Best Application Monitoring Tools Shortlist
Here are the top application monitoring tools I recommend, along with what they’re best for:
- Dynatrace - Best for companies in finance
- IBM Instana - Best incident management features
- Amazon CloudWatch - Best APM for AWS
- SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor - Best dependency mapping
- eG Innovations - Best for Node.js applications
- Site24x7 - Best for educational institutions
- Google Cloud Operations - Best APM for Google Cloud
- Logrocket - Best for e-commerce companies
- Datadog - Best unified monitoring platform
- New Relic - Best error tracking features
- Honeycomb - Best for online games
- Grafana - Best open-source option
I’ve built several applications over the years, and I’ve found their success is largely dependent on how well they perform after I’ve released them into the world. To give them the best chances I could post-deployment, I’d always use application monitoring tools to help catch bugs and performance issues. I’ve found that if an app fails on these metrics, it’s almost guaranteed to fail in a business context, too.
What Is Application Monitoring?
Application monitoring, sometimes also called application performance monitoring (APM), is the process of keeping tabs on logs and metrics to ensure that an app is functioning as intended. The statistics tracked generally include performance, availability, and user experience. The information gathered can inform future development decisions.
The tools I’m going to cover below track these metrics at scale and visualize them where possible to give you a clear idea of your application’s health and status.
Overviews of the 12 Best Application Monitoring Tools
Here are my favorite application monitoring solutions, with brief but comprehensive overviews including strengths, weaknesses, and pricing information:
1. Dynatrace - Best for companies in finance
Dynatrace is a unified observability platform whose solutions include modules for application observability and security, digital experience, infrastructure observability, automation, and business insights.
Why I picked Dynatrace: I picked Dynatrace because of Grail, a central observability and analytics tool. It collects causal data on a massive scale and delivers AI-powered insights with full context to help you make business decisions, which I felt would be especially useful for fintech companies. I also liked the ability to set custom parameters that flag unusual behavior.
Dynatrace standout features and integrations:
Features that make Dynatrace ideal for financial apps, in my opinion, include its support for BizDevOps with built-in BI tools that allow you to involve business teams in the development process.
I also liked that it allows you to set up targeted notifications so you can make sure the most qualified personnel are alerted whenever there’s an issue. For example, an indication of possible fraud could go to someone on the finance team, rather than the development team.
Integrations are pre-built for Jenkins, GitLab, JFrog, Microsoft Teams, Mulesoft, LaunchDarkly, ServiceNow, Jira, Prometheus, and Grafana.
Pricing: From $0.08/hour
Trial:15-day free trial
- Large-scale causal data processing
- Supports BizDevOps with BI tools
- Targeted notifications
- Support is hit-or-miss
- Steep learning curve
2. IBM Instana - Best incident management features
Instana Observability, often referred to simply as Instana, is an APM from IBM that provides automated full-stack visibility and quick notifications.
Why I picked IBM Instana: In my evaluation, I found that Instana has robust features for incident reporting, including AI-powered alerts. As soon as it discovers a service, it automatically starts tracking KPIs related to it, i.e., errors, load, and latency and sends out a notification whenever they go above or below an acceptable level.
IBM Instana standout features and integrations:
Features that I found make IBM Instana ideal for incident management include automatically recognizing and logging changes based on whether something goes live or offline, then tying it to other activity to determine if it needs to send an alert. It also provides you with contextual information when it does send an alert so you can decrease the amount of time you spend addressing issues in your application.
Integrations are pre-built for OpsGenie, Microsoft 365, Slack, Traefik, PagerDuty, Jaeger, TIBCO EMS, VMware Tanzu, Coralogix, and Splunk.
Pricing: From $75/host/month
Trial:14-day free trial
- Simplifies remediation with detailed notifications
- Accurate incident and change detection
- Strong automation features
- High processor usage
- Takes a while to fully configure
3. Amazon CloudWatch - Best APM for AWS
CloudWatch is an APM that makes up part of the AWS family from Amazon, with a focus on collecting logs and metrics across clouds.
Why I picked Amazon CloudWatch: Even though CloudWatch is a versatile tool that you can deploy even on-premise, I’ve found it works best if you keep it on AWS. You can use it to monitor apps you’ve deployed under different AWS accounts and services, including ECS, S3, and Lambda, and get data from all of them in one place.
