How to Head Off Application Glitches at the Pass

You don’t have to wait for a coding error, data loss/corruption, security breach, or performance issue to prepare your operations and development teams for a potential IT crisis.
Effective application monitoring can help prevent hiccups from becoming remediation nightmares. This article discusses how monitoring best practices helps keep software applications operating effectively and efficiently by proactively identifying issues that require developer assistance.
Importance of application monitoring
Newer applications typically have built-in monitoring capabilities that make error identification quicker and easier and can tip off developers to a potential issue. However, legacy applications, because of their age, typically do not, putting the most critical parts of these applications at risk.
The good news is that monitoring capabilities can be integrated into these older applications. When integrating application monitoring capabilities, frequency and robustness need to be considered first, along with the following:
● Ample contextual information around the error that occurred, (e.g., a
specific line of code and a specific error).
● A dashboard that pinpoints when an application error occurs and
automatically alerts support about the error for peace of mind.
Application monitoring in action
Let’s examine some examples of how an application monitoring tool can help developers spot a particular security issue. An example is a tool that logs every request to the application and  identifies users who are not authorized—and therefore suspect. A developer could then add new code to strengthen prevention of unauthorized access to this application or a function of this application.
In addition, a tool would track each user’s entire path of activity. If the tool reveals that a user looked up sensitive information, the developer can establish access controls that protect privacy and forbid access abuse. You can imagine how critical this type of application monitoring is to the healthcare industry’s patient data under HIPAA.
Another function of a monitoring tool is full data change tracking. Every transaction that changes data within an application is tracked, including the original data and how it was changed.
This kind of monitoring is critical for allowing the financial services industry to identify accounts that have been compromised by a hacker to allow fraudulent activity, such as large withdrawals. Think of a similar situation with an accounts payable application that’s been hacked and had vendor names and addresses changed.
Event Messaging and Function Analysis
Event Messaging charts specific preconfigured events that are triggered and require a developer to figure out when and why they occurred. For instance, let’s say an ecommerce site experiences an event that empties all carts en masse. Imagine the lost revenue such an event could cause, as well as the frustrating user experience that could cost the online retailer customer loyalty. The event message prompts the developer to investigate, learn that the event was poorly written, and fix it.
Log file scanning enables the monitoring tool to extract errors and key events that need attention. The application writes activities to the log file, which in turn provides tracking information about all activity involving the application —who is using it, when, how often, etc.
Transaction volume by application function provides valuable information about data throughput and deviations of throughput. This is essentially an assessment of the application’s performance (e.g., how often is a function being used, how long does it take a function to execute a command). For instance, if the volume of a function is climbing, this may indicate a need for performance improvement—possibly adding a micro-service that would enhance scalability—and thus provide a better user experience.
Errors by function monitors the volatility of the application’s core functions. The ability to identify functions within an application that are consistently generating errors cues the need for developers to rewrite/clean up those functions to enhance stability and mitigate user frustration.
Developer expertise
Take advantage of the subject matter expertise of your developers by assigning them to particular kinds of alerts. Are they a guru regarding file upload, user interface, etc.? Categorize them by groups and subgroups and consider assigning a multi-talented developer to multiple groups. It makes sense that the more familiar a developer is with a particular area, the easier it will be for them to identify the catalyst that prompted the issue and figure out how to fix it more quickly.
Or if you discover your developer team is missing a certain subject matter expert, you might consider looking to an outside service company to fill those gaps. In that case, let’s have a conversation.
Jon Raymer

Written by Jon Raymer

Jon Raymer is a lead developer at Lighthouse Software. Passionate about software, his focus is on building web applications utilizing Angular and ASP.NET Web API, helping our clients streamline their business through the use of technology. He has a degree in Computer Science from the University of MN Duluth.