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Use New Relic: An Intuitive, Powerful System for Application Monitoring

July 8, 2019

8 Min Read
new relic
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Application downtime spells disaster for everyone. whether it’s the developers or the front-end sales team, a downed application is a source of embarrassment and lost revenues for everyone.

This is one of the main reasons why application performance monitoring has become an essential aspect of managing servers today. While there are a whole host of open source and proprietary application performance solutions that integrate right into the server processes so that the people responsible for managing servers have a consistent and easy-to-understand way of monitoring the performance of the applications installed on the server.

New Relic: An Overview

New Relic is an Application Performance Management (APM) used by teams for application monitoring. The idea is to maximize productivity and minimize downtime by monitoring application stats that indicate the overall application performance.

Managing modern web applications requires attention to small details as it is often these little things that come together to adversely impact the user experience. The New Relic application monitoring tool reveals these parameters so that developers and site owners can take appropriate and timely corrective actions required to improve the performance of WordPress sites.

New Relic Dashboard

Another distinguishing feature the application monitoring tool offers is the ability to track performance in real-time. This is critical if the site receives unpredictable traffic and there is a possibility of the site going down.

Today New Relic has become an important tool in any developer toolkit that is preferred because of high reliability and extraordinary features.

Popular New Relic Features

Soon after activating New Relic application monitoring on your server, it starts throwing useful data regarding your application health. This data is about memory usage, CPU consumption, requests transaction, and other system operations.

Based on these In-depth insights, developers can assess code and identify the blocks causing performance issues. The tool also highlights the application level SQL queries handled by the server. In case of multiple entries, developers can trace the code and rectify the problem.

application performance monitoring tool dashboard

Besides sending stacks and stacks of application metrics, New Relic also helps you with business metrics that demonstrate how well the application is performing and what is the end-user application usage/interaction feedback. The list of these metrics includes the total number of logins, signups, orders placed, etc.

New Relic also displays the total and available server resources, giving you an idea of the levels at which your website might crash due to heavy traffic. If you are hosting your site on Cloudways, the server resources can easily be scaled and resources can be managed to accommodate spikes in traffic flow. If you are not on Cloudways, you should act as soon as the levels indicate an imminent disaster.

Application Monitoring

The main use case for the New Relic tool is application monitoring. You receive (almost) real-time performance data for your application. This data is visualized in different charts and tables for easy analysis.

APM tool graphs

Application insights taken from AMP is very precise and let you identify the exact problem area(s) that is the reason for concern. It supports multiple programming languages and this can trace errors easily in almost all types of applications.

New Relic is integrated within the Cloudways Platform and can be accessed through the Server dashboard.

After logging in to the Cloudways Platform, go to Servers from the top menu bar, choose the desired server and click Manage Services to ensure that New Relic service is enabled.

hosting manage services

Now click the Monitoring tab and choose Application to launch the New Relic App Monitoring application.

accessing application monitoring

Once the application is launched, you will see the list of the application installed on your server.

APM List

Select the application you would like to monitor from the list and the live stats will be populated in the dashboard.

APM Dashboard

APM Dashboard is the most useful place for the developers. This screen presents the data on various metrics.

apm dashboard

Transactions: The Transaction tab shows all the transactions happening on your application, including calls to functions, database queries or record insertions. All this flow of activity is considered transactions.

WordPress: This is a WordPress-specific feature where you can trace the hooks and functions active on the WordPress website. This gives in-depth application insights into how well your website hosting for wordpress is performing. Another important outcome is theme performance that developers can use to optimize these operations.

Database: As the name suggests, this deals with database queries and how each query is handled by the database. If there is any duplication or the data is not being inserted or accessed, the tab highlights all those parameters.

Error Analytics: This screen gives complete details of the errors encountered by your website through any transaction. It could be an error occurring at the client-side or at the server side. It does not only logs the errors but process the data to present it in a useful shape that can easily be analyzed by the developers.

Deployments: This application monitoring module keeps track of new deployments and their impact on the user experience. It looks for response time, errors and other useful details to give insights into what went wrong and what improved from the previous build.

