What Your Company Should Consider When It Comes to Load Testing
June 13, 2016

Sven Hammar

Businesses use load testing to determine the maximum workload their software operations can handle and how their platform holds up during increased usage. Load testing analyzes the performance, reliability, and capacity of a software implementation on specific hardware, as well as gives companies the ability to identify problems that may arise.

Below are several questions businesses should consider as they prepare to conduct a load test.

What Should Your Company Do Before Getting Started on a Load Test?

Know your application. Development teams should establish performance goals (i.e., every web page should load in under four seconds), and test planners should carefully assess the application — knowing what parts are most often used, how many users visit the application at peak load times, what parts are critical, etc. All of this governs the magnitude of the test.

What Should Your Company Look for When Testing?

“Load curves” are the most valuable metrics when it comes to performance. These measurements examine the performance limit by evaluating response time, capacity, and stability of the web application.

Testing a website, for example, includes things such as measuring the average duration of a user session, the number of successful page calls per second, the percentage of page calls that fail, and the average response time to starting pages. These metrics will give your business the numbers it needs to identify how many users can access your application simultaneously before it encounters performance issues.

Another metric to be aware of is the “point of collapse.” This refers to the amount of work an application can perform before it becomes unresponsive.

Now That Your Company Has Completed a Load Test, What Should You Do?

User experience is extremely important to a business, so having insights to where user experience can be improved is invaluable. The test results will allow your company to look at areas where the application can be enhanced. Test results can assist developers in assessing stability problems, application overload issues, and any others concerns that may arise.

For example, test results that measure long response times could mean there are problems with the database connection pool and the database engine. If developers determine there are no issues with the database, the test implies that the application itself has programming inefficiencies that need to be addressed.

As Your Company Works Through Load Testing, Consider These Design Tips

■ Measure the performance curve based on simultaneous user loads by running the same test and increasing virtual users logarithmically to 50, 100, 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, and so on until you have surpassed the performance goal.

■ Make sure the load tests run a sufficient duration by allowing a minimum of 10 minutes for effective test duration. Calculate ramp-up time vs. load size and total length of the test.

■ Be prepared to break or pause the application during the test. Someone should be on hand to restart the application if it goes down.

■ Make sure the testing system itself does not get overloaded, as this will produce inaccurate tests. Monitor load server CPU.

■ Each virtual user needs its own login credentials for a test, as using the same account many times can produce errors not found in real-world situations.

■ Provide a minimal 100 Mbit/second connection between the testing server and the application server.

■ Work with the system administrator, database administrator, or application developer during the analysis stage for feedback and additional data sources, such as log files and CPU monitoring.

Remember that load testing is critical to any web or mobile application. In today’s fast-paced world, make sure your enterprise has the highest possible web performance.

Sven Hammar is Chief Strategy Officer and Founder of Apica
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