Applications and services are the backbone of a company's digital ecosystem. They ensure that businesses run smoothly, customers are satisfied, and employees can do their jobs effectively. However, all applications have weaknesses that attackers can exploit to compromise users or steal sensitive data. In addition, every application has an expected level of performance that customers expect; if it falls short of its requirements, users will switch providers.
Metrics are your first sign of trouble
It's important to monitor your application because the first step to fixing a problem is knowing it exists. For example, without monitoring, you may not know when your database server is overloaded or when a new feature has broken something in an older part of the system.
System monitoring tools can help you track many different aspects of your software: CPU utilization, memory footprint, I/O wait times, latency, throughput, errors, and so on. Most applications have at least some metric that can be useful for performance tuning or debugging purposes (although it's easy to get overwhelmed by the number of metrics available). The trick is figuring out which ones are most relevant for your particular situation and understanding how they fit into the big picture.
Operational metrics and health checks
There are two main types of application metrics: operational metrics (such as error rates) and health checks (such as uptime).
Operational metrics are used for determining whether something is currently working as expected—for example, if users are experiencing errors while trying to log in or if there's a high rate of failed transactions due to network connectivity issues during peak hours.
Health checks usually show whether something has been behaving correctly over time; these include latency measures such as mean response times over longer periods like weeks rather than just short periods like minutes.
Maintain user experience, revenue, and reputation
Monitoring the health of an application is crucial to maintaining user experience, revenue, and reputation. If you're not monitoring your app, you're flying blind. You won't be able to fix issues until they cause major problems with your users or the bottom line—and by then, it'll be too late.
Monitoring allows you to detect and address any issues before they affect users on a large scale. This can mean anything from detecting new bugs in production before they impact customers or resolving performance issues as soon as they arise instead of letting them snowball into major headaches for end-users down the road. It's also essential for identifying potential security threats that could compromise sensitive data or put customers at risk (think: ransomware).
It is essential that applications not only function but also function properly under all conditions including failures, security threats, and traffic bursts.
Keeping applications running under all conditions is crucial. What happens if your application goes down and stays down? Your customers will get upset, which can lead to lost business. You also risk losing customers if they have a bad experience with your product and tell their friends about it.
The time you spend monitoring should be proportional to the value of your application and its importance in relation to your business goals. For example, an online store that loses connection with its payment processor could cost thousands of dollars per minute while an accounting application may not be worth monitoring unless something breaks down regularly or has high demand from users during peak hours.
Monitoring application availability
Application metrics can be used to determine if your application is available, functioning properly, or likely to fail.
Application availability means the system is up and running. The network is on, there are no errors in the logs or crashes on the server, and end users are able to connect without issue.
Application health refers to how well an application performs its intended function in a reliable manner; it's evaluated by monitoring its performance over time. If you're experiencing problems with your application's health or performance, gather information about when those issues occur so that you can investigate them further using tools like log analysis or cloud monitoring services (e.g., AppDynamics). This will help you identify bottlenecks within your operations such as CPU spikes or memory leaks that may lead to unexpected downtime due to resource exhaustion.
Monitoring application security
Application metrics can be used to ensure that your applications are not vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.
Applying standard security practices like protecting the perimeter, enforcing authentication and authorization, monitoring for suspicious activity, and encrypting sensitive data can provide a good baseline level of protection.
However, application developers should also monitor their applications for malicious behavior or anomalous behavior that may indicate an unauthorized attack.
Monitoring application metrics allows you to identify data leaks by detecting when certain content is accessed by multiple users within a time frame outside normal usage patterns. This could be indicative of compromised credentials being used by an unauthorized user or malware installed on the device accessing your site.
Application metrics can also be used as part of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack detection system by identifying spikes in traffic volume at specific times during the day due to network saturation attacks against your servers. On top of this, if you are seeing large spikes in traffic at regular intervals throughout the day (e.g., every five minutes), then it might be worth investigating whether these changes could be caused by bots crawling through pages looking for vulnerabilities instead
Monitoring application performance
Monitoring application metrics and health checks is important to ensure a good user experience. Application metrics can be used to determine if your application is fast or slow and whether it can scale effectively.
Application metrics can also be used to determine the health of multiple global locations for the purpose of directing traffic to the nearest healthy location for the lowest latency.
Load balancers and application performance monitoring (APM) solutions collect data that shows how well an application is performing so you can make informed decisions about how to improve it. They can provide information such as:
- Average response time. You can use this metric to determine whether a new application or service has introduced latency into your environment. If so, you might need to move it onto dedicated hardware, scale out additional nodes, or deploy nearer to the edge.
- Maximum response time. This helps identify when an application spike exceeds capacity constraints and negatively affects other applications running on the same server (or even in different data centers). As such, it's important for both high-availability systems as well as applications with low QoS requirements (such as low-priority batch jobs).
- Throughput per second (TPS). TPS measures how many transactions are being processed within an interval of time—which can be helpful if there's ever an issue with one particular transaction type or overall system load during peak hours (versus off hours, when less volume is expected).
Tooling, Alerts, and Visualization
As an application team, you should use appropriate tools to monitor applications, servers, clouds, and APIs.
This means monitoring each component that makes up your application—from server instances to cloud resources—and identifying issues before they become problems for end users.
Application teams should also think about how they can use alerting systems and observability tools like Grafana dashboards in order to track performance metrics like CPU utilization across multiple servers in real-time without having someone sitting behind the keyboard 24/7 watching them all day long!
Once these metrics reach a certain threshold then alerts go out through email notifications based on predetermined thresholds set within those same configuration files mentioned earlier.
How to use metrics to improve availability, security, and performance
It ought to be clear that metrics and careful monitoring are essential to protect your application and provide a good user experience. So how do you do it? How do you interpret the metrics? How do you manage alerts? How do you respond reactively and proactively to incidents and trends? What sort of tooling is right for you?
Stay tuned for more articles where we will explore all these questions and get you on the path to monitoring your application like an expert.