An Introduction to Application Monitoring

Antonello Zanini

Antonello Zanini on

An Introduction to Application Monitoring

Users prefer an application that runs smoothly and without bugs to one that may have an appealing UI and shiny new features but comes with issues.

Application monitoring is critical to the health of your application. With application monitoring, you can stay on top of any errors and ensure your application performs as it should.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • The definition of application performance monitoring (APM)
  • How an application monitoring process works
  • The main reasons behind APM and how AppSignal can help you

Let’s dive straight in!

What Is Application Monitoring?

Application monitoring is a process aimed at helping developers, designers, and engineers ensure that one or more software applications meet performance, reliability, and user experience (UX) requirements. In other words, application monitoring involves collecting data about an application to help developers monitor bugs, availability, resource usage, and performance drops that may affect user experience.

Note that application monitoring is also called application performance monitoring, or, in short, APM. Generally, APM is performed through a set of dedicated tools that allow you to collect, monitor, and analyze application and network data. An effective application performance platform can track several metrics in real time.

An APM platform represents collected data in dashboards and charts. It also transforms raw data into useful metrics that are easier to read and understand. This simplifies the data analysis process and directs your attention toward specific problems you should address.

In short, APM aims to provide users and customers with the best possible experience, while preserving your business’s reputation.

How Does Application Performance Monitoring (APM) Work?

An application performance monitoring tool observes whether one or more applications behave as expected. Specifically, an APM tool continually collects data in an application and sends it to a platform. There you can monitor the performance of your application and verify that everything is working properly.

Note that APM tools are generally highly configurable. That’s because the data you'll want to collect and monitor depends on your business goals. Usually, an APM platform collects, gives access to, or analyzes the following types of data:

  • Errors: A list of problems encountered by users while using an application. Each error entry is generally supplemented by some trace data. This keeps track of all the steps a user takes before an error occurs and helps you understand how to replicate the error.
  • Metrics: A metric is a quantifiable measure used to track, compare, and evaluate the performance of a specific process. Typically, metrics are automatically produced by an APM platform using collected data based on your configuration. Examples of metrics include error rate, throughput, response time, uptime, and RAM and CPU usage.

Note that this data helps you monitor the status of your application and correct frequent errors, so they don't occur again. Also, the APM platform uses this data to generate reports, charts, and graphs to help you take action before a serious performance or availability problem occurs.

On the other hand, if you fail to take preventive action, an APM tool should notify you so that you can fix the problem as soon as possible.

Why Is APM Important?

APM allows you to improve your application performance, reduce bugs, and increase uptime. All of this contributes to improving the user experience and customer satisfaction.

But keep in mind that an APM process' effectiveness depends on the APM provider you choose. An effective APM platform should support several technologies and give you the ability to connect application performance to your business goals, isolate and fix errors before they become a problem for end users, and reduce debugging time. This is exactly what AppSignal is all about.

Why Choose AppSignal's APM?

AppSignal is an APM service that offers error tracking, performance monitoring, dashboards, host metrics, and alerting capabilities.

Note that AppSignal supports Node.js, JavaScript, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and Elixir. You can use AppSignal to collect data and implement an APM process in all those web development technologies.

You can try AppSignal for free!

Let's now find out about the benefits of an advanced APM platform like AppSignal.

AppSignal Helps You Identify Problems and Fix Bugs

AppSignal offers advanced error tracking features. After integrating AppSignal into your application, any errors that occur in the application will automatically be tracked.

When an error occurs, AppSignal will intercept it and send all the trace information to the AppSignal APM platform. You can monitor errors in real time and access a history of past issues.

The AppSignal issue list

AppSignal is smart enough to group errors of the same type into the same issue.

You can also change each problem's status to track whether someone is working on it or it’s already been addressed.

Changing the status of an issue in AppSignal

Then, you can enter a problem to access more detailed data. Here, you can explore the trace information related to each error instance. This includes information about:

  • The browser/operating system used by the user
  • Actions taken by the user before the error
  • Its frequency over time

And much more!

A partial view of the detailed issue view

All this will help you understand how frequent an issue is, its causes, and how to debug and fix it accordingly.

AppSignal Saves You Time and Money

When an error occurs in your application, you need to know about it promptly. That’s especially true when it comes to serious issues, too many errors occurring in a short time interval, or a downtime situation. Keep in mind that according to a Gartner study, the average cost of downtime is $5,600 per minute. So, in a downtime scenario, the sooner you act, the better. This is why AppSignal offers uptime monitoring capabilities.

Uptime monitoring in AppSignal

Also, AppSignal allows you to configure alerts to detect anomalies. When one or more metrics go over your configured limits, your team will be notified via email, Slack, Discord, or other messaging platforms — so you can avoid bad surprises and act before it's too late.

Define a trigger for an alert in AppSignal

Note that advanced AppSignal configuration options allow you to deeply customize the alert-triggering logic. That’s crucial because you only want to receive the right alerts. This way, you’re sure that they will be taken seriously by your development team and not treated as mere spam.

Keep Track of What's Going On with AppSignal

When it comes to APM, there are many metrics to keep an eye on. These may be very different in nature. As a result, AppSignal offers you the ability to define custom metric dashboards.

A custom metric dashboard in AppSignal

In the same dashboard, you can add several charts. This way, you can monitor many metrics in real time with a simple glance. You can also monitor different metrics on the same chart and use different types of charts for the same metrics.

Adding a graph to a dashboard

AppSignal empowers you to configure several aspects of a single graph, such as the time interval, units of measurement, and string labels.

Monitor the Performance of Your Apps using AppSignal Dashboards

AppSignal also gives you access to some predefined, advanced, complete dashboards for performance monitoring. These are specifically designed to help you analyze and improve the performance of your applications.

The performance monitoring dashboards available in AppSignal

By default, you have access to the following performance monitoring dashboards:

  • Issue lists
  • Graphs
  • Actions
  • Slow events
  • Slow API requests
  • Slow queries

These default performance dashboards help you understand:

  • if your application is slowing down, and why
  • the types of events driving a degradation in performance
The "Issue list" predefined dashboard in action

You can also keep an eye on overall throughput and the performance of background jobs over time on the dashboards. Thanks to AppSignal, your development team no longer have to spend several hours setting up an APM process. By integrating AppSignal into your applications, you can immediately monitor performance metrics that are important to you.

In a nutshell, AppSignal offers a predefined set of dashboards to monitor application performance over time and provides excellent indicators to find possible issues at the application level. This makes APM easier and within everyone's reach.

Wrapping Up: Application Monitoring Made Easy with AppSignal!

In this blog post, we explored the basics and key concepts of application monitoring, including:

  • What application monitoring is
  • Why application monitoring is also called APM
  • What APM is about
  • How you can use AppSignal for APM and its benefits

Try out AppSignal's performance monitoring for your app.

We'll even send you some stroopwafels if you reach out to our support team. 🍪

Antonello Zanini

Antonello Zanini

Guest author Antonello is a software engineer, but prefers to call himself a Technology Bishop. Spreading knowledge through writing is his mission.

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