Wednesday, February 27, 2008

External Web Monitoring for eHealth Applications

The Internet provides big contributions in health care. More and more applications move online. Web-based applications are less expensive and started to compete with traditional healthcare IT applications. The Single Web browser interface allows views or the ability to exchange information, and can also migrate to mobile/wireless platforms. Healthcare-related applications become complex. There are web sites that provide information (content) to consumers and physicians. Recent developments in Health 2.0 focus on communication, information sharing and community.

Using the internet for healthcare purposes increases end-user dependency and the need for external monitoring to keep 24/7 availability and high performance of the web-based healthcare applications.

Let's discuss a case how Monitis External and Internal Monitoring can be used to keep the healthcare applications available and improve customer satisfaction.

HealthCenter Maintains High Level of Care Giving

A HealthCenter Hospital upgraded its medical practice management and EMR system. Now they use web-based solutions for the internal care path management; care processes starting from patients' admission to release for inpatient and outpatient practices. All lab tests and referrals are managed through the same web interface. Also they started to provide service online to their patients and have a system which connects with other databases and family doctors’ applications.

It was now important to keep the application flawlessly running. Any downtime would jeopardize care giving process. HealthCenter was using monitoring products but mostly to monitor low level systems performance. They signup to Monitis service as an additional monitoring.

First, they activated simple ping and http tests from External Monitoring to monitor availabilty of web pages from external perspectives to verify connectivity. They started to receive real-time monitoring data on uptime and page load speed of their eHealth application from end user perspective. It was also important to undertstand how their application was performing for their users from multiple locations. This data provided them with better perspectives on performance and availability of the site from other geographic locations. Monitoring web applications from multiple physical locations showed if a problem is localized to specific networks or whether it affects all users.

The internet extends to multiple countries, networks and vendors. It is important to distinguish real outages from short accidents on the network. With Monitis they were able to compare monitoring results from other locations by running checks within short time intervals.

External monitoring revealed that the Health Center Hospital's web application was slow or even "timed-out" at certain times of the day. So hospital management wanted to know the real cause of the problem. They activated Monitis Internal Monitoring and understood that the problem comes from one the processes on the server, which consumes server CPU and slows application response time.
The Health Center's web applications was complex, and simple connectivity couldn't cover fully end-user experience to understand full page load and availability of the critical content. They activated the Content Matching feature to monitor full-page vs. html download. This way they allowed monitoring solutions to test and analyze content for errors and check for timeouts. The login fields availability was monitored by the POST function.

But the web page contained other elements, and dynamic processes, such as images, functional buttons and critical workflows, the operations of which would highly affect end user experience. Monitis had a solution to that problem as well. HealthCenter activated Transaction Monitoring features and started to check web application down to every page component and every transaction to ensure that the critical flow is up and running. TM simulated end users' actions with the system. Within certain intervals it was checking the response time and performance of each page and its components, as well as each transaction and provided summary on the whole transaction or information on each individual process. In case of failure, the TM detailed view showed which component or which transaction had failed to open. Monitis TM provided a snapshot of the page that failed to initiate. This monitoring allowed HealthCenter management to receive real information on user experience and within a timely manner prevent problems before they cause serious outages, and customer complaints.

Internet business consists of more then just a Web server. HealthCenter activated mail servers, FTP servers, VPN, networks and systmes monitoring. Comparing Internal and External monitoring provides the HealthCenter management the ability to analyze and quickly and accurately determine the source of the problem. Escalated alerts and notifications to their emails, IM or phones allowed them to be aware of their web application performance anywhere and any time.

HealthCenter can now check not only infrastructure and computers, but complete coverage to full e-business infrastructure performance and functionality and can notice system deficiencies in advance and keep high level of care giving.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Achieving Improved Customer Satisfaction with Application Performance Monitoring (APM)

Web service availability and response time are important factors in determining website visitor’s satisfaction level. Website visitors must be able to easily browse through the Web site with minimum waiting time. If pages load slowly and critical functions are not working, it will frustrate visitors and create a deterioration in customer satisfaction level, and ultimately the loss of the customers.

External and Internal Web site monitoring cannot fully reveal the problems with critical applications workflow. To accomplish deeper understanding of customer experience with mission-critical e-business operations and web applications, there is a need for complete overview of web transactions and web application performance.

Application performance monitoring (APM) detects, diagnoses and reports on application’s performance issues to ensure the application’s performance meets or exceeds end-users’ and businesses’ expectations.

External monitoring of web pages ensure that those pages are available to customers; Internal monitoring provides deeper insight into the diagnostics; Application Performance Monitoring checks web application down to every transaction to ensure that the critical flow is up and running.

Web pages have different functions: login/logout, checkout, check or send email etc. APM agents simulate end users, imitating step by step their actions with the system. These tests repeat within certain intervals remotely monitoring the availability and performance of multi-step web transactions and the web applications to proactively locate and fix bottlenecks in web systems.

At Monitis these tests are called Transaction Monitoring (TM). Monitis TM service simplifies detection and resolution of web application problems and malfunction of web application components. When web service response time is slow, it causes customer complaints. From Monitis external checks the problem can be revealed. While TM will help to find which part and/or function of the web page causes the performance issue. It will check web pages upon error detection, drilling down to the cause of the problem. TM measures response time per transaction and reveals the cause of the delay for specific page load.
TM must be activated for critical work flows of a web application that affects customer satisfaction. Even if there are some bugs in a system, if the bug does not cause any problem in service response time or site’s functionality, it cannot be seen as a serious problem.

TM can also be used for monitoring critical applications locally on a server. Compared with Internal monitoring that reveals system resource CPU usage - transaction monitoring can help compare the resource usage per request in each transaction. By revealing how many concurrent incoming requests will max out system resource, TM helps to detect resource shortage and prevent system management problems before they cause costly breakdowns. TM increases the efficiency of mission-critical e-business operations and web applications; dramatically reduces the time to troubleshoot a failed web application.

Monitis TM provides performance and availability reports for every check with up to duration of each step within the transaction. Step duration thresholds are determined and if the total execution time exceeds the ceiling, the step is reported as failed as well as the transaction.

Transaction monitoring results are displayed on the Monitis dashboard. The chart shows the monitoring results per each check. By clicking on the failed test(s) users can drill down to the specific step that had an execution problem, and go even deeper into the elements that are being implemented within that step, to find out the real cause of the delay or failure of each test. The screenshots are available to check the issue.

The web application monitoring service starts immediately without costly IT investments and long implementation periods of client-side software. Clients only need to record a web flow as a script and then upload on the server. The test will start running on the regular intervals. The script development skills are very basic.

The application performance directly correlates to the satisfaction level of customers’ and end-users’ experience using the web service. Real-time TM monitoring helps to eliminate the risk of lost revenue resulting from web application downtime.

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