What is Stress Testing?

Stress testing is an important step in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) as it can help you understand the capabilities and limits of your software. In this blog, we’ll explain what stress testing is, the importance of stress testing, how to stress test your software, and the benefits of doing so.

What is stress testing?

Stress testing helps you easily identify and verify how your software behaves when put into scenarios that push the software to its limit. For example, when a high number of concurrent users are accessing the software and performing a product search at the same time, it may cause the software to fail and error.

When you’re stress testing software, you can identify how stable and reliable your software is when that limit is reached. This process uncovers areas of the software that will need to be changed or optimised and whether the error handling is effective.

Why is stress testing software important?

Stress testing software is vital for your business to understand the limits of your software. By ignoring stress testing, you’ll be opening yourself up to poor user experience, loss of revenue, and a raft of urgent issues and out-of-hours calls (nobody likes those!).

As your software changes over time to meet the end users’ requirements, you’ll need to know how far the software can be pushed. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your software continue to operate when placed under extreme circumstances?
  • Does your software report appropriate error messages when under stress?
  • Can your software recover after being stress tested?
  • Do you and your team know if your software has any limitations?
  • Are you and your team prepared in the event the software is put under stress?

Is stress testing the same as load testing?

What is stress testing? Image showing the difference between load testing and stress testing software

There is a misconception that stress testing and load testing are the same. The key difference between them is that:

  • Load testing shows you how the software behaves when a minimum/maximum load is put through.
  • Stress testing shows you what the limit of the software is when put under an extreme load to aim at breaking the software.

How can I stress test my software?

There are many different stress testing techniques that you can utilise:

What is stress testing? Diagram showing different stress testing software techniques

Distributed

When performing distributed stress testing, a typical scenario would include having one server with several clients linked. You’ll perform the stress tests and review the status of each client to see what problems are found.

Transactional

When performing transactional testing, you’ll identify which transactions complete or fail and highlight the problematic areas that require optimisation or tuning.

Application

When performing application stress testing, you’ll identify issues in an application where the database encounters locking or blocking and potential performance issues within the network or database.

Exploratory

When performing exploratory stress testing, you can identify testing scenarios that are abnormal, or review areas where there are no test cases. For example, disabling network access from the server.

Systematic

When performing systematic testing, you’ll test multiple systems on a single server and aim to uncover issues where one software affects another software. For example, a software responsible for processing payments may prevent the software that fulfils a customer order from being completed.

To help you with stress testing software, you should follow the below process, making sure that each step is completed before progressing to the next.  

What is stress testing? Process showing how to stress test software

Knowing the limits of your software is a key benefit, especially when an unusual event occurs. It will also help you understand what configuration or code change is required to address the limitation (which is easier said than done!). Ultimately, you want to catch problems before they occur, and if the stakeholders are aware of these problems, they can prioritise the changes that are required.

At Koderly, we use Qucate to plan, coordinate and execute all manner of testing throughout our software development lifecycle. Qucate allows you to create fully audited test plans for compliance, visibility, and transparency, whilst improving quality and test coverage. If you’re looking for a test management platform, head to our Qucate page for more information, and start your 30-day free trial today!

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