New Study Reveals Best Practices for Top Web Application Performance

A new study from Aberdeen Research shows what works for getting the best performance from your Web applications.

Deploying Web technologies (including mobile devices and smartphones, server virtualization, and cloud computing) are challenging IT to provide a good Web experience for its external and internal users. If the Web isn't speedy or the interface is confusing, impatient customers will take their business elsewhere. Given this challenge, and end users' high performance expectations, what best practices are enterprises using to optimize the performance of their Web applications?

In its survey of 100 organizations between September and October, Optimizing the Performance of Web Applications: Directions for Improvement," Aberdeen Research analyst Jeffrey DeBarros writes that it's easy to recognize Best-in-Class enterprises. They increased the profitability of their Web applications by just over 25 percent, increased revenue per month from Web applications by 12.7 percent in the last year, and achieved 98.94 percent availability of their critical revenue-generating Web apps. Conversions (the rate that Web site visits are turned into actions expected by the Web site provider) after optimizing the Web apps went up by more than 20 percent for Best-in-Class companies; Industry Average enterprises (those in the middle 50 percent of financial performance) saw a decrease (of just over 4 percent) of conversions.

The worst-performing enterprises aren't keeping up. In what Aberdeen calls Laggard enterprises (those in the bottom 30 percent in terms of financial performance), less than one-third measure the availability of critical revenue-generating Web applications. Such companies generally do not know or don't measure successful conversions per month, and they don't know or do not measure the change in the profitability of Web applications over the course of the last year.

The secrets of their success: monitor performance, manage the network, and attend to the end user.

Monitoring and Measuring the Environment

Best-in-Class companies carefully study their environment. They monitor revenue per visit or per visitor over time. They track Web application and infrastructure availability around the clock, and keep an eye on real-time transaction performance. In fact, 59 percent monitor Web application performance, their infrastructure, and application availability with real-time alerts; only 21 percent of Laggards take this action. Additionally, 44 percent of Best-in-Class firms monitor transaction performance around the clock, with automated alerts compared to 28 percent for Average companies and 15 percent for Laggards.

In what Aberdeen calls Laggard enterprises, less than one-third measure the availability of critical revenue-generating Web applications. Such companies generally do not know or don't measure successful conversions per month, and they don't know or do not measure the change in the profitability of web applications over the course of the last year.

Managing the Network

DeBarros reports that 65 percent of top firms implement a network bandwidth management policy, but only 31 percent of Average firms and 7 percent of Laggards do so. Half of Best-in-Class firms use tools for prioritizing network traffic; only one-fourth (27 percent) of Average and 16 percent of Laggard firms have such tools. Best-in-Class firms are twice as likely as Laggards to use tools that detect network anomalies, three times as likely to use "automated real-user monitoring of Web applications," and more than four times more likely to be able to determine the current performance of Web applications in different browsers.

The top firms don't just collect information -- they study it to improve their environment. The report notes that "… the Best-in-Class are more likely to implement processes for analyzing the source of the delay within their Web applications and also have processes in place to associate end-user transactions with their business processes. The margin should be troubling for both Industry Average and Laggard companies. Forth-four percent (44%) of Best-in-Class companies analyze the source of delay in their Web applications as compared to only 8% of Laggards."

The End User

DeBarros reports that 60 percent of Best-in-Class enterprises say their top driver of Web optimization is the customer, but that these companies have this pressure under control. (Improving the end-user experience is the second-highest driver of Web optimization initiatives; increased profitability from the Web applications comes in third.)

The survey found that 44 percent of Best-in-Class firms conduct end-user testing, gathering performance data and communication results; only 28 percent of Average and 8 percent of Laggards do this. More than half (53 percent) of Best-in-Class firms can "understand the impact of data link load on [the] end-user experience," only 22 percent of average and 12 percent of Laggards have such insight.

Other Findings

Part of Best-in-Class success may also have to do with their top two strategic actions. The Aberdeen report points out that 55 percent of these top performers create a plan for managing the full Web-application life cycle while only 44 percent of all other companies do so. Further, 45 percent of Best-in-Class firms evaluate their return on investment from Web-application deployment, while only 21 percent of all other enterprises do so.

DeBarros found that 89 percent of Best-in-Class organizations believe that the complexity of their future Web applications will grow; 65 percent say their applications will be distributed globally, and 29 percent say users will demand rich media content from these applications.

The full study results are available online (short registration required):