A beginner's guide to monitoring desktop applications

Desktop applications are self-contained programs that operate without any external hosting software. While a web application typically requires a web server to translate the program into HTML content for the web browser to consume, desktop applications deliver the service directly to end-users.

We use a number of desktop applications day to day, like conferencing tools, stock management software, source control desktop applications like GIT and Tortoise, photo editing tools, and so on. Even the web browser you're using to render this blog is a standalone application that is connected to the web.

While desktop apps are ubiquitous, flexible, and save the hassle of maintaining and scaling a central web server, supporting them for a wide variety of environments, (including legacy and current OSs, and outdated and current frameworks) is a challenge for developers. Delivering desktop applications to end-users requires rigorous testing on all supported frameworks, OSs, and versions.

In this blog, we'll focus on the challenges and constraints in monitoring a managed standalone application, i.e., desktop applications developed using a .NET framework.

As a standalone application developer, the biggest challenge comes in terms of performance issues. If you hit high memory or high CPU consumption in your application, it might take days just to reproduce the issue, let alone find its root cause and fix it. On top of that, it's hard to encourage users facing these issues to continue using problematic applications, as they tend not to report the issues they're experiencing and instead try restarting the application until it works as expected. If it doesn't, these users often eventually give up on it.

Using an application monitoring tool not only enables you to address these issues at the development phase, but can also help you discover a lot about your application behavior under different test scenarios, and find areas where your application code needs tweaking.  This is where application performance monitoring comes handy.

Monitoring standalone applications

Using an application performance monitoring (APM) solution, you can monitor the function-level performance, track the top time-consuming routines, and even track workflows with the help of custom instrumentation. Since each standalone application is unique in its own way, your APM solution needs to be tailored to the specific needs of your application.

Here are some guidelines on how to track the performance of your managed standalone application using an APM tool:

  1. Standard metrics like Apdex score, response time, and throughput are automatically captured when the application's basic processes are being executed. This helps you understand the time taken by the threads and events in the application's processes, and indicates which segments of code consume more memory and CPU.
  2. Use custom instrumentation to define the start and end of a workflow. Using custom instrumentation, you can also monitor the performance of crucial functions.
  3. Use exception and error tracking functions to trace the root cause of issues. An APM tool typically captures the entire stack trace whenever an error occurs, saving precious developer time by instantly finding problematic code, so developers can focus on debugging it.

For instance, if you are developing reporting software that constantly collects data from a web service in the background, a monitoring tool can help you track when the application goes down, prompting you to take action immediately instead of investigating the missing reports.

Performance monitoring is essential for all kinds of apps, irrespective of whether they're web, desktop, or mobile apps, and whether they're hosted on a server or run without one. With Site24x7, you can monitor the performance of your web and desktop applications, and tailor your monitoring approach to fit the specific needs of your application.

Learn more about how Site24x7 supports monitoring for standalone managed applications.

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