Get your head out of the clouds

Cloud obscures SaaS performance monitoring: Be wary of the limitations

Cher Zavala
© Shutterstock / rsooll

While cloud-based SaaS has been extremely useful for developers, that doesn’t mean they can sit back and relax. In this article, Cher Zevala explains why active performance monitoring is still necessary, as using the cloud adds an extra layer of complexity.

SaaS through the cloud seems like a godsend for busy developers. With SaaS, devs no longer expect to devote time and energy to monitoring license use; they expect to fix bugs and vulnerabilities automatically without the need for intermittent patches and updates; and they expect to rely on their cloud services provider to handle all user problems.

Unfortunately, this rarely occurs. While cloud-based SaaS is beneficial for developers and users due to its convenience, scalability, and cost, developers still must be active in monitoring the performance of their software as well as the satisfaction of their users. Yet, the cloud makes it exceedingly difficult to see and understand software and user experience. Thus, when striving to build cloud-based SaaS, developers must be wary of these limitations and willing to find solutions.

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Cloud obstructs applications

The cloud was aptly named, considering how it makes perception of applications and data more difficult. Indeed, there are a few ways the cloud obscures SaaS performance monitoring, including:

Developers don’t know much about their servers. Cloud services tend to come in tiers, with the most common and cheapest being shared server space and the most exclusive and most expensive being an entire server to one’s own. Yet, the truth is developers can’t be certain about anything concerning the servers they use. Barring in-depth research, devs don’t know where they are located or how loaded it is. However, both of these details can affect software performance.

Developers don’t control the network or security precautions. While a smart developer uses performance monitoring tools, improper regulation of the network might prevent such tools from functioning properly. If developers, SaaS vendors, or users have strong firewalls, monitoring may prove difficult.

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Users don’t alert developers when accessing SaaS applications. Because few SaaS developers have a sales team to peddle individual copies of their apps, most users contract the app without devs’ knowledge. Then, the first-time developers become aware of performance needs is when users start complaining en masse.

Users don’t use just one form of device or connection. The cloud is accessible from any device, be it a hardwired desktop or a Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone. The manner in which users access apps dramatically impacts performance needs, but without functional performance monitoring tools, developers have no way of identifying how or where users are interacting with their SaaS applications.

The importance of clear vision

Devs shouldn’t wait for their users to complain before recognizing there is an issue with their apps. For one, customers should have as few negative experiences as possible; if a problem is so persistent so as to warrant a complaint, hordes of users have likely already jumped ship without a word. For another, user complaints may not be indicative of a problem that developers can solve, such as app configuration issues and network issues.

Instead, it might be a vendor’s inability to meet the SLA, and developers will waste time and energy identifying issues they have no power to resolve. Thus, developers need to be able to monitor SaaS performance without obstructions — to keep customers happy and to keep vendors accountable.

Further, proactive monitoring allows developers to anticipate performance needs and provide users the functionality they desire before issues arise. In doing this, developers can reduce the number of customer service tickets, allowing them more time and space to address more specific problems sooner. Such are the benefits of application and network performance monitoring — and such are the downsides of the cloud.

SEE MORE: Major SaaS data security concerns: What can you do to minimize the risk?

Clear vision isn’t easy to obtain. Because devs’ ability to address issues is limited by the technology that delivers SaaS, tech-focused monitoring isn’t usually effective. Instead, developers should put more energy into observing user experience using tools that can bypass firewalls and track performance from end-to-end. Ideal metrics include invocation time, throughput, and quantity of users impacted. Additionally, testing mechanisms should include a variety of devices in a variety of locations, including high-powered desktops with ethernet and smartphones on public Wi-Fi — if not to dispel problems created by the cloud, then to ensure all users experience similarly functional service.

Performance problems aren’t just frustrating; they are unproductive for users and devs alike. Network and application performance monitoring tools allow developers to maintain steady service, increasing productivity for both groups.

Cher Zavala
Cher is a content coordinator who assists in contributing quality articles on various topics. In her free time, she also enjoys hiking, traveling and getting to know the world around her. Cher has built up many strong relationships over the years within the blogging community and loves sharing her useful tips with others.

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