Location Matters when Monitoring Digital Experience
Three most important things for a property are: “location, location, location.” At Catchpoint, we believe the same is true for digital experience monitoring.
There’s a saying in real estate that the three most important things for a property are: “location, location, location.” At Catchpoint, we believe the same is true for digital experience monitoring. Location matters.
That’s why we’ve built the largest, most diverse global network of monitoring points available, with more than 800 monitoring nodes in over 230 cities and 280 providers around the world. These include broadband ISPs, cloud providers, mobile, and last-mile sites. In addition, Catchpoint enables you to deploy monitoring agents throughout your enterprise, data centers, offices, and employee devices, providing complete, end-to-end observability.
Monitoring from diverse locations is not just a nice-to-have capability; it is crucial to understanding your customers’ digital experience. Consider the parable of the six blind men encountering an elephant: Each person touches a different part of the elephant’s body (tail, side, ear, trunk, leg, or tusk) and describes a very different experience. The same thing can happen when you are only monitoring from a single perspective, or from a location that’s not in line with where or how your customers experience your service.
Many synthetic monitoring tools only offer cloud-based monitoring locations. That may work fine for basic availability testing, but although your service may live in the cloud, your customers do not. They access your services via local ISPs and mobile providers. The DNS and CDN services you use are also location sensitive, and they too can have a big impact on the performance and availability experienced by your customers. If you want a proactive view of what your customers are experiencing, then monitoring from a handful of cloud locations just isn’t enough. You need to monitor the entire delivery chain of services that you provide to your customers.
A monitoring strategy should provide as much insight into the end-user experience as possible. Ask yourself the following questions when developing your strategy:
- Are our end-users internal employees or external customers?
- From what locations do our users access our services?
- What CDN and DNS providers do we use, and in what locations?
- What cloud providers do we use and where?
- How can we identify first-mile problems related to our internal systems and applications vs. external last-mile problems?
- How can we determine performance on mobile networks?
The monitoring tools you choose should match your observability needs and strategy. It is important to have a mix of vantage points for complete insight into the performance your end-users experience. Here are the types of active monitoring locations that Catchpoint provides, and where they are most useful in your observability strategy.
Backbone and Broadband
The most consistent, reliable form of active testing is based in facilities directly connected to major tier-1 internet backbone and broadband providers, such as Level3, NTT, and Cogent. These vantage points are in line with service delivery to your end users, but they don’t suffer the random noise often seen in last mile networks, such as shared bandwidth contention, mobile dead spots, and other issues on the local access link to external customers.
For this reason, a good monitoring strategy must include monitoring from the regional backbone or broadband service providers. Catchpoint users run most of their synthetic tests from backbone/broadband locations, as these are excellent for baseline performance data collection and alerting. These metrics can then be correlated with data from other vantage points, such as internal first mile, cloud, and last mile fixed and mobile, to help verify and localize problems.
As internet services and infrastructure continue migrating to the cloud, it is becoming increasingly important to monitor from the cloud as well. Migrating to the cloud means, in effect, moving or extending your internal data center to the cloud. Validating the functionality and availability of your cloud-based services from the same cloud provider and location can be considered equivalent to first mile monitoring. You can then compare these metrics with data from other vantage points to verify and localize problems.
Similarly, if you rely on cloud-to-cloud APIs or other inter-cloud or hybrid services, you’ll need performance data from your cloud providers in order to have performance visibility along the same delivery chain.
Be careful not to rely on cloud-based monitoring for end-user experience; it is not a replacement for monitoring from internet backbone or broadband locations. Just because your services have migrated to the cloud doesn’t mean your end users have moved there too. If your customers access your services (cloud-based or not) from local ISPs, then monitoring from the cloud does not collect performance metrics on the service delivery chain that your customers experience, and thus will not detect external internet-based problems they commonly face. As such, a cloud-only monitoring solution can leave you dangerously blind.
One of the essential reasons for monitoring is to be notified when performance and availability fall below acceptable thresholds. This often requires separating signal from noise. It’s important to get the cleanest possible information with the least amount of noise so that you can trust the alerts you receive. Nobody wants to be paged in the middle of the night about an “outage” that was actually a false-positive caused by noise.
One way to eliminate the noise is to monitor from the first mile, or closest to the application source. If your application is hosted in the cloud, measure the first mile from the cloud. If your application is hosted in a data center, collect metrics from within the datacenter. Catchpoint enterprise nodes can be deployed anywhere you need them inside your firewall.
You need to monitor from where your users are accessing your applications. If, when answering the questions about your monitoring strategy, you indicated you have a need to monitor internal applications for employees or SaaS applications, then you need to gather metrics from corporate locations where those applications are being used.
This requires deploying nodes or agents in corporate offices, buses, or even employee laptops. With data collected from internal vantage points, you truly see the availability and performance of applications from the end-users’ perspective. This helps you reduce the time and cost to identify and resolve problems.
Your end users aren’t connecting directly to a backbone provider; they must first connect to their local ISP or mobile provider, which is why it is important to monitor from this type of location. Consumer ISPs do not consistently deliver the bandwidth they advertise as consumption peaks and networks get saturated.
Performance degradation may not be a result of application or infrastructure issues, but rather the end user’s network. Monitoring from the final leg of the network gives you visibility into these types of performance issues. While this may capture “noise” from the last mile network (and thus isn’t recommended alone for alerting), it can provide valuable insight into the end-user experience. Don’t neglect this perspective just to reduce noise. Instead, correlate last mile data with monitoring from more consistent backbone and broadband provider locations to get a complete view of performance and improve your ability to verify and localize internet problems.
More and more consumers are accessing websites and applications from their mobile devices. They expect nearly the same level of performance when browsing on mobile as on their desktop or laptop.
Unfortunately, performance across a mobile network will usually not match that of a residential or business ISP. If your monitoring strategy does not include testing from mobile vantage points you will be blind to your end users’ experience on these networks.
Catchpoint offers more monitoring locations and types than any other digital experience monitoring solution. Our comprehensive solution can help you eliminate blind spots and deliver the insights you need to understand the end-user experience and to quickly identify and resolve issues. The ability to monitor from more than 800 backbone, broadband, last mile, cloud, and mobile locations, as well as within your corporate enterprise, can help you detect suboptimal performance from anywhere in real-time. This holistic monitoring is necessary to ensure the performance, reachability, reliability, and availability your customers demand of all your digital services.