Wednesday 20 September 2017

Use Azure App Insights to track events in your app/web part/provisioning code

In my recent post Add Azure App Insights or Google Analytics to your SharePoint pages with an SPFx Application Customizer we focused on the page tracking/analytics capability of App Insights. But what I really think is cool is the ability to track what is happening your code – whether it’s simply that your web part has executed or your app has been launched (so you can get counts), or that you showed an error message to a user (with the details), or maybe to understand where users are navigating in your app or which options they select. As an example, we have a tabbed interface in one particular app, and I’d really love to know how many users are actually navigating to the 2nd and 3rd tabs (my bet is very few). Well, App Insights event tracking is great for these scenarios and more. I finished the last post with this list:

  • Server side applications (Office 365/SharePoint Add-in)
    • How many app launches are happening? By who/where?
    • What is happening within the app (e.g. which buttons are being clicked/what functionality is being used)?
  • SPFx/Graph
    • How many executions is our web part getting per day?
    • How long do my web parts take to execute on the client side?
    • How long are my async calls taking (e.g. to the Graph)? How different are they for users around the world?
  • Provisioning code
    • How many sites are we creating per day/week/month?
    • How many times do we hit an issue during provisioning?
    • How long does provisioning take?
  • General
    • How many times are we showing an error message to a user?

You get the idea.

A quick getting started recap (for JavaScript/SPFx)

Remember that to use App Insights you need an Azure subscription and an App Insights Resource to be created – this will give you the instrumentation key which you obtain from the Azure portal (see my last post for more details). If you’re working with JavaScript/TypeScript/SPFx, there’s an npm package you can install with:

npm i applicationinsights-js --save

From there, you'll need the couple of lines which get you started. The import statement at the top of your module:

import {AppInsights} from "applicationinsights-js";

..and then the initial bootstrap code which references your App Insights key:

let appInsightsKey: string = "[YOUR KEY FROM THE AZURE PORTAL HERE]";

AppInsights.downloadAndSetup({ instrumentationKey: appInsightsKey });

Now you're ready to log various things which happen in your code to App Insights. In essence, we drop a line in when we want to log that something has happened - let's look at some examples.

Example 1 – logging a call to the Microsoft Graph (in SPFx code)

The code below fetches calendar events for the current user in SPFx code, and is taken from one of the SPFx React samples. This is a fairly typical use of the Microsoft Graph, and the logging approach used here could be used across lots of similar scenarios. The fact that it is in a React component is not important, but the bits to focus on are the calls to App Insights - note that what I’m also doing is recording the *time* taken to make the call, so as well as finding many times my web part is being used, I also start to understand how long calls to the Graph are taking for users around the world. To do this, I simply create a timestamp before the call, and then another in the promise which executes once the data has been fetched and subtract the difference:

In App Insights, I can then see an event for each execution of my web part along with the time taken to call the Graph:



As I showed in my last App Insights post, as you accumulate data you can use the ‘Analytics’ section in App Insights to filter and sort as you need (e.g. on the 'timeTaken’ value):


Example 2 – logging a call in site provisioning/templating code

So that’s an example of logging in SPFx. As a different flavor, let’s say you are creating some SharePoint sites based on a template – perhaps as part of a self-service site creation tool. You might be interested in things like:

  • How many sites are being created? With what details?  
  • How long is Office 365 taking to create the base site collection?
  • How long does it take for your template to be applied?

In this case, you’ll probably be using the PnP Core library in C# code – so you’ll need the App Insights nuget package from

To get started in C# code, you’ll need some bootstrap code:

// at top of class..
using Microsoft.ApplicationInsights;

// to initialize..
TelemetryClient telemetry = new TelemetryClient(); 
telemetry.InstrumentationKey = APP_INSIGHTS_KEY;

As the first scenario, let’s say you want to log the fact that a site collection was created and how long that step took. If you’re using PnP provisioning code, it might look something like the below – the key things are:

  • Simple use of the .NET stopwatch clock for timings
  • Creation of ‘metrics’ and ‘properties’ dictionaries to pass details to App Insights
  • Use of the TrackEvent() method to actually log the data

If using PnP provisioning code, you might end up with something like: 

This would then show up in App Insights with details of the SharePoint URL, and the time taken for site collection creation (shown here in the Analytics tool):


We can extend this to PnP templating too. In a similar way, I would add logging statements around PnP 'ApplyProvisioningTemplate' call, and perhaps log any errors too.

Code sample:

As expected, you can then get the details of your template being applied with whatever details you logged (site URL, template ID and processing time in my case):



App Insights is awesome for integrating into all sorts of Office 365 and SharePoint dev things. By simply dropping a couple of statements in your code, you get to report on it later and get way better visibility of what is happening than you might otherwise have. Whether it’s executions of your web part, errors which are happening, or how often users are going down particular paths in your app, it’s a great way to build this logging in with low effort. In terms of practicalities, you do need an Azure subscription of course and App Insights is chargeable if you pass more than 1GB of data per month (at the time of writing), and your data is only retained for 90 days. BUT, you don’t need to build any kind of front-end or query tool, you can get graphs/charts, weekly summary e-mails, and importantly, alerts if any conditions you define are not met. Additionally, there are lots of ways to integrate with the data (including BLOB download to keep the data for longer). All considered, the features are pretty awesome.

I feel App Insights is definitely under-utilized by Office 365 and SharePoint developers, but there are lots of possibilities. I’m looking forward to building it in to more of our solutions!


Anonymous said...

Hi Chris

Any special reason why on the catch you used trackevent instead of trackexception?


Chris O'Brien said...


Nope, not really - TrackException in the catch block would be a nice improvement, thanks!