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Monitoring tool strategies

Monitoring tool strategies

You can't put a nail in your wall without a hammer. Specialist problems require specialist tools, and the same can be said when it comes to application monitoring.

In this Learning Center article, we'll help you understand what approach you should take when deciding how to monitor your application.

What's a monitoring tool strategy?

A monitoring tool strategy is your approach to curating, implementing, and utilizing monitoring tools for your application.

To create a strategy, you first need to consider the following key points:

Why do you want to monitor your application?

There are many reasons why you would want to monitor your application:

Track error exceptionsTo see when and where errors occur in your application.
Monitor and optimize performanceTo spot bottlenecks in your code, such as poor response times or database queries.
Be notified when a specific threshold is metSuch as response time, CPU usage, or memory usage.
Identify performance anomalies and patternsUnderstand the root causes of specific anomalies in your application's performance, for example, identifying and monitoring a recurring performance issue.
ScalingMonitor your application's performance as it scales, making it easier to identify and resolve performance issues and optimize your stack configuration.
Behavioral insightsUnderstand why your application behaves in a certain way, with deeper insights into actions and the ability to store and query application logs from various logging sources.

What metrics meet your monitoring needs?

Once you've settled upon your monitoring goals, it's important to understand what metrics you should monitor to achieve them.

Some key metrics include:

Response timeMeasures the time it takes for your application to respond to user requests.
ThroughputTracks the number of requests or transactions processed by your application over time, giving you insights into the application's workload and capacity.
Error rateMonitors the occurrence of errors and exceptions in your application.
Database queriesTrack the execution time of database queries, helping you identify and optimize slow queries.
CPU and memory usageMeasures the utilization of CPU and memory resources by your application to help you identify and optimize operations that require a large amount of CPU/Memory.

Once you understand what metrics you wish to actively monitor, you need to decide upon the acceptable ranges for these metrics, i.e., when do you want a monitoring tool to notify you? (For example, when throughput increases by 20% within an hour).

It's important you configure your monitoring tool to notify you of the things that matter. Otherwise, you risk getting alert fatigue, where you receive so many notifications that they all lose urgency, and you risk unintentionally ignoring critical issues.

Things to consider when choosing your tools

Choosing a tool (or the tools) you need to monitor your application can be overwhelming. With so many different tools, features, and pricing plans, it can take time to understand what you really need.

However, if you understand your monitoring goals and needs, you can begin to look more critically at various monitoring tools and choose one that suits you best.

With this in mind, use the following points to help choose the monitoring solutions that are optimal for you:

What do you need today, and what will you need tomorrow?

Evaluate your monitoring needs and consider how they will change in the future. If your application is expected to scale, look for a monitoring tool that can scale alongside your application's needs.

Consider the metrics you intend to monitor and those you will need to monitor in the not-too-distant future. When possible, aim to select a monitoring tool that can best monitor those metrics to mitigate the risk of needing to find an additional tool or change provider.

Your budget

Consider your budget when choosing the correct tooling. If a service offers a discount, work out if you can still afford the service once the discount expires.

Most monitoring tools charge based on usage. Your usage may increase or decrease over time. Before committing to a plan, or a long-term contract, trial a tool to understand your application's actual usage and avoid nasty invoice surprises.

AppSignal, for example, has a relaxed upgrade policy. We will only upgrade your plan if you exceed 10% of your plan's limit for two out of the three most recent months. So you don't need to worry that our monitoring of your application will stop during a one-off peak.

Other providers may not be so generous. Be sure to understand how their upgrade policy works before handing over any credit card details!


When choosing a monitoring tool, you will likely interact with it daily. To help you choose the best tool, consider how easy it is to use. Usability can include:

  • The UX. You shouldn't need a PhD in rocket science to navigate it!
  • How easy it is to integrate your application with the tool.
  • Documentation quality.
  • The ability to collaborate (through sharing deep links or allowing multiple users to sign in with their accounts, for example).
  • How easily you can access and analyze data.
  • The quality, accessibility, and availability of support, just in case you need to talk to an actual human.

Third-party compatibility

Which other tooling does the monitoring tool integrate with? Does it integrate into tools you already use, like Jira or Slack? Look out for solutions that integrate seamlessly with the tools you already use daily.

One tool or many tools?

There may be instances when you need multiple tools to monitor your application. Let's consider the following core monitoring needs:

  • Application performance monitoring
  • Log monitoring
  • Uptime monitoring

There may be a one-size-fits-all solution for these needs. However, perhaps a tool doesn't support TCP socket or SSL certificate monitoring, which are vital for your application's monitoring needs. In this case, seeking an alternative uptime monitoring tool with that functionality may make sense.

When choosing multiple tools, it's important to ensure they fit into your workflow, complement one another, and do not create information silos or vacuums. Choose tools that integrate with your core communication tools, such as Slack or Discord, to keep communication centralized.

Analyzing data

When analyzing your application's monitoring data, ensuring you have the right tooling is crucial for obtaining clear and actionable insights.

Look for monitoring tools offering intuitive dashboards that visualize key metrics data, alongside options to share or export data for collaboration and further analysis.

Once you've chosen a tool, it's important to regularly use it, familiarize yourself with how your application typically behaves, and establish a "baseline". Understanding your application's typical performance patterns will help you quickly spot any changes or potential problems when you analyze the monitoring data, so you can set up triggers and alerts more effectively.

In short: ensure your monitoring tool of choice allows you to quickly access and understand the metrics you need to monitor.

Choose wisely

To summarise, when choosing a monitoring tool, it's important to consider:

  • Your monitoring goals
  • What metrics you need to monitor to achieve those goals

With that in mind, you need to find a monitoring tool that:

  • Monitors your application's critical metrics
  • Fits within your workflow and eco-system
  • Is usable and integrates well with your application
  • Fits within your budget

We recommend properly understanding your application's monitoring needs and trialling various tools to see which works best for your application.

AppSignal: the developer-driven APM tool

AppSignal was built with your needs in mind, helping you monitor your application's critical metrics. We offer:

  • An intuitive interface that can be used with confidence.
  • Automatically generated performance dashboards of the most important tools in your stack.
  • Simple and predictable pricing.
  • Developer-to-developer support.

If you're looking to monitor your application with AppSignal, we offer a generous free trial period, and our dev-to-dev support is on hand should you need help along the way. We're always happy to provide honest advice on what solution might best fit your needs.

Start your free trial

Don’t let the bad bugs bite. Try AppSignal for free.

AppSignal offers a 30-day free trial, no credit card is required. All features are available in all plans. Start monitoring your application in just a few clicks!