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Introduction to New Relic Synthetics

This post is part of a series called Performance Monitoring With New Relic.
Introduction to New Relic Insights
Diagnose WordPress Performance Problems With New Relic
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What You'll Be Creating

What Is New Relic Synthetics?

New Relic Synthetics is like a crash test dummy for your software. Synthetics allows you to configure a myriad of tests to run against your website and services from around the world on a recurring schedule. These tests help you find problems and fix them before your customers experience them.

Or, as the fun product video above says, "Your app needs a consistent workout that happens everyday like clockwork and Synthetics is the tough, loving coach to make sure it happens (slaps robot thigh)." 

New Relic Synthetics Exercise Your Website and Services

In this tutorial, I'll give you a general overview of the Synthetics product and walk you through configuring monitors and browsing reports.

Feature Overview

Synthetics helps you ensure that important web services are in place and working error-free with customized, automated testing. Whether it's once a minute in San Francisco, or once a day in Dublin, you choose the frequency and location of your tests based on business function and need. 

Here's an example configuration form for building an automated monitoring test (I'll go into more detail further below):

New Relic Synthetics Automated Testing

Test From Around the World

Your site may be working in Singapore, but is it also available in São Paulo? Find out in seconds with simple ping or website browser tests. View your software's simulated performance in Washington DC, Portland, San Francisco, São Paulo, Dublin, Singapore, Tokyo, and Sydney.

New Relic Synthetics Test from Around the World

Real Browser Engine Data

Synthetics lets you view detailed metrics including page load times and individual assets using a real browser engine, so you can identify and address problems that are happening in real time.

API Testing

Script automated calls to your APIs to make sure all output and system responses are successfully returned from multiple locations around the world.

Integration With Other New Relic Services 

Synthetics easily integrates with other New Relic products like Insights for a consistent experience and optimal data reporting. Also, get automatic transaction traces through New Relic APM, its back-end app server monitoring tool. 

To learn more, watch the brief product tour below:

Powerful Troubleshooting Tools

You can use New Relic Synthetics' in-depth troubleshooting metrics to resolve problems and bugs in your app. Synthetics notifies you when something goes wrong, and points out exactly what needs to be fixed so you can restore and deliver functioning and reliable software to your end users.

Performance & Response Times

Understand how individual asset performance is affected through average page load time and size reporting:

New Relic Synthetics Page Load Time

Get a list of system downtimes and failures for your critical transactions. View individual downtime incidents by detail to identify trends and address problems as they occur.

Error Screenshots

See the same issues your users are experiencing with your software through actual screenshots of the errors that are occurring:

New Relic Synthetics Screenshots of Errors

HTTP Request and Response Headers

Receive actionable data including all request and response headers to help debug and fix your software:

New Relic Synthetics HTTP Request and Response Headers

Waterfall Charts

Synthetics provides detailed metrics with page load time for all individual assets into one, easy-to-read waterfall chart. Easily scroll through different time periods on your waterfall chart:

New Relic Synthetics Waterfall Charts

SLA Reporting

Detailed SLA reports help you maintain customer satisfaction. These reports summarize Apdex scoring for benchmarks and performance thresholds and overall uptime:

New Relic Synthetics SLA Reports

3-Strike Alert Threshold

Synthetics only sends alerts after running a test three times and getting the same error result (although you're only charged for one test). When you do get an alert, it's real.

You can learn more at the New Relic Synthetics feature overview or check out the Synthetics Datasheet (pdf) and BloomThat Customer Case Study (pdf). Now, let's walk through using the product.

Getting Started With New Relic Synthetics

Once you've signed up for New Relic, you can begin using the free Synthetics trial. Let's begin by creating some monitors.

Creating Monitors

This is the Monitor dashboard—it's very straightforward. We'll go ahead and click the Add monitor button to the upper right:

New Relic Synthetics Create a New Monitor

Ping Monitors

The first type of monitor is a simple ping. It tells us that our website is up. We provide a friendly name for the monitor and a URL for testing:

New Relic Synthetics Choose your monitor type

We can easily select geographic regions to run the test from. Synthetics currently offers nine.

New Relic Synthetics Where do you want to monitor from

Next, we choose the frequency for these checks with a simple slider, and provide an email address for alerts:

New Relic Synthetics How often do you want to test

Synthetics makes it easy to see how our new monitor is affecting our overall budget for checks:

New Relic Synthetics Your Monitoring Budget

Simple Browser Monitor

The next type of monitor is a Simple Browser test. We provide a friendly name and URL, and Synthetics will regularly provide a deep dive of analytic results:

New Relic Synthetics Simple Browser Testing

Here's an example of the results you'll receive:

New Relic Synthetics Resources from Simple Browser Tests

Scripted Browser

The Scripted Browser test allows you to write JavaScript-based automated tests against your website:

New Relic Synthetics Scripted Browser Testing

Its scripting environment is like node.js lite. Almost everything you'd expect to find in a node.js environment is available. 

When the scripts run, you'll see a screenshot and log of test results:

New Relic Synthetics Validating Scripted Browser Tests

Here's an example script included as a framework to give you an idea of how you would code your own tests:

API Testing

You can also use Synthetics for API level testing. Again, you can use Synthetics' JavaScript environment to automate tests against your web services. Here's the included sample test script:

Monitor Dashboard

Once you've set up several tests, you can monitor, edit and review them in the dashboard:

New Relic Synthetics Monitor Dashboard


Here are some of the kinds of detail and summary reports you can get from Synthetics on a regular basis. The SLA overview report showing historical Apdex and uptime:

SLA Overview report

Load time reports—the first from the New Relic demonstration overview:

Load time reports

And a simpler report from my own test monitor:

Load time from my test monitor

You can study page load and network timings from around the world:

page load and network timings from around the world

And get resource summaries for your site to help you debug performance issues in more detail:

resource summaries for your site

What's Next?

I hope you've enjoyed learning about New Relic Synthetics. It's obviously a useful and powerful tool for any serious publisher or service provider. I was most impressed by the simplicity and power of the user interface.

To get started, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial of New Relic Synthetics. Once the trial ends, you'll automatically move to the New Relic LITE, free forever plan. 

For $69/month, you can receive 10,000+ advanced checks and unlimited data retention. You can also request a consultation with a New Relic Synthetics specialist for a product demo or quote.

Please feel free to post your questions and comments below. You can also reach me on Twitter @reifman or email me directly. 

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