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Performance is at the heart of any application’s success. As users rely on web applications to fulfill their everyday needs, a business’ success is now directly proportional to its applications’ performance. Hence, Application Performance Monitoring (APM) is critical for any company to deliver and maintain a top-notch user experience.
The demand for newer, better applications has led to the adoption of rapid application development approaches. While it decreases the development time, it also adds a lot of underlying complexity. Hence, today’s complex applications, including websites, present new challenges that can only be addressed with useful APM tools.
This article explores what an APM tool is, types of APM tools, typical APM features, and how you can use the Kinsta APM tool to manage various types of WordPress websites.
Sounds interesting? Let’s get started!
What is Application Performance Monitoring (APM)?
Application Performance Monitoring (APM) is the process of monitoring, managing, and staying on top of an application’s performance. APM includes monitoring both the application’s technical performance and its perceived performance by the users.
As today’s applications run on highly distributed infrastructure, all their components are in constant flux and are super complex to monitor. Therefore, a useful APM software must look across all the critical parts of an application to troubleshoot and manage its performance easier.
As a typical web application comprises varied components, monitoring each element’s performance metrics is essential to measure an application’s overall performance. The APM tool should crunch all the data and present it meaningfully via a streamlined dashboard. This way, you or your support staff don’t have to spend a lot of time interpreting the logged data.
As per Gartner, application performance monitoring tools can be defined as software that meets three primary criteria:
- Frontend monitoring involves user experience monitoring and synthetic transaction monitoring for both PC and mobile-based end users.
- Application discovery, tracing, and diagnostics involve multiple features such as the automated discovery of various application elements, such as web servers, platforms, frameworks, microservices, etc. Next, it involves determining the relationships between these elements and diagnosing their code. Finally, it comprises tracing how the application responds to user requests.
- Analytics refers to logging all the data generated by an application and then using various techniques to discover meaningful patterns. It helps you find the root cause of performance issues and anticipate future problems before they even occur.
By combining all the above features, Application Performance Monitoring tools makes it effortless to keep your applications performing at their best.
3 Different Types of APM Tools
You can classify APM tools into various types based on what they do.
Application Metrics-based APM Tools
These APM solutions primarily collect several app and server related metrics. The APM tool then uses this data to determine which of your application’s URL requests are slow. As they don’t profile the application’s code, they can’t tell you what’s causing the slowdown. It’s rare for popular APM tools to only monitor application metrics.
Code Profiling-based APM Tools
These APM products perform code profiling and transaction tracing, which can help you drill down to the performance issue’s exact cause. Many popular APM tools use domain-specific artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to profile various code types. Combined with application metrics, it helps them to identify the potential cause of any performance problem.
Network-based APM Tools
These APM tools focus on network traffic to measure application performance. As it requires highly specialized techniques, only a few APM tools do it. Hence, it has led to the creation of a new product category called Network Performance Monitoring.
Most APM tools, including Kinsta APM, fall into both the first and second types listed above.
Useful Features of Application Performance Monitoring Software
At the core of every APM software is gathering lots of data on how the application performs. However, developers need more than just data to gain practical insights from it. The APM needs to present the data with context so that you can get to the performance issue’s underlying cause swiftly.
Here are some of the most useful features supported by APM software.
Measure the Performance of Application Transactions
At the heart of every APM tool is measuring the performance of every request and response. Together, they’re called a transaction. Knowing this can help you figure out the most accessed requests in your application, the slowest ones, and the ones you need to focus on to optimize your application’s performance.
Monitor the Performance of Application Dependencies
Your application can also be slow because of an issue with one of its dependencies, such as database, caching, web server, a third-party service, and more. For example, a slow database query or server can impact your application’s overall performance. Issues with external HTTP web services and caching can also lead to the same outcome. Hence, it’s critical to monitor not just the application but also all its dependencies.
Measure Performance at the Code-Level
Knowing which request or transaction is not performing well is just the beginning. Figuring out why it is performing so is vital too. By profiling your application at the code-level, an APM tool can help you gain useful insights on the code that makes your application perform poorly.
Monitoring Server Resource Usage
Keeping a check on your server’s CPU and memory usage is essential, especially if you want to auto-scale your application according to the traffic. Here at Kinsta, we take care of it for you.
