It is a proven fact that organizations need to put the customer in the center to enjoy higher engagement and business. Coming to websites and digital applications end user is the ‘King’ and the one who determine the success of your website or digital application. What the users experience matters a lot. Dev and test teams are now focusing more on creating a smooth and enticing customer experience. UI testing is no more about just functionalities. Instead, it takes an approach that tests functionality, appearance, and performance, all as part of a single continuous testing process.When it comes to customer expectations regarding their experience, what they are looking for most is availability and high performance. Currently, the two main technologies used to monitor user experience and measure the application’s performance are Real User Monitoring and Synthetic Monitoring. In this blog, we will discuss what these technologies really mean and what are the benefits and limitation of each.


What is Real User Monitoring?

Real User Monitoring (RUM) or End User Experience Monitoring (EUEM) as the name implies tracks performance data from real users accessing the website or application. It captures and analyzes each transaction by end users. RUM is implemented by injecting JavaScript code on each page of the application code. This JavaScript is responsible for gathering data for different performance metrics. The injected JavaScript gets triggered when a user accesses the application and begins tracking the performance as the user experiences by collecting data.Real User Monitoring is considered to be passive monitoring as the monitoring requires a real user’s interaction. So, the RUM data reflects the “real” end user experience and thus allows you to analyze the performance and understand user behavior for your webpage.


What is Synthetic Monitoring?

While RUM was triggered by real users, in Synthetic monitoring a computer program simulates the user behavior. Synthetic monitoring is thus called active monitoring as it does not require real user interactions. So synthetic monitoring can help to identify performance issues before it impacts the end user.Synthetic Monitoring which is also called Synthetic Transaction Management involves scripts which simulate the path end user takes through a website. Most of the synthetic monitoring tools in the market allow you to record the steps and generate the scripts. When these scripts are deployed and run on the webpage, it monitors and collects performance data during each run.+Synthetic monitoring thus works in a pre-configured environment, and the tests are set up in the way we want.  It allows you to have full control of the test parameters like the timing of tests to be run, the browser on which tests are to be run, the location of users, the frequency of tests run, traffic to the site, etc.


RUM or Synthetic monitoring- which is right for you?

Now that we have seen what these monitoring techniques are and how it works, we know how both are different in the way it is integrated. But both of the help keep track of the webpage performance and provide valuable insights on user behavior, bottlenecks on your application, performance trends, the overall health of the application and so on. Now comes the very important question – “Which technique is the right one?”. Well, both techniques have their own pros and cons. Let’s take a look at them now.


Benefits of Real User Monitoring

  • As Real User Monitoring captures performance based on the users’ actual locations, devices, and connections, it is potential enough to identify any latency issues that your users face which might not show up in synthetic monitoring.
  • Real User monitoring also allows you to monitor real end users across a variety of environments s RUM actually captures data for every user accessing the application. Testing all these diverse environments might not be possible with synthetic monitoring.
  • There is no need to pre-define use cases in case of RUM. It works based on the paths real users take as they navigate through the website.
  • RUM helps identify hidden issues and spotlight issues which are intermittent or rare in nature even if a single user experiences it.
  • RUM is the technique to be used if you want to identify the usage trends of your application. It allows you to utilize the data to predict performance trends and business outcomes.
  • RUM allows you to correlate various usage trends and key performance indicators (KPIs) such as the number of transactions by region.


Limitations of Real User Monitoring


Real User monitoring has its limitations too. The fact that it depends on real users makes synthetic monitoring a better choice in some instances. Here are some of the limitations of RUM.

  • Real User Monitoring requires traffic. If there are no visitors to your website, you don't get any information and monitoring becomes difficult.
  • Issues are identified only after a real user experience it.
  • RUM cannot be used to monitor the performance of a new application before its launch as it requires real users visiting your website.



Benefits of Synthetic Monitoring


Synthetic monitoring as we have already seen doesn't depend on real users and is the biggest advantage of it as well. Whether there is traffic to your website or not it works well. Below are some of the benefits of synthetic monitoring.

  • Synthetic monitoring allows you to monitor your application throughout, even for applications that are not accessed by live customers.
  • If you run the scripts frequently, issues can be caught before the real user experiences it and can fix them before it impacts the end user.
  • Synthetic monitoring can be used for testing your application even before launch in a pre-production environment.
  • Since Synthetic monitoring can be run consistently at regular intervals, it is considered to be a better technique for benchmarking and tracking SLA breaches.


Limitations of Synthetic Monitoring


Synthetic monitoring thus provides consistent and reliable insights on your application’s performance and reliability, but it has some pitfalls too.

  • Synthetic monitoring is too predictable and lacks the capability of RUM in gauging the diverse performance variables that exist in the real world which a real life customer experience through each stage of his journey.


Conclusion


We have now seen the benefits and limitations of both the techniques and I hope you should be in a position to identify which technique you need for your website. It depends on various factors like traffic to your website, the nature of your website, etc. Synthetic monitoring offers consistent testing of your website irrespective of traffic to your website, but RUM wins for the diversity of variables and scenarios being covered. So, if you could combine RUM and Synthetic monitoring for your website, that would be an ideal solution for easier and advanced troubleshooting.