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Fundamentals Certification Tip of the Week, 4 of 5



New Relic University’s Fundamentals Certification; ‘Get Certified, Get Socks’.

If you were not directed to this post from the ‘Get Certified, Get Socks’ post, I recommend you take a look at that for some more context before continuing on this thread.

The Fundamentals Certification is difficult, there are a total of over 180 possible questions covering every area of New Relic, you get a random selection of 20 questions for each test you take. It’s impossible to know what will come up in your test, but it’s good to be as prepared as possible. To that end, we are posting weekly Tips of the week, that are geared towards a specific sub-section of the Fundamentals Certification.

The Tip of the Week this week will be aimed at Key Transactions .


If you are using New Relic for it’s APM capabilities, chances are you are interested in such things as Transaction Traces, Distributed Tracing, Error Analytics, and Apdex scores.

Transaction Traces are a crucial piece of the puzzle when digging into potentially slow segments of your application. Traces can highlight N+1 database issues, slow external calls, and can highlight to you the specific parts of your application code that can use some optimisation.

But what if you have a business critical transaction that needs more special attention. Perhaps the apdex threshold that you have set on your application is not stringent enough for the most critical transactions.

In an E-Commerce environment the Pay Now button click may be the most critical transaction, or Add to cart.

Regardless of what that transaction is, if you have transactions that you regard as critical, then Key Transactions are going to be useful for you.

What are they?

Key Transactions are just the same transactions that you see in the APM pages for your applications, but they are shown out in a separated part of the UI ({accountID}/key_transactions)


Key Transactions allow you to more stringently monitor certain transactions in a number of ways;

  1. Set up alerts on specific transactions. Rather than an Application Response Time condition, instead we’ll have a special condition just targeting our most important transactions.
  2. Custom Apdex score for Key Transactions. Apdex, as a measure of user satisfaction, is impacted by response time and error rates. Similar to alerting, we can set apdex thresholds for the app, and you absolutely should, but we should also consider doing so specifically for our most important transactions.

As always when considering the best monitoring strategy, it’s important to understand what is important to the business. Are there transactions that are required for your application to be functional. Are there transactions that, if failing, can put your revenue at risk? These are the transactions that you should be targeting.

These are the transactions that, if broken, should wake your engineers up at night. This comes back in to Effective Alerting. It’s a crucial part of observability, to be able to rest without worry, knowing that the tools you are using will tell you when there may be a problem.

But aside from just the most business critical transactions - There is value in using Key Transactions more generally.

If you have a long running slow transaction, maybe it’s not critical, but it’s slowing down your user’s experience in your app, you can set it up as a key transaction and give it a lower apdex threshold. Since Transaction Traces are generated when a transaction crosses that threshold, this will allow you to ensure you are generating enough traces of a particular transaction, with which you can deep dive in to, to troubleshoot the slowness and optimise that transaction.

How do I set up and use Key Transactions?

There are 2 ways to create Key Transactions;

Either from a Transactions Trace (APM > AppName > Transactions > TransactionName > Trace >)

Alternatively, you can search for your application’s transactions from the Key Transactions page:


Yeah! Key Transactions are super useful, and so easy to set up! If you haven’t yet, do set some up and see what you can learn about your apps by deeper diving into the potential problem areas.

Key Transactions do feature in the New Relic University Fundamentals Certification program, so we do suggest that you take a look in your account, play with these features and build your knowledge on these often underused but very valuable features before or during your time working through the fundamentals certification.

Bonus resourses:

What next?

It’s time to get certified! And Earn some socks by completing the certification, and sharing your results, before Feb 14th!

New Relic University’s Fundamentals Certification; ‘Get Certified, Get Socks’.