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What Is RUM?

Kirk Haines
I've had a 30+ year career across spectrum from System and DevOps to SRE type work to (a lot of) Software Engineering, and I love helping others to grow in their careers.
・3 min read

RUM, or Real User Monitoring, is another acronym that is common in the world of observability and monitoring. If you are here, you aren't sure what it really means or implies, but we've got your back.

RUM?

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Real User Monitoring, also referred to as Browser monitoring, is a form of passive application monitoring. It depends on actual user data to collect metrics on application performance. There are pros and cons to this. The disadvantages are primarily that one can not generate this traffic on demand, and because user traffic tends to come from a very wide variety of hardware types and network conditions, the scenarios presented with the traffic are not easily repeated.

However, that disadvantage is also an advantage when viewed from a different perspective. RUM data is real data, in the sense that it represents what your users are actually experiencing. In this way, it provides immediately actionable, applicable data that you can use to understand what your users are actually experiencing with your application.

Some of the questions that RUM metrics are well suited to answer include:

  1. Are there Javascript errors which are causing significant problems for our users?
  2. Are there pages or pieces of content which load or render slowly enough to cause users to abandon the page before it has finished rendering?
  3. Have recent changes improved or reduced the application performance?
  4. Are there particular hardware/software combinations that experience particularly bad performance?

Integrating RUM

Integrating RUM in your application, if you are using New Relic, it is simple, and the entire process is well documented.

New Relic One has guided installation for RUM built into the dashboard. If you login to your account, and click on Browser:

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You will see a dropdown menu that has an option, "Add More Data".

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Select that.

The page that comes up next has a myriad of different things that one can click on, which can guide you toward installing just about any data source that you might want. The one that you want is this one:

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After clicking on that, all that remains is to follow the guide that comes up next. The TL;DR is that you will either be guided to turn on browser monitoring with a configuration change to your APM configuration, if you are currently using an APM agent from New Relic in your app. Alternatively, you can fill out a couple of data items in a form, and press a button, and you will be given a snippet code that you can simply paste into the content that gets delivered to your users.

There is no additional step. RUM will be enabled for your users, and you will immediately start collecting real data about the experience that your users are having when interacting with your application.

If you are not yet a New Relic user, but would like to try it out, you can sign up and start using it for free!

The Takeaway

RUM is Real User Monitoring, and it is another name for Browser monitoring. RUM involves passive monitoring of the interaction between real user traffic and the application. Because of this, the data is neither standardized, repeatable, or generated on demand, but also because of this, you get an immediate, real picture into the experiences and problems that your users are having while using your application. It is invaluable, particularly when combined with distributed tracing and synthetic monitoring. If you aren't already using it, you should explore turning it on in your application today.

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