The need for both internal and external website monitoring
To partially address this challenge, the DealNews content management team interacts with the website 24x7 while also relying on multiple monitoring tools that measure application performance internally. But to create a comprehensive monitoring methodology, DealNews also needs to evaluate website application performance from an external viewpoint.
“We want to know how our website performs from the perspective of consumers,” Moon explains. “This means utilizing an external tool that analyzes our website from multiple geographic areas. Just because the website performs well for one part of the US does not mean it performs well for the entire country. And when problems occur, we need to pinpoint the cause.”
While conducting research to identify an effective external website performance monitoring solution, Moon came across multiple tools. However, SmartBear AlertSite set itself apart from the pack by offering the most cost-effective solution with powerful capabilities.
SmartBear AlertSite helps DealNews detect website application problems before customers do. The solution monitors APIs as well as website and mobile applications and then alerts Moon and his team when any performance issues occur. DealNews can then leverage AlertSite to identify the root cause of performance issues. The solution also works well for benchmarking application performance and for managing SLAs with third-party vendors such as content delivery partners.
Keeping tabs on Content Delivery Network partners
AlertSite has also proven beneficial for monitoring the SLAs of the Content Delivery Network (CDN) companies that DealNews partners with. “A few years ago we started receiving complaints that images and styles weren't loading fast enough for users from several northeastern states,” Moon says. “The CDN told us there was nothing wrong, but the AlertSite baseline helped us prove the CDN was actually experiencing issues. It’s an especially important tool if you're using one of the bigger CDNs with hundreds or even thousands of locations close to end-user locations.”
The situation prompted DealNews to switch to a new Content Delivery Network (CDN), and Moon’s team used AlertSite to evaluate multiple CDNs with different domain names. The data showed how quickly content from the different companies loaded from each of their different regions. DealNews built a comprehensive report of median load times and the standard deviation of load times from different locations for each CDN. This helped evaluate the service of each CDN, and DealNews simply chose the best one.
Automated API monitoring proves critical to fuel mobile applications during holiday seasons
DealNews also utilizes SmartBear’s open source API testing tool, SoapUI, to ensure functional correctness of internal APIs, which mainly empower DealNews mobile apps. SoapUI’s integration with AlertSite enables DealNews to monitor those API projects in production. The mobile apps that use these APIs also make it easy for customers to create new user accounts. Hence, making sure that these APIs are available and functioning properly within a reasonable time is very important
“We integrated AlertSite with SoapUI so that all the UI tests are automatically uploaded to AlertSite and run on automated timers,” Moon says. “We can also trigger them anytime we need to, and with one click, we can generate a daily report to tell us how each API performs.”
Since the initial deployment of AlertSite, DealNews has turned on additional monitoring services over time for visibility into functions the website team doesn’t necessarily see every day. This includes making sure the RSS feed returns data and checking on the performance of sub-domains.
“We also have multiple data centers from which we provision our website that we monitor to make sure each data center returns website pages within a sufficient time frame,” Moon adds. “We monitor total page load times, including images, which is important when we apply changes. AlertSite generates alerts to let us know when a change impacts page performance so we can investigate.”
AlertSite has proven to be the perfect complement for the internal monitoring tools that DealNews relies on. The website team can correlate the AlertSite results with the internal results for a 360 degree view of application performance. This comprehensive visibility is particularly helpful during the holiday season when the DealNews website is among the busiest websites worldwide.
“API monitoring is particularly critical from late November through December,” Moon emphasizes. “We have a specific Black Friday app for both iOS and Android, and they generate a lot of traffic for about 72 hours following each Thanksgiving holiday as shoppers hit the stores and buy products online. AlertSite helps us make sure our website performs effectively during this crucial time window.”
Historical performance visibility helps maintain competitive edge
In addition to a monitoring tool and a reference for diagnosing application issues, AlertSite also proves helpful when reviewing application performance history. DealNews conducts post mortem reviews after busy time periods, such as the holidays, and having historical monitoring allows the company to see what was going on that impacted application performance. “This is key because we need to make sure our website keeps performing better than our competitors,” Moon says.
One of the AlertSite features that Moon particularly appreciates is website monitoring from multiple locations around the US. This allows DealNews to see if users from one region or one city are experiencing slow response times as well as the number of locations experiencing difficulties. “Other services offer this feature, but they only provide one monitoring location or maybe two, and sometimes they generate false positives,” Moon points out. “It’s nice that SmartBear uses several monitoring locations in different geographies that tell us if a website function is truly down.”
DejaClick, AlertSite’s free web recorder, allows for monitoring of complete page loads. Monitors created with DejaClick tell DealNews if a website single-page load has slowed down, why it’s slow, or if an API is not working. This feature is particularly helpful for the DealNews home page, which by design is huge because the extra length generates additional revenue.
Immediate problem-notification assurance
In looking back on the seven years DealNews has now relied on AlertSite, the solution has become one of the most trusted sources of information that Moon turns to in order to determine whether or not problems with the website or an application are actually occurring. And if another source identifies an issue, AlertSite helps him confirm if something is not working.
“The solution works so well on its own that we rarely need technical support, and we rarely worry about whether it’s working,” Moon adds. ”If a problem occurs, we can rest assured AlertSite will notify us immediately so we can keep making sure our customers enjoy great experiences on our website.”