What is synthetic monitoring?

Elisa Keller
Digital Marketing Strategist
February 15, 2024

Ensuring the constant availability of your website is crucial for satisfying user expectations and maintaining a competitive edge. This article dives into synthetic monitoring, a powerful monitoring technique geared towards simulating user interactions and preventing potential downtimes before they impact your users. You'll learn the ins and outs of synthetic monitoring, how it compares to real user monitoring (RUM), and the vital role it plays in safeguarding your website uptime. We will also guide you through setting up synthetic monitoring with services like WatchSumo, interpreting the data to hone your site's performance, and detailing the importance of updating your synthetic tests to resonate with evolving user behaviors.

Understanding Synthetic Monitoring

At its core, synthetic monitoring consists of simulating the steps a user might take when interacting with a website or application. Instead of passively waiting for real users to encounter problems, this proactive approach allows you to create scripted transactions imitating user interactions. These could range from simply loading a webpage to executing complex actions like completing a checkout process. By regularly running these scripts, you can consistently monitor your site's uptime and functionality, thus ensuring a smooth user experience around the clock.

Distinguishing itself from Real User Monitoring (RUM), synthetic monitoring does not rely on actual traffic or users. While RUM captures and analyzes the experiences of real visitors to your website, providing insights into performance and user satisfaction after an interaction has occurred, synthetic monitoring takes a more hypothetical approach. It's based on preset paths and interactions that developers and QA teams expect to represent the typical user experience. This critical distinction means that issues can be identified and addressed even without real-time user data, often before they affect your user base.

Operating through these scripted scenarios, synthetic monitoring is invaluable in constantly assessing the health and responsiveness of your website. The scripts are run at regular intervals from various global locations, which mirrors a diverse range of user conditions and uncovers issues such as slowdowns or errors within specific geographic regions. This proactive surveillance serves as a sentinel, ever-watchful for performance dips or downtime that might otherwise go unnoticed until it's too late.

The Importance of Synthetic Monitoring in Website Uptime

Synthetic monitoring serves an essential role in predicting website downtime before it affects your real users. Imagine scripted bots that continually interact with your site as if they were visitors; these bots perform predetermined paths, such as logging in, checking out a product, or searching for content. By simulating these actions, often from various global locations, synthetic monitoring can detect issues like slow load times, broken links, or server errors, often signaling an impending downtime event before it happens. This early warning system allows you to react promptly, ensuring that minor hiccups don't escalate into significant outages.

Moreover, synthetic monitoring is a keystone for proactive problem resolution. It provides a continuous feedback loop that alerts you immediately when something goes awry, giving you a chance to fix issues before they impact your audience. Instead of waiting for user complaints, you can address the root causes of problems swiftly, minimizing the chance of extended downtime or compromised user experiences. Regular reports and alerts mean that you are always at the forefront, keeping your digital presence healthy and reliable.

Maintaining an optimal user experience relies heavily on constant monitoring. It’s not just about uptime; it’s about interactive and transactional smoothness. By using synthetic monitoring as part of your overall web performance strategy, you ensure that your users have consistently positive interactions with your website, essential for retaining customers and maintaining a professional online status. Regular synthetic checks are like having a dedicated team that ensures everything runs smoothly, so you can focus on growing your brand without the constant fear of unexpected downtime syndromes.

Setting up Synthetic Monitoring for Your Website

Embarking on the journey of setting up synthetic monitoring might seem daunting, but with the right tools, it's a smooth process. Consider employing a reputable external monitoring service like WatchSumo. Using such services is invaluable; not only do they handle the intricate setup for synthetic transactions, but they offer additional benefits that could be critical for your site's health and reputation.

One of the immediate upsides of using an external service is the activation of customized alerts and notifications. Having the ability to tailor your notifications ensures that you are informed in real-time should any part of your website experience issues. Imagine receiving an SMS or an email the moment your checkout page stalls or when there's an unexpected spike in load time. This prompt notification system facilitates timely incident response, keeping your website's uptime optimal and your users content. It's a proactive approach that can save you from potential revenue loss and ensure your website's reliability.

Interpreting Synthetic Monitoring Data

Once you've initiated your synthetic monitoring strategy, making sense of the data collected is crucial. This typically involves analyzing response times, error rates, and uptime percentages. These indicators reveal your website's health and performance from the perspective of a user experience. A spike in response times, or a sudden increase in errors, can be prominent red flags, prompting you to take immediate action.

For example, if you're monitoring every five minutes and see that your site's response time jumps from 500ms to 2500ms, it would be wise to investigate potential causes, such as server overload or script inefficiency. Consolidating these findings, you might update your caching strategy or optimize your site's images and scripts to improve loading times.

Regular revisions of your synthetic tests are equally important, as they must evolve to match how real users interact with your website. With each deployment or feature update, adjust your synthetic monitoring to cover new functionalities or user paths. This proactive approach ensures that you're always aware of how changes affect site performance, keeping you a step ahead in maintaining optimal website uptime.


In summary, synthetic monitoring is an essential tool in the arsenal of website management, specifically for ensuring website uptime. Its ability to predict and pre-empt downtime through scripted simulations of user journeys differentiates it markedly from real user monitoring (RUM). With the right approach to synthetic monitoring, you can not only foresee potential problems but also streamline proactive resolution, significantly enhancing user satisfaction. By integrating services like WatchSumo, and using personalized alerts, you can maintain a pulse on your website's health, reacting promptly to any incidents that could impact user experience. Moreover, interpreting the data gleaned from synthetic monitoring provides insights that empower you to fine-tune your site's performance, reinforcing its stability and availability. Remember, regular updates to your monitoring scripts are vital to reflect evolving user behavior. Embrace synthetic monitoring for a more resilient and user-centric website presence.