Real User Monitoring vs Synthetic Monitoring

14 April 2021 at 10:00 by ParTech Media - Post a comment

Website monitoring is crucial in the digital world we live in. Your business will be judged on the performance of your website every single minute. This is not just done by your website visitors, but also by search engines.

Poor website performance or problems in your website translates to more people bouncing off. When more users bounce off, search engines rank your website lowers on the spectrum. To help you in the monitoring process we have two types of user monitoring tools viz. Real user monitoring and synthetic monitoring.

In this post, we will understand the key differences between the two.

Table of Contents

  1. What is synthetic monitoring?
  2. What is real user monitoring?
  3. Should we compare synthetic and real user monitoring?
  4. Advantages of synthetic monitoring
  5. Advantages of real user monitoring
  6. Why not just synthetic monitoring?
  7. Closing thoughts

What is synthetic monitoring?

Synthetic monitoring is a type of measurement you make on your website. It is done to make sure that your website is performing at the desired level. It makes sure that business crucial functions can be performed by users without any problems.

Here are some of the factors that are monitored as part of synthetic monitoring -

  • New customers who are signing up to try out your product
  • New customers who are creating an account on your website
  • Members that are logging in to your website
  • People that are on your shopping cart
  • People that are on your checkout tab
  • People that have completed the checkout process and bought your product
  • Customers and users who have submitted a form on your website

Synthetic monitoring involves the use of scripts to record the factors you want to measure on your website. It is not a continuous monitoring process, but a controlled process. The recorded data in synthetic monitoring does not belong to actual users. The data collected from synthetic monitoring points to users that have completed a certain task on your website.

In this way, it is not all-natural. That’s the reason we refer it to as synthetic monitoring.

What is real user monitoring?

Real user monitoring (RUM) is completely different from synthetic monitoring in multiple aspects. RUM continuously monitors how your users interact with your website. It is not something that is conditional or done on a periodic basis.

Real user monitoring keeps recording data the moment the user hops onto your website. From there and until the time the user leaves your website, all the data is recorded. This will help you get a bird’s eye view of your website’s performance.

Some things that are part of RUM are:

  • Tracking page loads in real-time as each user logs on
  • Get an average of the loading time of each page on your website
  • Understand how your website performs on different operating systems and browser
  • Understand how your website performs on different devices (Android, iOS, etc)
  • Analyze the performance of your website, relative to the location of the user.

Real user monitoring shows what your users are doing and what pages they are visiting in real-time. You can watch each new user and analyze their user journey in real-time. To summarize, Real user monitoring shows the web pages being loaded in real-time for real users from real locations.

Should we compare synthetic and real user monitoring?

Comparing synthetic and real user monitoring does not make any sense. They both aren’t opposites or competitors fighting against each other. They are two factors that work together in tandem.

Synthetic monitoring gives you access to a constant and controlled data stream. This data stream does not change as long as you change the core conditions. This allows you to get targeted data that will help you make business crucial decisions. But synthetic monitoring will not give you an overall idea about website performance. Since it is conditional, it will not record all the data. This gives you certain blank areas in your data stream.

This is where real user monitoring helps. It records all the data on your website and helps you analyze the overall performance of your website. In a way, you can say that synthetic monitoring is a subset of real user monitoring. But that’s not totally accurate either.

Having one of both is good for your website. But having both is always better. While synthetic monitoring can help you improve very specific issues, real user monitoring will provide you with full visibility.

Combine both of them and you have an excellent weapon in your arsenal. You can identify several shortcomings and run tests to improve them. You can also make sure that your website is fast enough to satisfy your users. Data from both of them will also help you analyze the effectiveness of your current website UX. In short, using both in tandem will leave you with a super fast and high-performing website.

Advantages of synthetic monitoring

Here are the top use cases and benefits of synthetic monitoring -

  • It allows you to simulate the user journey in a controlled setup
  • It allows you to run tests that affect the business in a major way
  • It allows you to schedule tests in regular intervals on your website
  • You can monitor transactions that are complex and consist of multiple stages.
  • Test the performance of your website in specific geographical locations
  • Test the performance of your website on specific devices and operating systems
  • Set a benchmark and measure your website performance with competitors
  • Run and measure A/B tests to improve the performance of your website
  • Track the Service Level Agreements of your website across particular geographies and devices

Advantages of real user monitoring

Here are the top use cases and benefits of real user monitoring -

  • Collect user data in real-time
  • Collect data without any filters or conditions
  • Monitor the user experience and journey with a real-time dashboard
  • Record user clicks and journeys on your website for analysis
  • Calculate conversion rates based on conditional setups
  • Read historical data to predict user behavior and make changes according to it
  • Read data by applying filters after it has been recorded
  • Gather user data across all conditions and see how they fulfill business KPIs

Why not just synthetic monitoring?

Here are some reasons why you cannot just use synthetic monitoring in your project -

It is not based on real users

Synthetic monitoring is based on simulated users run by your conditions. So the overall performance cannot be measured with this. Or a better way to out this is - overall performance should not be measured using synthetic monitoring

It can only help you answer specific questions

Synthetic monitoring works on an artificial approach, where the system probes your website at regular intervals. This allows you to answer certain questions like -

  1. Is my website up and running?
  2. Is my checkout process working right now?
  3. Are my conversion crucial tabs working flawlessly?
  4. Is the login function working on my website?

Closing Thoughts

While Synthetic monitoring can help you answer questions you already have, it cannot help you find new questions. You don’t get the data to form new hypotheses, that would eventually allow you to set more probes. That can only be done with data obtained from a real user monitoring system.