Most businesses already know how cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure deliver on-demand scalability, security and automatic back up of mission critical data, but there’s another role these massive data centres offer … and it’s one I bet few people consider.
Preparing for Peak Demand
Before I dive further into the cloud, let me paint you a picture: Your company is about to launch a new service that is delivered both online and through a downloaded app. You estimate you’ll average 1,000 concurrent users but during marketing promotions, concurrent users could spike to 10,000 as your customers take advantage of limited time offers.
No one wants to wait for a successful campaign to see 10,000 people hit your site to take advantage of the sale, only to have your infrastructure slow to a crawl or worse fail under the spike in traffic. It’s just plain bad for business.
Companies in the e-commerce space, those in the financial industry or companies need to handle traffic spikes with ease (including our client Woodbine Entertainment Group who needs to make sure racing enthusiasts can place bets right up to post time) need to know if they’re ready for prime time.
So, how do you know the infrastructure and applications can handle the ordinary and extra-ordinary traffic? We conduct load testing.
What is Load Testing?
Load testing is the process of pushing through a series of tasks designed to simulate the things a customer will attempt. Rather than sending one task through at a time, load testing sends thousands or hundreds of thousands of queries simultaneously while monitoring the performance of site or application at its upper capacity limits.
It’s important to differentiate between load testing, which targets a specific traffic threshold, and stress testing, which seeks to identify the maximum number concurrent requests a system can handle before it breaks.
A load test can be done using ‘virtual browsers’ or real browsers – the option chosen depends on the application being tested. Load testing with virtual browsers is easy and quick to setup, but using real browsers produces better results for content-rich applications with a lot of dynamic content. But, testing with real browsers is more difficult. A mid-power PC can only support about 10 active browser instances before becoming overwhelmed so if you want to test with 10,000 concurrent users you need about 1,000 PCs.
So how can you find and harness 1,000 computers to simulate 10,000 users?
Look to the Cloud
This is where cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure come into play. Leveraging their massive computing power, we can simulate thousands of PCs and tens of thousands of browsers to see if sites remain responsive under standard and extra-ordinary traffic loads.
The cloud lets us harness the PCs we need without a massive (and expensive) shopping spree, not to mention time wasted getting them all set up.
Boy that sounds like a lot of work, why bother?
It’s actually not that much work. There are load testing applications that are specifically designed to work with Amazon and Microsoft. These applications handle a lot of the work associated with the load test.
For a business, it’s worth the effort. There is nothing more frustrating for a website visitor than to be waiting for pages to load or getting timed out during transactions. Do you really think they will try to buy again if their first experience is frustrating?
Customers are not patient. Statistics show that single second load time delay on your website can cause a 7% loss in conversion and 40% of web users will abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
No one wants to lose customers this way!
Reasons to Test
Here are the top reasons companies should load test:
- Check response times under heavy user loads
- Uncover hardware issues or hardware limitations
- Locate bottlenecks that could be impacting performance
- Monitor the behavior of the application or website under heavy loads in a test setting (rather than waiting for a successful campaign before realizing your infrastructure can’t scale to meet the demands)
- Verify whether updates or enhancements to a site or application have impacted performance
- Know if hardware configuration will appropriately to handle the spikes in traffic (and add or remove servers as necessary)
Whitecap can help you make sure your website and applications can handle the ordinary and extraordinary demands you might face.
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