactions slowly and has a poor user experience leads to frustrated customers and can tarnish your brand’s image.

The way web applications are developed today is in continuous cycles, and each release might affect how it performs, which suggests the way users use your application should be constantly monitored for performance issues. This is where web performance monitoring tools shine, as they give relevant insights into how your web application performs, making it easier to pinpoint the location of performance issues to make troubleshooting easier.

Some common web performance monitoring tools you can use are the following:

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Critical Application Transactions

When users interact with your web application, certain flows are of utmost importance and must work reliably (e.g., logging in, checking out an order, downloading a file, etc.). These critical transactions are why customers choose your service in the first place, and you must ensure these user experiences are flawless. The challenge is: how can you ensure the user flows work every time and get alerted immediately when something is broken? This is where transactional monitoring tools become relevant. 

These tools monitor critical application transactions on a specified interval, providing the flexibility of scripting browser interactions, or even recording a flow of how regular users would use your application. Additionally, they offer feedback with relevant information like errors that occurred and screenshots to make troubleshooting the problem easier.

Popular tools you can utilize to monitor critical transactions in your web application are:

Error Monitoring

When users interact with your web application, they might experience unexpected errors or bugs that hinder them from accomplishing a specific task, thereby making the customer experience bad. Although bugs and errors are inevitable in the practice of developing software, it eventually leads to a loss of reputation and drops in revenue depending on the severity of the bug.

Error monitoring tools, when installed in your web application, constantly monitor for critical errors your users come across and alert your team with detailed information on how to debug and reproduce the error. Some tools even provide session replay to analyze how a user interacted with your application till they experienced a bug. These features make it easier for developers to fix issues as they happen and focus more on developing the product rather than plowing through thousands of lines of code to find where a bug was introduced.

Some popular tools for error monitoring are the following:

Security Testing

One aspect of the health of a web application that’s usually not considered is security, which often happens when more time is spent in the development phase of the project. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be ignored because a web application that’s susceptible to malicious agents is a serious risk to an organization and its users.

Some methods of attack used on web applications are Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)Denial of Service (DoS) and SQL Injection.

Web application security vulnerabilities are mitigated with strong data encryption, firewalls, and patching software with known vulnerabilities.

Due to the very complex nature of security testing, it’s usually advisable to outsource application security assessments to security professionals for reliable results, but there are also tools like HostedScan SecurityIntruder, and Upguard that can monitor for these issues.

Conclusion

We’ve covered several strategies for monitoring the health of your web application, discussed its benefits, and listed tools you can utilize to get a better understanding of its health and stability. For live monitoring of these health metrics, tools like Highlight can be very useful (and easy to set up!), whereas, for less frequent health checks, tools like Checkly and Raygun are good options.

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