Synthetic monitoring (also known as active monitoring or even directed monitoring) is a method of testing your applications by simulating users. It's usually defined as the opposite of Real User Monitoring (passive monitoring). Think of the software as a bunch of bots that will run through automated tasks and scripts that mimic user interactions and user behavior.
Synthetic Monitoring allows you to gain valuable insights into your software before it even goes live, and to ensure that everything remains functioning properly once it has been launched. Real users don't always report problems, but if one occurs, your automated testing bots will make sure that you know about it and get repair it quickly.
In this post, we'll talk more about synthetic monitoring so that you'll have a firm understanding of how adopting a synthetic monitoring solution can help improve the efficiency of your testing and development cycles.
How Does Synthetic Monitoring Work?
Applications today are more complex than ever, not just in the code they run, but in the way that they are put together. Instead of one large application written a single programming language, systems today are comprised of many different bits of software, written in different languages and interconnected through APIs or scripting. This makes older forms of automated testing much less effective. A solution is needed that can handle the many moving parts that today's demanding software requires.
Synthetic monitoring allows you to emulate the way an actual user would perform an action. This gives you a complete view of the user experience from start to finish regardless of what underlying technologies your software is built on.
With synthetic monitoring, you can perform tasks as simple as pinging your website every once in a while to make sure the server is still up, to more complex tasks like performing an entire interaction with your website from start to finish. This allows you to automate the user experience and gain valuable insights into how your software functions from the end user's perspective.
Implementation details differ across offerings. 2 Steps, for instance, allows you to set up complex tests without any coding required, and do so across any platform. That's valuable as most of the Synthetic Monitoring tools available only monitor web applications (website monitoring).
In the past, Synthetic Monitoring and other APM tools used to add only basic metrics, such as load times, response time and page load. Today, by recording the user action that you want to test for in a virtual machine, you can quickly and easily tell the software which tasks you want it to run and it will happily oblige. 2 Steps, again, will even provide a video replay, so when something goes wrong you can see exactly what your virtual customer did leading up to it.
The Uses of Synthetic Monitoring
We've already talked a little bit about the uses of synthetic monitoring in the course of describing what it does. This section will be a review of those as well as a few other use cases that make synthetic monitoring in general, and 2 Steps in particular, compelling additions to your development pipeline.
Reduce labour costs - If there are tests that must be performed regularly then synthetic testing can automate them and free your testers up for other things. With the no code required approach of 2 Steps, the savings are even more substantial, since anyone can set up the tests in a few minutes.
Iterate faster - Synthetic monitoring finds problems faster. It does this not only by allowing you to test much more often than you would be able to if an employee had to spend time doing it, but also by providing fine-grained data that employees might miss.
Generate useful reports - Speaking of fine-grained data, you'll no doubt want to pass some of that on to other members of the team at some point. Whether it is to aid developers in tracking down bugs or to update management on progress, a good synthetic monitoring system, such as 2 Steps, will provide you with the detailed reports that you need.
Stress test new products - If you have a new product, then you do not have the user base necessary to gather real user monitoring data from. Synthetic testing will allow you to emulate the customer experiences and anticipate problems that may occur so that you can address them before you launch.
What's New in Synthetic Monitoring
2 Steps brings some pretty innovative features to the synthetic monitoring arena that we are quite proud of. We've already touched on the fact that the system requires no coding from your staff. You no longer have to expect your testers to have programming skills. Anyone can very easily set up testing almost as quickly as the user can perform the action being tested.
This no-code approach means that there is nothing to install into your existing app and you don't need to write behavioral scripts in a real browser (selenium). The obvious benefit of this is that synthetic monitoring is not completely platform-independent. Any business analyst or quality assurance tester can just as easily test a mobile app running on Android as a website running on Firefox for Linux.
Also unique to 2 Steps is the video replay option mentioned previously. It isn't always enough to know that there is a problem at some specific location at some general point in time. By having an exact video replay of the issue, your developers will be able to replicate the problem just as quickly as they would if one of your human testers had documented it.
Another unique feature of 2 Steps is its integration into the popular Splunk platform. We recently gave a presentation at SplunkLive detailing how we integrated the product into Splunk, why we choose to use Splunk, and how 2 Steps can help your company with its testing needs. Splunk is a fantastic and popular tool and 2 Steps combines several of its powerful features with our legacy IP to drive a new breed of synthetic monitoring.
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