What is Load Testing?
Flipnode on May 17 2023
Load testing is a form of performance testing that emulates multiple users attempting to access an application or system simultaneously to assess its performance. Its benefits include reducing risks during the production stage and providing valuable insights for optimizing performance. This guide will define load testing, outline the key steps involved in conducting a load test, and explore best practices and load testing tools.
If you're evaluating whether your business requires load testing, this resource will offer comprehensive information to help you make an informed decision.
What is load testing?
Load testing is a vital aspect of any system development process and is implemented by various businesses, as well as government institutions.
It is critical in determining the performance of the back-end system, such as a server, or the front-end system, like a website, under specific traffic loads. The main objective of load testing is to detect bottlenecks and suggest ways to enhance the application to prevent downtime.
How does load testing work?
Load generators, in their most basic form, create a load on the system to evaluate its scalability and performance. These generators send requests to the target system and receive responses from it.
Measuring the response time provides valuable information about how the system behaves under a specific load. This helps identify areas that require improvement to enhance performance and optimize system behavior.
How to do load testing?
The process of load testing can be broken down into the following main steps:
- Test environment setup: The first step involves creating a dedicated test environment that closely resembles the production environment in terms of configuration and infrastructure.
- Define performance criteria: This stage includes setting up performance criteria and metrics that will be used to measure the success of the load test.
- Plan the test and create scenarios: Once the criteria and environment are set, a well-defined test plan is developed, detailing the machines to be used, number of virtual users, and other relevant parameters.
- Establish a baseline: Before running the load test scenario, establishing a solid baseline is crucial. This benchmark helps identify any deviations in performance during the test.
- Run the scenario: With the scenario configured and scheduled, the load test is executed, simulating the expected traffic load by running virtual users.
- Analyze the results: Testers collect metrics, analyze performance bottlenecks, and make recommendations based on the results obtained from the load test.
- Re-test: After addressing any identified issues, the load test may be repeated to validate the effectiveness of the fixes and obtain accurate results.
Possible use cases and examples
The cost of downtime to businesses is significant and well-documented. Gartner's research estimates that on average, companies can lose up to $300,000 per hour of downtime. However, the damage goes beyond just financial loss; it also affects brand reputation and customer satisfaction. To mitigate these risks and protect their brand, businesses should perform load tests regularly.
Load testing serves several crucial purposes:
- Mimicking real user behavior: Load testing allows you to simulate real user behavior and understand how your application will perform under different traffic loads. Creating realistic scenarios for the tests is important as users tend to behave in unexpected ways.
- Identifying bottlenecks in the system: Load tests provide valuable insights into the performance of the system under specific traffic loads, helping to identify any bottlenecks or areas for improvement. Early identification of problems allows for a more efficient allocation of resources for fixes.
- Building confidence: The ultimate goal of load testing is to mitigate risks and provide information for optimizing the system's functionality. By conducting load tests, you can gain confidence in the system's performance and safeguard against poor performance issues.
Load testing vs stress testing
So far, we have discussed the definition of load testing, which is the most commonly practiced type of performance testing. Load tests apply typical stress levels to measure an application's behavior under expected load conditions.
However, there is another, more aggressive subtype of performance testing known as stress testing. Unlike load testing, stress testing intentionally overwhelms a system until it fails in order to identify its breaking point. The goal of stress testing is to increase the load continuously and push the system beyond its limits to identify where it crashes.
Both load testing and stress testing, when executed effectively, can provide valuable insights into the application's performance before it goes into production. If the objective is to examine the system's performance under normal traffic load, load testing is the appropriate choice.
Load testing best practices
For the preparation of this comprehensive article, we have closely collaborated with load testing experts and proxy specialists who have shared their valuable insights on how to conduct efficient load tests.
- Set realistic scenarios and benchmarks.
Before creating load test scenarios, it is crucial to thoroughly understand the application and its users. Define practical tests that accurately reflect real user behavior, including the selection of diverse browsers and devices.
- Keep end-users in mind.
The ultimate goal of load testing is to ensure an effectively operating application that satisfies users. Therefore, understanding the way users think, evaluating possible unpredictabilities, and identifying the functions of the application that are most significant to them are essential in creating the load test scenarios.
- Use proxies to perform realistic load tests.
To simulate traffic load as organically as possible, residential proxies can be an effective solution. With unique IPs from numerous consented users worldwide, residential proxies allow for mimicking organic conditions in load testing.
- Perform tests frequently.
Load testing should not be limited to the end of the development project, but rather integrated throughout the software development lifecycle. Make load testing an integral part of your agile methodology and conduct tests regularly to identify and fix issues promptly.
Types of load testing tools
Load testing can be conducted using either automation tools or manual methods. Load testing software is utilized to create and manage traffic load on a target system. Most of these tools operate at the protocol level, enabling simulation of load by sending HTTP requests. Additionally, they offer the capability to parse the response received from the target application.
- Manual load testing
Conducting load tests manually may have limitations as it may not generate enough traffic load on the application. It can also be resource-intensive and time-consuming, potentially resulting in higher costs.
- Custom load testing tools developed in-house
Organizations can develop their own automated load testing software in-house to meet their specific needs. However, this approach requires proficient technical skills and a dedicated team.
- Licensed load testing tools
Licensed load testing tools have the capability to simulate multiple virtual users and can be executed as frequently as needed. They also support various protocols, making them suitable for testing different types of applications.
- Open-source load testing tools
Open-source load testing tools are free of charge, but may not be as feature-rich as licensed tools. They can be a budget-friendly option but may lack some advanced functionalities.
Selecting the right load testing tool that aligns with your business requirements and workflow is crucial. While there are comprehensive reviews available online for various tools, it's important to consider key factors such as accuracy, ease of use, and integration with your existing tech stack.
Residential proxies in load testing
To ensure effective load testing that mimics organic-like traffic, the choice of proxies plays a crucial role. Traditionally, data center proxies have been commonly used by load testing service providers to generate load. However, these IPs are easily detected and blocked by anti-DDoS services, posing limitations.
In modern load testing implementation, there is a need for more resource-saving and efficient solutions. This is where residential proxies come into play as a viable option. Residential proxies offer greater effectiveness and efficiency in load testing, providing a more reliable and realistic simulation of organic traffic conditions.
Load testing plays a pivotal role in identifying system bottlenecks and evaluating their capabilities. Despite advancements in testing methodologies, tests may still have limitations and fail to generate a truly realistic load on the system.