In a sense, the Internet has come to embody the romantic American spirit, the idea that anything is possible, that everyone has the opportunity to make it big. It is the great enabler, forum and marketplace. It’s the first place we turn to connect with people, to speak out on issues, to market our wares, to research a doctoral thesis – indeed, even to be elected president of the United States.
It’s all those things because, so far, the Internet has been a level playing field. All content is treated equally, whether it comes from two guys in their garage or the world’s largest corporation. It all gets to users through the wires and fiber at the same speed, subject to the same bandwidth limitations or availability. It all has an equal chance to arrive on a user’s screen. So the upstarts in the garage have the same opportunity to reach an audience as the big corporation. So far.
Net neutrality defined
This idea of the Internet as level playing field – that all data is treated the same regardless of source, destination or content – is called net neutrality. Content can’t be blocked, slowed down, sped up, or interfered with in any way. It’s all equal. For many netizens and content providers large and small, net neutrality is a sacred principle, often called the First Amendment of the Internet. For the owners of the pipes, though – the cable companies and telco Internet Service Providers – and some of the largest content and tech companies, there’s money to be made, advantage to be had, and new value and choices to be delivered to consumers if the Net were not quite so neutral.
Businesses can’t afford to put their heads in the sand and hope net neutrality works out in their favor. Even if net neutrality becomes a formal regulation, you’ll still be a more competitive business if you optimize your site for speed and performance.
A sound strategy for optimizing performance today and in the future includes following best practices in page construction – minding script and object placement, reducing external calls, keeping assets small – and following a robust and consistent performance monitoring program in the field at the end-user level, so performance issues and hiccups can be quickly identified and corrected. This strategy is doubly important on the mobile side, where networks are less consistent and speeds inherently slower.
The app has been put through its paces, revised and retested over and over, and now every effort to break it simply fails. Break out the champagne, it’s ready for release — but don’t celebrate too long. Because no app is ever ready to be left all on its own.
With websites, apps, basically anything in the online world, things can and will go wrong. There could be overload issues (because your app is so popular!), server issues somewhere in your network, unexpected usage patterns. Any number of things can dull the sparkle of your shiny new app today, tomorrow or six months from now. Constant vigilance is the key to happy users and a successful app.
That solution is monitoring. Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the same best practices for testing also apply to monitoring performance and availability, most notably, using real devices in real-life scenarios. How and what you monitor, though, is somewhat different from what you tested in the development phase.
Monitoring offers a similar public/private cloud choice as described above for testing. Keynote, for example, has a well-established infrastructure with a broad array of devices on different carriers in multiple locations around the world. An app owner can use this network for ongoing scheduled monitoring. Or, if security is a concern or if volume justifies it, Keynote will build a private cloud network with the devices and in the markets that matter most to the app owner. And with a private cloud, you have the luxury of doing more troubleshooting than you could do in a shared public environment, because you own all of the time on the devices. You can pause the application and monitoring script and interact with the app to see exactly what the end user sees and find out exactly what’s causing a problem.
Public or private, the key to an effective monitoring program is to find out quickly about problems before they become crises.