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End-user experience monitoring tools can provide the data IT professionals need to resolve the issues users face every day.
In the not-so-old days of end-user experience monitoring, IT professionals could not easily identify the source of a user's problem because they did not have insight into the underlying infrastructure and systems. Too often, the support technician would check the user's computer and find nothing obviously wrong. All he could do was tell the user to reboot and call back if the issue persisted.
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Today, user experience is more important than ever. When users can't work with their technology optimally, there is a direct negative effect on the organization. In the past, IT relied heavily on individual technical experience in sleuthing potential causes or subjective gut feelings, rather than using hard data to identify the source of problems. In the current age of big data and analytics, end-user experience monitoring tools can make a difference.
Take user experience monitoring up a notch
System monitoring is not a new concept -- knowing when a critical network is down or a disk is full is commonplace in a modern data center -- but the new breed of end-user experience monitoring tools that focus more on the users' perceived experience instead of systems availability is.
The system may be available, the network running normally and the CPU not busy, but the user has a problem. The desktop might have lethargic response times when using the company's enterprise resource planning software, or logging into a PC might take minutes instead of seconds. Traditional troubleshooting tools frequently miss the whole picture of what is affecting the user because the focus is too narrow. These tools might suffice when a single desktop user has an issue, but IT pros can't use them to collect and correlate data across the entire organization.
A modern desktop accessing even a simple application uses many components. A typical web-based application may have to traverse multiple WAN links, intermediary routers, internet connections, firewalls and a load balancer before it even talks to the application server. Then, the application server may get its data from a local database server or cloud source. A user might access his files locally, but also have a file share mapped to an overseas office. In short, there's a lot of complexity.
How can end-user experience monitoring tools help?
End-user experience monitoring tools bring customer-facing measurements front and center. They collect a vast array of data. Many of the performance counters end-user experience monitoring tools compile do not require any special software. The strength of these products comes from centralizing the data from disparate sources over many hosts and correlating it into meaningful results.
Collecting data from the entire desktop supply chain yields a mountain of detailed information. For example, IT can collect data on how long it takes users to log in and break that information down into how long it took to contact a domain controller, load a user's profile data, process Group Policy and map drives and printers. End-user experience monitoring tools ingest the volumes of data that can overwhelm any IT pro and distill potential root causes to help IT zero in on where to concentrate its efforts.
A dashboard that highlights current trouble areas is eminently useful. When a user complains her computer is slow, for example, support technicians who do not have modern end-user experience monitoring tools at their disposal can't always help because the problem has seemingly passed by. By recording user experience metrics to a database, IT pros can rewind to when the user had the issue and see the state of key performance indicators on the workstation.
End-user experience monitoring and VDI
The process of finding where performance issues lie gets even more complex with virtual desktops. IT pros have to keep an eye on how the remote display protocol, which delivers the desktops over the network, performs. They also have to know if users require graphics processing, which can easily bottleneck performance. Because users can access their virtual resources anywhere with an internet connection, IT must also keep the users' locations in mind. Monitoring protocol latency, packet loss and network jitter -- where latency swings wildly -- data is important to identifying when the problem is on the user's end or if something within the organization's systems is at fault.
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