Amazon CloudWatch standout features and integrations:
Features that make CloudWatch my preferred APM for AWS include the fact that it’s FedRamp and PCI compliant, with the option to use Amazon Key Management Service (KMS) to encrypt logs and increase security compliance.
As far as gathering the logs, you have several options if you’re on AWS, including VPC Flow Logs and Route 53 for vended logs or collecting them from AWS services that publish them, including ECS and API Gateway.
Integrations are native for other AWS products and services, including DynamoDB, CloudTrail, ECS, EKS, FarGate, API Gateway, VPC Flow Logs, Route 53, Lambda, and EventBridge.
Pricing: From $0.50/GB
Trial: Free plan available
- Natively integrates with useful AWS services
- Is part of the AWS free tier
- Strong support for logging
- Weaker outside AWS
- Relies heavily on other tools
4. SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor - Best dependency mapping
SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is a multi-platform monitoring solution that works with IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS setups.
Why I picked SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor: I used SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor to poll dependencies in my test app. At the end of the process, I’d increased visibility by having a detailed map of the incoming network connections and their destinations across the app.
SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor standout features and integrations:
Features that made me recommend SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor as a good tool for dependency management include the option to set up alerts for issues such as packet loss and latency for dependent services.
You also use it to get forecasts for server resource usage based on historical trends so you can pre-empt overloading.
Integrations are pre-built for Microsoft 365, Dynamics CRM and SharePoint, Azure, AWS, Redis, HAProxy, Oracle Database, NGINX, and IBM Db2.
Pricing: From $1,813
Trial:30-day free trial
- In-depth dependency mapping
- Perpetual license available
- Capacity planning
- Installation has several dependencies
- Slightly dated UI
5. eG Innovations - Best for Node.js applications
eG Innovations provides a unified infrastructure and application monitoring platform for on-premise and cloud-hosted deployments.
eG Innovations standout features and integrations:
Features that make eG Innovations’ Enterprise ideal for monitoring Node.js applications include the ability to evaluate transaction details in user sessions and URLs to measure code performance.
It also provides native support for some of the most common technologies I’ve paired with Node.js throughout my career, including MongoDB, Mongoose, MySQL, and Docker.
Integrations are pre-built for PagerDuty, Zendesk, ConnectWise, Slack, Salesforce, Jira, ServiceNow, SNOW ITOM, OpsGenie, and BMC RemedyForce.
Pricing: From $100/month
Trial:30-day free trial
- Specialized for Node.js apps
- Good for URL data drilling
- Solid customer support
- Dated UI
- High cost
6. Site24x7 - Best for educational institutions
Site24x7 provides monitoring tools for use on applications, websites, networks, servers, public and private clouds, and synthetic web transactions.
Why I picked Site24x7: Among the list of Site24x7’s customers are some recognizable names in education, like Stanford and Oxford, and the product makes a good case for why. For starters, it complies with many of the standards imposed on educational institutions, including SOC 2 and ISO 27001, so you’re comfortable handling student and staff data.
Site24x7 standout features and integrations:
Features that make Site24x7 ideal for educational institutions include the fact that it’s elastic and can automatically scale resource provision up or down based on usage, something that fluctuates throughout the day on a campus.
I also liked that it provides integrations for several popular avenues used for service requests and communication, including Discord, Microsoft Teams, Slack, ServiceNow, Freshdesk, and Telegram. I liked how easily this lets you collect feedback directly from students and faculty.
Integrations are pre-built for Jenkins, Bitbucket, GitHub, Freshdesk, Jira, Slack, Teams, Amazon EventBridge, ServiceNow, and Discord.
Pricing: From $35/month (billed annually)
Trial:30-day free trial
- Compliant with education industry standards
- Supports popular communication apps
- Unified monitoring for different platform types, including websites and clouds
- Doesn’t automatically group notifications, so they can be overwhelming
- Crowded UI
7. Google Cloud Operations - Best APM for Google Cloud
Google Cloud Operations, formerly called Stackdriver, is a suite of tools that provides functions for monitoring, scaling, logging, and troubleshooting.
Why I picked Google Cloud Operations: Google Cloud Operations takes advantage of Google Cloud-specific features to help you get more out of it. For example, I used Cloud Logging to specify and extract massive amounts of data from some GKE clusters I had running.
Google Cloud Operations standout features and integrations:
Features that made me recommend Operations for applications on Google Cloud include Cloud Monitoring, which increases observability by reporting statistics tied to uptime and performance so you have a better idea of their health.