Centralized Application Logging System
Application log data and errors are critical for developers and support staff to fix application performance issues swiftly. While you can manually access all the numerous server logs through other means, having all the records in a centralized dashboard is super helpful.
Real User Monitoring (RUM)
Why You Need an Application Performance Monitoring Tool to Manage WordPress
WordPress is simple to use. And it’s one of its biggest strengths. But at its core, managing it is as complicated as any other web application or framework.
All WordPress sites hosted on Kinsta run on virtual machines powered by Google Cloud Platform. We utilize LXD managed hosts and LXC software containers to isolate each site with all the software required—Linux, Nginx, PHP, MariaDB—to run WordPress smoothly.
Combined with our built-in performance optimizations such as Kinsta Cache and Kinsta CDN, it makes Kinsta one of the fastest WordPress hosts.
As an application hosting, database hosting, and managed WordPress hosting provider, we take care of all the server optimization and maintenance tasks.
Our team uses Google Cloud Operations (formerly Stackdriver) and various SysOps tools to monitor and improve our cloud hosting environment’s performance.
Hence, even with so many varied technologies involved, it’s scarce to face server performance issues on a hosting provider such as Kinsta.
However, you cannot fix performance bottlenecks on your WordPress site as quickly. When things go sideways (and they do), it’s incredibly frustrating to debug and troubleshoot your WordPress site.
The unlimited customization possibilities WordPress provides through its plugins and themes also add extra layers of complexities. Moreover, we’re continually upgrading our tech stack to keep up with the newest, best technologies. And so is WordPress evolving at a rapid pace.
Hence, monitoring an application’s performance, such as WordPress (and its components) is difficult. This situation is especially true when there are hundreds or even thousands of sites to monitor. Here, an APM tool comes in super handy.
Kinsta APM Tool to the Rescue
Our Kinsta APM tool helps you identify performance issues on your WordPress site directly from your MyKinsta dashboard. It’s available on all Kinsta plans at no extra cost, so you don’t have to sign up for third-party application performance monitoring services like New Relic. Note: if they’d like to stick to New Relic, Kinsta customers can add their own license.
Tailored to monitor sites hosted on Kinsta, it captures and shows time-stamped data about your site’s operations: PHP processes, MySQL database queries, external HTTP requests, and more.
You can enable Kinsta APM to track your site’s performance over a specified period (30 minutes to 24 hours).
Once enabled, Kinsta APM will display the overall transaction time and the slowest transactions occurring on your site. These transactions trace back to the most resource-intensive requests on your site (e.g. admin-ajax.php, wp-cron.php).
Clicking on a transaction will take you to its transaction trace timeline, from where you can drill down what’s causing the issue.
By using the Kinsta APM tool, you can monitor and optimize WordPress sites to ensure maximum performance. It’ll enable you to pinpoint WordPress components that are causing problems quickly. Armed with that knowledge, you can then swiftly fix them.
Even if you can’t fix the issue on your own and need to hire a WordPress developer, knowing what’s causing the problem can help you save both time and money.
You can refer to our Kinsta APM knowledge base documentation to understand how it works in more detail.
Use Cases for Application Performance Monitoring
Here are some real-world examples of how application performance monitoring can help different types of websites.
Speed and performance is everything for an ecommerce site. The faster your ecommerce site loads, the better its shopping experience. According to Akamai, a 100-millisecond delay in page load can impact conversion rate by 7%, while a 2-second delay can increase bounce rates by a whopping 103%.
Then there’s downtime. If your ecommerce site is down for some users (or worse, for everyone), you lose revenue for every second of downtime. Even worse, it causes long-term damage to your brand’s reputation.
An ecommerce site has many services interacting with one another, both internal and external. Here, multiple components are working with each other: product catalog, product search, product reviews, user account management, inventory management, shopping cart, orders and shipping management, payment processors, security add-ons, personalized recommendations, third-party integrations, and more.
Some ecommerce sites also include Client Relationship Management (CRM) and email marketing software to better engage with their customers.
On top of all that, a modern ecommerce site runs on a complex tech stack, just like any other web application. For example, WooCommerce runs on WordPress, powered by PHP and MySQL database running a web server such as Nginx or Apache on an operating system such as Linux.
