Glinda the Good Witch
By Adam Thier | December 10, 2014
Real User Monitoring (RUM) can track all the interactions of every user so why in the Wonderful World of Oz would you still need Synthetic Monitoring? Aren’t real users better than simulated ones? Aren’t the agents “free”? Don’t you eliminate scripting by relying on the actual users experiences and save a ton of money in the process?
The answer may seem a simple and obvious yes, but it’s actually no, no, no.
Synthetic monitoring is Glinda the Good Witch. Perfect, precise, shiny and new. Each and every agent is identical and each is optimized to provide scientifically consistent, highly calibrated global measurements that are dead on accurate. The browsers are clean. The agent servers are perfectly maintained with powerful processors and oceans of RAM. The networks are huge pipes dedicated to nothing but customer measurements, and every measurement can be networked traced. So every measurement Glinda speaks is truth and magically perfect right down to the ruby on rails slippers.
But RUM is not. RUM is millions of flying monkeys. RUM measurements are a bit dirty, ratty and torn. They rely on the end user devices, and they are anything but perfect. They are much like old PCs and aging Macs, Chromebooks and original iPads with cracked screens. Even cheap phones and cheaper data plans, and the users all have 19 browser windows open – one probably streaming Netflix or YouTube – and viruses and malware run rampant in whatever limited RAM is available. The networks are likely worse; creaky home connections shared by 15 other devices including the flying broom and crystal ball or an oversaturated coffee house DSL.
As a result, there is a lot of data – but like flying monkeys – it’s all over the place. It’s great for real time understanding of what is going on, and it is superb for identifying, analyzing and segmenting all the visitors but it can’t help predict outages or specify, build and plan digital infrastructures. Additionally, when users can’t reach you because your site is down or your ISP is having problems, RUM won’t actually provide any data. And if you don’t have data, you can’t track down your problems.
So you need both - synthetic for planning and monitoring your digital infrastructure. It helps anticipate the impact of promotions or events and constantly monitors how your properties are performing around the world - all according to precise scientific method. RUM is needed for understanding what your users are actually doing (versus what you planned), how they are experiencing your digital assets and for big data segmentation and optimization.
After all, what fun would it be to have flying monkeys if you don’t have Glinda around with her magic wand to clean up after them?