Why website performance testing matters

There’s no such thing as a normal day in today's online economy and that means applications environments need to be perpetually prepared for extreme situations. But how do businesses make it happen without burning through piles of cash?

Companies all around the world rely on business applications to execute critical transactions all day, every day. There’s no such thing as a normal day, unusually high demands such as promotional or seasonal trading can be a regular occurrence, making it crucial that these applications’ environments are constantly prepared for the extreme.

Those who are left unprepared are vulnerable to service outages, customer dissatisfaction and trading losses – and often when it hurts the most. The failure of Click Frenzy in November 2012 is a perfect example of how a massive website outage or glitch can severely affect the customer’s experience and in turn, a company’s reputation.

According to an independent global research study undertaken by Vanson Bourne, even minor delays to website response times can have a sizable impact on customer satisfaction, page views, conversion rates and site abandonment. Despite this, an astonishing 32 per cent of organisations (22 per cent in ANZ) do not know if their website is monitored on a 24x7 basis. 

Businesses cannot afford the risk of losing their customers.  Not only can it lead to an astronomical loss of sales, it can lead to the loss of reputation - something businesses may find harder to recover.

Although 82 per cent of CIOs in ANZ are aware of the usual instances that drive peak traffic volumes, 50 per cent do not test their website performance to assess its ability to handle such spikes in traffic volume. 

The barriers to optimum website performance

While traditional stress or performance testing in both the application and the application infrastructure is well proven – it can be costly. 

The cost of buying performance test software tooling, including the purchase, deployment and maintenance of the client and server infrastructures in order to simulate the load, and in addition, the development of simulation scripts, user expertise and time, can be a huge barrier to businesses investing in tools that can ensure optimum web performance.

Similarly, traditional departmental silos can add another layer of complexity to the problem. Traditionally, website performance was considered an IT problem but as marketers become increasingly tech – savvy with the rise of digital marketing, a poor performing website is a big problem for both departments.

For the marketing department, a failed website can have detrimental effects on seasonal promotions and sales. Often the website peaks and troughs are driven by marketing activity but marketers need to ensure that their website can handle an increase in traffic and is ready for peak performance.

How cloud based testing has become an enabler

There are alternative solutions that significantly reduce both the initial and ongoing costs without compromising any of the rigour that is required. 

Cloud-based performance testing will ensure capacity even in the most extreme performance scenarios. By allowing test teams to instantly deploy existing performance test scripts to cloud-based load generators, the load is created on pre-configured systems provisioned in the cloud. This eliminates the effort and cost related to extending the on-premise test infrastructure, which only the highest-load scenarios would need.

In addition, cloud-based services can provide a diagnosis of any performance related issues when they arise - giving teams the detailed diagnostics they need to pinpoint the nature and location of the problem in order to remediate quickly. Combined with an on-premise performance monitor, it’s straightforward to understand the demands on the server infrastructure in the data centre, providing end-to-end transparency.

Cloud-based performance testing offers a multitude of benefits to support the business without disruption:

Assured performance

Cloud-based infrastructures are extremely well-suited to generating the peak demands required for enterprise performance testing.

Peak load testing in the cloud takes advantage of the ability to run tests virtually on-demand.  Businesses can simply schedule time for a test and resources are automatically provisioned. This makes scheduling more flexible, helping to irradiate what are often long delays as internally managed hardware is deployed and verified by the IT department.

Worldwide readiness

Using cloud technologies can also enable the performance management team to not only evaluate the applications’ global readiness but conduct tests across the globe by replicating virtual users in a variety of different locations to ensure the website can handle users far and wide.

Cost control

The elasticity of the cloud means that you can scale computing resources up or down as needed to ensure website performance is affordable. Using utility-style pricing, businesses only paying for what they use. In comparison to a traditional solely on-premise model, a company would have to acquire computing power to support very large user tests for the lifetime of the application.

Enterprise application coverage

While many applications today are entirely browser-based, that is not often the case for large enterprise applications. Some businesses may need to test multiple routes to a system for completeness – especially considering the growing number of applications now on a variety of handheld mobile devices.

Moving to a hybrid model

Using a hybrid cloud model which integrates on-premise and off-premise scenarios and test infrastructures can be often necessary.

In this case, businesses should look to determine early on if a mixed cloud model is more suitable to their company, for example, a hybrid cloud that combines Internet protocols with support for .NET, Java, Oracle, SAP, Siebel, COM and other enterprise application protocols.

Cloud-based testing is the best environment for testing web 2.0 applications like in AJAX, Silverlight and Flex, as more computing power is required to perform these more complex tests.

Performance testing is imperative for applications to perform as expected in the real world. In particular, business critical applications need thorough testing to ensure they can bear the stresses and strains of the varying demands that companies have for their products and services. Combining cloud capabilities with traditional approaches provides the optimal model to achieving high confidence in production performance, with better agility and economy than using traditional methods alone.

By implementing a performance testing solution via the cloud, the IT department can more effectively and affordably manage heavy loads on the company’s website and as a result the marketing department will not suffer from wasted marketing efforts and low sales – to secure the business’ future success.

Jeff Findlay is the Borland Architect of APAC for Micro Focus