Synthetic Monitoring vs. Real-User Monitoring: 3 Key Differences

Your decision to outsource your network monitoring was sound. Looking after the care and feeding of your network are the pathways to customer satisfaction. Your customers expect 24×7 availability and fast page loading. Otherwise, they will abandon you for a better experience elsewhere.

Outsourcing your monitoring services has definite benefits for your IT department in terms of cost, staff empowerment, and productivity. Then there are the additional benefits of partnering with a provider who has decades of experience in network monitoring.

Of course, the best benefit of outsourcing your NOC services is the around-the-clock monitoring. That monitoring takes tons of pressure off your IT staff and frees them to do the creative and business-centered tasks that feed your income stream.

A key question you should ask your NOC provider should focus on the two types of network monitoring: real-user and synthetic.

Limitations of Real-User Monitoring

Real-user monitoring, as the term implies, captures and analyzes transactions made by real users of your website or application. This type of performance monitoring focuses on the user experience, looking at metrics like load time and transaction paths, but it’s a passive form of monitoring.

In order to track availability, functionality, and responsiveness, real-user monitoring relies on services constantly running in the background to observe your system and report back data gleaned from the actions of real users. Which is why, if no real users are interacting with certain aspects of your website or application, problems can remain undetected. Likewise, if there are no users present, it can be difficult to detect loss of network connections or to zero in on where the problem originated.

The Value of Synthetic Monitoring

Synthetic monitoring, on the other hand, does not rely on actual user data, it relies on scripts. Behavioral scripts simulate the expected action a live user would take to perform some transaction within your website and applications. The results of those scripts can then be evaluated to determine the success or failure of the transaction.

Synthetic monitoring does the automatic heavy lifting—exercising websites, validating email flow, verifying backups, etc.—to ensure your business applications are operating optimally. In addition, this active form of monitoring can test applications before launch, making it ideal for high-traffic sites.

Synthetic checks have the added benefits of running regularly from any location (or multiple locations) at specific times of the day, or even continually. Synthetic monitoring is valuable because:

  • Synthetic monitoring simulates the actions of a real user. It automates the process and runs at regular intervals, without the possibility of user input error.
  • If a transaction fails, the NOC knows exactly where and when it failed. You receive an alert, and the NOC can begin remediation efforts.
  • The NOC collects data for troubleshooting and trend analysis. For example: Does the system go down at specific times? Are the outages happening more or less frequently than usual? Are response times getting better or worse?

That’s why synthetic monitoring has significant advantages in notifications, uptime and availability, and detail checking—i.e., anything that can be scripted can be checked, and at a higher level of speed and accuracy than real-user testing.

3 Key Differences Between Real-User and Synthetic Monitoring

  1. Synthetic monitoring is active, while real-user monitoring is passive.
  2. Synthetic monitoring is more supportive of predictive remediation.
  3. While real-user monitoring provides data for specific interactions with your applications in the moment, synthetic monitoring helps build trend data for long-term analysis.The foregoing does not mean that real-user monitoring has no role in NOC monitoring. Depending on your unique business needs, you may rely on and employ both real-user and synthetic monitoring strategies.

David Nizen

iGLASS helps IT professionals improve the uptime and health of their IT infrastructure, increase productivity, improve the bottom line and enhance the quality of life for themselves and their employees. If you struggle with life/work balance; if you're tired of nuisance alerts from multiple platforms keeping you and your staff up at night; if you need to increase uptime without increasing headcount; if you realize you're not in the Monitoring business and want to focus on Running your business, connect with me today. Let's start a conversation.