Security Experts:

Digital Experience Monitoring: More Important Than Ever

With the shift to work-from-anywhere, many organizations have seen an increase in scale of remote work locations that their IT team must support. At the same time, users expect consistent and good quality experiences no matter where they are. Ultimately, users want their technology to work, and they don’t care what happens in the backend if they can reliably and consistently access the resources they need. This means IT needs a higher level of visibility when users work from anywhere, to ensure a consistent experience regardless of location. 

To add to the dilemma, digitalization and cloud adoption have made the traditional model of deploying monitoring tools in a data center unsuitable. As branch and remote users nowadays access applications directly from their endpoints, IT practitioners are often faced with inconsistent visibility and control, which in turn affects their ability to support and resolve user issues. Thus, many organizations have turned to digital experience monitoring (DEM) tools to help identify technology performance issues and align application performance to support business objectives. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2026, at least 60% of organizations will use DEM to measure application, services, and endpoint performance from the user’s viewpoint, up from less than 20% in 2021.

So, what is DEM about and why is it more important than ever? Following Gartner’s definition, “DEM technologies monitor the availability, performance, and quality of an end user or digital agent experiences when using a device or application.” This allows IT practitioners to understand problems from a user’s perspective, promptly helps resolve issues, and assures uncompromised productivity. In addition, monitoring empowers IT teams to enforce service level agreements by making it easy to analyze how third-party solutions perform. DEM solutions often complement existing application performance monitoring (APM) and network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD) tools. Together, they provide an end-to-end picture, with DEM also adding insight into the user experience, which in today’s work-from-anywhere environment has gained significant importance. 

Benefits of Digital Experience Monitoring

DEM solutions deliver many benefits to organizations, including

• Enable a Unified View into the Entire User Experience Journey - IT practitioners can obtain a user-centric view of what is actually happening across endpoints, applications, network, and cloud infrastructure. This helps to answer questions like: How is the endpoint performing? What applications are utilized, and how are they performing? What networks are being leveraged for user connectivity? What does the network coverage look like? What Web applications are frequented and are they exposing users to any risk? How are your Software-as-a-Service applications holding up? How is network traffic behaving? 

• Troubleshoot and Remediate Quickly - Whether it’s supporting employees working from the office, their home, on the road, or any combination of the three, IT practitioners need to quickly surface insights and proactively resolve issues before they impact the end user’s experience and ultimately the business.

• Complement Security - Balancing seamless digital experience with security control enforcement is a constant struggle. When security measures impact user experience by adding latency or potentially rendering access to applications inaccessible, users will often find ways of bypassing security controls. This can lead to the use of unsanctioned applications or transferring sensitive data to personally-owned devices. Thus, it is essential for security practitioners to have increased visibility into the effectiveness of their security policy enforcement (e.g., policy-blocked hosts/websites, addresses/ports, and web reputation), allowing for immediate impact analysis and further fine-tuning of security policies to make remote connectivity seamless and easy to use. In turn, employees will use it – improving an organization’s overall security posture by keeping users on sanctioned devices and services the organization can control. 

When selecting a DEM solution, organizations should ensure that the tool is delivering at least the following capabilities:

• Endpoint Monitoring: Gives visibility into the user device and performance to provide information on both system (e.g., CPU, memory, operating systems, storage, security posture, network connectivity) and application health (e.g., whether software is up-to-date; application health, integrity, and efficacy). This helps identify an anomaly quickly, so an issue can be fixed before it disrupts business operations and impacts the user experience. Another use case is ensuring always-on application functionality for a remote workforce.

• Network Monitoring: Allows for diagnostics of connectivity and network, providing rich analytics on network performance even outside the corporate perimeter (from cellular to public Wi-Fi), as well as the reputation and categorization of Web domains visited by remote workers to minimize threat exposure. 

• User Sentiment: Provides the means to collect qualitative feedback from users about their experience. This data is most effectively collected by surveying users to determine their level of satisfaction. Although highly subjective, it provides valuable insight into how different users respond to the same conditions in the environment.

• Remediation: Remediation, particularly of the pro-active kind, is critical to delivering a great digital user experience. Automating and executing processes to fix detected issues ensures common issues are resolved quickly.

Overnight, remote work evolved from a rarely used ‘perk’ with separately managed security and compliance processes, to becoming the center of the working experience. In turn, organizations need to take a hard look at their long-term strategy to support this new work-from-anywhere era. Ultimately, they have to balance the need for security, visibility and control, as well as high availability with a positive user experience. In this context, today’s digital experience monitoring technology goes beyond the monitoring of resources and applications, allowing for automated remediation and uncompromised user productivity.

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Torsten George is currently a cyber security evangelist at Absolute Software, which helps organizations establish resilient security controls on endpoints. He also serves as strategic advisory board member at vulnerability risk management software vendor, NopSec. He is an internationally recognized IT security expert, author, and speaker. Torsten has been part of the global IT security community for more than 27 years and regularly provides commentary and publishes articles on data breaches, insider threats, compliance frameworks, and IT security best practices. He is also the co-author of the Zero Trust Privilege For Dummies book. Torsten has held executive level positions with Centrify, RiskSense, RiskVision (acquired by Resolver, Inc.), ActivIdentity (acquired by HID® Global, an ASSA ABLOY™ Group brand), Digital Link, and Everdream Corporation (acquired by Dell).