What is Synthetic Testing?

What is Synthetic Testing?

Table of Contents


Synthetic testing, also referred to as continuous monitoring or synthetic monitoring, is a technique for identifying performance problems with critical user journeys and application endpoints before they impair the user experience. Businesses may use synthetic testing to assess the uptime of their services, application response times, and the efficiency of consumer transactions on a proactive basis. We'll explain how synthetic tests operate, their importance, methods, tools, challenges, and highlight critical characteristics to look for when selecting a synthetic testing platform in this article.



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Key Takeaways

  1. Synthetic Testing involves simulating user interactions to assess performance and detect issues globally, either manually or through monitoring platforms.
  2. Browser and API tests, including HTTP, SSL, TCP, DNS, ICMP, and multistep API testing, assess various aspects of application performance.
  3. Synthetic testing can be complex due to difficult installation, brittle tests, and lack of context in failure notifications.
  4. Synthetic testing is crucial for user experience, and choosing the right tools, like Hosted Graphite, is essential for success in modern applications.


What is the Process of Synthetic Testing?

Synthetic testing delivers simulated requests to your apps and services from a web browser, platforms, and locations across the globe by simulating real-world user traffic. Synthetic tests can also be used to examine site operations and application endpoints across several network levels, and their findings can offer important insight into the availability, turnaround time, and regional performance problems. 


Engineers may manually deploy synthetic tests or use a synthetic monitoring platform to execute the tests at specified intervals. Synthetic tests may be performed in production or test settings to verify that new features function before deployment. Typically, synthetic tests have low overhead, allowing them to run indefinitely independent of the amount of traffic an application handles. 


While synthetic testing provides a standard for application performance at various times and in multiple locations, it will miss specific problems. For instance, your apps may produce unexpected failures if test circumstances do not adequately reflect the behavior of a real user. This difference may be addressed by combining synthetic testing with real-world user monitoring, which will fill the gap between real-world and simulated activity and guarantee complete coverage.


Additionally, synthetic testing cannot differentiate between delays induced by architectural problems, such as service-level bottlenecks, and latency caused by hardware concerns, such as low CPU at the device level. To tell the difference between these two kinds of issues, you'd need to compare test results to application and infrastructure performance statistics.


Importance of Synthetic Testing

Synthetic testing is used by QA engineers, programmers, site reliability engineers, and WebOps engineers to: 

  • Proactively detect performance issues
  • Minimize the mean time required to resolve an issue (MTTR)
  • Enter a new market
  • Achieve performance objectives
  • Schedule code deployments regularly


Proactively detect performance issues

Synthetic testing enables continuous monitoring of your services' responsiveness to requests and compliance with whatever criteria you specify, such as response time. Additionally, you can verify that critical business operations operate as anticipated and identify and resolve performance problems before they affect your end customers.


Minimize the mean time required to resolve an issue (MTTR)

A suitable synthetic monitoring platform provides access to associated data such as back-end queries, error logs, and network timings when a synthetic test fails. These connections provide the context necessary for effective troubleshooting.


Enter a new market

Suppose you're launching a product in a new geographic area where you have no actual user traffic. In that case, you may use synthetic testing to verify the product's anticipated performance in that market.


Achieve performance objectives

The majority of companies have service level goals (SLOs) or other performance targets for their applications. Synthetic tests provide continuous monitoring of whether those objectives are being met, where deviations are happening, and how much of the error budget remains for every SLO.


Schedule code deployments regularly

Numerous rapidly expanding companies use continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipelines to regularly send numerous minor changes to production. By including synthetic tests into their continuous integration/continuous delivery pipelines, these companies can maintain agility while reducing the risk of regressions.



Synthetic Testing Methods

The two primary types of synthetic tests are browser tests, which verify that users can perform critical operations such as account creation and checkout, and API tests, which enable you to monitor essential endpoints at every network layer. API testing may be classified as one of the following subcategories:


HTTP-related tests

Determine if your apps are accessible and responsive to queries from other services. Additionally, these tests may be used to determine the page's load speed, status codes, and header/body content.


SSL tests

Verify that visitors can access a website safely by verifying its SSL certificates.


TCP checks

Ensure that essential service ports, SSH (22) and DNS(53), are available.


DNS testing

Monitor the time it takes for your DNS records to resolve and look, and check for possible setup problems or DNS assaults.


