It's 2016, And We Need to Talk About Load Testing
Load testing has been around for many years, but every year we still see textbook load testing failures that make us wonder:
“Do we still need to talk about load testing basics?”
Every time a high profile website crashes due to overwhelming traffic, the discussion around load testing best practices stirs up. One such event happened last week. The British government website crashed after over 500,000 people tried to register to vote in the upcoming ‘Brexit’ referendum.
Officials said that the number was more than seven times of those who had applied the previous week. Keeping all political matters aside – let’s just say that ‘Brexit’ is a pretty big deal for everyone on the UK and rest of the Europe right now.
The British government understood the significance of situation and extended the deadline for voter registration. While the rest of the world is emphasizing on the political and economic aftereffects of the ‘Brexit’, those on the technical side of things saw this as a classic case of an failed load testing.
This ComputerWeekly report went one step ahead and dissected the problem to find out that it wasn’t the datacenter or the infrastructure at fault, but the software itself. This underlined the importance of load testing in 2016.
Plenty of questions around load testing have been answered plenty times before:
You can find plethora of content on these topics. Instead let’s talk about why we still see load testing failures in this day and age.
Lack of resources
With the constant pressure of rapid delivery and deployment, many organizations don’t get enough time for testing. Per a report from Accenture, only 30% of the software development efforts finish on time, leaving little time to perform elaborate nonfunctional testing. In some cases, time is not the issue but skills are. With the responsibility of performance being distributed across the board, more non-traditional load testers are charged with load testing duties. We increasingly see more QA testers evaluating load testing tools. Lacking the skills and expertise of seasoned load testers, these new load testers often fail to understand the scope of effective load testing. In some cases there could be a limitation on infrastructure, or an in-house testing environment.
Today users have more than one mean of accessing your website or web app. Irrespective of the device they use, their location, internet connectivity, and other occasional variables they expect your website to be available fast and functionally correct. To predict the most desired path users might use to access your online asset, and secure that, performance testers need to take help from your web master. Once you identify the beaten paths and behavior on your website, invest time and resources on creating load testing scripts that cover the realistic user interactions. This article gives you pointers on how to create realistic load tests.
In all the load testing mishaps I’ve seen recently, misalignment seems to be the biggest problem — specifically, misalignment between those who drive traffic and those who handle it. From marketing to procurement and from IT Operations to distribution, everyone should contribute to preparing for handling the success of a promotion.
Not all load testing failures will make the headlines
But if you aren’t investing into load testing your applications, you could be at risk of facing costly outages that can impact your users and your organization.
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