The number of application performance management (APM) solutions is enough to leave modern businesses overwhelmed by choice.
With such a competitive marketplace, it’s important to find the right points of comparison so you can decide on an APM platform to pick.
If you haven’t used APM tools before, knowing which features matter most is impossible, so here are the main aspects of any package you should weigh up as part of your search.
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First of all, the APM tool you use has to provide suitable support for the types of platforms your software apps run on.
This can vary significantly, with some tools encompassing lots of different operating systems, while others are more focused.
For example, in the case of AppDynamics vs Datadog, the former prioritizes Apple-based platforms like iOS and Mac, while the latter extends this to include Windows and Android as well.
The same applies to the programming languages and frameworks which are supported for performance monitoring purposes. It’s a case of checking whether your ecosystem of choice is catered to, whether that might be Java, Ruby, C++, PHP, Scala, or anything else in between.
An APM tool is only useful if you have the skills and knowledge to harness it effectively. It’s clear, then, that a high-quality example needs to come with the right resources to show you the ropes and keep you up to speed with any changes made by the provider.
In the past, it might have been a priority for a tool to come with the option of in-person training for team members. However, in an age when remote work and virtual meetings have become normal, this is no longer a deal-breaker, even if it would be nice to have.
The online equivalent of in-person training is still arguably essential, as while you can get all the info you need from documentation, this rarely matches the experience of having a human instructor there to guide you through the ins and outs of an APM tool and answer burning questions.
Some brands also include webinars as part of their training resources, although this may carry less relevance depending on how you use the tool and how your team is structured.
It should go without saying that a service that is built to monitor app performance should do just that, but what matters from a comparative perspective is how it goes about this, and how the data is presented to you.
From monitoring applications at the level of the code itself to assessing the infrastructural elements and tracking server performance, it is once again about looking at what you need from a solution and using this to determine APM tool suitability.
Without an intuitive, informative interface, the usability of any software will suffer. This is particularly apparent in the world of APM tools, where a lack of care and attention in this department can leave you incapable of making full use of the features it puts at your disposal.
The standard dashboard should be straightforward, of course, but better still is a service that empowers you with personalization opportunities.
This again goes back to the idea that you will have specific app performance management needs that are unique, and so the ideal tool to meet them has to take this on board.
For instance, you might need to organize your dashboard to focus on metrics relating to application uptime, or you might be more interested in looking out for bugs and errors. Whatever your priorities, the interface is the one feature that can help you handle them efficiently.
Following on from the importance of interface design and customization, you need to see how APM tools allow collaboration between multiple team members and any other users that might need to get involved in the development and management of your applications.
Extending the customization options to factor in multiple users, and also allowing data and insights to be shared broadly without any snags, will give the right solution the edge over its rivals.
It is of course important to be able to do this securely, especially if the nature of the collaboration involves third parties from outside of the organization.
No development team functions with just one piece of software to keep their projects moving forward, so APM tools must be capable of integrating with the other services you are already using right now, or you intend to adopt in the near future.
Full-blown integration or basic compatibility should be listed by APM tool providers, meaning it should only take a few moments to work out if a given package is the right fit.
Furthermore, it is useful if the provider gives you an idea of how different integrations will interact with and impact one another when brought under the APM umbrella. This could alert you to any potential conflicts or messiness which you’ll want to avoid.
As an enterprise customer of an APM tool, you need to know that if something goes awry or you have issues that need addressing, you are able to get the support you need from the provider without having to jump through hoops.
Top services will give you ample support options, with online assistance during normal business hours being the minimum you should see as acceptable in this context.
If you cannot tolerate any downtime whatsoever, round-the-clock support may be a selling point, but this usually comes at additional cost, factored into the price of the tool.
We have not touched much on the matter of the price of APM tools, and this of course could sway you in the direction of one package even if another has slightly more suitable features for your use case.
So long as your budget can stand it, you should aim to adopt a solution that serves the best interest of your business and its applications, and not make compromises just to save a few pennies.