October 3, 2016
One of the upsides of turning your services over to a cloud provider is that they take most of the responsibility for monitoring application performance and such. That also happens to be one of the downsides. You lose a lot of visibility and transparency in terms of application performance. Most cloud service providers maintain that this is the customer's responsibility.
If you use SaaS products like Office 365, marketing automation software, email marketing software, CRM, ERP, etc., a monitoring solution is essential for getting the most out of these services. Even if the vendor is fulfilling their SLA, you still might not be getting the performance your organization demands and deserves.
Some organizations are also building their own applications on top of these proprietary SaaS products. That makes it even more imperative to be able to monitor the health and performance of the cloud architecture. With the right monitoring solution, the network administrator and systems administrator are not held hostage to the cloud service. When users start calling in to complain, they have a means for troubleshooting the problem. Better yet, they can monitor these SaaS applications and discover an issue before it deteriorates services for the users.
Most often, the network administrator can either fix the issue or contact the cloud vendor and get them to resolve the issue before those dreaded user complaints start trickling in. Here are the steps for performance monitoring those SaaS applications.
Not Just About Uptime Versus Downtime
Downtime and poor performance aren't just heart breakers when it comes to customer service. These issues might also be cause for getting a credit from your SaaS provider. But you have to know about performance issues in order to address them with your vendor.
There are two issues here. The first is monitoring the availability of an application; the second is monitoring the performance of that application. The two aren't the same. Applications can be available and still performing quite poorly, hurting the staff's ability to be productive. The network administrator always needs to put user experience as a top priority. Choose a monitoring solution that tells you more than simply whether a mission-critical application is down. Look for one that tells you how healthy it is and how well it's providing a strong UX.
Establish Acceptable Performance Levels for the Applications
Cloud vendors don't establish what the parameters for acceptable performance are. Each organization has to do that for themselves. The network administrator already knows what her/his users are willing to accept and what level of performance triggers calls and complaints. With customer-facing applications, the acceptable performance level is even higher, as customers often won't compliant, but will instead head to your nearest competitor to do business. Determine what your acceptance performance levels are for each of your applications and set notifications to alert the network administrator or systems administrator if these levels drop.
Keep Track of SLA Compliance
Identifying the Root Causes of Poor Performance
While network administrators are most often concerned primarily about user experience, it's also important for the organization to make sure they're getting what they're paying for. If the cloud service or SaaS vendor isn't meeting the promises they made in their SLA or contract, you need to know about it. In some cases, your organization may be due credits if the application fails to perform at acceptable levels, even if no actual downtime is incurred.
This is even more important if you work with SaaS or cloud vendors outside the United States. While US vendors might dip to below the level of performance specified in the SLA at times, those vendors outside the US often perform much worse. Additionally, connections between your vendor and your facilities can deteriorate, meaning that even if the far-away vendor is performing according to the SLA requirements, your users still may not be getting the performance they demand.
One of the most challenging aspects of using SaaS applications is the inability of your IT teams to access the infrastructure and framework these applications run on. But a good performance monitoring tool can often identify correlations between response times and the amount of traffic on the network. For example, an SaaS application may not be properly caching requests. By identifying the problem, you and the vendor can work together to find a solution that could drastically improve your application's performance.
Metrics, Schmetrics -- It's Really About User Experience
Techies love to talk about the numbers. End users could care less what the metrics are. They just want fast, reliable applications so they can do their jobs.
Network administrators and other technically-minded folks like to talk about SaaS vendors' SLAs, availability metrics, incident response times, and penalties. In reality, all of these issues pale in comparison to the end user's experiences with the SaaS product. Good metrics indicate a solid UX, as well as a good value from the cloud vendor. Good performance can also be indicative of other issues, such as a healthy network smart security procedures, and a well-designed infrastructure. Conversely, poor metrics as indicated by your performance monitoring solution are your clue that at least one of these is out of whack.
There may potentially be multiple numbers of these factors that need your attention. But without a smart monitoring solution, you'll never know. You could overpay for SaaS services for years, face poor customer satisfaction ratings and a limping network infrastructure, and without the right performance monitoring tool, all you can do is answer the calls and emails and field the complaints. Good luck getting approval for new networking equipment when you can't prove what the needs are.
Do you have the right network monitoring solution in place to monitor the health and vitality of your SaaS and cloud services? Learn what every network administrator needs to know when you take advantage of this webcast: How to Measure Visibility and Performance of Cloud Apps.