These days, your website is often your first and sometimes only direct link to a customer. Whether you run an e-commerce site or you only provide information, the speed and availability of your website will determine if customers stay, and if they come back.

In today’s climate of instant gratification and high customer expectations, it is extremely difficult to convince someone to be patient while something happens on the back end. Studies have shown that you can lose as much as a quarter of your audience if load time rises to as little as 4 seconds. As if that isn’t bad enough, an Akamai study revealed 80% of a lost audience will not return. Site loyalty and repeat business are directly tied to your website’s speed and its ability to deliver what was promised.

What can be done to guarantee a positive user experience? Obviously, someone has to mind the store, but what are the best methods when the store consists of a group of servers? Monitoring the servers themselves is the first step, and should definitely be a part of the overall solution. However, just because the servers are up does not necessarily mean your end users are receiving what they have asked for, and receiving it quickly.

Ideally, we want to monitor the timing of the pages on a consistent basis, and to receive notification when things start to go wrong. We also certainly want to know if a transaction crashes altogether, as this will almost guarantee abandonment. What we need are synthetic users, tireless artificial customers who will test your pages and report back the results, day or night, from outside locations that best represent your real customers. SolarWinds has recently introduced a product that does just that, Synthetic End User Monitor (SeUM).

Mike Watts is a Product Marketing Manager for SolarWinds, specializing in Application Management products. He spent 10 years as an IT Manager for high-tech startups in the Austin area, followed by a shift to Product Management for IT Software. Mike is most comfortable surrounded by warm computers and other geeks.