Last week, Google introduced a new feature to its Google Analytics product called Real-Time analytics. That means instead of looking at what happened in the rear view and then reacting, you can see what traffic is flowing to your web site in real time.
This is significant for monitoring for a number reasons. First of all web site analytics and monitoring are at least related (cousins for sure). They might not be measuring performance in a real sense, but these analytics give you real insight into the people coming to visit your web site, how they got there, what path they take through your site, which pages are the most popular and so forth.
You can even use your web analytics data along side your web site performance tools to determine if traffic spikes have been causing performance degradation, and if you perhaps need to bring more servers online (real or virtual as you choose).
And as John Jersin wrote in the Google Analytics blog, while there’s value in knowing what happened in the past, there’s probably more in knowing what’s happening this instance. Having this ability could let you see the immediate impact of social media on your traffic, for instance.
And the notion that’s what’s happening now is more valuable than what happened in the past is true for monitoring in general. That’s why real-time monitoring is so important. While it’s useful in its own way to know what has happened in the past, if you wait too long to find out you have an application or web site performance issue, your users might already be upset.
If it’s a web site, it could mean you’ve lost visitors. If it’s an onsite application, it could mean your users aren’t able to get their work done, or at the very least, they are experiencing performance degradation that is having an impact on their ability to do their work.
The faster you can identify and fix these problems, the better. That’s why it’s better to have monitoring tools in place that monitor all the time, not just some of the time. As I wrote recently in the post, You Have to Be Vigilant Every Minute, “If your job is to monitor the system, and the software you’re using has missed an important event, it’s embarrassing for you. Users (and more importantly) the managers and executives in charge of the idle employees are probably not going to want to hear that it’s a monitoring software issue.”
So real-time web analytics and real-time monitoring tools have something in common. They both let you know what’s happening right now and make sure nothing slips through the cracks. And that’s essential when your job is to make sure everything is running smoothly.