|Karen N. Johnson|
Budgets, a topic that seems impossible to avoid these days, create a constraint on performance testing. What happens to performance testing? Frankly, chances are performance testing gets skipped; but skimping on performance testing can come back to haunt your project, or kill it.
One of the most intriguing factors of performance issues is how stealthy the problems can be. Sometimes when performance issues are mysteriously resolved, it's because customers leave. Customers often don't call in to complain about performance issues, instead customers move over to an alternate provider like your competitor.
So, here's a question your might consider: Do you know if your website has performance issues? If you can't answer that question, you might begin by monitoring your existing site to learn what you can about the current state of the state. You can gather performance information on your website even operating on a tight budget.
Here are a few budget-conscious ideas to keep performance testing and website monitoring from being skipped altogether and to save money on both processes.
Using what you already have is a key way to save money.
- Turn server logging on and pull as much information from the logs as possible. Instead of spending money on a tool, spend the person time to automate the parsing of log data to make log data a usable resource.
- Plan enough time for one or a few people in your company to know and understand your existing site's performance. This can provide some assurance that someone is keeping watch.
- Ask for a debriefing intermittently so that over time, you become fluent about your site's performance health.
Save money by using what's available for free. Google analytics is free. Perfmon is free. Both tools have free information online about how to configure and use the tools. Again, you might need to invest the person time to have yourself or someone at your company to learn and implement these tools but if you can automate notifications from log data, you can gain a fair amount of usable information for low cost.
Recycle and reuse aren't just words for ecology. If you have existing performance automation scripts built and an automation tool license still in place, reuse what you have. If your test automation scripts have been written to flexible, you can reuse existing scripts.
Building an inventory of your performance test scripts is another way to stretch your budget. Then, look for ways to design new tests by mixing and matching existing scripts in new ways. For example, you might find the most frequently hit pages of your site have changed, by mixing a different set of performance test automation scripts; you can build out new or revised tests from existing materials.
Being a discerning customer is another way to save money on performance testing. How? If you don't have existing staff that's able to execute a performance test and you want to contract temporary help or a temporary team to execute testing or establish monitoring, hire a the best resource for each aspect of the job needed. Hire the right skills for only the amount of time needed. And only bring in temporary help – whether it's contractors or consultants -- when your in-house staff has time to answer questions and to exchange knowledge. If you're unsure of what's needed or how to break out the tasks, you might need to hire someone who can function as a general contractor and bring in the right skills and people for the tasks. This is where another slogan from ecology applies, use resources wisely.
A final free step you can take is to be aware of the activities that take place from the front of your business. For instance, know when media campaigns run or seasonal events take place that may affect your company's website in unusual ways. Find out when your company's marketing group plans to send out an email campaign, so that you can watch website traffic a little closer for a few days. Look ahead to see if you can anticipate those times of potential traffic jams.
Knowing your applications' or site's performance and monitoring issues is possible even in a down economy. Implement a solution so that someone, if the person is not you directly, has at least one eye on website performance, at least intermittently. Allocate enough time so that the person monitoring the site has a good sense of how to use the selected tools and the essential stats as well as enough training to know how to detect when issues are beginning to form.
You won't hear your customers wincing on page loads. Instead you might see traffic increase until customers find an alternate faster route and turn to your competitors. Can you afford not to watch performance?
About the author: Karen N. Johnson is an independent software test consultant. She views software testing as an intellectual challenge and believes in the context-driven school of testing. She has 14 years' experience in software testing and software test management. She is a frequent speaker at software testing conferences.