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Synthetic Monitoring for Native Windows Applications

2 Steps Team
23/08/2019 11:06:38 AM

Synthetic monitoring (AKA proactive monitoring) for Windows applications has historically been difficult to implement. Tools such as Selenium work for browser-based applications, but cannot tie synthetic scripts and run synthetic tests into native applications. In this post, we'll discuss the difficulties of synthetic monitoring outside of the controlled ecosystem of a browser and how 2 Steps helps to overcome those difficulties and empower your team to work more efficiently.

THE DIFFICULTIES OF SYNTHETIC MONITORING ON WINDOWS

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One of the things that makes browser-based synthetic monitoring solutions work as well as they do is their reliance on the Document Object Model (DOM) to simulate users. Browsers use the DOM to control and keep track of the elements that they draw on the page.

This allows it to provide easy access to all sorts of information that the application monitoring software can read from and manipulate. In the case of the monitoring tool Selenium, a special interface to the browser called WebDriver is used. This allows them greater control with over their monitoring application. 

Windows applications do not have such a universal representation of their inner workings. They are compiled into binary code, rather than running scripting languages like JavaScript. That binary code can be made from a wide range of programming languages and frameworks.

This means that in order to implement synthetic monitoring, you need to tie a custom API directly into your code. This may work, with some minor annoyance, if you have access to every bit of source code in your pipeline, but you likely do not. This makes API based synthetic monitoring an ineffective option and most companies decide to only implement Real User Monitoring (RUM) instead which relies on real user traffic.

Compounding this problem is the fact that Windows makes it very difficult to start from a known state. Some applications will remember the last checkbox that a user ticked or any other input that they may have provided. Consistency is a vital part of getting accurate results from a synthetic monitoring solution, and all of the tricks that Windows uses to make life easier on the user makes it harder on monitoring software.

And those problems are just the beginning. It seems that there's a neverending stream of things that can cause a synthetic monitoring solution to run poorly on native applications. Perhaps Windows decides to interrupt what you are doing to tell you about a fresh update. Maybe part of your pipeline still relies on web browsers or webview technology and you are pulling data from the cache instead of getting fresh data from the webserver.

HOW 2 STEP SOLVES THESE PROBLEMS

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Problems like the ones mentioned above are showstoppers for other synthetic monitoring solutions, but they aren't a problem at all for 2 Steps. Our unique solution is not restricted to working in web browsers. It will work on native code, being run on any platform. It does this through the innovative use of visual recognition systems and emulated mice and keyboard presses that allow 2 Steps to interact with your Windows application in the exact same way that a user would.

The need for a DOM or fancy API to interact with the application is eliminated and new possibilities for synthetic monitoring and automated testing are opened up to you.

Unlike Real User Monitoring (RUM) tools, 2 Steps runs inside a virtual machine. Because it snapshots the Windows system at a known point and always starts each test from that snapshot, you can be assured that Windows will never sneak in any surprises by automatically filling in UI elements or bugging you about system updates. This means that your tests will always be testing what they are supposed to be testing and you are free to automate parts of your QA pipeline without fear of tainted results.

With these problems out of the way, the full power of performance monitoring and automated testing for Windows applications is at your disposal, bringing with it a number of benefits for your business.

THE BENEFITS OF SYNTHETIC MONITORING AND AUTOMATED TESTING

Synthetic monitoring in general, and 2 Steps in particular, reduce the amount of time that your testing team needs to spend manually testing your applications. The obvious benefit of this is that it reduces your labour costs and improves users experience.

Because setting up a 2 Steps test is as simple as recording yourself operating the program just as a user would, you don't even need to have an employee with special skillsets set up and run the test. This further improves your labour costs by allowing your more highly paid employees to focus on other things entirely.

When your employees have time to work on other things, they are more productive. The benefit of that doesn't stop with labour costs. More productive staff means a quicker time to market. The end result is that synthetic monitoring and automated testing will get your product out of the liability category and into the asset category where it can start making you money sooner.

For most software, testing doesn't stop when the product ships. Many software packages have many dynamic parts that need to be monitored, and to monitor response time only is not enough.

Is there downtime on your cloud connection? Has an OS update broken something? How is the app performance in real-time? This is where synthetic monitoring really shines.

You'll be alerted to problems that arise with the software as soon as they crop up. This means you can fix them faster and reduce the number of customers that are adversely affected by the incident. Over time, this will result in a much happier userbase than you would have if you were relying on manual testing, or worse, waiting for users to report the problem.

SYNTHETIC MONITORING WINDOWS AND BEYOND

2 Steps isn't just limited to testing Windows applications. Thanks to its unique engineering design, it can run tests on native software from any platform. We believe that we've created a truly unique solution and would love the opportunity to tell you more about it.

We invite you to browse other posts in this blog or to visit our main site, where you can schedule a free demo or download our ebook that explains the 2 Steps difference in greater detail. If you have any questions, we invite you to contact us.

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