We’re all well-behaved professionals, right? Of course we are! No one would dare use hidden software features to their own advantage… except when it’s a clever hack with decent bragging rights. Of all the tools THWACK community members tell off-label use stories about, Web Performance Monitor (WPM) has some great ones. From scoring front row seats to feeding the team, app admins in the community have been really creative with it. Maybe because the web is a connection with the “real world,” and configuring your monitoring system to order food is simply too cool not to try.
The Secret Life of WPM
At its heart, WPM is basically an automated you. It can access the world and walks through webpages like a person would. Then, it alerts you when something is different or unexpected. Typically, WPM customers use it to monitor and alert about site outages, pages dev needs to clean up, and checks to see if data arrives to users as expected. Admins tend to use it when they need to know ASAP if a web app is in trouble. Also, nobody needs more emails about how critical the web is to the business when they’re in the middle of troubleshooting.
Among THWACK members, you’ll see tales of how they’ve hacked, er, repurposed advanced features. They’re using WPM for lifehacks. The engine that keeps an eye on things 24/7 without increasing cost for high-frequency testing is a perfect replacement for clicking F5 over and over and over, especially at 2 a.m.
Here are just a few examples of some of the unexpected, creative ways SolarWinds customers have customized their WPM installs, for fun and profit:
Getting an “Insider” Connection
Eventually—fingers crossed—we’ll be going to concerts again. Demand will be high and event supply might be short for a while. Let’s say you can’t wait to see Jack White at ACL Live, and a fast sellout is guaranteed. Plus, you have a day job and can’t be monitoring the ticket site all morning. Clever THWACK members have a solution. Configure a WPM synthetic monitoring check to alert the moment the text “Coming Soon” is removed from ticketing pages. You can get a text message to your phone and an email with a link to the page. Boom! Tickets nabbed. A seven nation army couldn’t hold you back!
But It Works for Me, Not
You migrated to O365 or G Suite. Feels good without all the on-prem hardware, right? But your manager’s still skeptical of the cloud and their radar is out for any access issue, on any office app, anywhere. But relying on help desk tickets or manually testing from remote locations over RDP gets old in a hurry. In response, WPM users frequently configure multi-step synthetic tests for Teams, Word, Excel, etc. They know before their manager does if there are performance or availability issue for users on the east coast, west coast, and everywhere in between. “Turns out there’s no excuse for why you couldn’t access the spreadsheet, Kevin!”
Secret Pizza Bot
One admin at a major sports league took WPM into the world of “software actuation,” but for team rewards. The company decided to order team pizzas every Friday if they hit their targets. Sure, you could set up a weekly reminder to log in to the pizza ordering webpage and do it manually. Instead, they set up a recurring scheduled monitor for a team status message on a website. If performance was good, it would then go to the order delivery site, fill out the checkout fields with saved information*, and pizza would arrive right on time. Why not? Every Friday deserves a pizza party.
*Of course, please make sure you have some controls on anything with a credit card number because loops.
There are lots of ways you could monitor activities in the real world from the web, if only you had the time. On THWACK, you’ll see users monitoring floating drilling rig locations, endangered elephants, delivery vehicles, and more. But one user at a bus company in Chicago had one of those challenges admins loathe. They needed to connect to modem/routers on busses to back up and modify configs, but only over Wi-Fi, not the closed mobile data links of the bandwidth provider. This could only work if they knew when a bus was near an AP.
Solution? They set up a WPM monitor to watch the third-party tracking site and alert when busses came into the depot where Wi-Fi was available, and the WLAN status switched to “on.” That alert in turn triggered a config backup/update job in NCM (Network Configuration Manager), which pushed changes over the high-speed, low-cost company network. I can’t tell however, if they kept their magic a secret superpower, or shared it with management.
Advanced WPM Users Club
Hopefully, these community examples have you thinking about coloring well outside the monitoring lines. You’ll even see some community members using the web transaction recorder format with SolarWinds Pingdom. Since users can share their existing clever monitors and alerts on both WPM and Pingdom, they can move them around—on the public internet, to branch offices, or at the NOC—or wherever they work best. Even be in a particular geo.
Your WPM install can likely do way more than you might think, especially with an upgrade to the current, Chromium-based bits and Pingdom integration. And we love to hear stories about all the amazing ways you’re not only improving service for your customers but also making your life better too. Bots are handy. And bots that can parse and act on details in web applications can change the world. Or at least order dinner.
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