End-user monitoring of your website with CloudWatch Synthetics

Michael Wittig – 04 Jun 2020

There are countless reasons why your website is not working as your users expect. From a technical point of view, you can monitor your load balancers, your web servers, and your database. But what if that external script that you embed is breaking your site? Expired TLS certificate? Something wrong with DNS? How can you test that your website works for real users?

End-user perspective

Browsers can be used in an automated way controlled by a script. Wait for an element to become visible. Click on a link. Enter a form field. puppeteer allows you to remote control a headless Chrome browser in Node.js and is maintained by Google. We can monitor the user experience on our website if we can find a way to run a puppeteer script at regular intervals and record the results.

And that’s where Amazon CloudWatch Synthetics enters the stage. It allows you to create canaries to execute puppeteer scripts on a schedule. Each run creates detailed logs, screenshots, and a record of all network calls in HAR) format uploaded to S3. All you need to do is provide a script that performs the test, or use one of the blueprints. The following Node.js script opens https://marbot.io, waits for an <h1> HTML element, checks the title and status code, and performs a screenshot.

const synthetics = require('Synthetics'); // CloudWatch Synthetics lib
exports.handler = async () => {
const page = await synthetics.getPage();
const response = await page.goto('https://marbot.io', {
waitUntil: 'domcontentloaded',
timeout: 30000
});
try {
await page.waitFor('h1', {timeout: 15000}); // <h1> element expected
const title = await page.title();
if (!title.includes('marbot')) { // title must contain marbot
throw new Error('title not as expected');
}
if (response.status() !== 200) { // 200 status code expected
throw(new Error('Failed to load page!'));
}
} finally {
await synthetics.takeScreenshot('loaded', 'result'); // always create a screenshot
}
};

The rest is taken care of by CloudWatch Synthetics and is presented like this:

CloudWatch Synthetics canary run

Want to get notified about failed canary runs? Create a CloudWatch Alarm that watches the metrics of the canary to alert you if things go wrong. To make this more comfortable for you, we integrated CloudWatch Synthetics into marbot. You can set up your external website from Slack and receive alerts in Slack like this:

  1. Send a message to marbot on a channel and ask him to monitor your website.
  2. Select your preferred way of interacting with AWS (Management Console, CLI).
  3. Set the monitoring goal to Synthetics website.
  4. Select your AWS region.
  5. Follow marbot to deploy a CloudFormation stack to set up CloudWatch Synthetics, CloudWatch Alarms, and much more.

CloudWatch Synthetics setup

That’s it. Your website is now monitored from an end-user perspective. If things go wrong, you will receive a message in Slack.

CloudWatch Synthetics Alarm in Slack

Being able to write your own test scripts is a big benefit! Doing so allows you to implement sophisticated test scripts (simulate a user sign up, check out, …). Don’t forget to check out the CloudWatch pricing details.

Michael Wittig

Michael Wittig

Consultant focusing on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Entrepreneur building marbot.io. Author of Amazon Web Services in Action, Rapid Docker on AWS, and cloudonaut.io.

You can contact me via Email, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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