With so many elements involved, it’s not straightforward to find the reason for a performance issue or downtime. An APM tool can help you immensely here. In most cases, the APM tool will enable you to find a problem before it even occurs, ushering you to be proactive in fixing performance issues rather than be reactive towards them.
For instance, CafePress, a highly popular online gift store, faced regular downtimes on their ecommerce store. They were losing approximately 5.5% of their daily revenue for every hour of downtime their site had. CafePress used an APM tool to unearth the problem causing the downtime and fixed it quickly.
Kinsta APM enables you to do the same. For instance, you can use it to troubleshoot slow backend performance on your WooCommerce site. Doing so will show you a list of all the slowest transactions occurring on your site.
Clicking on any transaction sample will show you a time-stamped list of all the spans happening within it. This list is called the transaction trace timeline.
You can click any span item to get a detailed report about all the processes initiated within it.
Kinsta APM will intelligently try to determine what’s primarily responsible for this specific span. In the example shown above, it’s the WooCommerce plugin. The Stack trace details can help you understand where to look to troubleshoot performance issues on your WooCommere site.
Kinsta’s WooCommerce hosting plans are tailored to ensure that your online store performs brilliantly at all times. Now, you can also use Kinsta APM to optimize your ecommerce sites for performance and a better user experience. That’ll lead to higher revenue and profits.
Membership and Community Sites
Membership and community sites are a great way to monetize content and build a recurring source of revenue. However, sustaining them successfully is a monumental challenge as they involve a lot of concurrent logged-in users, complex queries, and high data storage requirements. Moreover, due to their highly personalized nature, most of the content they serve is uncacheable.
According to industry benchmarks, the long-term success of a subscription business hinges on minimizing the churn rate. And the best way to do that is by improving customer satisfaction. A large part of that depends on how well your site performs.
Hence, staying on top of your membership or community site’s performance is the key to attract new members and keep existing ones. Using an APM tool can help you do precisely that efficiently.
“Our group runs about 20 web applications, serving a community of about 100k users spread around the world. Since we started using Application Insights, we’ve found we have a much clearer view of our applications’ performance, and as a result, our users are seeing better performing and more useful apps.” — APM with Application Insights
The Kinsta APM tool can help you monitor if your membership site is performing well under load. And if not, you can use it to diagnose and troubleshoot the issue.
For membership or community sites built on the WordPress platform, most of the potential performance issues are the same as those faced by an ecommerce site. Except here, you’ll be using a membership plugin or a forum plugin instead of WooCommerce. If required, you can also use WooCommerce to handle the membership subscriptions and recurring payments.
No matter what you end up using, our Kinsta APM tool will enable you to gain new insights into how your members are using your site. Tracking such metrics is critical for the success of membership or community-driven sites.
Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to delivering a software product to the user directly via browsers or apps. It’s now become the leading delivery mechanism for many popular applications, especially those provided by large enterprises. Some popular examples include:
- Office Suite: Google Docs, Office365
- Messaging and Chat: Slack, Sendbird
- Accounting: Quickbooks Online, FreshBooks
- Invoicing: Wave, PayPal Invoicing
- Collaboration: Trello, Asana, Basecamp
- Marketing: HubSpot, MailChimp
- Human Resource Management: CakeHR, monday.com
- Graphic Design: Canva, Stencil
As SaaS users typically spend many hours using the application, they expect it always to perform well. If the users aren’t happy with your SaaS app, they can easily switch to another SaaS provider. Hence, SaaS apps need to maintain their performance under any load to succeed.
But monitoring and managing SaaS app performance is challenging. Most SaaS applications run on a multi-tenant architecture, wherein a single instance of the software serves multiple users simultaneously.
The demand for highly dynamic and interactive websites means SaaS apps also need to pull in dozens (or even hundreds) of assets from different third-party domains. Therefore, they’re more complex to manage in terms of server-side code and the network infrastructure used to deliver them.
For example, Crelate, a SaaS company focused on staffing and recruiting agencies, used an APM tool to find critical performance issues before becoming a disaster.
“Elder and his team have saved over $60,700 annually and several hundred hours a year through proactively identifying bottlenecks and performance issues thanks to Retrace’s immediate feedback loop at each stage of the SDLC.” — Crelate Case Study at Stackify
You can take advantage of WordPress’ versatility to use it as a platform. Some even call it WordPress as a Service (WPaaS). WordPress.com, a hosted version of the open source WordPress, is one of the most successful examples of a WPaaS.
