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Why You Should Use Digital Experience Monitoring


Someone monitoring a network
Image: tippapatt -
The WFH shift has forced employees and customers to use the Internet to access business applications from locations that previously were not considered within the purview of the networking team. Network administrators can now use digital experience (DX) tools to diagnose and correct problems.
Comprehensive User Monitoring
DX monitoring is what you get when you mix application performance monitoring (APM), real user monitoring (RUM), active testing, and network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD). It allows you to optimize the operation of applications and services, regardless of whether they are used directly by humans and indirectly through other IT systems.
DX consists of the following elements:
  • Passive user monitoring (RUM and APM) to monitor network transactions
  • Active testing to verify operation outside of the times when users are not active
  • Measure and monitor user endpoint performance
I’ve seen great examples where APM has been able to identify problems within a SaaS application. Of course, the network team took the trouble ticket because it looked like a network problem when the application performance became poor. A quick analysis of the traffic between the client and the SaaS application quickly pointed to poor application performance. A call to the SaaS provider confirmed that they were having a problem within their data center that was serving that client. The entire ticket handling was less than 30 minutes.
However, APM within the enterprise has problems when you need to analyze performance problems reported by a WFH employee. We need to analyze the application traffic, the workstation CPU, memory, networking utilization, and possibly the local wireless network environment. Then consider deploying this analysis across hundreds or thousands of employees. Implementing a DX solution on each employee’s workstation makes it possible to gain visibility that’s difficult or impossible by other means.
How It Works
DX products can take several approaches to collecting information from SaaS applications, such as installing web browser extensions, tracking JavaScript variables, loading an analysis library into the endpoint’s operating system, and installing an analysis application. The browser mechanisms provide good visibility into applications that are running over VPNs, while the endpoint analysis functions can detect endpoint operation problems like CPU, memory, and network. Active testing provides a mechanism for monitoring connectivity on an on-going basis, not just when the user is interacting with an application.
Advantages of Digital Experience Monitoring
DX offers multiple advantages for monitoring and analyzing application performance.
  • DX functions over the infrastructure that’s not owned and is deployed right on the employee’s or customer’s endpoint. The application and network infrastructure will typically not be owned or managed by the organization that needs to monitor the application’s performance.
  • DX is suitable for applications running on SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS platforms. It isn’t necessary to modify the applications themselves to monitor their performance. And with the right implementation, DX can monitor application performance on mobile devices.
  • A DX can help you detect an application whose performance is affected by its interaction with endpoints. An application that sends many small packets can have poor performance over a high-latency network path, or perhaps it sends a large volume of data in response to simple actions. Both examples can have a big impact on application performance.
  • You can use active testing to measure endpoint communication with a variety of systems, which allows the DX to identify whether a problem is with the application systems or with something local to the endpoint. You can use active testing to measure performance when the application isn’t being actively used. Also, imagine being able to verify an application’s performance before the start of the business day.
  • DX’s includes analysis of infrastructure like DNS that can have a big impact on the performance of applications.
  • The real user monitoring aspect allows you to understand the endpoint’s ability to run the application. You can identify other applications that are consuming critical resources like memory, CPU, or network bandwidth that impact a critical business application.
  • Browser-based tracking mechanisms allow you to gain visibility into consumer endpoints, including mobile devices.
What the Analysis Tells You
You can use DX solutions to identify problems that affect groups of endpoints that use a common infrastructure. For example, ISP customers can use a DX solution to identify problems or poor performance of applications that are hosted in a specific data center or region. Group analysis requires that summaries of application performance data be collected and aggregated, with easy-to-use reports. It shouldn’t require manual analysis of individual endpoint reports.
DX is good at identifying individual endpoint problems and can identify network congestion from other household members’ network usage. A common problem is trying to do work while downloading that new movie. A more recent problem can occur with multiple concurrent video calls for WFH employees and virtual school sessions. The local Wi-Fi network can also be a significant source of problems, especially in dense locations like apartment buildings or where the RF propagation is poor.
How do these advantages apply to UCC? The ability to know the environment in which the UCC applications are running is critical, and DX tools provide a comprehensive view of the applications and environment.
At NetCraftsmen, we used Catchpoint to help a C-level executive determine why his WFH experience was poor. Catchpoint loads a web browser extension and a separate application that collects endpoint performance data. It quickly pointed to a problem with poor wireless received signal strength indicator (RSSI). It clearly demonstrated that the wireless environment had problems and a hard-wired connection between the executive’s workstation and his home router solved the problem.
In another case, our client’s employees were experiencing connectivity and download speed issues when connecting over VPNs. We used active testing to run tests to Catchpoint’s backbone network nodes to identify a BGP routing issue between two ISPs. The evidence of the problem allowed us to help resolve the problem between the ISPs, resulting in an increase in productivity for the WFH employees.
DX monitoring incorporates several technologies that were typically packaged as individual products and were rarely well integrated. The new products greatly simplify the task of monitoring applications and endpoint performance, regardless of their location and ownership. DX monitoring is a great new tool that promises to make both application and networking teams much happier.