Should You Load Test Your Applications?
Web-based services and applications have become critical to our daily lives. This has been highlighted more than ever in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shown how integral virtual and cloud-based systems are to our society. However, with so many options available online, service providers and businesses everywhere need to ensure a positive online experience for users if they want to grow their online presence.
The Problem With Website Outages
One aspect of the user experience that has clear financial impacts for businesses is the prevention of outages. Fastly, a content delivery network provider serving sites such as Reddit, Amazon, Twitch, and Spotify, recently faced a web outage due to a configuration error. The Jun 8, 2021 error resulted in web outages and downtimes for online businesses relying on their service, costing Fastly customers an average of $250,000 per hour for the downtime.
As demand for web-based applications increases, the business consequences of downtime can become even more significant. For applications that provide services, downtimes result in loss of user and employee productivity, loss of application reliability, and the potential for loss of data. For e-commerce businesses, this could mean lost opportunities for sales and a decrease in overall customer satisfaction, resulting in clients moving to competitor brands. In summary, downtimes have a real impact on business branding, and ultimately on profit margins.
As application infrastructures become increasingly complex to serve growing demands, the need to test and validate the performance of these applications becomes more vital in order to prevent outages.
Why Performance Test
Software performance testing is designed to test the performance of a system in various scenarios. For instance, a system can be tested to verify its performance at the upper limits of its capacity, such as in stress testing. Other times, the system can be modeled to determine its performance under unprecedented highs or lows, as in spike testing. A system can also be tested for a specified duration to determine its performance at continuous load duration, as in soak testing.
Load testing, explained in more detail in this article, is a non-functional test where a system is modeled to determine the system’s performance under traffic. To perform load testing, the system is run under an expected load, and metrics are used to evaluate its performance. For example, a website application may be modeled by the number of users accessing it to verify its performance under concurrent users, or alternatively, the test can be run while the system undergoes multiple data transactions.
Load testing can be conducted in many ways, either through open-source code or using an out-of-the-box continuous testing solution. One effective way to conduct load testing is by using performance testing software that runs the system while measuring key performance indicators in real time. This allows the developer a full picture of the system response at the expected load.
Load Testing as Preventative Maintenance
Load testing is a vital step in the software development lifecycle. By evaluating the expected performance of an application, tests can uncover bottlenecks or ror bugs. As outlined by this Microsoft guide, conducting load tests both prior to the release of a web application and at regular intervals to ensure good performance answers the following questions:
- How well does the system perform under normal conditions?
- What is the system response time at expected loads?
- What level of reliability does the system offer at expected traffic?
- How does system performance degrade as website traffic increases?
- Is the server capacity sufficient for the expected traffic?
By analyzing the system’s performance, developers can identify and mitigate any potential risks for data loss, downtimes, and configuration errors before they occur. For businesses, this means fostering brand trust, and by extension, profits.
Overall, by evaluating how well a web server performs, load testing helps ensure faster time-to-market and end-user satisfaction.
Should You Run Load Tests on Your Applications?
The value of load testing lies in evaluating the intended function of the system and the end-user experience. By not evaluating the performance of the system, areas of failure, bottlenecks, and potential risks can be overlooked and result in a negative impact on the end user.
For businesses focused on expanding clientele, load testing may not seem like a priority. However, it is important to note that predicting and preventing outages now will prevent customers from seeking out more reliable alternatives later.
Additionally, any web application anticipating moderate to large numbers of users regularly accessing sites should test early and often to avoid incurring errors and downtime. Conducting regular load testing should be considered an essential tool to fostering a positive user experience.
BlazeMeter offers comprehensive load testing and other software testing solutions that track the performance of your system through various scenarios across a full range of performance metrics. To learn more about load testing, or other forms of software testing visit our products page or refer to our webinar on JMeter Load Testing.