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This article sheds light on setting up a proactive app monitoring system to help you minimize downtime, reduce costs, and improve overall system health as an app owner. First, let’s get settled with the definitions. Software app performance monitoring requires collecting app metrics, recording transaction traces, ensuring code-level visibility, etc. Infrastructure monitoring implies tracking hosts, processes, containers, etc.
A proper app monitoring system is not just a utility
Instead of taking the app monitoring system as another utility-level software, regard it as the project that intends to organize the monitoring process. Installing app monitoring software and hoping it will capture all you need is not a holistic approach. When setting up the tracking system, you’ll spend most of your time arranging the check-up work and observing how services interact. This work does not encompass scriptwriting as its core. It is about software development and must engage the team, which essentially understands what the project is doing.
If the app monitoring process is fully delegated to one person, it may lead to problems. The start-up team often puts this process off until the product is launched. The system load increases when the product starts bringing profit and new features are added. At this point, you may still need to monitor the previous pieces of work, which greatly exceed 1% of the work time dedicated to monitoring earlier. With all new features coming, you may find yourself in a deadlock situation as long as the monitoring function is concerned.
App monitoring tools and utilities
A few words about app monitoring tools: below, we’ll refer to the most widely used utilities helping to track the status of apps and infrastructure.
Graphana is a widespread open-source app monitoring and visualization platform that enables you to visualize and analyze data in real time. With Graphana, we create interactive dashboards, set up alerts, and monitor various metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network traffic.
Prometheus is another popular open-source monitoring platform designed to monitor time-series data. It is highly scalable and can monitor multiple metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network traffic.
Zabbix is an open-source platform providing real-time monitoring, alerting, and visualization capabilities. It can monitor many metrics, such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network traffic.
Nagios is an open-source monitoring platform with real-time monitoring, alerting, and reporting capabilities. It can monitor various metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and network traffic.
The ELK stack is an acronym for three open-source monitoring and visualization platforms: Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana. All components aggregate and index log data. It is designed for monitoring and analyzing log data in real-time by companies with large volumes of data and apps with complex search requirements.
It starts with planning
So, how do you proceed with monitoring the app project from the beginning, or if you continue the monitoring project without understanding where to start?
First, you need to plan. It means you decide what part of the project you want to track rather than determine the tracking tool. People like to start with easy-to-do steps, while your focus should be defining the most critical actions.
For example, if you start with the infrastructure monitoring and overlook the app’s backend, it may lead to downtime in the app’s backend, with users losing connection with the app. A few tips can be helpful in this regard:
- It’s good to start with the user’s entry point.
- Following this, we can set to the infrastructure monitoring or run this process in parallel with the first one. For example, we can install the Zabbix platform.
- Check the app’s roots to understand what exactly does not work.
The primary cue is that monitoring must be parallel to the development process. Suppose you draw the monitoring tea’s attention to other tasks (creation of CI/CD, sandbox, infrastructure reorganization). In that case, the monitoring may slack off, and it won’t be able to catch up with development.
How to set up an effective app performance monitoring system
Let’s now think about establishing that the app works for the user. We check the following:
- app’s business logic;
- health metrics of services;
- Integration monitoring.
This level of monitoring must be considered at the development stage. It’s good to delegate unit-test writing to the developers responsible for the code. The admin can be puzzled if you provide them with the list of API protocols of multiple functions intended for monitoring. For example, developers may take part in writing Grafana plugins, which will assist admins.
Every time the API is changed, the relevant changes must be brought to the monitoring flow. Arranging a check-up through the entire API protocol rather than specific endpoints is recommended.
Don’t forget about the Integration Monitoring
Integration Monitoring focuses on the interaction between the systems that are critically important to the business. For example, you may have ten services that communicate with each other; they are no longer separate websites. We cannot check on their statuses separately, as we used to do before. Hence, the communication must be synchronized. It means the necessity to test how services interact with other services.
There are three core elements in this process:
- monitoring the orchestration level,
- system software;
- the hardware level.
Often, when we say monitoring, we imply infrastructure monitoring. It must be a separate process. However, the best practice is to precede it with application monitoring.
While setting the alerting system up, be reserved regarding the number of alerts. Given the complexity of modern techniques, the permanent inflow of information messages is guaranteed. Try to configure alerts so that they will cover only critical changes. The alerting systems can include the following:
- Organization of the alert system;
- Organization of monitoring shifts. Alerts cannot be sent to everyone. “Oncall” developers must also be present.
- Organization of the “knowledge base” and workflow of incident processing. Each serious incident requires a postmortem discussing why it happened and which steps were taken to prevent it.
The alert system must utilize a single channel while monitoring multiple components. For example, it can be done based on PagerDuty or Grafana. The source of these alerts must be clearly defined.
The below stack construes an example:
- Prometheus and Grafana are used for data collection;
- ELK is for logs analysis;
- Jaeger (Zipkin) is utilized for application performance monitoring or Tracing.
Choosing utilities is not as critical as understanding the monitored system and following your initial plan. The original method dominates the choice of tools. So, if you come up with the tool first, later, you may understand that this specific tool doesn’t meet your requirements.
Setting up the monitoring system doesn’t involve installing tracking software and utility tools alone. It’s mainly about the coding process: coding in services, check-ups of external services, etc. Although engaging developers in the monitoring process may be costly, their participation in the monitoring process is vital.
If your project is already running but beyond comprehensive monitoring, think about allocating some resources for monitoring.
Monitoring system aside, your project may need thorough business analysis, design, and MVP implementation. Check our page for start-ups for more details and inspiration.
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