SLA: Service Level Agreement (SLA) feature of the New Relic application monitoring dashboard lets its users compare performance for a specific time frame and optimize it for peak hours. It shows the downtime and highlights the parameters involved so that the development team can work on it. This report shows the trend of the overall application which reflects its behavior over the selected time frame.

apm sla graph

Scalability: Scalability analysis report is another great New Relic application performance monitoring feature that shows response time, database utilization, application insights, and CPU resource utilization. This highlights the possible hardware tweaking opportunities and identifies the possible changes needed at the hardware layer to accommodate the resources your application requires.

apm scalability

Background Jobs: This section handles the background jobs running on your application. As per the requirements, developers can configure these background jobs that can be used to capture the desired data required for a specific task.

Identify Plugins that are Slowing Down WordPress Websites

The primary goal of using New Relic Application Monitoring tool is to highlight and fix the areas that cause performance issues. For WordPress websites, it is great to have the option of installing multiple plugins to add the desired functionality to the WordPress core. However, on the flip side, these plugins could have a negative impact on your WordPress site’s performance.

Let’s see how we can identify these plugins using the New Relic tool and fix them.

Inside your New Relic dashboard, navigate to the WordPress tab and click the Plugin and themes option.

On the screen, you will find the plugins listed on the left side and their response time graphically presented on the right side of the screen.

Just by looking at the data, you can easily point out the plugins with the high response time. At this point, you do not need to remove the plugin right away as it could be playing an important role in your WordPress site. However, you may consider tweaking the settings and start considering alternatives.

Identify External Services that are Slowing Down WordPress Websites

Typically, a WordPress site makes several external calls to download JavaScript, CSS and media files. These external services can slow down the page load speed of your WordPress site loads. Therefore, it is important to identify the services that are taking too long to complete the call.

The External Services tab is also present under the WordPress tab on the New Relic dashboard.

Just like Plugins, this tab also lists down the services on the left and their response time on the left side of the screen. In a glance, you can see which external services are taking the longest to the response. You can sort the list based on the time is taken and thus identify the services that need your attention.

Debug Slow Database

Database plays an important part not in just storing the data but also in server response time. If the database is cluttered and improperly structured, the server takes more time to process the request, thus affecting the overall performance of your WordPress site.

Database on a WordPress site gets cluttered because of the data generated by plugins, themes, media files, and logs. It is a common misconception that once the plugin is deleted from the dashboard, its data is also completely removed from the database. It is important to properly delete plugins and themes.

New Relic offers an option to monitor your WordPress database. From the dashboard, simply navigate to the Databases tab.

The graph on the right shows the database operations that take the longest to execute. The list on the left can help you identify the database queries that are taking an abnormal execution amount.

Go through all these tabs to identify the problem areas to come up with a debugging plan. Debugging is important and New Relic makes it easier by providing useful information needed to fix these performance issues.

Final Thoughts

In the article above we saw how New Relic can help the teams in making their application perform better. This is an advanced tool and a must-have utility for advanced web and mobile environment. Configuring New Relic with any application is easy and new relic documentation covers every aspect of the application monitoring.

What is new relic used for?

New Relic is a performance management tool that helps you analyze and manage application performance, troubleshoot errors and bottlenecks before they affect your customers’ experience.

What is an APM monitoring tool?

APM stands of Application Performance Monitoring and is used to identify and diagnose problems in an application. This problem can cause error and crashes, therefore, it is important to highlight them and fix them for sending it to production.

What is meant by application monitoring?

It is a process which makes sure that the specific application or software is running the way it is designed for and if not then what parameters are involved in creating problems? At times it is difficult to identify problems just by running usual QA tests. Application monitoring with tools like New Relic exposes minor errors to developers.

What is the use of a performance monitor?

Every software or application is developed to serve a particular purpose and besides features, it is also important to check the resources it utilizes. If the utilization is beyond what was expected then it requires tweaking to make optimal.

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Ibad Ur Rehman

Ibad Ur Rehman is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He likes to explore the latest open-source technologies and to interact with different communities. In his free time, he likes to read, watch a series or fly his favorite Cessna 172SP in X Plane 11 flight simulator.

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