Tips on Selecting the Most Effective Alert Thresholds

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One of the most common features Web application monitoring solutions promote is their ability to alert administrator’s of specific errors and issues. This form of monitoring is known as alert thresholds, and for many application managers, it’s the lifeblood of their entire operation. Because modern Web applications are continuously growing in complexity and purpose, the need for dynamic and highly-advanced monitoring techniques is also ever-growing. In an attempt to rectify this need and provide the level of monitoring that’s essential for most modern enterprises, the most well-equipped monitoring solutions offer customizable alert thresholds.

While this is an imperative feature to look for in a monitoring solution, if you don’t properly utilize its functions, you won’t achieve the level of monitoring your application requires. Of course, every monitoring solution is different in terms of how the alert thresholds are designed and customized; however, there are several universal tips applicable to all monitoring tools regardless of size and function.

Tip #1 – Be Specific With Metric Alerts

Typically, a monitoring solution features specific pre-set alert thresholds for a specific list of metrics. While this is a great start, it is unlikely a great fit for your unique Web applications. Therefore, it’s imperative that you create a specific list of system and application metrics in which thresholds should be set. For example, set the performance thresholds for CPU performance, Disk Usage Space, Network Health, Web Server Health and Database Transactions.

Tip #2 – Setting Threshold Values Based Upon Historical Trends

While this may not be applicable for new Web applications that do not have a history of use and performance, those who are implementing a complete web application monitoring system on established applications must reference the baseline performance and operation of the aforementioned (and other) application metrics. As a general rule of thumb, the threshold value for specific metrics must be based upon the established performance baseline for your unique infrastructure. Don’t be afraid of implementing recommended values for specific metrics – this is especially important for those who are setting up threshold monitoring on new application deployments.

Tip #3 – Utilize Synthetic Monitoring to Establish Updated Thresholds

As your Web applications grow and become more complex, the use of synthetic monitoring is imperative to the establishment of new baselines. While you may have historical data for previously released application versions, newer versions may feature different performance trends and different utilization rates. Until the new version is used by a significant amount of users, exact threshold values are unknown – this is where synthetic monitoring comes into play. With synthetic monitoring, the monitoring tool interacts with the application as a “real user,” which provides basic-level performance and operation data. Utilize this data to establish first-run baselines.