A comprehensive guide to selecting SaaS project monitoring tools

Project monitoring is one of the most important aspects of the SaaS development process. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most neglected aspects. Given how complex and problem-prone this process can be, proceeding without careful scrutiny can create a lot of liabilities.

When monitoring is a priority in a SaaS project, system operation engineers are able to identify and address problems before end users even notice. Engineers can conduct workload and performance testing, estimate infrastructure performance, and gauge system accessibility by using monitoring software. All of this allows them to accommodate larger workloads from new users so system performance isn’t compromised. Additionally, project monitoring tools are necessary for calculating infrastructure costs when using a public cloud.

Evaluating public cloud monitoring tools

Two of the most widely used monitoring tools are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Both have strengths and weaknesses, meaning it’s up to each user to choose the software that best fits his or her needs.

When working with an AWS infrastructure, the only tool necessary is Amazon CloudWatch, which works like an archive for metrics created by AWS. It persistently keeps track of the resources and applications running on AWS, and it gathers data points related to things like disc operations and usage of the central processing unit. If specific metrics reach preassigned limits, users receive a notification and have the option to automatically initiate Auto Scaling. Users can also create their own metric sets and track them accordingly as well as access CloudWatch through several convenient interfaces.

There’s a lot to like about this monitoring tool, but it has notable limitations. For instance, it can’t aggregate data from some locations or send alarms for more than five different metrics. Users also can’t manually remove metrics, and in some cases, obtaining them can be a lengthy process.

Despite this, however, CloudWatch is a popular monitoring tool because it excels at collecting data. The tool is designed to track and document what matters most to administrators, and those records can be kept for years to identify long-term patterns. CloudWatch handles monitoring, but more importantly, it provides insights.

Microsoft Azure is similar. It provides infrastructure metrics as well as Azure service logs. Data can be collected from application logs, activity logs, and performance counters. Users can then engage with the data in various ways. It can be sent to a third party for analysis or stored for 90 days in an archive (or routed to long-term storage). It can also be routed to an application like Application Insights or Power BI for in-depth analysis.

Much like CloudWatch, Azure Monitoring can also be set up to send alerts when metrics reach certain thresholds. Additionally, there are multiple ways to access Azure Monitoring tools. Users may not find the solution perfect, but it provides the functionality necessary to make project monitoring productive.

Evaluating private cloud monitoring tools

Applications that rely on a private cloud for infrastructure are harder to monitor, but it’s not impossible. There are several specialised solutions on the market, such as Nagios Core and Zabbix.

Nagios Core is a free, open-source product. It offers a number of tools that empower users to observe services alongside Windows and Linux hosts. Users have a fair amount of control over what metrics they want to follow, and the system can also be customised using common languages like C++ and PHP. Like all monitoring tools, this one also sends alerts.

The only real drawback of Nagios Core is that it doesn’t offer a graphic user interface to adjust system settings to customers’ needs. Instead, they have to be manually edited in the configuration files. Most users are able to look past this flaw, given that Nagios Core offers a wide range of free commercial plug-ins and, overall, is a highly customisable solution.

Zabbix is also a worthwhile monitoring software. It consists of a monitoring server that collects data, runs analyses, and sends alerts. It also includes a database, a web interface, and daemon agents that can run in either passive or active modes.

Unlike Nagios Core, Zabbix excels in terms of available customisations and the ease of implementing them. Thanks to intuitive templates, the initial configuration time is minimal, and additional templates can be applied later to further adapt the system.

Choosing the right monitoring tool

Ultimately, different users need different things from their monitoring tools. Use these tips to make the right choice:

  • Take a trial of any commercial software to explore whether it has any problematic restrictions or limitations
  • Search for tools that track the most important metrics, not the largest number of possible metrics
  • Consider the total cost of tool ownership, including the licence and ongoing system maintenance

After the system is up and running, administrators need to manage it effectively. That includes testing alert functionality and responding promptly. It’s also important to apply the same metrics to different environments, including production, staging, and testing.

As helpful as monitoring software may be, its success depends on the people behind the technology. They must evaluate public and third-party solutions carefully, implement them correctly, and utilise them effectively. The right tool in the right hands makes project monitoring relatively easy, and thus, it’s a lot more valuable in the process.

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