Measurement must be end-to-end

Network performance, measurement and control has taken on a whole new meaning, dimension and mission-critical importance, with the arrival of the...

Network performance, measurement and control has taken on a whole new meaning, dimension and mission-critical importance, with the arrival of the Internet.

While people now talk about www as the world-wide wait, let us remind ourselves the days of old, when all of the major components of a distributed service were under the direct control of the service provider. There were frequent performance issues, and delays in traffic between users and applications. However, as the service was most often provided by BT in those misty monopolistic days, there was little anyone in the organisation could do about it.

The Internet has served to make the problem hugely more complex than ever before. Now there are usually a number of links in the chain over which the service provider has no direct control, such as the ISP to which his customer subscribes, the telephone operating company or indeed companies which provide the communications links and any number of other players who get in on the act of moving a transaction from A to B. Add to this the security aspects of the transaction and the need to increase levels of reassurance to consumers and we have a fairly complex problem on our hands.

The Internet has democratised computing, and now the most humble users have access to powerful applications either through such things as virtual private networks (VPNs) or even over the Internet itself. What this means is that the task of measuring performance at the sharp end (i.e. the user end) is now more complex than ever. Whereas in the past the poor performance of the "infrastructure" was a cue for disgruntled users, nowadays it is a sure way to lose hits, customers, and money.

Witness the high profile pre-Christmas disasters and Web-failures that hit many companies simply unable to cope with demand - even though, in some instances, demand was quite low!.

To resolve this, organisations need to effectively measure an Internet transaction from end to end. Only then can companies truly track potential and new business, and visits to their site, as well as various traits of site-visit behaviour.

There are many products around - mostly full of sales hype about doing very little, but I know of none that delivers this. Providers must therefore focus on improving Web services in other ways.

  • Ensure your infrastructure is "over qualified" for your expected hit rates

  • Install a "call me" button on your site, to enable telephone contact - and make sure the call is answered by a person

  • Be clear what tasks performance measurement tools are really made for

  • Follow the 20 second, 3 click rule - Internet users will give a site 20 seconds to load fully, and should be able to access anything they want, or place an order, in a maximum of three clicks

  • Engage an independent "guardian" company to monitor Web performance - and test it yourselves

  • Survey customers on their views of your site.

    This is a critical commercial issue facing every organisation serious about Web services, e-business and true customer care.

    Ironically, Web services are marketed as improving quality service, exchange of information, and customer relationship management.

    Only when your Internet performance issues are addressed and resolved, will your Web site become the money maker it was intended to be.

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