With Cloud Audit Logs, I was able to get insights on user activity that was very close to real-time. Aside from the benefits as far as informing business decisions, this helps boost visibility and maintain compliance.
Integrations are native for Google Kubernetes Engine and BigQuery, as well as pre-built for New Relic, Dynatrace, Datadog, Grafana, Splunk, Prometheus, PagerDuty, and Slack.
Pricing: From $0.50/GiB
Trial: Free plan available
- Strong support for Kubernetes
- Provides a useful set of tools for monitoring and analytics
- Highly scalable
- Log management is prone to dips in performance
- Logs only last 30 days by default
8. Logrocket - Best for e-commerce companies
Logrocket is a monitoring platform whose main focus is on session replay for improving performance on web and mobile platforms.
Why I picked Logrocket: I believe online commerce platforms can get a lot out of Logrocket’s systems for managing user-reported issues. When a user brings something to your attention, you can initiate a live co-browsing session to walk them through a solution if it’s something they’re struggling to do on their own.
Logrocket standout features and integrations:
Features that made me recommend Logrocket for e-commerce apps include the front-end monitoring capabilities at the aggregate or session levels that let you keep an eye on vitals such as layout shifts, contentful paint, and input delays.
You can also pull time series and tables from conversion rates to create charts that allow you to analyze various metrics. You can also extend this by comparing two or more custom metrics.
Integrations are pre-built for GitHub, Google Analytics, Dynatrace, Adobe Analytics, Salesforce, Jira, New Relic, Trello, PagerDuty, and Datadog.
Pricing: From $99/month
Trial: Free plan available
- Front-end monitoring
- Easy to set up
- Strong digital experience management features
- Resource intensive
- Can get expensive
9. Datadog - Best unified monitoring platform
Datadog is a monitoring and security platform for applications and infrastructure, with features such as logs and software delivery.
Why I picked Datadog: I picked Datadog because it’s an all-in-one monitoring solution that creates a single pane of glass to visualize not only your app, but also your associated networks, databases, infrastructure, and containers. I also liked how the collaboration features helped me bridge the gap between developers and business teams.
Datadog standout features and integrations:
Features that make Datadog ideal as a unified monitoring platform for applications and network environments, in my opinion, include the logging functions that provide audit trails, observability pipelines, and scanners for sensitive data.
It also allows you to manage the digital experience with in-depth functions that cover session recording and replay, error tracking, and real user and synthetic monitoring.
Integrations are pre-built for Argo CD, CircleCI, Travis CI, Azure DevOps, GitHub, Jira, GitLab, Auth0, Kubernetes, and Docker.
Pricing: From $31/host/month (billed annually)
Trial:14-day free trial
- All-in-one monitoring platform
- In-depth log management features
- Comprehensive digital experience management features
- Sparse documentation
- Relatively steep learning curve
10. New Relic - Best error tracking features
New Relic is an observability platform that provides engineers and data scientists with data from a variety of sources, including web and mobile apps, infrastructure, and networks.
Why I picked New Relic: New Relic made it onto my list because of Errors Inbox, a full-stack error management feature. In my tests, I used it to group similar errors depending on importance, so I wasn’t getting the same notifications for both severe and negligible issues. I was also able to set it up so particular notifications go directly to the relevant team in Slack.
New Relic standout features and integrations:
Features that make New Relic the ideal APM for error tracking include the ability to set up a workload in a pre-production environment and have it flag issues before they get to production, then send notifications to Slack immediately.
I also found that it keeps error data even after they’ve been resolved, so you can go through things like contextual information, attachments, and comments after the fact if you need to know how something got addressed and who was involved.
Integrations are pre-built for VMware vSphere, Relic, Kafka, HAProxy, JFrog, Apache Cassandra, Amazon ECS, Netlify, Oracle Database, and NGINX.
Pricing: From $0.30/GB
Trial:Free plan available
- Error grouping
- Targeted notifications for errors
- Stores error data
- The number of features can be overwhelming for new users
- Can get expensive
11. Honeycomb - Best for online games
Honeycomb is an event management platform for distributed services that seeks to provide insight from one hub.
Why I picked Honeycomb: If the application you’re looking to monitor is actually a game, then I think Honeycomb might be the right solution for your team. I tested its distributed tracing functions as implemented alongside a feature called BubbleUp; BubbleUp analyzes requests from different teams for common trends to give you a more holistic picture of how users interact with the product. In a game development scenario, the data could be about players and collected from teams such as development, audio, and design.
