Synthetic User Monitoring vs Real User Monitoring

Encora | February 11, 2022

Whatever your business is, you likely depend on online assets like web or mobile applications to do your job well. Any tool used to do a job needs to be monitored and maintained. The performance, availability, and reliability of the digital world (things like websites and apps) depends on website monitoring. Website monitoring solutions help you to precisely pinpoint where your website needs improvement, how well your applications are performing, and how they’re both doing in comparison to your competitors. There are two main types of website monitoring. Real user monitoring (RUM) is a passive tool for monitoring your website, while synthetic monitoring will actively monitor your site. In this article, we’ll be comparing RUM and synthetic monitoring, and discussing how they complement each other. 

What is Synthetic User Monitoring?

Synthetic monitoring is an active method for gathering performance data by imitating real users. Traffic is manually stimulated to monitor how the website or application responds when confronted with a specific set of variables such as where the user is located, the type of network they’re on, and what type of device they’re using. 

  • Advantages of synthetic user monitoring

Here are some of the advantages of synthetic user monitoring. You can monitor your website or application 24/7, without effort on your part. There are active alerts of availability issues affecting your website or application. Remote sites’ reachability problems are easily identified with synthetic user monitoring.  

  • Disadvantages of synthetic user monitoring

The main disadvantage of synthetic user monitoring is that it is only imitating a real user experience, and unlike RUM, is not measuring a real user’s experience. So the information gathered from synthetic testing isn’t what users are experiencing. Another disadvantage to synthetic monitoring is that it doesn’t understand when there’s an issue on the user’s device that could be impacting application performance. So, when it comes to helping with end-user complaints, synthetic monitoring doesn’t provide the necessary information. 

What is Real User Monitoring?

Real user monitoring (RUM) uses passive approaches to gather information about users and the performance of the website or application being monitored. With RUM, website performance metrics are collected without impacting site operationality. RUM constantly observes, gathers, and analyzes every interaction an end-user has with the website or application. It generates information about their functionality and responsiveness, both of which are important features for a good user experience. 

  • Advantages of the real user monitoring

It’s easy to understand your users when you use RUM because you can see exactly what they are doing, along with demographic information. Using RUM also allows you to quickly identify areas on your site that need consideration. RUM gathers data about users who have different devices, browsers, and networks. This is just one way RUM helps you identify key usage trends of end-users. 

  • Disadvantages of RUM

Baselines and comparison benchmarks with competitors’ websites or web apps are challenging to set up with RUM. Since RUM uses real traffic on your site to gather data, this makes it hard to create accurate benchmarks. RUM relies on real traffic to gather information. This isn’t helpful if you are trying to uncover and solve bugs or have a problem with a low-traffic part of your site. Finally, the large amount of data RUM generates can be challenging to utilize. 

Synthetic vs. Real User Monitoring

Here are some comparisons between synthetic and RUM.

Synthetic Monitoring

Real User Monitoring

Only simulated transactions or user accounts are monitored. 

Every user is monitored. Problems with a customer transaction or account are quickly found. 

Able to use consistent performance metrics for user experience.

A consistent measure of performance is challenging. 

Designed to emulate the user path, gives a better end-to-end picture

Real UX is captured with no mirroring.

Good for SaaS applications on the cloud. 

SaaS may be more difficult to use. 

Simulates interactions users have with websites or applications.

Observe real user interactions with websites or applications. 


How Synthetic and Real User Monitoring Complement Each Other

Both synthetic monitoring and RUM help keep track of application and website performance in important ways, even though they go about this monitoring very differently. You can gain valuable information about “user behavior, network latency or bottlenecks, performance trends, and the overall health of the web application.”

Both main monitoring methods, synthetic and RUM, have the same goals of improving application performance by giving clarity and insight into every step within the application delivery chain. RUM and synthetic monitoring make good teammates and work well together to better accomplish your goals for website and application monitoring. A successful monitoring solution will use both methods to create a complete view of your website or applications. They will work together to help you create online assets that are fast, reachable, reliable, and tailored to the unique needs of your end-user. 

Encora Uses Synthetic Monitoring and RUM to Help You Grow

If you’re ready to leverage the data generated by website monitoring, the expert team at Encora can help determine what combination of synthetic and real user monitoring would best serve your organization. Learn about your users’ experience and leverage web monitoring to help your website or application perform successfully. Contact us today to get started. 

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