No piece of software will ever reach a state of perfection, especially in today’s world of complex products and multi-layered technologies. To get a simple web application up and running, a development team must rely on integration between cloud virtual machines, database instances, and networking equipment. If any piece of that communication chain falters, or if an end user performs an unexpected or unsupported action on their end, the application will experience an error.
Error handling is a key principle of programming, regardless of what language or platform your development team uses. Every piece of code should account for all possible outcomes and provide logic for how to mitigate issues that may appear. But robust error handling will not be able to fix all problems in an application or system, and that’s where error monitoring becomes a critical part of your development workflow.
Basics of Error Monitoring
The concept of error monitoring is to make development and support teams aware of any unexpected issues that occur on an application once it is live in a stage or production system. Most modern programming languages institute a logging system that will write messages to a text file or a database each time an action is requested and completed. These logs contain valuable information about application performance and user-facing issues, but they can also be challenging to wade through and read. Dynamic error monitoring solutions provide a method of automatically collecting all relevant details about an issue and displaying it in a single package.
Once an error monitoring system has detected a problem and launched the correct alerts, it’s time for the development and quality teams to dig into the details and look for a root cause. Errors and bugs should be assigned to an individual, who is responsible for managing the investigation and identifying workarounds or fixes. Error monitoring tools can also help teams spot negative trends in an application’s performance and launch improvement efforts before end users are affected.
Error Monitoring Integration
The strength of any error monitoring solution lies within its ability to integrate with a development stack and its related platforms. Without full integration, error monitoring tools won’t be able to identify the places in codebases where issues are originating or trace errors to the end user’s experience. Notifications are also a key function of error monitoring tools and they should be integrated with the development team’s communication systems so that all relevant stakeholders are alerted right when an unexpected error is encountered, either internally or externally.
Planning for error monitoring should be a strategic part of any project launch or project charter. Teams need to design their error monitoring system as early as possible in the software development lifecycle, or else they risk losing valuable data and wasting more time later in the project. The key decision for management teams is whether to build a custom error monitoring solution or else rely on a third-party tool. Custom-built solutions are often more robust, but they also require significantly more resources in terms of time and effort.
Monitoring Errors with Retrace
Stackify is one of the leading developers of tools and solutions for software teams. Their Retrace error monitoring product provides advanced error monitoring for all major programming languages. The tool goes beyond basic logging and actual watches all code operations to look for issues that may affect end users. When one is encountered, Retrace kicks off real-time alerts and documents all relevant information, including timestamps, web request headers, and even related database queries.
Retrace is touted as a smart error monitoring solution, meaning it is capable of automatically parsing through data and identifying which errors are unique and which ones are related to a common trend. With this information, development teams can arrive at root cause diagnosis faster and more efficiently. Rather than wasting time digging through log files, they can let Retrace handle the error analysis and start fixing problems right away.