ICMP testing

Delay and connection problems on the network's surface.


Multistep API testing

Multiple HTTP tests may be chained together in a single test to evaluate sequential processes involving data transfer from one endpoint to another.


Selection of Synthetic Testing Tools

Before selecting any tool, there are some points you should remember to choose the most appropriate synthetic testing tool. The points are as follows:

  • A synthetic monitoring tool should be simple to use; thus, if you are not familiar with scripting, search for a record and playback tool. If you are comfortable with scripting, look for solutions that enable you to code.
  • The monitoring tool should be capable of interacting with sophisticated online features.
  • The tool should enable users to extend their testing scripts, for example, by adding more stages or facilitating the creation of complicated processes.
  • The solution should have a reusability functionality that allows testing scripts to recall a new business process time required, such as login or logout.
  • Capability to test all data-driven test cases
  • Capable of minimizing false positives resulting from server maintenance, malfunctions, and sparse code, among other problems.
  • Capable of minimizing overheads such as retesting for false alarms.
  • The tool should function consistently across locations, allowing for the detection of latency and load problems.
  • A synthetic monitoring tool should have the ability to send alerts through SMS or email.
  • With consumers accessing web applications through various devices, it's advantageous to have a solution that enables you to extend testing across devices and browsers.


Synthetic testing with Hosted Graphite

Hosted Graphite provides its customers with an end-to-end infrastructure monitoring environment. Not only does Hosted Graphite excel in infrastructure monitoring, such as network and server monitoring, but it also performs application and business intelligence monitoring. 


Concerning performance monitoring, there are many methods for monitoring the performance of AWS-hosted apps. AWS offers a monitoring service called CloudWatch that collects metrics from throughout your application. However, relying only on CloudWatch may quickly become too costly. 


If you're monitoring a tiny application, CloudWatch will suffice. However, when monitoring an extensive application with a large number of custom metrics, the cost of monitoring using CloudWatch rapidly becomes unaffordable. 


Now, Hosted Graphite enters the fray as Monitoring your AWS environment using Hosted Graphite is an excellent way to reduce monitoring costs and improve functionality. Hosted Graphite can import your AWS metrics straight into a customized AWS monitoring dashboard. Hosted Graphite can generate alerts for these metrics and deliver them straight to your phone, email, or Slack. 


Pingdom is also used, a monitoring solution that employs synthetic and real-world user monitoring to improve the app and website debugging. Hosted Graphite enables you to improve Pingdom's synthetic and real-time user monitoring capabilities. You may show your stats on visually appealing dashboards by combining Pingdom with the Hosted Graphite platform. Hosted Graphite enables you to comprehend complicated websites at a glance easily and to compare Pingdom data to that of other monitoring systems. 


Get started with a quick demo of Hosted Graphite today and avail a free trial as well. 


Synthetic Testing Poses Unique Challenges

Modern applications are made up of many services, dependencies, and infrastructure elements, and they may be accessed through a variety of different entry points and device types. This complexity creates a significant risk of mistakes, which developers mitigate by testing their apps more often and earlier in the development process. This method of testing, dubbed "shift left testing," enables engineers to identify problems before they multiply, thus reducing the cost and time required to resolve them. However, traditional synthetic monitoring methods were not developed with these requirements in mind and therefore offer the following difficulties:


Difficult installation

Synthetic test development traditionally involves coding skills and knowledge of specific scripting languages, creating a significant obstacle for non-technical team members. Developers with the necessary abilities often find themselves spending hours creating test scripts for complicated systems.


Brittle tests

Small UI changes, such as the relocation or renaming of a button, may cause automated tests to fail, leading to a burst of false alarms and useless alerts.


Absence of context

Numerous synthetic testing solutions will notify you of test failures without detailing why they happened or the magnitude of their business effect. The synthetic testing industry is addressing these issues by simplifying test development, boosting automation, and enhancing test resilience.



The web is fraught with difficulties, and you must monitor it 24 hours a day to ensure that users enjoy a seamless and pleasant digital experience. A well-defined test approach coupled with an appropriately built synthetic tool may assist you in attaining anticipated performance and eliminating bottlenecks.


Hosted Graphite provides comprehensive insights into end-users and a summary of the performance of your online and mobile applications. Developers can rapidly resolve performance issues since they can know precisely what went wrong and the underlying reason.

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