There is an old business axiom, one that states “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” a statement that proves very relevant to the challenges facing IT today. Perhaps one of the most important measurements for enterprises moving to the cloud is one of calculating how well cloud-enabled applications are running. This is a measurement that has become even more important, thanks to the sudden adoption of remote work practices for staffers forced to work remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis.
A recent report by the Accelerated Strategies Group, titled “The Future of Remote Work and Software Development” illustrates the impact that COVID-19 is having on enterprises. The survey revealed that the majority of respondents (63.3%) noted that digital transformation objectives have significantly or somewhat increased in priority. Other priorities, including business automation (61.6%) and the need for investment in creating contactless services (60.1%) have significantly or somewhat increased. Simply put, COVID-19 has forced many enterprises to accelerate digital transformation, which in turn has had a major impact on both software development and remote access.
The Catchpoint platform
Digital experience monitoring (DEM) vendor Catchpoint aims to address the issues of digital services performance monitoring and measurement with the latest iteration of the Catchpoint Platform, which incorporates numerous tools and capabilities to give IT managers the data and insights needed to address digital service-delivery issues.
The Catchpoint Platform, which now includes a specialized set of tools called Employee Experience Monitoring, is able to monitor the complete digital service delivery chain to detect, identify, and resolve digital experience issues. In other words, the platform can look beyond the internal network and measure what occurs beyond the corporate firewall. This is a critical consideration now that so many staffers work remotely and are impacted by performance and experience issues that were once unmeasurable outside of the internal network.
Catchpoint leverages a global node network, which has the capability to monitor from more than 800 backbone, broadband, cloud, enterprise, last mile and wireless points of presence. The network, when coupled with endpoint and end-user monitoring is able to measure full stack, end-to-end performance, eliminating any blind spots, giving IT full visibility in the elements that constitute the digital experience of an end user. Catchpoint endpoint monitoring gathers metrics from the device, such as CPU, memory usage and local network performance. Other network metrics are measured from synthetic traceroute and ping tests, while application metrics are measured from the browser via real-user monitoring and also via synthetic tests that emulate user http traffic.
Hands on with Catchpoint Employee Experience Monitoring
The challenges of Covid19 have forced many brick-and-mortar operations to scale up the ability to support remote workers, as well as distributed IT operations. For some companies, the new normal of remote work was accomplished with some minor challenges, but the majority of businesses encountered all sorts of problems--namely providing remote workers with the level of performance and reliability that they had come to expect while on site.
Unlike other monitoring solutions, Catchpoint combines real-time endpoint analytics, user sentiment data, passive and active (synthetic) monitoring approaches. IT teams now have access to more data and deeper insights designed to address the challenges and demands of today’s remote workers’ digital experience. Additionally, Catchpoint is the first to offer end-user self-help to remediate challenges, improving the employees’ overall experience with the networks, devices and applications on which they rely.
Synthetic monitoring is often used to test websites and web applications in pre-production, which helps developers create baseline performance measurements and set appropriate alert thresholds, once an application or website is live. Simply put, when synthetic monitoring is instituted as part of the software development and delivery pipeline, performance problems can be avoided and usability expectations defined.
Traditional monitoring solutions attempt to measure end-user experience by collecting data from either the network or the device. Catchpoint monitors end-user experience by starting at the endpoint and then providing in-depth visibility into the application, network and device.
Endpoint monitoring gains its visibility directly from an employee’s device via a browser extension and lightweight desktop application to report the impact on user experience from variables such as the employee’s device, browser, network, and SaaS application performance. Endpoint data collected includes CPU (central processing unit), memory and network-related metrics--such as WiFi quality, packet loss and web application performance metrics including errors, load times and rendering progress.
Real-time and historical data on a SaaS application’s performance at global, local and device levels ensure that enterprises can mitigate, resolve and often prevent service disruptions that can affect employee productivity.
Catchpoint’s unique analytics and visualizations provide new insight and enable IT to adopt proactive strategies, enforce SLAs, reduce costs and enhance end-user productivity.
Catchpoint manifests the data in a browser-based dashboard (pictured), which can be customized based upon an administrator’s preferences. The dashboard enables administrators to quickly see what critical services are readily available, as well as the performance around those services. The data is further culminated visually to express the real world experience of a user.
Full drill-down functions
The dashboard supports full drill-down capabilities and allows administrators to delve into the statistics of particular endpoints, applications and networks. Measured elements that fall outside of defined norms are highlighted, giving an administrator the opportunity to get ahead of a potential usability problem.
One very powerful capability that is worth noting is the ability to measure endpoint performance in the context of response times. For the most part, problems with SaaS applications can be traced back to latency issues. Catchpoint makes it easy to visualize latency and measure it in real time, allowing administrators to fully comprehend root causes of performance problems. The platform also allows administrators to group measured elements by criteria such as geographic location, application or devices.
What’s more, synthetic monitoring statistics can also be shown for SaaS applications alongside Endpoint Monitoring, helping to illustrate where application delivery assumptions may differ from real world end user experiences. Administrator defined baselines help to round out the measurement capabilities and readily detect problems when activity falls out of norms.
Being able to dive into performance issues becomes critical when using SaaS applications. For example, the impact that 1.2 seconds of latency has on an application like Microsoft Teams may prove critical, making that application effectively unusable. However, that much latency may not be a problem for something like Microsoft Word under Office 365. Not only does Catchpoint measure the endpoint, it also measures the hosts of SaaS applications, giving a complete view of performance from the host to the endpoint and back. That allows administrators to further troubleshoot issues and determine the root cause of a problem.
Measurements are also aggregate across applications, endpoints, and hosts, which gives administrators insight into performance over time periods or by different criteria. Those measurements, along with recorded historical data can provide actionable insights, helping administrators to choose the best routes or hosts to maximize performance and productivity.
Catchpoint does an excellent job of visualizing the end user experience while also providing actionable insight into connectivity, hosts, endpoints, and applications. What’s more, the interface makes it simple to identify trends and delve deeper into issues, helping administrators to solve problems before they manifest themselves as help desk requests.
The platform brings together the numerous components of measurement to make what was one a tedious and complex task rather easy. By consolidating performance information into a single dashboards, administrators can now quickly diagnose problems with a glance and further investigate trends as needed.
Catchpoint has the potential to accelerate digital transformation being driven by the adoption of a remote workforce and potentially brings agility to SaaS applications, while also improving performance and productivity. Understanding what is happening with applications, the network, and end point performance is quickly becoming one of the most critical tasks for distributed enterprises, and Catchpoint brings the cards to the table to make it possible.
Frank Ohlhorst is a veteran IT product reviewer and analyst who has been an eWEEK regular for many years.