What is Synthetic Transaction And How To Identify Your Problem?

Have you ever wondered how automated synthetic transactions are and the importance of automated testing?

If so, you are definitely not alone. Recognizing issues on your site or application before users begin to detect performance issues is essential for the long-term viability of your business. Finding out about issues as they occur, but it’s not easy even when you have specially-designed QA resources.

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It is especially the case when your product has complex functions dependent on highly efficient APIs and dependencies from third parties. We’ll look at the most effective ways to address the problem test on a larger scale using synthetic transactions.

What Are Synthetic Transactions?

Synthetic transactions result from executing scripts that simulate actual users’ actions carried out on an application or website. They are typically used to evaluate the efficiency of production environments. However, they can be used to test the capabilities of newly updated applications before their release.

You could, for instance, create a script to simulate users’ connection to your site via an identified entry point. The script can also contain any additional actions or navigation in a follow-up.

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In this scenario, you can use the script to verify the users’ access to specific resources regardless of location or access to your services. You can also use it to validate roles and access rights.

Another option is to simulate connections to databases. Utilizing artificial transactions that run at specific intervals, you can observe how your database or website will perform under different loads that affect real-time user activities.

Synthetic Transactions Vs. API Monitoring

The most significant difference between synthetic transactions and API monitoring lies in relying on software, not real people. They also both determine that the app is working as it should and provides the best user experience.

These are the ways they differ

  • Synthetic Monitoring mimics the behaviour of an application by emulating and simulations.
  • Monitoring APIs Checks APIs, both internal and third-party APIs that are used to communicate.

API transactions are a way to monitor an API that is used by many applications. Synthetic transactions are used to monitor applications that might utilize APIs. Together, they offer an extensive view of the transaction’s performance throughout its entire process.

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imageSource:https://www.catchpoint.com/guide-to-synthetic-monitoring/synthetic-transaction-monitoring

A fake transaction that tests the functionality of an application. It relies on both the application and APIs of third-party APIs

Best Practices for Synthetic Transactions

If you’re only beginning in the field of synthetic transactions, here are a couple of essential guidelines and best practices to use when creating your library of synthetic transactions.

Define a Naming Conversion for Transactions

Finding the perfect monitor, particularly when you’re trying to find it quickly, is a bit confusing. It is a frequent issue when you have several monitors that are aimed at a similar service. For instance, suppose there’s a ping check that checks the availability of your service every minute.

You also have a monitor that contains the entire user’s workflow. They are two different tools, but you can to simply differentiate them If they all target the identical production procedure.

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To avoid this problem, you should adopt naming conventions for transactions based on specific and clear guidelines. For instance, a naming convention built on Type – Service – ENV would translate into Ping – Webstore – Productions the name of your transaction’s synthetic version.

Assign Permissions to Protect Sensitive Data

Set up access based on role (i.e. authorizations) for sensitive information isn’t required; however, it is recommended. Giving everyone in the internal user group access to transactions isn’t optimal, mainly when specific scripts contain or retrieve sensitive information.

For instance, some software for monitoring synthetically does not allow obfuscation of credentials, which could affect the way you assign access based on role.

The more the number of monitors and users your company can manage, the more crucial it is to use permissions. Access to Role-Based Services is usually contingent on the user group.

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Limit groups by using the least privilege principle to limit access to your transaction library. It will help you safeguard sensitive information and ensure security.

Monitor Third-Party Applications

A lot of applications depend on APIs that are external to enhance the user experience. Music, weather information or meetings scheduled on calendars -all of these pieces of information need your assistance to work with third-party apps.

Making synthetic transactions available to these endpoints externally can assist you in monitoring third-party apps and spot significant changes, for instance, minor or considerable API version updates that affect the structure of response and request.

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Synthetic transactions allow you to track how your suppliers perform as well as a lookout for SLA violations. The availability of unbiased historical data on the record is crucial to keeping your vendors accountable for their promises.

Test New Features

Naturally, monitoring synthetic is essential at any point of development. It’s a fantastic tool to test new features prior to your site or application is made available to the public.

Synthetic Monitoring is a great way to find out about possible mistakes, and obstacles users could face. For instance, synthetic transactions can quickly verify the input field of an individual feature accept the correct input type’s list, which includes all expected numbers.

Test From Edge to Edge

With edge computing expanding its reach, it becomes more challenging to check all relevant locations without synthetic Monitoring. For instance, you could test hundreds of edges to verify that a critical update was made. It is what makes monitoring automated edge-to-edge crucial.

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Testing across multiple locations will ensure that the end-users have access and appropriate interaction using your apps. For instance, let’s say you’ve added a brand new store in your app which users can browse the available items or choose pickup options.

You could use synthetic transactions to determine if the store’s new populace in “stores near me” results in Google and that the shopping options are all readily available. Also, be sure to test areas with the primary user population and emerging regions where users are growing.

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Creating a synthetic transaction monitoring with a range similar to yours is the only way to verify the continuous updates from third-party providers or the first.