Likewise, you can also use WordPress as a base to build various SaaS-type projects such as project management sites, real estate directories, business directories, online learning sites, and much more!
As our Kinsta APM tool works independently of how you use WordPress, you can monitor any type of SaaS application’s performance with it. Using our Kinsta APM tool will not just help you fix and avoid performance bottlenecks but also understand customer trends, reduce churn, and evaluate new business growth strategies.
Online Magazines and News Sites
Digital news consumption continues to grow at a steady pace. Whether it’s politics, entertainment, sports, memes, or a mix of everything, the online space now hosts many traditional and digital-native media outlets.
Growing online readership and increasing reader engagement are two of the toughest challenges faced by digital publishers. It’s also tiresome to monetize a high-traffic site properly without taking care of the user experience aspect first.
According to the State of User Experience report, readers have no patience for slow websites. They expect fast web performance on every device. That’s a challenge for high-traffic sites, especially those that serve a lot of rich media content.
Another way publishers can attract and retain audiences is through personalization. But doing it right and doing it well can be tricky. It also requires adding extra overhead to the site, and that can affect its performance.
“News organizations are increasingly betting that offering personalized content can help them draw audiences to their sites—and keep them coming back.” — Nieman Reports
While large media organizations can employ or hire a separate IT team to take care of their site’s performance, it’s not workable for small digital publishers to do so. An effective APM solution like our Kinsta APM tool, and a managed hosting solution, can help these publishers cut costs on their site performance optimization.
Digital publishers can also use an easy-to-use, open source publishing platform like WordPress to save on costs. Some of the largest online magazines and news sites, such as Wired, The New Yorker, and TechCrunch, use WordPress to reach millions of readers every day.
At Kinsta, we can help you do exactly that. For proof, read how Kinsta helped Open Plan Media, a UK-based digital publisher, serve 720k pageviews every single day with no hiccups.
Business and Enterprise Sites
Large companies and enterprises can use a website to showcase their products and services to millions of potential customers worldwide. Publishing useful content through blogs can also attract public attention and establish brand loyalty.
It’s common for enterprise sites to include features such as localization, multilingual content, and a network of smaller microsites. They often need complex role-based access requirements, too, all of which can complicate the site’s technical architecture.
Serving such a site for millions of international users in multiple languages is a huge undertaking. Doing that performantly without hurting the company’s workflow and business objectives is an even more significant challenge.
First, it requires an enterprise-grade hosting infrastructure backed by a world-class team of technical experts. Second, to ensure that site visitors are getting the best user experience, enterprises have to monitor every user interaction on their site thoroughly. And finally, it needs to be secure, scalable, and dependable.
Our Kinsta APM tool can help you immensely to stay on top of the site’s performance. It’ll break down performance issues based on multiple factors such as location, device type, user activity, code performance, and other application metrics. You can use these data points to get deep insights into application availability and performance.
WordPress checks off most of the technical features any enterprise site needs. It’s scalable, open source, updated frequently, SEO friendly, user friendly, and expandable. Plus, it can be customized to do almost anything you want.
According to BuiltWith, 3,459 of the top 10,000 websites use WordPress. Some famous examples include Mercedes-Benz, Sony Music, BBC America, Xerox, and Harvard Business Review. You can view more such examples in our 130+ WordPress Site Examples of Big Brands article.
At Kinsta, we help enterprises deliver secure and instantly scalable WordPress sites with remarkable performance. You can check out how we helped Intuit—the company behind brands like QuickBooks, TurboTax, and Mint—to scale their WordPress sites to serve millions of users every month.
Educational and Online Learning Sites
Online education has opened up new possibilities for teachers and students alike. For over a decade now, alternative forms of education delivered through Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), coding bootcamps, and online certification programs have continued to push the education industry forward slowly.
Some online education portals like Udemy and StraightLine have taken this trend a step further. For a monthly subscription, they offer students a chance to earn transferable college credits or extra credentials. Now, the pandemic has forced most high schools and universities online too.
Established MOOC platforms such as EdX and Coursera use various technologies to deliver courses to tens of millions of learners. However, today’s educational institutions are still stuck using simple “remote learning” classes via Zoom or Google Meet. But that needn’t be the case.
