Picking an appropriate solution to handle performance monitoring for your Rails app is a process that you need to take seriously.
There are a number of tools out there that want to grab your attention, and the only way to sift through the marketing jargon and myriad sales pitches is to know what assets are most valuable, both generally speaking and in your specific use case.
This is not always easy, so let’s look over the points you need to evaluate when weighing up performance monitoring tools for Rails applications.
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Most importantly of all, you need to know that the service you pick will come with the kinds of features that can make Rails app performance monitoring a breeze, and give you the insights you need to troubleshoot bugs and eliminate outages.
As mentioned, the features that stand out to you will depend on what aspects of performance matter most.
For example, perhaps you are primarily concerned with being alerted to issues ASAP, in which case a rugged notification system, which also provides plenty of traceability and logging potential, might be a priority.
Alternatively, depth of monitoring may be more relevant, so focusing on the extent of the observability that a Rails APM affords is worthwhile.
There is no getting away from the fact that many of the APMs in this space share somewhat similar feature sets, or at least claim to be competitive in this arena.
As such it is not just a case of checking if a given tool ticks all the boxes you have decided are essential, but also of checking to see whether it lives up to its claims by reading independent reviews and feedback from existing users.
If an APM is not affordable, then even with the right features it could be the wrong fit for your projects. Of course, this is a relative question and one which will again depend on your circumstances and your budget.
It is best for a tool to offer a range of pricing options that scale depending on the features and functions that the customer requires, rather than pigeonholing everyone with the same one-size-fits-all package.
Better still, if a free trial is offered, then you can enjoy a risk-free, hands-on experience with the APM before you decide whether or not it is a suitable solution that deserves your commitment as well as your cash.
Knowing what prices represent good value does mean doing a little research and comparing competing tools according to how much they cost and what features they provide for the money.
And it is obviously a bad idea to select the cheapest possible package if this will restrict its usefulness, because this is more wasteful than spending a little more and accessing all the aspects of a Rails APM you require.
Interface intuitiveness and flexibility
Monitoring and managing application performance invariably involve dealing with a lot of data, and so you need a tool that can present this to you coherently, or else you risk being overwhelmed by the information that is pouring in all the time.
Excellent data visualization abilities should really be a minimum requirement of any APM solution you are considering.
And of course, if the user interface itself is laid out in a clear, comprehensible way, with menus that are straightforward to navigate, then this is another feather in the cap of competing packages.
You should not underestimate the importance of usability in this context, since a more intuitive UI will not only be quicker to get to grips with but will save you a lot of time cumulatively over the days, weeks, months, and years which you will be leveraging it.
Likewise, you should look out for APMs that offer dashboard customization. Being able to rearrange, resize, and generally reorganize how data is displayed, and which tools and features take center stage, will again lead to a more productive, less stressful time harnessing the software.
No good Rails APM will throw you in at the deep end and expect you to fend for yourself. However, there are different tiers of customer support across the rival tools out there, and so if you are worried about what might happen when something goes awry, this is a useful point to evaluate.
You might be content with the support that is only provided during business hours. You might insist upon round-the-clock access to support services. You might be happy with online-only support. You might require a tool that comes with a human team you can talk to on the phone when issues arise.
A combination of speed and effectiveness is appealing for any kind of customer support service, so look into what promises a platform provider makes prior to taking the plunge.
It is unlikely that your APM will be the only tool that is involved in developing and monitoring the Rails projects and other apps that you rely on from day to day. As such, the question of how easily it handles integrations will be necessary to consider, even if it is not a deal-breaker.
All good tools will clearly convey the kinds of integrations that are offered natively, so if you have specific third-party apps that you definitely want to work alongside one another, bear this in mind.
Last but by no means least, you should be abreast of the issue of how straightforward it is to install your Rails performance monitoring tool alongside the other solutions in your current ecosystem.
This should partly tie in with the user-friendliness mentioned earlier, as well as the support for third-party integration.
With all of these aspects taken into account, you should now be quite capable of whittling down the list of APMs to two or three top options, at which point it is a good time to make use of any free trials vendors offer to give them a field test and move towards your final decision.