What are Real User Monitoring tools?
Real user monitoring (RUM) is the collection of real user data from apps or websites. Businesses use this data to improve user experiences. RUM tools are applications, scripts, and code that provide performance metrics from real users.
From the scripts that gather the data, to the analysis applications that make sense of that data, real user monitoring is only as good as the tool used to capture the right data and make logical sense of it.
Why businesses need RUM tools
There are a variety of real user monitoring tools from vendor solutions to open source or the ability to build your own with the timing specifications. Tools gather data and provide a holistic picture of how visitors use websites and applications and how well, or poorly, the websites and systems are functioning.
Often RUM tools are used with active monitoring tools to provide a complete, 360° view of both user behaviors and system health. Active monitoring simulates real user behavior through agents during tests. These tests can be run 24/7 to capture any potential threat to user experience.
Active monitoring is best used to monitor the entire infrastructure, meaning each piece of hardware, software, or cloud component that’s part of an application or website. Real user monitoring has data from everywhere, so it paints a complete picture — but all that data can become overwhelming. Active monitoring is more controlled with fewer variables, so it is less noisy.
Both types of monitoring, when working together, can also help IT teams optimize customer experience and test the most common user paths and transactions. For example, RUM data might show that users commonly access the login page and the credit card transaction page. The IT manager can then set up active monitoring tests that run 24/7 to ensure that those two common user paths are always working properly.
How different RUM tools work
Some RUM tools are scripts added to websites or individual pages. The scripts gather data according to the needs of the customer and their pain points.
In general, most RUM tools follow the method below:
- User data is captured. The data can be page requests and other data from a user’s browser, the server used, etc.
- The data is organized. The giant amount of data is typically organized according to page, component, and timing.
- Unusual behavior (if there is any) is detected. These problems are recorded and organized according to page, object, and visits.
- The data is reported. The data is organized into actionable reports that a business can use to improve processes.
- Alerts can be set up. When an issue arises and falls above or below a designated threshold, real user monitoring tools can send alerts to notify IT teams of problems.
There are a variety of applications and components used to analyze and make sense of all the data gathered from synthetic and real user monitoring tools. While active monitoring is geared towards eliciting a specific result, RUM needs good analysis to break down and use the data.
Since real user monitoring collects a huge amount of data, it’s vital that all that data be digestible and useful to IT managers and company leadership. Visualizations like charts and graphs help companies make sense of RUM data.
Alerts are especially helpful in real user monitoring. Real-time alerts help IT professionals detect and fix issues quickly. Catching issues while they are small and taking quick action will reduce mean time to resolve (MTTR) and avoid outages or prolonged downtime. This makes for a much better experience for customers.
Analysis of real user monitoring data is often done with metrics, statistics, and comparisons. These are visualized with graphs and charts for enhanced insight. Real user monitoring tools can analyze the data for a large variety of business and technical purposes, including:
- Performance of third-party components list ads and social media widgets.
- Devices and browsers used to view the site.
- Analytic data like click-throughs.
- Bounce rates and conversions.
- Geographical location.
What to look for in a Real User Monitoring tool
Any actions that occur on the website can be gathered, compiled, and analyzed. It’s important to find RUM tools that suit a business’ specific needs. This largely depends on the type of business, how large the business is, and what they’re trying to accomplish in both the long and short term via RUM data.
Here’s a list of what any business should look for in a real user monitoring solution.
1. Find a tool that gives a complete view of the customer’s experience.
A business must know how real users experience their site, no matter where users are or how they’re connecting:
- With a mobile application.
- Via a single page application.
- From a desktop browser.
2. Be sure you are getting trustworthy data.
Trustworthy data provides insight into every single page view for the most accurate view of real user performance. Good data offers many dimensions and metrics to analyze and understand the relationship between performance and user engagement. Strong data also reflects performance trends of resources from third parties. This helps IT teams quickly identify issues.
3. Make sure the tool is easy to deploy and use.
Ensure that your RUM tool includes:
- iOS SDK to understand code execution time, crashes, and resource utilization.
- A way to send data securely via an API by deploying custom code.
- A real user monitoring platform license included with an active monitoring solution.
4. Ensure that your RUM tool provides the following capabilities:
- Predict and analyze outages.
- See page-level details
- Aggregate performance by page
- Correlate engagement and performance
- Estimate engagement changes resulting from performance improvements
- Detect errors and set up alerts
- Analyze third-party performance
- Digestible visualizations and dashboards for more organized, actionable information
How Real User Monitoring tools improve business metrics
RUM tools almost immediately start improving business metrics by providing a window into a wealth of information about visitors, users, functions, actions, performance, and behaviors. Paired with synthetic monitoring, business metrics can be elevated considerably.
Knowledge and good metrics are key to providing the best user experience to customers and visitors. RUM tools empower businesses to act, adjust, add, remove, enhance, or restructure.
For example, if a RUM analysis tool discovers that 70% of visitors are experiencing latency, IT managers can pinpoint the source and resolve the issue. They might discover that only users in New York, which accounts for about 70% of their user base, are experiencing latency. They might investigate further to find that it was a CDN (content delivery network) issue and switch to their secondary provider.
Likewise, if performance is slow on a website and the source is pinpointed to one specific page — that page can be further analyzed. Are there third-party components running on that page? If so, are they the cause of the bottleneck?
Any action that can be taken to avoid outages and enhance user experience is a boon to any online business. Ecommerce sites benefit greatly from reducing or even eliminating downtime in the form of outages. RUM data provides real-world, real-time, actionable data that can prevent issues from impacting customers.
How RUM tools improve technical metrics
RUM tools and technical metrics are perfect partners. RUM tools naturally improve technical KPIs (key performance indicators) like:
- mean time to discovery (MTTD) — the time it takes to discover an issue exists
- mean time to identify (MTTI) — the time it takes to pinpoint an issue once it’s clear there’s an issue
- mean time to resolve (MTTR) — **the average time it takes to resolve an issue once it’s identified
Having real-time insights into potential issues provides speedy identification and discovery of issues before they become bigger problems. Acting on these potential issues reduces recovery considerably. Identification alerts can be pushed to key decisions makers, so they can act.
Another option is automation. With broad insight from RUM tools, it’s possible to automate specific actions to triage known issues, thereby avoiding downtime and reducing or eliminating the need for a recovery process for those known issues.
In the event of unanticipated problems, like hacks or crashes, decision-makers are empowered to catch the problem immediately and act before a user or customer is aware there’s a problem.
Using RUM and RUM tools decreases MTTR, MTTI, and MTTD greatly. The continual, customized monitoring of websites, applications, and systems is highly beneficial to the improvement of technical metrics.
RUM data is only as good as the real user monitoring tools used to gather and analyze that data. Quality, usefulness, and intuitive usage will vary greatly from vendor to vendor. It is important to fully understand what data is gathered, how it’s gathered, and how to best analyze that information into useful, actionable insights.
RUM tools work with synthetic monitoring for clear, understandable metrics that benefit businesses and users.