You can use WordPress for everything education related by using its many plugins, themes, and services. By setting it up as a Learning Management System (LMS) based site, you can easily teach online courses and train students remotely.
However, LMS sites face many of the same performance challenges as those faced by membership and ecommerce sites. They’re resource-intensive because of massive amounts of data (images, videos, forum threads), numerous logged-in users, uncacheable dynamic content, and complex database queries. If not taken care of properly, these issues can slow down your site considerably.
Our Kinsta APM tool provides a firm foundation to take charge of all these performance challenges. Whether you’re facing an issue due to a slow database query or an unoptimized LMS plugin, or a mix of both, you can use Kinsta APM to drill down to the exact cause quickly.
We’ve designed our hosting architecture from the ground up to run all the popular WordPress LMS plugins, including LearnDash, LearnPress, Sensei LMS, Lifter LMS, and more. As proof, learn how WP-Tonic powers membership and LMS sites with Kinsta.
Digital Agencies Managing Client Websites
Developing and launching client websites has never been easier, all thanks to WordPress. However, managing them all is a challenge, especially if you’re handling many sites. It’s a good problem to have, as finding decent clients is an even bigger task.
Typically, a digital agency handles maintenance, security, and performance for numerous WordPress sites. Every client has unique requirements, necessitating using various themes, plugins, and custom code. That complicates staying on top of all the sites’ performance.
But making sure that all the client sites perform brilliantly is crucial for a digital agency’s success. At Kinsta, we’re continually innovating to make doing that faster and more efficient.
For instance, our custom MyKinsta dashboard makes it hassle-free to manage multiple sites from a single screen. You can also use it to give clients full control over their sites.
“Kinsta is the best application, database, and managed WordPress host that you can find in terms of price, reliability and customer support, and they make my life so much easier. This has freed my time and allowed me to focus on other aspects of professional development, which in turn provides an added value to our clients.” — Jared Strichek, Enventys Partners
Kinsta APM is another such tool we’ve developed to make your job easier. You can use it to monitor the performance of all the client sites you manage. If a site is facing a slowdown, you can activate the Kinsta APM tool and quickly determine what’s causing the issue. It’ll point you in the right direction, helping you get the site back to speed.
Your clients will love the faster turnaround time on support tickets. And you’ll love the time and money saved on support costs while still maintaining service quality at the highest levels. Plus, it’ll free up your time to focus on other pressing needs, such as managing and growing your digital agency.
WordPress Multisite Networks
WordPress Multisite is one of the most exotic implementations of WordPress. It allows you to run a network of individual sites from a single WordPress installation. Whether you want to host many similar client sites, run multiple business sites, or manage a community network for a college or university, WordPress Multisite can help you set them up quickly.
However, Multisite networks present unique challenges that make it hard to maintain them and monitor their performance. As every subsite on a WordPress Multisite network uses the same server and database resources, they’re more prone to overloading and performance issues.
A standard WordPress installation may get away with code optimization issues if it attracts less traffic. However, that’s not the case with Multisite networks as there can be many smaller sites spread across the network. Even if one of the network’s subsite attracts high traffic, any unoptimized code can end up overloading the entire network.
If you’re using a cheap hosting plan to run a WordPress Multisite network, there are high chances that the entire network will collapse and become unresponsive. Hence, Kinsta supports WordPress Multisite only on its Pro and higher hosting plans.
When troubleshooting an application’s performance issues, an APM tool helps you find the needle in the haystack easily. Moreover, the APM tool will also proactively monitor all your applications’ code, requests, responses, user experiences, and more.
Since we’re obsessed with speed and performance, we recently released the Kinsta APM tool as a free new feature to all our customers, no matter the plan they’re using. This way, instead of manually checking every component of their WordPress site for causing any performance issue, they can start gathering insights through the built-in Kinsta APM and pinpoint the exact cause right away.
With the Kinsta APM tool on your side, you can now track your site’s performance and quickly monitor its overall health. And you might no longer have to depend on third-party tools like Query Monitor and New Relic to debug your site.
Whether you’re a Kinsta customer or not, rest assured: APM gives you a deeper, more granular understanding of what’s happening on your website or application, so you know exactly where to act.