Set Alerts

Define Performance Thresholds

Determine thresholds for performance and availability of your synthetic transaction so that your team can quickly recognize troublesome trends. It would be best if you defined both globally (all locations that are violating) as well as localized 

Choose Alerting Pathways

You can be alerted of the drop in performance by a variety of methods. For instance, your alerting channels could include email, SMS and push notifications from your mobile device or an application like Slack, OpsGenie, or PagerDuty.

Setup Role-Based Ownership/Urgency Labels

The ability to segment alerts according to specific groups could also be beneficial when the responsibility for your application is shared by various product or engineering teams. For instance, the CDN alert could send to a specific CDN team, whereas an issue with a social tag could notify the campaign manager.

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Setting up roles-based ownership and urgency labels can help employees know what they have to be paying attention to. Overly noisy channels could get less attention. The specialized alerts, however, are more urgent.

Avoid Test Dependency

If you can, ensure that your fake transactions can be run in a separate and independent order. Do not create dependencies between tests to allow you to see how the entire application performs if a test is not successful.

It also lets you conduct multiple tests simultaneously without waiting for additional tests to be completed.

Pitfalls for Synthetic Transaction Testing

This section will discuss the various challenges and issues you may encounter while managing your synthetic transaction tests.

Captchas

Many websites utilize Captchas, which are intended to stop the kind of automatized (bot) Monitoring that is the basis of monitoring synthetic transactions. It makes using synthetic transactions to collect performance data more difficult.

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It is possible to circumvent Captchas by removing them from your test environment or by adding an option to allow tests to avoid these.

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor verification (2FA) operates by creating a unique temporary password using specific mobile applications such as SMS, email, etc. It isn’t easy to incorporate into an automated test.

You can turn off 2FA when you are in a testing environment, deactivate it for specific users, or deactivate 2FA for those who sign in from particular places (via IP addresses).

In light of the importance of security for data, It is recommended to choose an automated monitoring software that can integrate 2FA as a part of your test selection criteria.

Social Logins

We do not recommend signing into prominent websites like Facebook and Gmail using Selenium’s WebDriver API. It’s not just slow, but it also means you’ll be banned from your account.

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It is much more beneficial to utilize the APIs mail providers give and use the Developer Tools Service in Facebook logins. It may seem like extra effort to learn about the APIs rather than signing in to Facebook using the UI, but, in return, you’ll gain more speed and reliability.

Key Functionalities of Synthetic Transaction (Monitoring) Tools

Now that we’ve reviewed the rules and regulations for synthetic transactions. Let’s take a look at the features that a quality synthetic transaction Monitoring tool must include.

Support for different kinds of logins: It allows users to log in using SSO, Citrix, XenDesktop, AWS Workspaces.

Simulation of various protocols Allows users to utilize the power of REST, JSON, YAML, HTTPS (web), SMTP (email), ICA (Citrix), SQL (database) for different situations.

Replay and record: Enables you to record a user-driven event and then replay it instead of creating scripts. Revisions to specific classes without recording the entire transaction must also be feasible.

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Intelligent element locator: It Allows users to locate UI elements even as the design evolves over time.

Condition: Enables you to redirect transactions to wait until the completion of a different step or loop the transaction for a certain quantity of times.

Support for a variety of variables Allows users to use tests dynamically based on information such as the location.

Steps that can be reused: Enables you to reuse and rebuild simulation components to make new tests.

Continuous Integration: It allows you to execute scripts that are which are triggered by events that occur in the DevOps continuous delivery systems.

Validation and assertion: It enables you to verify the validity of a boolean expression as true or false before going on. The assertion validation could take the form of an HTTP 200 response or a JSON payload or in the form of text or images on the site.

Additionally, you need a Safe Harbour feature to ensure that your content meets privacy laws within a specific country. Furthermore, assertions may be employed in the absence of certain elements, like the availability of an item on online websites or stores.

Step-by-step measurement and event completion: It allows you to take a different measurement for each step. A completion signal, for instance, will let the monitoring node know when Monitoring is completed.

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Step-by-step analytics: It allows you to assess the availability and performance data for the whole transaction and its specific steps.

Execution time of the payload: Enables users to execute custom payloads and segregate them from the total transaction time.

Integration with Selenium: It enables you to compose tests quickly using the list of examples and functions available in the IDE.

Grouping of data: It allows you to separate subsets of data into specific measurements units (e.g. linked to a CDN or an infrastructure)

Conclusion: Using Synthetic Transactions is Critical

As you will observe, using synthetic transactions for your application or website is vital for an optimal user experience.

Synthetic transactions guarantee not just the stability of your application within an environment that is in production but also the authenticity for the endpoints that are external to your application it connects to and the data that it needs for your functions.

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Furthermore, synthetic transactions support the creation and QA testing by providing an expanded library of transactions that tests both the fundamental functionality and the system’s performance under stress.

Also, if you utilize synthetic transactions to evaluate your plans before you release them, they will be more reliable as time passes.

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