2020 hasn’t been much of a cheery and exuberant year so far- all of us can agree. Keeping the pandemic aside, the world has confronted many other challenges, not just in terms of other natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, etc., but a spiked load of users in the digital space. As the need of people working from home gains momentum, online platforms, be it for e-learning, conferences or meetings, witness a peak in the user base.
When such disasters, natural or man-made, occur, it affects the digital domain causing disruptions in the performance of an application. But if one does see a light at the end of the tunnel, it comes in the form of a robust performance testing strategy to overcome disasters and pave the way towards recovery, when looking at the digital space. An effective test coverage of performance and load pain points can go a long way in ensuring a seamless application for disaster recoveries.
The How and Why of Performance Testing
The starting point for any testing strategy to be executed is to uncover and outline two basic questions- how and why. For performance testing, the ‘why’ becomes an extremely easy question to answer.
No user would want an application that takes up a lot of time to launch or to have consequent crashes while operating it. Thus, a performance testing effort becomes an imperative strategy to help deliver users an application devoid of any performance bottlenecks. This would help in retaining the loyalty of the customers as well, who may shift their allegiance to other applications because of performance roadblocks.
Along with this, if there are a number of servers in different geolocations but there is an outage in one, the load shifts to the others causing a sharp increase in the same. This calls for a need to have more enhanced and sufficient servers setup on which performance testing can be performed.
Different types of testing can be adopted or ventured into while devising a load testing approach. These may include:
- Stress Testing- This type of testing is performed to corroborate the amount of load the application can take under different load conditions- spiked or low
- Scalability Testing- To check the application’s performance based on the user requests when scaled up or down, scalability testing comes in handy to understand the performance pain points of the application
- Benchmark Testing- As the name suggests, a benchmark or a point of reference is set to test the application’s performance in meeting the said criteria or the yardstick
- Baseline Load Testing- Distinguished from benchmark testing, baseline testing evaluates the performance of an application at a specific point in time and not according to the industry-set benchmark
- Endurance Testing- Also known as Soak testing, this type is carried out with a high load which is stretched over time to check the sustenance of the application for that span of time
These help in ensuring an effective test coverage to identify and resolve performance bottlenecks under different load conditions. However, this isn’t an exhaustive set and is conditioned to modifications as per the business requirements. With these although, the nuances within a test strategy are achieved when load conditions vary across devices and platforms.
Fault and Disaster Recovery
As performance and load testing provide a pathway to identify areas of performance lagging, it becomes a to-do in times of disasters. Disasters, if looked at as a force majeure, or man-made in terms of human fallacies, can be dealt with while keeping performance and load testing in mind. In times such as these, robust test coverage would help in alleviating the repercussions of the disaster and to arrive at an enhanced and a seamless application.
- Natural Disasters- Many times when a natural disaster strikes, there is an excessive load of users online trying to search for updates, get in touch for help, etc. This makes the website or application crash disastrously, leaving the users disappointed as well as in potential danger. In such times of peak load, these performance bottlenecks can be overcome with a comprehensive test strategy.
With the example of COVID-19, this understanding is crystallized even more as there is a shift to the virtual space. This has caused a major spike in users operating e-learning platforms or applications which has made the quality of usage fall tremendously, be it in terms of video-audio interface or response time of the application itself. The pandemic has brought a ‘load’ not just physically, mentally and emotionally but digitally as well.
- Human Error or Legacy Infrastructure- On the other hand, if there arises a problem caused by human intervention or legacy infrastructure, disasters can be averted by a robust performance testing strategy. With legacy infrastructure, it somehow becomes a way of strategizing how to equate legacy systems with the current benchmarks that have been set to conduct performance and load testing.
Alongside this, there are often cases when, in real-time, data is stored in a primary server as well as in a backup server to be tested if the former stops working. To identify the areas in terms of how well does the secondary server respond, how do different load conditions affect the application, etc.
Thus, fault and disaster recoveries can effectively take place via performance testing to check abnormalities and discrepancies within an application during disasters. With a need to maintain stability in the performance of an application, spiked load scenarios should be taken into account predominantly.
An effective checklist as per the nature of the disaster and probable solutions that can be offered vis-a-vis the requirements, can be chalked out to identify target areas within an application, be it the network, device or server performance. This can help be prepared in the future as well, if a similar disaster occurs.
As far as disasters are concerned, there is no concrete solution to eliminate them. However, the most that can be achieved are the ways to minimize the pain-points and help users have a quality experience. Out of the many ways and areas by which this can be achieved, performance and load testing stand as two pillars helping applications run smoothly and without any disruptions.
Via various open-source performance testing tools such as JMeter or commercial ones like LoadRunner, an optimized strategy can be designed in meeting the requirements and mitigating the performance roadblocks post disasters, natural or man-made. Thus, the significance of performance and load testing is and would always remain relevant, even when the world is confronted with adversaries physically.