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BLOG: The three Ws

Doug Hibberd | Feb. 24, 2012
The three critical “W” questions to ask when managing Web applications.

Cloud computing is transforming from an abstract term a few years ago into an everyday-life technology embraced by consumers and enterprises. In reality, more and more businesses are adopting cloud computing in the form of Web-based applications, which can be accessed by staff members anywhere with a computer connecting to the Internet. IDC predicted that 80 per cent of new commercial enterprise apps will be deployed on cloud platforms in 2012.

For companies, large and small, web-based applications will continue to be appealing work tools considering its flexibility, accessibility and low cost of ownership. As this type of applications takes a bigger role in running a business, IT departments need to think deeper into ways to ensure the performance level, which increasingly determines operational efficiency.

Asking the Right Questions

Managing the performance of Web-based applications can be challenging at times. The very fact that these applications sit on a network not controlled by the IT department can complicate trouble-shooting. Likewise, most Web-based applications can be accessed from anywhere. This means that users at remote sites and telecommuters may report performance issues that IT managers are not responsible for solving.

Same as dealing with many other problems, while troubleshooting this type of application performance problem, there are three key questions to ask and think about. We call it the three "Ws":

First - "Which Part": You need to understand which part of the application is running slowly. Even a simple Web-based application can have many parts. For this example, we'll use a basic shopping cart based e-commerce site. Typically, an application like this would involve steps like these:

  • Loading of the initial Web page
  • Searching or browsing to the desired item
  • Selection of the desired item
  • Adding it to the cart
  • Reviewing the cart
  • Submitting the order
  • Processing payment
  • Display of order confirmation


Second - "Where": You need to understand where the issue is occurring. Start the thinking process with relevant questions such as: Is it universal or does it only affect users at your corporate office? How are remote site users affected? How about telecommuters? What about users in foreign countries?

Third - "When": You need to understand when the issue is occurring.

  • Does it happen every time that you process a transaction or only during certain times of the day or specific days of the week?
  • Does it seem random or is there a pattern to the performance problem?

Deploying the Right Tool

It is difficult to gather answers for these questions manually and it is likely to produce inaccurate results. Businesses need a more intelligent application to monitor applications that have been built specifically for this purpose. Some solutions are designed to solve these problems and one of them is the Synthetic End User Monitor from SolarWinds, and its free tool companion, Web Transaction Watcher. Synthetic End User Monitor can be used to monitor performance of the application as a whole and allows IT managers to record a series of steps to be used to test the application in detail. Then, the tests can be run periodically to help IT managers understand how application performance varies over time. Additionally, Synthetic End User Monitor allows them to install players at remote sites so that they can monitor application performance from those locations as well.


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