Honeycomb standout features and integrations:
Features that make Honeycomb ideal for game development companies, in my opinion, include Service Map, which creates a visual representation of all linked services in your application; this is a valuable tool for monitoring games designed as microservices, considering you can also use it to conduct visual debugging.
OpenTelemetry allows you to instrument your code for Honeycomb so you can generate your own telemetry data. You only need to set it up once, and you can use the data on any back-end service you want, so you don’t worry about being locked into a vendor.
Integrations are pre-built for GitHub, LaunchDarkly, CircleCI, Terraform, Consul, AWS Lambda, Slack, PagerDuty, Chef, and GitLab.
Pricing: From $130/month
Trial: Free plan available
- Custom telemetry
- Good for managing microservices
- Strong distributed tracing features
- Takes a while to set up and get used to
12. Grafana - Best open-source option
Grafana is an open-source observability platform from Grafana Labs that can handle full-stack monitoring on both cloud and self-hosted environments.
Why I picked Grafana: I chose Grafana because it’s open-source and provides several useful monitoring features for users that want to go the self-managed route. One standout feature is Agent, which you can use to collect telemetry data, including traces, logs, and metrics, then send them to your preferred endpoint as long as it’s compatible with OpenTelemetry, Loki, or Prometheus.
Grafana standout features and integrations:
Features that made me recommend Grafana include its transparency and accessibility. Being open-source gives you the option to build your own features, and generally makes for more secure and cost-effective products. I also liked that you can try a fully-interactive online demo without having to contact the sales team. If your project needs additional monitoring, you can easily integrate additional Grafana tools for both back-end and front-end monitoring, which provide the ability to collect real-user data for logs, metrics, traces, and events.
Integrations are pre-built for GitHub, GitLab, Jenkins, Consul, Traefik, Snowflake, CloudWatch, Kafka, Redis, and Oracle Database.
Pricing: From $29/month
Trial: Free plan available
- Robust data visualization features
- Free interactive web demo
- Logs don’t persist natively
- Requires deeper technical expertise to get the most out of it
Other Application Monitoring Software Options
Still looking? Here are some other solid tools I encountered while researching this list that might give you some additional options.
- Zabbix - Best network monitoring features
- Veeam ONE - Best disaster recovery features
- Azure Monitor Application Insights - Best APM for Azure
- Checkmk - Best for ITOps
- LogicMonitor - Best automation features
- Microsoft System Center - Best for data center management
- Sumo Logic - Best for on-premise deployments
- FusionReactor APM - Best for Java applications
- IBM Turbonomic - Best for Kubernetes environments
- Coralogix - Best tracing data
Selection Criteria for Application Monitoring Software
Here are the factors I was looking for while building this list:
The application monitoring software I evaluated needed to be able to enable the user to do the following:
- Monitor the application’s entire stack, including both the back- and front-ends.
- Get real-time insight into the application at all times.
- Map the entire application, including processes, from end to end.
The features that application monitoring software need to have in order to provide the functions outlined above include:
- Reporting for various metrics and statistics so you’re always up-to-date on the status of the application.
- Automated discovery to find any new moving parts and dependencies to enable more accurate mapping.
- Visualization so you can derive more business insights and drive decisions from the logs you collect from the app.
- Alerts and notifications on changes and activities that might require your intervention.
- Automation capabilities so teams can cut down the time they spend on low-level or repetitive tasks such as generating regular reports.
Application monitoring is something you could leave to non-technical teams, so your software engineers have enough time to work on development. As such, the tools need to be welcoming enough to people without development experience, which is why I prioritized GUIs over CLIs in my tests.
I needed application monitoring software to integrate with other products and services commonly used in application development, including source control tools like GitHub and Bitbucket, CI/CD pipelines like CircleCI and Jenkins, and project management tools like Jira and Slack.
How do I monitor application performance?
Why do we need application monitoring?
What is the difference between application performance management and monitoring?
After you first deploy your application, application monitoring software should become a key part of your maintenance processes because without this necessary feedback, you’ll be left in the dark about performance concerns and problems that might escalate. Left untended, such problems could even lead to your entire project falling apart. An APM furnishes you with the information you need to ensure consistent performance, availability, and an overall better user experience.
Subscribe to The CTO Club newsletter for more roundups of the best tech tools like the ones in this article.