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Pros and Cons to using New Relic for performance monitoring

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New Relic:

Our company recently started researching several products to figure out what were the best ways for us to increase our web page speed and to quickly identify performance problems that we may be having. One of the products we evaluated was New Relic.  Here is a list of pros and cons that my team came up with that may help you decide of New Relic is right for you.


Pros:


1) Application Stack Trace Details

New Relic offers a great interface for debugging the server side of performance issues. While running on your servers it keeps track of the entire run time stack and gives a detailed report on issues. For example, it counts up the number of database queries that are running within your particular thread and gives a report on how many different queries are executed and how long each took. This is a great feature to allow you quickly to identify performance issues: which queries take too long, which query is called too many times, what function is running for way too long.  All these issues become apparent for you to fix.
 

2) Global Real User Tracking

Since the application runs on your servers and also as part of javascript on your webpage, you get accurate real user page load times. This was way more valuable to our company than simulated traffic because it allowed us to see exactly how our web pages were performing all across the world. Real user page performance tracking allowed us quickly to see if there were particular users that were getting a worse experience than others.
global-view.bmp


3) Free Trial and Pricing

New Relic provided a free trial and since they charge based on number of hosts you install the service on (rather than traffic load) it allows you to get a lot more for your money. It allowed our company to know exactly what the price was going to be and not have to worry about traffic scaling dictating our costs.
 

Cons:


1) Interface a little tricky

The interface on New Relic has a lot of options and while it is better than some other performance sites it can get a little tricky to figure out exactly what you just did. There are a lot of quick links that jump from one location to another and sometimes you can be looking at one thread report when you thought you were looking at another.  Below are sample graphs.  As you can see there are a lot of navigation items and almost everything on the page is clickable.  It is very easy to jump between overall trends and specific threads without realizing it.Application-Monitoring.bmp


2) Web information not extremely detailed

The amount of data you get about the web page loading is not very detailed. The tool does not really allow you to debug very well what on the web page was causing the page to render slow; it will just notify you that the actual web page is rendering slowly.  Below is an example of a graph you recieve.  You get the Web Application time, Network, DOM Processing and Page Rendering times, but know good way to see exactly what are causing these issues.
timeOnWeb.bmp

3) Difficult to get your thresholds correctly.

New Relic is all about setting acceptance thresholds and then giving you detailed reports on requests that are not in that acceptable range. If requests are in that acceptable range, but you want to look at detailed reports, you will not see any.  That means you have to constantly lower your threshold to continue imporving your site (if you site isn't super-optimal to start). While this is easy to do, it does make it so particular pages that need optimization may not fall in your thresholds if other pages on the site are causing you to raise the threshold.
 

Verdict: Use New Relic

Overall my team decided to use New Relic and I think it was a great decision. Especially for sites that have a lot of server side processing, this is a great tool to have. Within the first week of using the tool we were able to lower our home page load time by 50 per cent. It helped us find issues that we did not realize were there before we had New Relic.
 

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